June 6, 2010 by Renee
To agent or not to agent…I really don’t know anymore. Yes, an agent is the smart way to go, but damn it, I am not the most patient person in the world. I’m not patient at all.
Here’s my problem. Yes, I’m aware I have many. But in terms of seeking an agent, I am finding my newness is a hurdle. My novel is a hurdle. And, my frustration at this is becoming an issue. I have another novel that is more marketable, more ‘mainstream’, but took half as much blood, sweat, and tears to write. Do I set aside this first one until I’ve established my name and my ability? I don’t want to. This novel proves my ability far better than any other could. The problem is not the writing. Hell, I don’t think any agent I’ve received a rejection from has looked at a sample of the writing. I think the problem is the query, the subject matter, and well, money.
The query is rather…stiff. I’ve reworked it, made it more like my writing than a proposal, but you can’t resubmit a query for the same project. Not allowed. So, that’s not fixable in terms of agents I’m still waiting to be rejected by. The subject matter. Hmm. How does one show that although this particular subject has been done, it hasn’t been done like you’ve done it? How do I show it is unique without sounding like a pompous ass? The writing? Well, that would be simple wouldn’t it? If they took samples of the writing. And I’m new. I can’t prove to them that I can sell books. Well I could, given the chance, but for them it’s a risk. I understand this, but…
So, now my question is: Do I continue the search for an agent or do I start looking at other options? Originally, I promised myself I’d wait it out. I’d plug away at sending out query after query until I found the ‘right’ agent for me. I said I would not allow my impatient nature convince me to do otherwise. Well, there’s perseverance, believing in yourself, optimism…and then there’s stupidity. Recently I started looking at facts. Dangerous thing to do if you want to keep a promise like that. In Canada (which is where I live) most writers are unagented. Most. At least 80%. There are only about thirty Literary Agencies in Canada. In ALL of Canada. Add to that the fact that few new (as in unpublished) writers are taken on as clients. The odds keep narrowing. I could look elsewhere, and I am, but now I’m considering a different approach.
Small Presses. Indie Publishers. The Little Guy.
I wrote an article for Examiner.com about Small Presses in Canada. The thing is, they outnumber the big guys in a big way. (excuse the repetition) Many authors start small and move onto bigger and better. Wait, better? I don’t know. Small presses, while not huge money makers, encourage new authors to submit, nurture their writers and work with them to build their career, and they don’t make them jump through hoops just to get that contract. They publish writers who show them they can write. Then they worry about selling. (of course, this is a generalization, based on the publishers I researched, and I’m sure that there are some small presses with the same policies as big publishers.) Hmm.
So, do I pursue these small presses? Worry about an agent when I have a history of publications and sales to show them? They say they are looking for new talent, but they also stress you include your publishing credits.
Well, I’ve kind of made a decision already. I’m not long on patience as I said. I understand why agents and bigger publishers want to see some kind of track record, proof that you know what you’re doing. This is business and business doesn’t care about the giant goose egg on my head resulting from numerous bashes against the wall. They care that I’ve done the work to prove to them I am worth that risk. I am going to have to give them that proof.
I think that to hold out for the dream of agent, big contract, and advance is rather…delusional. Time to start thinking of my efforts to publish less as a dream and more like a business.