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On Dreams and [Paying] Agents

Listening to: Poe - Hello

Mood: Hopeful

I was down in San Diego a few weeks ago visiting family and friends—generally making mischief and having a good time—and of course the inevitable question about whether or not I’m published yet came up as I chatted with friends over drinks. I always give people my usual spiel about publishing: I want to go the traditional route by finding an agent and selling my books to publishing houses versus self-publishing. I always explain how the publishing industry is one that requires a lot of patience and that I continue to write other projects even as I send my current one out into the world. Most people tend to glaze over by this point, no longer interested in my quest to be a published writer because it just sounds like “so much work.”

This time was a little different because the friend didn’t get bored with my standard response . You see, this friend is a lawyer and he’s familiar with other agent-type businesses (actors, athletes, etc.). He asked me why I hadn’t just slipped some money to an agent to get my manuscript to the head of line. His frame of reference is that money is how you get a foot in the door to talk to agents. I have no experience with other industries and how they work, but in publishing you definitely do NOT want to pre-pay an agent (or publishing house) to look at you work. And more, legitimate agents do not do that. They take you on as a client to sell your book (because they love it, not because you slipped them a grand) and THAT is how they make their money. There are a lot of scams out there that writers have to be wary of, and all of them pretty much require payment upfront. My friend and I went back and forth about this for over an hour, discussing the differences between publishing and most other agent-oriented businesses. Even after our lengthy discussion, I’m pretty sure he still thinks sending out queries is akin to screaming into a void.

His lack of knowledge about the publishing industry isn’t abnormal, and I appreciated that he tried to understand it on his own terms instead of getting bored or calling my publishing dream crazy. I realized a long time ago that no really understand publishing unless you’re in it or trying to get in it. It’s the kind of industry you have to be patient with, find the right agent fit, press on, have a thick skin, learn to channel rejection into more creativity, and always keep trying. It’s hard for non-writers to understand (except maybe those are married to writers and see how we toil) because we live in a world of instant gratification. Couldn’t I just upload my book to Amazon and sell it? Sure, I could, but I don’t want to. Not because it’s wrong or a bad approach. Each writer’s dream is different. Mine is one that includes an agent.

I’m of the glass half-full mentality when it comes to being agented and published someday. So I keep writing and continue to put my work out there. I won’t ever stop. After all, your dreams can’t be realized if you don’t continue trying.

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