Monday, February 9, 2009

Stuck in my craw

While nibbling on lunch today I wandered over to LinkedIn to check in on people (procrastinating, networking...sometimes the same thing).
I clicked on a question from an author - she was looking for recommendations for literary agents for her contemporary mystery/romance novel.
There was only one answer already posted to her query. David, a legal professional who apparently has absolutely no publishing experience offered his expert advice - and it made me want to set my hair on fire (nod to the Great Miss Snark).
The essentials:
"There are still some agents in business agents anywhere in the world are accepting unpublished writers of fiction"... "Less than 0.1% even stand a chance of seeing their book in print...For now, the only way new authors will see their novel in print is through self-publishing."
Excuse my language, but bullhockey.
My response (written after a calming walk around my desk):
"Sorry David, but I have to completely disagree with you on all points.

Yes, publishers are picking up fewer new authors. Yes, publishers are spending more time on their backlists. Yes, publishing is in trouble.

However, most agents are still accepting and signing new manuscripts. Although it may be true that only 1% of writers land that coveted big-four publishing contract, [author's name redacted] could, for all we know, be in that 1% of authors who have written something that publishers and readers will love.

A few examples:
Jennifer Jackson (of the Donald Maass Agency) is looking for Romance Novels. Kristin Nelson of the Nelson Literary Agency is still accepting queries, and she just promoted her assistant, Sarah Megibow, to Associate Agent, which means she's just starting to build her list of writers (a great opportunity for unpublished authors). A note from Sarah's post on the agency's blog: "I love super sexy, intelligent romances." And there are plenty of others out there.

You might not be that 1%. But you won't know unless you give it a shot."
Luckily, while I was responding, so were a number of other publishing professionals, ALL of whom echoed my sentiments. The best response?
The wonderful and absolutely brilliant agent Jessica Faust from BookEnds Literary Agency. If you're a writer and you don't already read her blog, start now. Really.
A brief excerpt from Jessica's response sums it all up:
"There are a lot of agents in the business and despite the economic climate there are a lot of agents who are still doing very good business and there are a lot of agents still taking on unpublished authors. I for one just finished a deal for a debut author that sold at auction (and it was a romance) to a major NY publishing house."
Yes, the economy makes everything tougher. Yes, it's true that not all authors are going to get big publishing contracts just because they want them. Yes, self-publishing really is the best option for some writers.
But a great book is a great book, and as long as writers keep writing them and readers keep reading them, publishers will publish them.
Keep writing. Keep reading. Keep learning. Keep working towards being the best damn writer out there.
And David - just stick to the law.


  1. Great post! I sometimes do the same thing on LinkedIn and wonder where some of these answers come from. Now I know - people NOT in the industry. :)

  2. Melie Fiase9/2/09 22:34

    Thank you Lindsay! I couldn’t agree more. I am a French editor and translator – an English to French translator – and I stick to what I know. I don’t translate from French to English because although my English is good (most people actually think it’s my first language when they read me) English not being my mother tongue I would not have the pretension to be an expert on English. I can sometimes lack the fluidity peculiar to a native speaker and I am aware of that. That’s why whenever people come to me for French to English services I recommend one of my very talented and qualified English native speaking colleagues and let a pro do the job.

  3. Good for you, Lindsay! With all the great resources out there, it's amazing that this guy can be so ignorant -- but then to try to pass that off as real knowledge to someone sincerely seeking an answer? Grrrrrrr.....

  4. He came back! See today's post...

  5. Anonymous10/2/09 10:21

    The guy clearly is clueless. I wouldn't waste any energy even responding.