Just when you thought the writing business couldn’t get more convoluted…
Blogger acquaintance August McLaughlin recently posted of how her agent had failed to find a publisher for her book. He proposed that she self-publish the novel, but that he remain her agent. It’s yet another twist on the modern book publishing model. You might think that a self-published book would eliminate the agent, but with diminishing options for writers have come diminishing options for agents, and both have been forced to become more business-savvy.
The agent’s strategy is to partner with McLaughlin to provide professional and legal advice. If she sells books and gets picked up by a publisher for a future novel, he gets his commission and she gets her foot in the traditional publishing door. He might also secure additional and subsidiary rights for the self-pub book, and generally represent her best interests.
Although the right balance and monetary agreement in the relationship would have to be worked out, this idea has potential. First, McLaughlin would still have an agent, and considering how difficult it is to acquire one, this is a huge plus (I ought to know—I had one, and he passed away, and I have been agentless for two years). The agent (theoretically) knows the business and could provide invaluable advice and direction.
It’s an improvement on the traditional writer/agent arrangement, but there is still one thing that keeps me from endorsing the idea: with self-publishing, the writer basically becomes a full-time marketing person.
I didn’t become a writer to churn out ad copy, or to spend my days trying to convince local bookstores to take a half dozen copies of my book. I never planned to spend hours on the Internet researching Amazon’s worldwide marketing programs or learning how to turn my Word document into a mobi.
I won’t. Not yet.
Honestly, if I ever do find a publisher for my novels, I’ll be the hardest working, friendliest, travelingest author you ever saw. I’ll do readings and radio shows, podcasts and YouTube. I’ll rent an old school bus and go coast to coast with the Ponepinto Reading and Reality Tour. Those are writer things. You read your writing; you talk about your writing. Your writing is the truth within you, the lessons learned from your whole experience.
Marketing is something else. Marketing, as it has evolved over the last century, involves using one or two facts (or none, as in the case of the Tea Party) to the exclusion of all others, in an effort to convince people that what’s said is the entire truth.* It is essentially bullshit. To me, it is anti-writing. If I split my time and creative efforts between writing and marketing, can I say that the requirements of one discipline will not affect the other? I seriously doubt it.
I am a writer, not a marketer. I really don’t believe a person can be excellent at both. My goal is to be an excellent writer. Decision made.
This may mean I am completely out of touch with the modern publishing world. It may mean I’ll never see my books published. That is a possibility that writers, even excellent ones, have faced for centuries.
*I did it for more than a decade. I guess I wasn’t very good at it. Every time I tried to be more truthful with the targeted audience, I was overruled, even when I worked on a newspaper, even when I worked as an aide to a big-city mayor.