Welcome back to part two of our self vs. traditional publishing discussion in which we endeavor to toss together disparate musings/factoids and grind out a new truth.
Since our last communication, another eminent author has crossed over to the indie side–John Edgar Wideman. (If you’ve never read his novel Sent For You Yesterday, convey yourself post haste to book store or reading device for your very own copy.) In an interview at Goodreads, Wideman points to a blockbuster mindset in traditional publishing. “The publisher’s list gets shorter and shorter, and that’s destructive of quality and variety. I think the American imagination has been impoverished by the choices that have been offered as a substitute for what was once real selection.”
Perhaps with such defections as Wideman’s from traditional publishing, the indie taint will disappear. Certainly in this current climate of stick-it-to-the-man self-empowerment, it feels kinda-sorta good to sidestep the evil gatekeepers. Am I right? However, Victoria Strauss notes on her blog that “it’s risky to assume that others’ success stories will apply to you. ‘Anyone can do it’ are dangerous words. Look for the story behind the story–it may be as instructive as the story itself.”
Interesting. As writers, we’re all about the story.
For instance, what is the story with agents? Once we’ve paid Charon‘s coins, can the agents really deliver us to the other side? Check out this straightforward description of what a literary agent can do for you from Adler & Robin Books, Inc. For many writers, access to money and distribution are the primary assets an agent brings.
For me, the partnership is what I crave. The mentoring, the career path guidance, the industry eyes and ears. In her first (and best) novel, The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan thanks her agent Sandra Dijkstra for “saving [her] life.” Now that’s a relationship!
But here’s the rub: a good (or not so good) agent is hard to find. Emily Hill, indie publishing apologist, describes the probability statistics of landing an agent at a non-New York agency as one tenth of one percent. Grim, yes? To read the full article, click here. She also decries the interminable wait times of querying, landing an agent, waiting for the agent to shop a manuscript, waiting for the publisher to publish. That’s the best scenario. In the end, three or five or ten years later, there may be no book.
Did we grind out a definitive answer for all writers? Probably not. It seems the opposite–there are more choices and directions than ever. The good news is that writers now more opportunities to be read and to allow readers to determine the value of their work.
Let us know about your own journey. What did you decide? Was it the right decision for you?