In the past few days, the Twittersphere has been abuzz with spirited discussions of self-pub, trad-pub, indie-pub, hybrids, best ways and one-true-ways (although the dialogue occasionally does run a bit spicy, I didn’t see any mention of three-ways).
Lots of reason and rhetoric in much of the commentary, but what surprises me is some of the vitriol aimed at publishers and literary agents. After reading some of the posts, you might think there are wild gangs of literati breaking into writer’s homes, swilling Cabernet, kicking puppies and using the curtains as toilet paper.
I don’t actually know any flesh-and-blood agents or publishers (there are some who live in my computer, but I only know them by way of cryptic messages they send in 140-character bursts), but it seems to me that they love books. And they love writers. They want to represent writers and sell books, because they love to and because that is how they make a living.
So, what is with the overt hostility and ill-wishes ?
I understand that publishing is changing. I think it is awesome that writers have more options for their work and aren’t limited to traditional representation and publication arrangements. What I don’t understand is why there are still people who are hell-bent on blaming agents and publishers and seeing them suffer.
Did I miss the memo detailing how agents and publishers owe everybody representation and publishing deals ?
If I choose to pursue a traditional route, I expect that I will write a book that I love and will write/edit/bludgeon until it is the best that I can make it. Then I will ask an agent or eleventy if they can sell it. If they think they can, then we work on making it easier for them to sell. We then ask a publisher if they can sell it and, if so, work on making it easier for them to sell. If at any point, the parties involved don’t think that they can sell my book, then they will decline to be involved. They may or may not provide reasons or criticism.
One thing that I do not expect is that agents or publishers will be telling me that I am a bad person just because they can’t (or aren’t interested in) selling my work. It is a business and either they can make money selling my work or they can’t. They have no vested interest in judging me or making me feel bad, so why would I even consider doing that to them ?
If an agent/publisher doesn’t think they can sell my book (or thinks they can do a better job with somebody else’s), then maybe I can sell it. Or maybe I can’t. In any event, the universe doesn’t owe me a book deal and, as disappointing as that is, I don’t get to blame anybody else for it.
The anger reminds me of those parents whose kids didn’t make the team: “My kid is awesome and you’re stupid! You will rue the day!” Well, now we can make our own teams with players of our choosing. Every kid can have their own team. Some of them will be great, some won’t and it won’t have anything to do with the coach who said no.
We can’t all play for the Yankees, so don’t wipe your ass on Joe Girardi’s curtains.