Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Agents.

I was asked the other day what I thought about literary agents, and I didn't answer honestly. And then I proceeded to analyze my not-so-straight answer for the next two days. I hate it when I do that. And I do it all the time. Yes, folks...I'm completely over-analytical. Welcome to the world of Brooke Moss' flaws. I eat too much, and tend to have an extremely low BS threshold, as well.



Okay, so getting back to my opinion on literary agents...and I hope the aspiring author who asked me this (I won't name her, because in case an agent ever reads this blogpost--which I doubt--I don't want my words to inhibit that agent's feelings towards the author. You're welcome, girl.) reads this blog post. Because maybe my words will give her something to consider. Another perspective that she may not have thought about before. If not...she can print it off, and use it for toilet paper. That's always an option, too.



So here's the deal: When I first decided to try to get published I wanted a literary agent with the desperation that a meth head wants their next fix. (How's that for analogies?) Once I'd completed my book and polished it to perfection, that was the next natural step. Right?......R-right? That's what all responsible authors needed in order to be contracted by a Big 6 publisher, correct? Well, now, I have to say that I know several authors who are pubbed by Big 6's without agents, but overall...there is a potential to make more money and get better contracts if you have a professional doing the negotiating. So I...like most authors...sought representation.



And I got rejected.

A lot. A whole stinkin' lot.

So then I changed my focus. I decided to try to get pubbed without the aid of an agent...and within a couple of months, I'd been contracted for my debut novel, The What If Guy. Once the book came out, and was met with good reviews, I decided that I would once again try to score an agent to represent my second book, The Carny. After all, I was a published author. Who wouldn't want to represent me now, right? .......R-right? Anyone?



Anyone still here?

That's what I thought. And yes, you're right. I was rejected. A whole stinkin' lot. Only this time--because I was a published author with decent reviews--I was getting rejected after agents read my second manuscript. I was no longer being rejected straight out the gate, I was being rejected after these people (or their minions) were actually reading my work! Ouch. Because I'd been telling myself for years that if I could just get an agent (or their minions) to actually read my work, to savor my words and envelop themselves in my characters, then of course they would sign a contract with me. How could they not? My characters were wildly creative entities. And every review I've ever gotten has commented on how character driven my books are....so it was all in the characters, wasn't it?

Nope. The agents still didn't want to sign me. And now they weren't giving me the simple, impersonal rejection letters. They were giving me cold, callused rejections that insulted my story...then frosted the insults with, "But every story is subjective. What I didn't enjoy might pique the interest of another agent, so I encourage you to keep submitting." Um...bullsh**.



Wait, wha...?

I know that books are subjective, and that a book that is embraced by millions might be hated by millions as well. I know that one man's moldy soup might be another man's filet mignon. I read 2-3 books a week. I get it. But when you hear those words from an agent after they said that my story fell flat, my characters were undeveloped, my plot line was uninteresting, and my concept was far-fetched......

Well, let's just say I stopped listening.

Now, it's not like I stopped trying to fine tune my craft! Quite the opposite, actually. I am a constant work in progress. Everything I write could be better. Everything I create could use more effort and skill.  I will never be perfect....and the moment I decide my writing IS perfect...is the moment that I may as well quit and become a podiatrist. True story.



So then I wrote a book that was in a new genre. Fantasy YA?? From Brooke Moss? What the what? So  not anything I was used to writing...and once it was finished, I had to have an agent to help me sell it. Right?......R-right? So I did it all over again. I went to conferences, I queried agents, I sent partials and fulls to agents all over LA and NYC.......and I prayed (PRAYED HARD) that the agents who'd told me my book sounded like a "goldmine" or like my book "would be a big hit" would contract me and *finally* help me make some money off of these books I was cranking out.....

(By then I had 3 published books through Indie Publishers....so I was actually getting pretty good at selling books on my own, but still....the lure of the agent is strong.)

And frankly...I wanted to make some money.



In the beginning, authors just want to get their books out there. They would be willing to sleep with troll or sell their children to the highest bidder, if it meant having actual people read their actual books with actual covers and actual pages.

Don't lie. We all know it's true.

But once you get a few books down the road, you tend to look around at all of the reviews and blogs and comments on your Facebook page, and you wonder...where the heck is all my money? No joke. Granted, I've made some money off of my creations, but after my husband added up all of my royalties checks--factoring in labor, office supplies, internet, electricity (I didn't write my friggin' books by candlelight, mind you), reims of paper, and the occasional take-out dinner because "mommy was busy editing" (again)......the truth of the matter was, I'd only been making around $0.76 cents an hour.

Yes, that's right. I'm the published author of (soon to be) 5 books, and I make a sweatshop wage.



Hmmmmmmm......

So what do you think happened after all of those agents who'd been clambering all over themselves to read Underwater finished reading the manuscript?

