Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Feeling Like a Failure

I edit for a fabulous company. They are so dedicated to making sure authors and editors have access to pertinent information, they offer online classes (which are basically hour long chat sessions with a professional). I was lucky enough to take one of those classes on Saturday. It involved speaking with an agent.

At first, I wasn't going to attend the class. I thought I knew all there was to know about landing an agent (even though I haven't yet), but then I thought, "What the heck? I'm sure I'll still learn something new." And I did. I asked several questions, along with everyone else, and felt my self-confidence slip away.

It wasn't the agent's fault. She was as nice as could be and incredibly helpful. It's just the nature of the publishing world. It's incredibly competitive.

So what depressed me? Well, first of all, just the prospect of sending out queries is incredibly daunting. I've sent out hundreds so far in my career, and no agent has ever picked me up. I'm not looking forward to the rejection. And there will be rejection.

In our discussion, one of the things the agent brought up was that she isn't overly impressed with authors who have ebooks. Books from some small publishers are okay, but she doesn't take that into consideration when she's looking at potential clients. While she can't speak for all agents, she believes that outlook is pretty consistent across the board.

Where does that leave me? All my books (with the exception of my nonfiction) have been put out by an indie publisher. If no one takes books like that seriously, have I been wasting my time? I mean, you'd think that having that type of experience would count for something, but it doesn't sound like it does. It made me feel like I'd settled, taken the easy way out. But if I hadn't, no one would be able to read my books.

When I told this to my spouse, he tried to make me feel better. He said, "Of course an agent is going to tell you they don't look at authors from small publishers. Where's the money in it for them? But it still gives you experience. I'm sure it will be fine." His words helped, but I wasn't exactly gushing with confidence.

For my question, I asked about how many times you should send an agent something before giving up. I've had my heart set on one agency for a long time, and I've sent them two of my works. They rejected both. The agent told me after that many times, it was probably best to move on and find someone new. Not exactly what I wanted to hear, but I understand her reasoning. Still, it broke my heart.

It also got me wondering about other agents. There aren't a slew of them out there that deal in my genre. Most of them I've queried at least once before. Am I supposed to quit after two or three times because they rejected me? Sadly, that won't leave me a lot of other options.

I truly appreciated being able to talk to an agent and get some insight into their world. Like I said, I did learn some new things, but I didn't come away from the class with a sense of optimism and hope. It was more dread and panic.

One of the good things that I came away from the class with was that agents like to know that authors are working on other projects. They like to know that we aren't one-book wonders. That made me feel a little better because I always have book ideas floating around my head. Will it help me get an agent? We shall see.


Tonia Brown said...

If it makes you feel better, my agent said he finds more and more editors at the Big 6 are starting to look at both your self publishing and small publishing history for a general impression of your work. That's why we decided to go ahead with doing Railroad! as a serial first. Self pubbing is coming up in the world, and it's only going to become more the norm. I think your husband is right, the agent isn't interested in things that won't make her money.

Pembroke Sinclair said...

That does make me feel a little better. Now, I just need to figure out how to get them to look at me...

Thanks, Tonia!

Michelle Pickett said...

My first novel, Concilium, comes out in July. It is through a small e-publisher. I worry that maybe it wasn't the right decision to go with an e-book - there is so much competition.

But, I think it's a great way to get your name noticed and a lot of writers have gain momentum through their e-books.

I put it on my queries that I'm currently sending out. I don't mention it's an e-book. I just mention the publisher.

All that being said...I don't have an agent yet! But a publisher (traditional) did pick up my third novel. Small presses don't often care if you have an agent or not.


Pembroke Sinclair said...

Congrats, Michelle! That's great. I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

Marva Dasef said...

I self-pub and small-pub. Tried the agent hunt for awhile and found them to be snipes. Once I realized that, then I felt better. Snipe hunting is for fools. If somebody actually catches one, they might find them poor eating.

Stacey said...

I think all roads are right. Any way you can put your work out there and have it read is the right way for you. I do a lot of self publishing, but I did try for agents before I really started writing like I am now, but now I realize I don't need an agent or a big six to be happy. I don't want to write just what's trending, I want to write what I want to write.

I think you can make a name for yourself no matter how you do it. You don't need to wait on someone to tell you you can, because you already are. :)

Pembroke Sinclair said...

Wow! Thank you all so much for the support! I'm so glad to know such a fabulous community of writers! I know that no matter what happens, all of you will have my back. YOU ROCK!