Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Agents and Publishers

Gosh, I am dispirited. Who would have thought that finding a literary agent is even more difficult than finding a publisher? Of course, I had an agent, but sadly she is now too ill to work, so I'm in the market for a new one. I thought the hoops publishers make authors jump through were bad, but compared to agents, they're a pleasure to deal with. Ebook publishers are very approachable and eager for new books, although, of course the market isn't large. There are, however, some print publishers who are perfectly approachable without an agent, although you have to wait months and months for a reply. I'm not talking about vanity or POD publishers, either.

Still, I have found that more publishers are willing to accept email submissions than agents! With a lot of agents, it's a snail mail query letter, with the dreaded SASE, of course, then a long wait until they decide whether or not they actually want to read your manuscript, then there's a whole formatting mission to go through, another snail mail postage - printed one side, double spaced, etc, which, I have to tell you, on a completed manuscript that's over 100,000 words, is expensive. Hell, we might as well deal directly with the publishers, since the agents are just as, if not more, picky about submission guidelines than they are.

Of course, if you don't submit it right, don't format your query letter in exactly the right terms, and send it to the right agent at the agency, your chances of your query letter even being read are slim to nil. Well, that sounds exactly like submitting to a publisher, doesn't it? Agents are supposed to be the portal through which writers find publishers, but now we need a portal for writers to find agents. A pre-agent agent. A literary agent's agent, who will help authors to find an agent, and who is approachable, easily contactable without it costing a fortune in postage, and who will format your query letter and manuscript in the method that agents like. Hang on, though, isn't that a literary agents' job, to do all that so a publisher will read your manuscript?

Just like publishers, the majority of agents won't accept email submissions, and that, together with fantasy and science fiction being niche markets that very few agents will represent, you've got maybe three agents on the planet who will accept email submssions and represent science fiction and fantasy. Well, I haven't been able to find them, despite hours of searching through agent lists and 'how to submit to agents' sites. These days, it's not about how good a writer you are, it's about being lucky enough to find an agent who will represent you or a publisher that accepts unsolicited manuscripts. I wonder how many great books will never see the light of day because of all this red tape.

So, I just don't know anymore. I will definitely keep my day job. Maybe I'll go the ebook route out of sheer desperation, although I didn't write my books because I wanted to get them published, I did it because I love reading my stories. I'd like to share them, too. That appears to be a fading dream, however. What with holding down a full time business to keep the wolf from the door, I don't have time to write or edit anymore, nevermind spend months tracking down one of those three elusive agents who will represent me without traumatising me in the process. I have to wonder if it's all worth it.

Maybe I'll just publish my books on the web for everyone to read and enjoy. Maybe the root of the problem is trying to make a buck out of my stories. Well, if I had lots of cash, I would just give them away for free. Unfortunately, in this world, you need money to survive and, having just been forced to sell my house because I couldn't afford the bond repayments anymore, only to find that I still owe the bank a small fortune, I had hoped to make something from my writing.

It's harsh, but that's the way of the world these days. Some get lucky, some fall foul of Sod's Law.