December 4, 2005
Don't worry if you don't get many responses and don't count on getting many favorable responses, but all you need is one. Agents, editors and publishers are generally pretty self-satisfied and dismissive. Don't take it personally. Publishing is a business. Businesses need to make money or they go out of business. The business of publishing needs "product." That's where writers come in. Let them see what you've got. Give them a shot. All they can do is say yes or no or nothing. Count on nothing. Tell the truth as best you know it. Those who have ears will hear. Crack yourself up. Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke. And after you've tried all three or four thousand agents, editors and publishers on this little list, try them all again. It's a crapshoot.
When you get down in the dumps from getting dissed and dissed and dissed again, go to any of other websites in this directory and see what other writer's resources there are. There's all sorts of useful, uplifting advice and "success" stories. I don't have any, myself, but they're out there. When all else fails, write another book and start the process all over again. Or do something entirely different. G.
The formula for getting a good agent or a good publisher is simple. Good agents and good publishers don't charge up front fees, period. A good agent will recoup reasonable expenses out of his or her clients' advances after the sale of the book. That's standard and reasonable. If your agent doesn't sell your work, he or she eats the expenses incurred while trying to sell it. Get that language into any agency agreement you sign. If an agent doesn't have enough confidence in your work to take the chance that they're gonna have to eat their expenses if they can't sell it, they don't have enough confidence in your work to try to sell it in the first place.
There are exceptions. If you hit it off with an agent or a publisher and he or she is just starting out and your book can benefit from some editing or some reasonable expenses that may need to be incurred in the process of getting it publishedand you trust each otherwork with each other. Even Binky was once a little girl, too. The main thing you have to worry about getting from an agent or a publisher is his or her unqualified enthusiasm for your work. If you've got more money than the agent or publisher, give him or her some if you want to. That's usually not the case, however, so if you have any doubts whatsoever about an agent or publisher, DON'T SIGN A CONTRACT.
I make a point of saying that if anyone knows of any schlock agents on my little list, let me know and I'll get rid of 'em. I've gotten rid of a bunch. It'd like to have this directory include the best literary agents, editors and publishers there are, listed generally in order of how good they are, how successful, how ethical, etc. If they're schlock agents, I don't want 'em on my list. How simple is that? That does not, however, mean that if an agent, editor or publisher is NOT on my little list they ARE a schlock agent, editor or publisher. I discuss my criteria for inclusion and exclusion in the About This Directory section (toward the bottom):
So my question is, I suppose, that after your long struggles with trying to get people to see the beauty of your works that have come from the art inside you, would you consider it worthwhile, if you were a young man again, to still choose writing as your main focus in life? Would you write something more mainstream just to have easier access to agents and publishers? These are the questions that I'm entertaining as I've thinking on what writing project I'll jump into next. Thanks for any advice, and sorry if this it too serious.
Wait a minute, what do you mean if I were a young man again? Sheesh. No it's not too serious. Be who you are and do what you want to do is the short answer. I only wrote stuff 'cause the chicks I always had the hots for generally, to a greater or lesser degree, had the hots for guys who wrote stuffthere were other considerations in the mix, of course, but the way I wooed a chick was by writing stuff. The cooler the chick the better the stuff I wrote had to be. It didn't necessarily matter that there was any kind of mass market appeal for the stuff I wrote as long as the chick I wanted to like me liked it. Actually, the chicks I liked barfed all over books with any kind of mass market appeal so that was all she wrote for my "career" as a writer.
What people at their core want to do is make love, love someone who loves you and spend as much time as you possibly can making love with each other. Appealing to who you want to appeal to is what you want to do and that becomes a totally individual thing. Guys are all different. Chicks are all different. Some chicks wanna mess with Woody Allen. Some chicks wanna mess with Stephen King. Some chicks wanna mess with Kobe Bryant. I wanna mess with Eminem, myself, but I'm pretty sure that's just a passing fancy. Be who the chicks you wanna mess with wanna mess with. You wanna mess with a chick who wants to mess with Stephen King, write yourself some goofy vampire, howling wolf, cemetery bullshit. You wanna mess with a chick who wants to hang out at Hollywood parties, write some schlock Grisham horseshit. You wanna mess with some arty chick, write some Henry Miller stuff no one but she will ever read. If you just want to make money, write advertising copy or scripts about being dumber than dumb.
You are not ever in a million years gonna have a "career" as a novelist. Nobody has ever had a career as a novelist. There is no such career. Write books if you want to, sure, and if people want to read the books you want to write there are plenty of agents, editors and publishers looking for books they can make money buying and selling. That part of it is total happenstance; getting yourself in the right place at the right time. With a big advertising budget the most putrid piles of horseshit ever put down on paper can be "best sellers" overnightgo take a look at the New York Times list.
