Hey, folks! Next week, I’ll be starting a series about querying authors and what their personal experiences have been. But today, I want to talk about the realities of getting an agent.
And more specifically, do you actually want one?
This was brought to my attention last week. A fellow author reached out to me on Twitter about her novel; her exact words were, “My book is dead.” That was shocking to me–there’s always rewrites, always places to gather advice and learn about the industry and try again. Writers are a persistent bunch, so it’s rare to hear something like that. Books are never dead… they’re shelved for later.
Except the more I talked to this writer, the more I realized she was right. Her book WAS dead… but only because she’d changed everything she wanted to, and in her mind, it was perfect now.
And here’s the thing: that’s totally fine. As a writer, your vision of your novel is always right. If you’re happy with your work, then it IS done.
But that doesn’t mean it’s ready for publication.
Picture this: you did it. You got an agent, and she loves your story. She got interest from a Big 5 publisher, too, and they want you to sign a contract. $100,000 advance, which means your agent will get 15% for her badass negotiation abilities. You’re sitting in the board room ready to sign, and your publisher says, “We’ve added a stipulation. We’ll publish your novel, but you have to eliminate [character / story arc] first.”
They’re asking you to change the core of your novel. Big, impacting changes that will alter your original vision, make it theirs instead.
Would you do it?
Be honest with yourself. If the answer is “hell no,” guess what? You’re not ready for an agent.
Publishing is a business. Agents make a living selling your novels. That means that the ability to feed their children sits firmly on YOUR ability to make the necessary edits.
Let that sink in. If your novel is absolutely perfect in its current form, if you’ve called it “your baby,” or if you talk about your characters like they’re your best friends… you might not be ready for traditional publishing.
And again, that’s okay. But you need to be utterly honest with yourself, because it won’t just be your ego taking a hit when you leave that board room in a huff. It’s your agent, your business partner, who now can’t make her mortgage payment because of your artistic vision.
(This is an extreme example, and in reality your agent would have worked through the plot details with you much earlier so you’d both be prepared for signing day. But the logic behind it stands; if you won’t sacrifice your vision to make your book more marketable, you’ll have a hard time surviving these big house publishers.)
So what’s the solution? Well, it’s easy to be swept into vision of grandeur, but sometimes another route is best. Traditional publishing isn’t the end-all, be-all. Now might be the time to look into small-house publishers or self-publishing.
Remember, there’s no wrong way to get your novel into the world. 🙂
Do you plan to publish? If so, how? Let me know in the comments below!