Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Show Me The Money

I hear this all of the time from unpublished authors. They have their story and they are going out to get the big money. In no way are they going to wait around or sell their manuscript to a small publisher. In no way are they are going to go with any agent that is not in the top 10 of huge sales. They only want the best.

Don't we all? Heck, I know all of the published authors I talk to would love nothing more than to make a full time career off of royalties alone. But the reality is, you have a better chance of winning the lottery.

We always seem to forget that the big guns in writing out there have done their time in the trenches. They have pounded out manuscripts for very little money, but look where it got them. Frankly, they didn't do this over night.

Now I know what some of you want to write so just stop those little fingers on the keyboard and listen. Yes there are exceptions to the rule. Sure there are a lot of writers that came up with that end all be all of stories and didn't have to do much after that. But they are the exceptions. The people you have to measure yourself against are those people that didn't get that single lucky break.

I actually met a writer at one of the national RWA Conventions (no, I will not tell you which one) that came up to me and told me that she loved all of the things I had said on my blog and on my website, but I (and this is a direct quote), "just wasn't good enough for her manuscript." She went on to say that she could easily go head to head with one of the biggest romance writers out there and take her down hard. Wow, I couldn't believe it. Will she get a contract? Not likely. Will she find an agent? Not likely.

The funny thing about all this is that she is still searching.

So, as you go to bed tonight, give yourself a little bit of a reality check. No this will not be depressing, instead, it might be not only enlightening but inspiring. Because once you realize your true level in writing, you might find people knocking on your door to not only represent you but to publish your writing.

And in several years, make sure to check in with me and tell me how you did.



  1. Scott, I appreciate your blog and your publishing philosophy and am working hard to get my manuscript ready to submit. You're at the top of my list due in no small part to wise and encouraging posts like this one. Thanks!

  2. Yowser. Too much reality for this evening. Back to the happy Land of Denial.
    Meanwhile, apart from reading very (old) agent websites, Publisher's Weekly, and looking up the agents of published books much like one's own, is there anything else to do? The economy must have really shut down agent acquisitions. Unless one has come up with something unique. such as Jurassic park, it looks bleak out there. And aren't you lucky that writer was so obnoxious, or you might have taken her on. Too many drinks at the party, mayhap?

  3. P>S> I forgot to mention going to conferences, but that is really expensive, and seems way over-rated to me. The one I attended was very well-put together, but had all of the agents and authors in one room-all trying to yell over each other. it was unbearable for ten minutes-can hardly imagine what it was like for the poor agents. I also think they are under the usual pressure of trying to be polite and encouraging to everyone. The conferences are held in very expensive hotels, where one is captive to high restuarant bills. A lot of queries could be sent for the stunning cost of the weekend. Apart from that, it was a fine time.

  4. That writer should be careful about what she wants, because she might get it. Scott, there's a lot to be said for going with an agent who's on his way up rather than with one who's already arrived.

    An agent growing his agency is more likely to take the time to help his writers grow too.

    Bigger isn't always better. Many of us would be thrilled to have our work catch your eye -- so we keep trying!!

  5. "This post leaves me with some questions, concerns, mental anguishes, mmkay?"

  6. Anon,

    I think you are seeing what I have said all along. There is simply no easy way to get the information you need on the agents. I too get frustrated when I see websites that are REALLY old. Even I get frustrated with myself when I haven't updated things for a while.

  7. Mary Anne,

    You are very right about finding that agent that is on their way up. The same for the editors out there that are new. They are eager to find a new client list. Of course, it does mean they will have to fight harder, but it is well worth it in my opinion.


  8. Scott,

    Very cool blog. I just received a request from you for a few chapters and am very excited to submit them!

    I've got six children and live by what I tell them - No matter what work you do in life, there will eventually be a "click", and that's how you know that you've found a match. I think that goes for an agent/client relationship as well. The size and age of the agency doesn't matter. It all comes down to marketability and passion for each project.

    There's something to be said about agents who are growing their client lists during these tough economical times, versus those who are resting on the heels of their previous success.

    Thanks for a great blog!

    aka Thinkhappy on The Women's Nest