Agents, editors and publishers for the most part want to make money, period. Schlock sells. But it has to be genuine schlock. You can't fake it. Stephen King truly believes he's a good writer, that the horsepiss he writes is worth writing and reading. Ha! So do romance novelists and mystery guys and thriller guys and even "literary" guys. It's the job of agents and editors to determine what's gonna sell and genuine schlock sells. The criteria for good writing among agents, editors and publishers is whether it makes money or not...period, end of story, bottom line. Every now and then purely accidentally a piece of decent writing will make some money. Somebody told me that Eggers guy wrote a decent book. There's a guy named Earley somebody else said can write all right. Other people like what some chick named ZZ Packer writes but I think that's mainly 'cause she's a babe.
To my knowledge there hasn't been a good writer who's made any money since guys like Bellow and Updike and Malamud and Pynchon--Flannery O'Connor, Philip Roth, Joseph Heller, John Gardner, Salinger, Truman Capote (whose In Cold Blood is the same "genre" as Ginny Good, i.e., a nonfiction novel, by the way), those kinds of guys...but I admit I haven't read a book in awhile.
The best thing you can ever hope to achieve by writing stuff is confidence. The better the stuff you write is, the more confidence you're gonna get. Chicks like that, tooconfidence, self-respect, self-esteem, all that nonsensebut you can't fake it. However you get it, that's what you want. If money gives you confidence, make lots of money. If writing good stuff gives you confidence, write good stuff. If writing shit that appeals to the demographic some marketing guy determines will buy gives you confidence, write that crap.
You're a young guy, what you wanna write might just totally fit the right niche. Write it and see, that's what I say. Does that answer your question? G.
Gerard, This is a great site. I'm trying to get my first novel published. Any tips on the letter that I will send to Agents?
Keep it short. I've been doing this long enough to know that no literary agent, editor or publisher can write a book, that they're dealers, marketers, advertisers, schmoozers, hype-meisters, that's it. How someone who makes the commodity can get intimidated by the guys who hype it I don't quite get. Kafka sold one story in his life. I wonder who his agent was? A good agent or editor knows who's the boss. You are. You're the writer. You're his or her client. He or she works for you. You don't go with your hat in your hand to get someone to work for you, do you? You let 'em know you're hiring, if they're looking for the kind of work you have to offer, they'll come to work for you and be glad you thought enough of 'em to give 'em the job. Ah, pomposity. Good luck. Getting a book published is hard to do. Getting anyone to read it after it's published is even harder...unless it really sucks, then it's easy to get people to read it. Thanks. G.
Hello, I don't know the number of e-mails you receive (how could I, that'd be impossible), but this one is going to be part praise, part inquisitive. I should think that you, being a person who sends out what appears to be dozens of e-mails, will understand how generally pleasant it is to have somebody read and respond to a correspondence, especially if they seem far away. Plus the fact that it's four in the morning should, I hope, prove that I'm not dicking around, even if I am in pajamas.
Basically, your website is fantastic. I can't even remember how I found it, but I never thought typing random search phrases into Google would give me such an accurate result of what it was I wanted to see. I'm not going to dick around and pretend I've read your stuff; I haven't yet. If nothing else it's your anarchy to a (nother) system designed to be filled with bullshit which appeals to me. Actually, it's your successes with anarchy towards the system.
I need to write. I've written, but I need to get published so I can feel some sense of self-validation (and to shave this beard off my face; a stupid personal bet). If I told how you young I was, you'd might laugh and say I've got all the time in the world to get something out there. Utterly disappointed with the undergraduate University process, I cannot see myself doing all that over again for a graduate degree finding myself near broke, with a lambskin degree that should assure people that I'm not crazy, and an even more disillusioned sense of the world.
I guess, the one thing I cannot figure out from your site, and the one thing I'm curious about, is if you ever got an agent, a "peddler" like you say, or whether your constant persistence to go one-on-one with publishers ever got through. I'm sorry if this information is available and I just haven't found it, but on the other hand, I'm not, because I want to hear directly from you. And I realize (as you must) that your story is one in a million, and your success at publication is one in a hundred million, but I'll take those odds. Is it worth it to submit to a hundred agents and publications at once? What the hell am I doing, exactly?
I have an agent, yeah, but she's pissed at me for calling Nazis Nazis. You don't want "self" validation you want recognition by the twits who run the media and entertainment industries. They'll generate publicity. You'll get rich, you'll get famous and what you write won't be worth having written. What the hell you are doing exactly is trying to please people who are only pleased by making money for themselves and their employers. Money isn't everything, it's the only thing. If that's what you think, too, keep trying. If not, please yourself. Thanks. G.