Monthly Archives: January 2016

Who Are You Writing For Anyway?

I originally wrote about the “Writing Industry” which subsequently lead to the “Agent” topic. I thought I would turn it into a trilogy by finishing with a brief discussion on “who” authors, specifically independent authors, are targeting with their writings. The geek side of me wants to publish all three together and call it “Lord of the Writings”, but I will not because that would just beg a slue of “slings and arrows”. That is probably one of the very few Shakespeare references I will ever use.

A while back I was reading a discussion thread on Amazon.Com championed by several independent authors regarding their respective works and manuscripts. In the middle of this thread some angry interloper, whom I will call “Fred”, jumped in and ranted that he was tired of these authors promoting their own books and if they, the independent authors, could not get published by a Publishing House then they should, basically, stop writing. Fred was very angry and adamant about this. I suspected Fred was slightly jealous because he had never written anything other than his phone number on a bathroom wall, but that was mere supposition on my part.

Fred, despite his angst, brought up a good point. Should writers forgo the independent route and focus an all or nothing target on the leviathan Publishing Houses? If you want to reach millions and millions of readers with the ultimate goal of becoming exceptionally rich, then the large Publishing Houses are the way to proceed. However, if you are in it solely for the money then it will show in your slovenly work, work which will be based on what is popular and not on your passion. You will, though, make Fred and his shallow minions very happy.

To the rest I presume you write because it is your passion. Yes, it would be nice if your work could afford you a living, could provide for you and your family, but you write because you have a story to tell. If financial accolades come your way then that is just another benefit of being a writer. Trust me, I would like nothing more than to be offered a gazillion-dollars for my series, but that probably will not happen. So, I need a reason to write, a purpose to write, and more importantly, and audience for whom to write.

I believe that all authors, independent or otherwise, write foremost for themselves. They are their first audience. It is an outlet, a therapy, that requires nothing more than imagination. I have appreciated that ever since I was kid and started my writing “career” on a Big Chief tablet. Yes, I realize that confession dates me, but it is the truth. From there the audience expands to family and friends, those who are vested in your success, but still close enough to critique your work and better it. Where the audience burgeons after that is up to you. With the advent of self-publication every writer can take their work to levels formerly not possible without the sponsorship of the aforementioned Publishing Houses. They can ePublish or traditional publish. They can purchase packages to market their works locally, nationwide, or worldwide or they can piecemeal it on their own. However, none of this will matter, much less work, if you do not know for whom you write. Know your audience and they will know you.

I was at a Comic-Con a few months after my book’s release when this large mountain of a man stopped at my booth. He looked like a biker; six foot four-plus, two-hundred fifty pounds plus, with the presence about him that he could take out the whole convention single-handed. He leveled his gaze at me and then tapped my book with a solitary finger. “That,” he said, “is a good read.” He then nodded and walked off down the aisle. I said “Thank you” and smiled overtly. Though I have been Blessed to sell hundreds of copies of my work in a short period of time without the backing of a major Publishing House, that gentlemen was a validation of my work and I am not just talking about the book. I am talking about the fact that I was writing something I thought was worthwhile for myself and not for some mythical Publishing House. My goal was the story, not secular dreams of avarice, and that, to borrow from Robert Frost, “…has made all the difference”.

Keep writing. God Bless.

 

To Agent or Not to Agent

I appreciate the title is cliched and used often to its detriment, but it was the title that first came to mind and another cliche, albeit correct, is to proceed with your first instinct. There really is no more volleyed question in the author community than whether to have an agent represent your work or venture out on your own. Given the feedback I received on my post about the writing industry I thought I would elaborate a little more on this topic. I am not an expert in this field, only offering my own experience which will differ vastly from several others, but hopefully some help may be garnered.

Agents are there to help shop and represent your work to potential publishers. They have the knowledge and, more importantly, connections that you do not. However, just as there are good writers and bad writers, there are good agents and bad agents, the latter in the business for the nefarious purpose of exploitation and profit. I highly recommend that, before querying an agent, you check out this site, Preditors and Editors http://pred-ed.com/. They have feedback on most agents, reputable and otherwise, and can help you make the best decision when pursuing an agent. The one caveat to note about any agent is if they ask for an upfront fee or investment, run until you can run no further. Any agent worth their proverbial salt takes their percentage from the sale of a manuscript not from an upfront fee.

That being said, agents, regardless how good they are, still have their own proclivities and may very well turn their back on your work regardless how good it is. J.K. Rowling was turned down over 20-times before she found an agent willing to invest in her work. Do you think those agents would appreciate a “do-over”? To their defense, agents are not trying to be caustic. They just happen to reside in an industry where too many bad investments have forced publishers to rely on established authors and celebrities. The chances of a new writer being picked up is very slim; not lottery-winning slim, but slim none the less. That is why several reputable agents have advised that aspiring writers should pursue the route of self-publication with the design that they will get notice by an agent or publishing house. That is what happened to me.

My work was shopped by an agent to no avail. Finally, taking the aforementioned cue, I self-published. Within a few months a smaller publishing house expressed interest in my book, eventually taking over the publishing and distributing of it. I wish that I could say that from there everything proceeded swimmingly, but that is not the case. The publishing house folded and I was left again without a publisher.

I again began the laborious and monotonous process of searching for another agent. This time, however, I had several positive reviews, including an overall five-star rating on Amazon.Com and an overall four plus-star rating at Barnes and Noble no less, with which to propagate my work. Despite these accolades and proof sources that my work sells, I still could not find an agent. I, thereby, took the resolute (and potentially arrogant) stance that it was “their loss” and again published my series on my own.

I tell you this not to dissuade, but to persuade. I fully believe that the independent authors out there today are better than almost anything in the mainstream publishing world. If agents and publishers want to miss out on the future then they may keep their same myopic vision that has lead to the publishing industry being in its current situation. Independent authors will move forward and succeed.

All you new writers out there continue to write. Look for an agent if you feel you want to adopt the more traditional route. Understand, though, that there are other avenues available to share your voice. That is your decision and there is now wrong decision except, of course, not writing. God Bless You All.