Nothing. Not a d*mn thing happened. Well, that's a lie...one of them rejected me, citing that my storyline was starting to get saturated on the market, and she was scared to take it on. (I couldn't get mad about that reaction. It was honest, at least. She didn't question whether or not I was in the right business. That was a nice change.) But the others? All the others?



Nothing. I heard nothing. I heard crickets chirping, that's what I heard. It's been over a year, and I heard nothing. I've long since sold the book (on my own, thankyouverymuch) and now it's got a cover and a release date and everything! Those agents in question (or their minions) said nothing. Not a rejection. Not an email. Not a tweet. Nothing. High and dry........I've now been reduced to an author who isn't even worth an insulting email. How pathetic does one have to be to not warrant a simple yes or no answer from an agent? Pretty pathetic if you ask me. *THUD* (Head on desk) *THUD* (Repeat)

So that's when I decided that having a literary agent probably isn't for me.

Now.....I want you all to know that Literary Agents really do serve a purpose. They do. When authors are so big, and successful, that they can't handle the volume of work that major contracts requires, or the amount if publicity and attention that they're getting...then I absolutely see the need for agents. But, in my limited experience (Please pay attention to that. I've had 5 books published with 3 different Indie Publishers--so I have no experience with Big 6 Publishers or with popularity so huge that I require assistance.) I don't see the need for an agent. I've sold 5 books alone. And I've managed to do it without pulling out (all of) my hair. I'm not entirely sure that an agent would have been able to do anything better than that.....



Except make me more money. (But I'll describe my solution to that conundrum later.)

All in all...I think that Literary Agents are a dying breed. Much like these big guys:



I know, I know....you're all cringing right now. And I can't say that I blame you. But I have to be honest. It's one of my best/worst qualities. I am constantly being brutally honest with people and ticking them off. I've had (old) crit partners cry because they felt like my criticisms of their manuscripts were too harsh. (Granted, I've cried a time or two myself, so what goes around comes around, if you know what I'm sayin...) I've had friendships break up because they didn't appreciate my calls-it-how-she-sees-it attitude. My darling husband is constantly telling me that I could have toned down my "keeping it real" mentality. And right now I'm breaking the unspoken rule amongst authors....

I'm daring to say it: Literary Agents are (mostly) unnecessary and useless, and I think that eventually they'll (almost) all be without a job. 




(Oh, man...if I ever hit the big time, no agents will be contacting me to represent my work, that's for sure. Well, maybe....but first off, I don't know that I'll ever hit the big time. We'll see. But really? I doubt it. And second...if they do come knocking on my door, Imma gonna have a lot of 'splaining to do.)

Okay, okay, relax. Don't UNfollow my blog. I won't implicate any of you, I promise. These are just MY feelings. And MY opinion doesn't have much to do with anything about anything. Mmmm, kay? But here's why I feel this way:



1.) If I can do what they do (though admittedly not on the same caliber, mind you) then why do I need them to do it for me?

You may find that you feel the same way, or you may wind up feeling like you want the help, need the help, and can't live without the help an agent might provide......if that's the case, then go forth my friend. Good luck to you.

I, on the other hand, don't think I need the help. Some authors might feel like they want to obtain an agent, so that they can hold out for the big contract with a {insert the Hallelujah Chorus here} Big 6 publisher, and if that's the case, then having an agent might be the route for you. Though remember, I know some authors who have navigated the big 6 without one. So it's whatever you decide.

I've decided I don't need one. I've had three different Indie Publisher experiences, and while some have been good and some have been (*urp*) wretched...I've put books out there in the world, and I've built up a small but lovely readership. And I did it without help. So there. (Yeah, I stuck my tongue out.)



2.) I have a very hard time respecting individuals who hold themselves in such high regard.

Now you're really sweating it, huh? (Oh, crap, if I keep reading Brooke Mosses blog, an agent will somehow magically find out and refuse to work with me...and then I'll never be able to publish in this business again!!!! NOOOOOOOOOOOO.) Well, let me explain...

I've met a couple of agents who were so nice...if I'd met them under any other circumstance other than pouring my heart and soul out to them and asking them to like me, to really like me {insert Sally Field's voice here}...then I would have become friends with them. After all, agents are people, too. And I can't imagine how much work these people have on their plate all the time. They're busy! They're swamped! They're overextended!

But some of them are also incredibly rude little liar liar pants on fire(s). (Ducks head) I've gotten form rejection emails within three seconds of sending the original query that said, "While your premise sounds interesting, I regret that I have to pass." Um.....liar, liar, pants on fire. You DIDN'T READ IT. Just admit it. You DIDN'T F***ING READ IT. Ugh! Just admit it.

