There can’t be a single author or reader in the world who hasn’t noticed the changes. Publishing isn’t what it used to be! That’s a fact.
If you’ve written a fantastic story and you’re the dogmatic type, you might just be plugging away, sending copies of your manuscript to agents and publishers, thinking that the traditional industry is the only way to make real money. Well, I’m here to propose to you that you’re wasting your time and suggest a new way of thinking. I’m confident that I can persuade you that everything has changed and you need to think very differently now, and here’s how I’m going to do it. I’m going to start by having you imagine you’re an agent. Then I’m going to offer you two ways to choose books and make money (let’s be honest, that’s what you’re about). Then you’re going to decide which approach to take. Then I’ll allow you to return to your life, and I promise you you’ll never bother trying to contact an agent again (unless it’s to sack a useless one, many years from now). Ready?
OK. Imagine you’re an agent. You want to be a successful agent. This means you want to represent authors who are successful and only recommend books to publishers that are likely to succeed. You’re picky about what books you want to represent, maybe you have a genre in mind and you certainly won’t take anything on that’s poorly written. Does this sound plausible so far? Of course it does. Now, here are your options.
Option 1 : You sit in your office waiting for authors to stumble across your website or your entry in the Writers Handbook and send you their manuscripts. As with any random collection of submissions, 90 out of 100 are either truly dreadful or badly written or both. Of the remaining 10 that show promise, 3 are in areas that you aren’t interested in (in spite of the careful wording on your website), 3 have been snapped up by another agent by the time you get round to replying, 2 were discarded by an idiotic intern you took on for reasons you don’t want to think on any more. This leaves two manuscripts. When you get in touch with the authors, you find that one is intractable and four-fifths mad without a hope of making a good impression at a book launch. The other…well, the other looks promising, but you just can’t be sure. They have no readers yet except for you. No feedback. No commercial track record. No fans.
Option 2 : You pick a genre and have your dribbling intern scout out indie authors who are self-publishing, starting to attract a following and (here’s the important bit), starting to make money. It transpires your intern has a bafflingly inexhaustible capacity to browse the internet and follow social media feeds! You read a sample and decide how much polishing this author will need to hit the big time. Set some kind of quality bar if you want to put in an appearance at the Man-Booker awards, or maybe not. After all, the recent successes in soft porn have demonstrated the extraordinary capacity of readers to turn a blind eye to imperfectly told tales. You pounce, make an offer to the awestruck author and voila. Your commercial risk is next to nothing.
So as the agent, which option are you going to take? I think I know.
Back to you….the author. So you’ve got a great story, heartrending even and beautifully told. Well done. That’s what everybody says. Prove it. Stop wasting your time applying to agents and publishers whose eyes are turned elsewhere now. Stop waiting months for those endless rejection letters. Prove it. Get out there. Publish and get some reviews and then we’ll see, and so will the agents.