How many agents does it take to screw a lightbulb?
Depends upon how far and how bright the light; the reach of the light, what little distractions that may hinder the light; the kind of bulb that can give light for how long….
Does that sound complicated? That’s because it is. There are so many articles, authors, writers, interviewers, speakers, lecturers, all of whom claim to know how to find an agent, but the truth is: if you don’t know anyone in the business, you are pretty much out of the game.
The only way you can actually make yourself be put INTO the game is if you are a writing genius, or have such an ingenious story, or you have a lot of money with which to rub publishers’ elbows at conventions. Or, you use your money to enter every single contest, or you can make yourself known with an acute sense of marketing. Does this sound hard? It is.
One has to acquire an agent to acquire an agent! Sounds crazy but it is pretty much true in many cases, in order for someone to market your exceptional skills. So why am I trying to discourage you, if that is what you think. I will tell you my advice: work on your skills, until you KNOW your writing is perfect. Does that sound hard? It is! It means going over it to find story misgivings, problematic issues in the storytelling, character flaws or unrealistic behavior; spelling, punctuation, structure of sentences, and so on and so forth…
For heaven’s sake! Whoever told you writing was easy, anyway? If they told you it was easy, they were lying because they wanted you to buy their book, or have them coach you, or somehow, they wanted you to give money to them… be careful!
Hopefully, you have the benefit of some of the things I just listed above.
And with that grand opening, I want to talk about getting published. A funny happened on the way to the slush pile…
People started publishing their own books, to spare their egos the blunt tongue lashings or rejections, but they never considered maybe the publisher was right; maybe their manuscript was junky, or messy, or just not a good story. So they decided their work was so good they would just publish it themselves with their own publishing name. So how easy (or difficult) is this to carry out? Well, let’s look at this for a moment.
To start any business one has to have a plan, some cash, and an open market to sell your wares. For example, if I decided I wanted to start a widget business: “Lydia’s edgy Widgets,” I would have to create first a business plan, one that explains (on paper) how I’m going to get this widget business started, how I will make it fly, and how I will keep it in the air. …Why do I need to do this? Unless you are Jesus Christ Himself–the only perfect being ever to set foot on this earth–you and I both know we all have a tendency to procrastinate if things get a little hard to do. With a plan, we tend to read it step by step, follow step by step, and usually if we do that, we will get to the best part: the end of the plan… making and selling widgets like there’s no tomorrow.
Once I’ve got that plan down so well I am even impressed I wrote it, I take it to a friend who knows about these things, like…an intellectual property attorney.
“What!” You say, “Where the heck am I going to get money to visit one of those?” My point exactly. If you haven’t any access to one of those expensive retainers, you’d better ask people you know, like Facebook or LinkedIn fans you know are in the biz (or close to it–no telling how honest these folks are, either). Whatever you do, don’t ask your own relatives, they always say your stuff is the greatest, because they love you and don’t want to hurt your feelings. Am I getting even close to discouraging you? Then keep reading.
So now that you’ve gotten someone to look at your plan, (with feedback, I hope), you can start making a business of your widgets either by investing in your business with your own money, to get the manufacturing going, or by obtaining funding, which means you need to market your wares. Let’s hope your wares are already up to par, (as I mentioned before) because if they are not, you will have a difficult time getting anyone to want to invest in your cute little project.
But we are talking about writing aren’t we, not widgets. Do I still have to make a plan? Of course. you ought to have a plan about how you are going to write, how MUCH you are going to write, where you will plan on submitting your work, if you are going to hit the contests head on, or pack your bags and ride the convention circuit, or both, or none, just start mailing manuscripts like crazy. You should have all of this in your plan. Add to that, how many hours it will take you to finish one book, of poetry, short stories, or whatever your genre or specialty is, and start creating your manuscript/portfolio, and you don’t stop while marketing one, you keep writing. But once again, right here, let me say–again–you had better have your wares up to par!
In fact, your writing had better be pretty perfect! I am not merely talking about your grammar and punctuation, although that is important, but your story or stories, they had better be sensible, rational, interesting, and exciting, maybe even life-changing. Have I discouraged you yet? No? Good, you must really want to write. Maybe you must really even be a writer.
So, go on then: write on, comrades!