I've also gotten rejections that were so nice and complimentary that I wanted to email them back and THANK them for their rejections. They wrapped their rejection in this fluffy, warm blanket that was so flowery and sparkly that I forgot for a second that they were crushing my hopes and dreams into tiny, strawberry scented smithereens. 




I've gotten rejections that were so filled with insults, so vile, and so pompous that I wanted to drive to that person's house, ring the doorbell, punch them in the throat when they opened the door (***This is added for humorous purposes. If you're taking notes and planning to physically assault an agent, then you'll likely go to jail, and probably deserve it. Be smart. Take this as a joke. Mmm, kay?) , then walk past them as they sputtered and coughed, so that I could point at their children and call them ugly, fat, and stupid. And in all honesty, there have been some agents that I've met face to face that have acted like being punched would probably be the best thing that would ever happen to them.

Please note that I am aware of THIS: Agent gets attacked by rejected author and while I may be running my mouth about the harshness, cold-heartedness, and general lack of conscious or courtesy many literary agents practice.....I, in no way, condone violence. 

So....I'm adding an addendum to my original blog...instead of knocking on the door and punching the literary agent in the throat, how about you just knock on the door, tell him or her that they deserve to work for minimum wage at Burger King for the rest of their life, THEN push past them as they sputter and cough (because nobody wants to be told that they're banished to BK forever) and make fun of their children. 

Because here's the deal, sure...punching someone might make you feel better, but Lit Agents aren't the kind of stupid people that we find on the Maury Povitch or Jerry Springer shows. They aren't just going to take being punched lightly, then proclaim their love for their first cousin. They're gonna sue you. So it's better to keep your hands to yourself. Like I always tell my kids, "If you can't SAY it, without using your hands and feet, then it's probably something you shouldn't be saying anyway."

So there. 

Now back to my rant, d*mmit.

Some people need a reality check to knock them off of their pedestal. I've met Literary Agents via email and in person who fit that bill. They're entirely too enamored with the words that come out of their mouth, and with the power they hold. People like that suck. 'Nuff said.

And then there are the ignorers...

Oh, these people are the worst in the bunch. I would almost rather get insulted and looked down upon by a martini wielding snob at a conference happy hour than have an agent ram their head so far up my butt I'm walking strangely for a week...and then never hear from them again. I have one agent, who shall remain nameless, who promised me mucho success, told me that she and I were destined for greatness together, and then promised to read my manuscript quickly, then get back to me with her thoughts and plans to take over the world. We got along like long lost BFF's, and practically planned matching tattoo's during our time together, and for once I felt like I was doing the right thing by pursuing an agent! How could I have gone this far without one? Without HER? I left that pitching sesh feeling pretty darn good about myself. I was walking on air, you know...

I never heard back from her. Not an email. Not a tweet. Not even a fart in my general direction.



Those people are the worst. Listen up, agents out there: I may be small time. My name may not rhyme with Hefanie Flyer or Hay Jay Vowling...but I write kick ass books. They're emotional and funny. They're realistic and charming. They make people laugh and cry at the same time. You don't believe me? Ask my loyal readers, d*mmit. And I realize that you live in the big city, and that you always have a latte in one hand instead of a dirty diaper like me. And I realize that you wear 200$ dresses to work every day, and I am wearing a pair of cut off sweats with a tee shirt that says I gotta have more cowbell, baby...but I'm a helluva writer, and the fact that you can't see that just means you're throwing away an opportunity to make money. Don't ever assume that I'm not worth a simple email that says "Thanks, but I'll pass", because I am worth it. And my fellow authors are worth it. And you...my overconfident, self serving friend....are not worth US.

*Panting* Rant over.

And of course....

3.) The publishing business, as a whole, is changing. Even since I started in this game, which has only been five or six years. When I started, self publishing was something that authors did only when they couldn't get published otherwise. (Don't curse my name--I speak the truth!) Nowadays, authors self pub whether they are good, bad, mediocre, PHENOMENAL, or somewhere in between. They self pub because they're tired of the games, tired of the rejection, tired of their books getting shifted and altered and forgotten, tired of being lied to by people in the biz, tired of being told what they have to change in order to make it lighter-fluffier-heavier-grittier-or somewhere in between, and generally just tired of not making any freaking money.



I think that within a few years (I'm gonna say 10, but you can throw any number in--it's a free country) the need for Literary Agents will be reduced to only very, very few left, for just the biggest and most famous authors. Most of them will be forced to find new jobs...jobs in which they'll be as vulnerable and hopeful as we (authors) have had to be for the whole of our careers. And for the most part, I think it will be a fair and righteous adjustment for (most) of the former agents to have to make.

I simply don't think that (most) Literary Agents will be around forever. I'm sorry. I know it's harsh. But so is telling me that my writing skills are lacking and my query letter sounded obtuse.



