The longer I go it alone the more I chant, “I need an agent.”
At first it was a joke; now it’s a mantra. I don’t often speak about it openly. I prefer to write and post about my successes instead of publicly crying about the work behind them. I also hold a few superstitious.
But if you followed any of my recent posts I had another seemingly good gig that turned out to be shaky at best. I’m grateful for the brief work I did under Simon & Schuster’s Chicken Soup for the Soul series because it taught me what true professionalism is. A writer submits their work, it is accepted, then contracts are sent, edits are shared for approval, and then the publisher takes on the burden of putting everything together to get it in stores while the writer helps them market their piece.
It’s simple and efficient. It takes time. Months can go by without an answer, but the wait it worth it.
Every indie author and publisher needs to study these practices and mimic them. My vast experiences in the independent book work have ranged from horrendous to okay. Okay is great when you’re starting out or building credits. It’s a great stepping stone. A wonderful rung on the success ladder.
But eventually a writer needs representation. Not just to distinguish themselves as a true professional but for their own protection. To weed out the con artists and shady deals.
I half worried over backing out of a recent project (which I will no longer name because names hold power and even bad press is press). My gut told me to stay strong. It knew better and so I listened. In allowing myself a second glance, that anthology has imploded. The Kickstarter was cancelled and who knows if everyone’s money will be refunded or not.
It’s a tough world out there. No matter what you do in life you will have to trust yourself above all else. Never quiet that inner voice, the energies imploring you to avoid or go with something.
I received a huge acceptance within 5 minutes of terminating my association with the project in question. Then I got an email from the former editor of Writer’s Digest personally inviting me to a small 125-person-only conference held near my home at the end of this month.
One of the agents I’ve been querying and following for a couple of years now will be there and I may have a shot at a one-on-one with her. Not everyone has to believe in fate, but I do. Even if I don’t land a deal I know this experience will be beneficial. I’ve only pitched something face-to-face once. That agency was teeny tiny and didn’t suit my needs, nor did my work fully fit theirs. I’ve participated in a few #pitmad sessions. (Yesterday I hopped on a little late and give it another go. Some interest was stirred but I’m always better in person)
But here comes the “fun” of this industry. Many conferences, workshops, and pitch sessions come with a monetary fee. I understand the necessity. When you have tens of thousands of people swarming you with material you have to find a way to connect with those select few willing to make real sacrifices, those artists who refuse to quit no matter how long it takes.
I’m a member of SCBWI and the MO Writer’s Guild. I’ve won numerous awards and most everything charged at least minimal fees. My oath to never pay to get published twitches when being asked to pay to have the opportunity to get published.
So how do I decide?
I look at the price tag and the credentials of the founders. I look at the costs of hosting said events and mock up the numbers.
It takes a lot to organize an event with industry pros at a classy location. It pushes authors to read, listen, and learn however they can to get a few smaller paying gigs to cover for the fees to attend such conferences.
If you can’t sell a few stories to smaller publications and save that money to put into furthering your career, maybe you’re not ready yet. Or maybe this path isn’t for you. There are many ways to build a name in publishing.
My name has grown for nearly 8 years now. I don’t write for free anymore. I’ve saved up and I believe this conference will gift me the knowledge I need to continue moving forward. It’s also lending me the opportunity to try and snag an agent, or at least get more comfortable talking with one.
If you’re a writer near the Saint Louis area (smack in the middle of the country), check it out. They’ll be in KC the next day as well.