Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Define Your Career As A Writer

When writers start talking to agents, one of the questions that always seems to come up, time and time again, is how the agent will deal with career building. Writers seem to want to know how the agent will make the career of the writer. Unfortunately, for many writers, I think they are missing the point. The person who defines your career is not the agent, but the writer.

The career you make for yourself in this business is entirely up to you. No one else can make those decisions. It is up to you to decide the quality of writing you want to have, the publishers you want to market to, and the type of writing you do. Writers can even decide how hard they want to work at this. The agent, nor the editor makes this decision for you.

If you are someone that wants to write strictly as a hobby, producing a book every now and then and to share it with your friends, or to go the Print On Demand approach, then go for it. That is the career choice you are making. If, on the other hand, you want to produce books with a single title publisher, knowing that the road will be slower and tougher, then go for it. If you want to write category the do it.

As an agent, we cannot make career decisions for you. Our job is to assess your writing and make suggestions as to the direction you should take with the project. This is career planning. You tell us where you want to go and we try to create a pathway for you. Now sometimes, writers will tell an agent they want to go to X and we can't get them there. Maybe their path is to Y with where they are at in their writing career. At this point, the writer can make one of two decisions. Either go toward Y or stick to going to X by making changes in what he or she is doing. Again, the choice is up to them.

If you are heading to Orlando in the hopes to have someone else make or break your career, you will be disappointed. It will not happen. It is up to you to decide where you want to go an then, like I said in an earlier post, create the opportunities for you to get there.



  1. Timely blog! When I think where I am in my "new" career as a writer, and where I am in my day job of 30 years, it's exciting.

    Working in the corporate world, a lot of career choices have been out of my control. Someone else decides the direction of the company. Someone else decides the final budget amount I have to work under. Someone else decides targets and goals.

    But in my "new" career I get to do it all! I know that is within the framework of so much that will probably be out of my control-finding an agent, finding a publisher, getting a book out in the world. But I get to chose the genre; I get to chose the type of characters and story; I get to chose the goals and targets. There is responsibility with all those things but this time it is my choice. Pretty darn exciting!

  2. What? New writers actually expect an agent to make their career? I can't believe that!

    I just love reading your blog. It's so insightful.

  3. Hi Scott,

    I understand that it's the writer's responsibility to decide on the way his or her career goes.

    Quick question - when you say they've got to decide on staying with X or going with Y, I assume you're talking about agents? I know in the acting world, you're usually permitted to have one agent - and they'll handle both theatre and film/TV work. What if you have books in different genres that you're trying to get published? Can you have 2 agents especially when one may not cover that particular genre?

    Thanks for the post.