So there's my whole, long, drawn out explanation for why I don't have an agent, and why I don't really believe that authors need one. I think that the pursuit of an agent is a soul-sucking, emotionally trying, confidence crumbling experience that's unnecessary only because agents do a service for authors that...

Wait for it....

We can do for ourselves.



And with that.....I bid you farewell. Until tomorrow, when I ramble on about something else.

P.S. Follow my blog on the right sidebar >>>>>>>>
You might win a copy of Meggan Connors' latest release, JESSIE'S WAR. Woot, woot!







12 comments:

  1. I'm querying again, but if it doesn't happen this time, Imma doin it on my own. :)

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  2. Holy wow. Awesome blog, Brooke! :D

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  3. So much freaking wisdom here! Agents are one of the main reasons I became afraid of considering writing as a career. They're the all-powerful gatekeepers of rejection. But the past few years have amazed me watching the industry shifting and changing... and I agree... it looks like agents are a dying breed.

    Now if only some of the folks I've seen selfpublishing would invest in the services of a freelance editor... :P I think this would be a great time to be one.

    Keep selling your books your way Brooke. You might never be one of those hugely best-selling novelists but you're telling wonderful stories and sometimes (don't hate me for saying this) it should be about that and not just the cash (I think some big names forget the love of the storytelling and just enjoy the paycheck)... though I wish you much more moolah in the future! ;)

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    1. "Now if only some of the folks I've seen self-publishing would invest in the services of a freelance editor... :P I think this would be a great time to be one."

      From your mouth to ... their ears. I have read a few that felt like ESL first-drafts; the grammar made me want to weep. So sad, because the ideas were terrific.

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    2. That's one thing about self pubbing....you have to be willing to invest in a good editor. You really do.

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  4. Thanks for the support, Cathy & Rachel! xxoo

    And, I couldn't agree with you more, Rhianna....it really is about sharing my stories with the world. That's why I'm self pubbing my next book. Because I want the story I WROTE to be the story that my readers fall in love with. And not a watered down version of a story that resembles a story I once wrote. And sure, it may only make pennies...but at least I'll be making those pennies. Not the people who butchered it to pieces.

    Soooooo glad you guys liked my post. It was terrifying to put out there.

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  5. Awesome post, Brooke! Your honesty is so appreciated!

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  6. Brava, Brooke! (You had me at: "Not even a fart in my general direction."!) Good luck with your new book!

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  7. Wow - loved it! And, because I know absolutely nothing about publishing, I am certain that there are hundreds (thousands) of authors out there who agree.

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  8. Great post, Brooke! I'm not particularly thrilled about the idea of 'look for an agent' on my book 'to do' list, simply because I don't enjoy the inevitable rejections - or worse, the dead silence. Even an auto-reply message saying that they *got* my submission would be better than that.

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  9. Really, Brooke, what do you think about literary agents? Enough of the soft shoe! Give us some hard sock!
    Really, seriously, this was an amusing and entertaining 'novella' (well, almost!), and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Like you, been there, done that, and agree with everything you write here --- really felt your frustration, your anger, and your whole experience.
    Like your sass, lady! And, that's coming from an anachronism and a Facebook friend. I've written nine books over the years (tenth in the oven)... finally dusted off those manuscripts and did the Indie thing the last couple of years... I'm on the social networks (Twitter, F/B, Goodreads, et al) and don't know what I'm doing half the time among all the 'widgets, links, settings, feeds, etc.)... It really takes most of the day to do maintenance, and my tenth book? I'm about 15,000 words in and crawling --- some days, my juice just won't flow! But, guess what, the routine keeps me active and alive a while longer, and much of it is fun.
    You have a lot to say, but one particular section caught my attention. You're right, there are millions of us writers out there and we will never be perfect for everyone and/or ourselves. So, we write our books, re-write them, edit them, re-edit them, over and over ad nauseam, finally publish them, and then we notice these typos, tense changes, these little things we simply missed. But we like what we've written overall, and that's the thing! Each book likely gets better, and we sharpen our wordsmith wits. The process itself is the thing, turning that perfect phrase, saying exactly what it is you want to say in a way that almost brings tears to your eyes. Making money is good, but the process of sharing pieces of yourself (a legacy) with family, friends, the world, is an awesome thing --- someone is going to read you, like you, become a fan, and some are not going to read you, like you, and become a fan...
    Well, I like you, Brooke. You string words together nicely. My sincere compliments.
    My little novella ends here --- turned out to be longer winded than intended.
    If you're interested, my blogs are: http://thefinalcurtain1.wordpress.com and http://billyraychitwood.weebly.com - If it's okay with you, I'll follow your blog.
    My very best wishes,

    Billy Ray

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  10. This is perfect! Agents are going the way of the pager, completely not necessary!

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