Jumping off the agent-go-round

If Dante Alighieri lived and wrote in 2016 (now there’s a divinely comedic idea), I feel sure he would consign certain literary agents to the eighth circle of Hell. I’m particularly irritated with those bright young things who blog about what authors should be doing and not doing. I had been wrestling with the idea—despite my better judgement–of maybe trying to find an agent to handle the next new book, instead of publishing it independently. (That’s my phrase for ‘self-publishing;’ sounds more professional, don’t you think?)  Note the use of the past perfect—that issue is now in the past, and that’s perfect as far as I’m concerned. Not only did I remember the trial and travails and utter humiliation of my last agent search, I could not bear the idea of someone half my age critiquing my work with half-assed notions about what he or she thought was ‘marketable.’ The truth is, these days, NO ONE really knows what’s guaranteed to be a success or what the future of literature is likely to be like. So, it’s a kind of free-for-all, and perhaps there’s even more opportunities for independent writers like me. So why bail out now?

I’ve been ‘traditionally’ published, and I know how it all goes down. Everything’s wonderful at first, when they take you to lunch and you get that great big check, and they promise you the world. But it all goes downhill from there. Soon everyone and their brother are picking your book apart, making you rewrite the ending, changing the title, slapping some goofy cover on it…And it can take over a year for your book to straggle into print, and then it’s only allowed to sit out there in the bookstores for a few weeks or so. If you don’t start selling immediately, you’re toast. Did I really want to go through all that again?

Yeah, but that big check…Low five figures, but still amazing to see that much money in our humble bank account all at once. And it would be nice to put the manuscript into someone else’s hands and let them do all the dirty work of selling it.

Still, I learned valuable lessons with my novice master, about what to do and not do as an independent, so why not try it all out with the new book. And I want it up and hopefully selling by the end of the year; not languishing in a slush pile somewhere.

I took heart from a blog post by the self-pub phenomenon Hugh Howey (don’t have a link, but just google self-publishing-literary-fiction), who predicts a rosy future for independent publishers of serious fiction; and I was further enlightened by the long stream of supportive comments. So there are self-pubbers out there who care about good fiction! The revolution continues, as all big movements do, with fits and false starts and setbacks, but it looks like indies are here to stay. Now we just have to keep getting better at our art.

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