Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The Economy and Submissions

I’ve been getting a lot of questions from authors asking whether or not they should be holding off on the agent search until the economy is better. I think the fear is that if you’re rejected because the economy is tight you’ve lost your chances of submitting to that agent or agency when things pick up again.

This question is no different, in my mind, than asking an agent what’s hot in the market because that’s what you’ll write. None of us can predict the future, and sure, the economy stinks right now and predictions say it’s going to get better, but when? None of us really know, and do you really want to put off your writing career for another year, another five years (help us all)? The truth is that the economy does stink right now and what that means is that editors and agents are using it as an opportunity to be really picky about the books we’re either buying or taking on. But you know what, we should all be really picky, all the time, about the books we’re taking on, and a stronger economy isn’t going to suddenly guarantee that agents and editors are going to get easier.

My suggestion is get your book out there and query, write your next book and keep moving forward. The biggest mistake we can all make, in this economy or at any time, is to let someone or something else stop forward momentum. Getting published takes persistence no matter the economy. Believe in your book and keep writing.



Kimber Li said...

I'm not doing this, but I'm strongly tempted to and I totally empathized with writers who are.

The fact is agents and editors may see thousands of submissions.

But, we only got one at a time and it takes about four months to several years to create and polish that thing.

We've been hammered that each novel only gets one shot in Queryland. So, we want to send it out with its very best chances. If some outside force like the economy destroys our one shot, well, all the incredilbe time and energy was for nothing.

That's crushing.

Anonymous said...

I feel the same way about subs to editors...

Agent doesn't want to send during August because no one is there. Doesn't want to send during Thanksgiving thru New Years, cuz everyone is on vacation. Doesn't want to send the week before or after BEA, Comic-con, any SCBWI event (twice yearly) or the two ALA conferences.

Or if it's sunny, cloudy, raining, snowing or windy.

Yeah, there's NO good time to send a book. What difference does it make, they keep it forever anyway.

Carol Doane #pearlofcarol said...

I've been considering this flood to fill agents' inboxes with queries and wondering why the bad economy has sucked in so many new writers. My suspicion is it's due to our human need to escape into fantasy rather than face the rigors of reality. If someone wants to write to the market, have at it. Seems more like trying to successfully make a killing predicting Wall Street trends. Write your heart, write what you know, and learn what you don't! In the meantime, why do I sense many agents seem depressed, or is it just frustration multiplied, lets say, by a trillion?

Anonymous said...

Ah, Anon, I feel your optimism. Seriously though, it's hard no matter what. The thing is, if you truly believe you have a saleable book, you just parke it for now, and in a year, when the market is better, and you hear agents/pubs are starting to look for you genre of novel, submit it again. Nobody is going to remember your query from a year earlier. Meanwhile, you keep writing and hopefully have a second book to shop around as well.

If you give up because that first book went nowhere, you weren't really in it for the right reasons anyway. Plus, today there are numerous other avenues to pursue, if you honestly can't move on without seeing that book in print.

Juliana Stone said...

Fact is, you will never sell your book if you don't submit. Bottom line.
I think that some writers constantly look for a reason to NOT send out their work. There will always be reason, but you must ignore and send.
Just. Do. It.

Kate Douglas said...

Regarding the comment that you only have one shot at submission with a manuscript--don't forget small press/epublishers. My first four epublished books were NY rejects, and while they didn't garner me an advance, they did get me into the world of publishing. I learned A LOT through epublishing with reputable publishers. (note "reputable," and DO YOUR RESEARCH!) Think of it as baby steps. Those first four titles, available in POD and download, still pay royalties ten years after release. This is NOT self publishing--this is small press with editors who are often quite good. The point is, I used that early experience with small press to learn more about the business and to improve my writing skills. Eventually, with Jessica's help, I turned my ebook writing into a healthy NY career. It might have been a convoluted path to publication, but sometimes you need to open yourself to other options. It might not work for everyone, but it worked for me.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:19 - I believe the flood of queries reflects the desperation of people who have been jobless for over a year and are desperate to strike out in a new direction and the time to write that joblessness has provided.

Wh knows?

Kimbra Kasch said...

This reminds me of a country song that says: "If you're going through He11, keep on going."

You have to keep moving -that's the best way to reach . . . something worth reaching.

AE Rought said...

I totally agree with Kate. There ARE other options. I have three books with an e-pub and while the royalties might not be what a NY pubbed author would receive, they definitely don't suck. ^_^

And as to only having one shot, that's not necessarily true. Take that rejected manuscript back to the mattresses. Rework. Learn. By the time you're done, there may be a new agency willing to give it a sniff, or a previous agent may be willing to give it a second look with revisions. And, from personal experience, that first editor rejection later turned into an acceptance--definitely not the rule, most likely pretty rare, but a 'no' isn't always final.

Stephanie said...

When I finished up my third novel a few months ago...I debated the same thing....submit or sit on it???? But truth be told, agents and publishers need books to sell and what they are looking for now is what they'll be putting out a year from now. No one knows how the economy will be a year from now...but they do know they'll still need books to sell.

And yes, there are other avenues....I'm now looking into epublishers.

Jim said...

Here is another thought, I just got a rejection letter from an Agent who let a little thing slip. In the rejection, he had the material for two months..He stated he checked with all of his contacts and while he loved the material he couldn't find someone who was interested. no matter how good or bad the query letter is, the agent isn't going to go out on a limb, until they "shop the material around". From my experience as a working actor, this never happens in the movie/tv biz. An agent likes or dislikes the talent, takes them on board and then does everything in their power to sell that talent. If Lit Agents can't trust their own judgment what's a writer to do?

Anonymous said...

I have received several passes from agents who have cited the poor economy as a reason for rejecting me as an "unknown name".

So my question is: Since none of these agents passed on the merit of my work, would it be okay to re-submit after the economy turns back around?

Kristin Laughtin said...

Well said. One can blame the economy, but it's just another excuse (just like all the "bad times to submit" that Anon listed in the second comment). Eventually you have to get out there and just do it.

The only reason I'm holding off is that I want to practice for a while longer before throwing myself out there. (Also, going back to school part-time in the fall, and want to figure out that balance first--but I won't let that keep me from submitting if I decide I'm ready halfway through! I'll only be in for 2-3 years anyway.)

BookEnds, A Literary Agency said...

I think you should feel free to resubmit a query once the economy turns around. Hopefully though you'll have a fresh book to submit at that time. Sure many agents are citing the economy, but they also cite passion. I'm not sure it's all that different.

As for the agent "shopping around" your book. It's not uncommon for agents to talk to editors about what's working and what's not and to get a feel about something they aren't sure about. There's a huge difference between talking to an editor generally about an idea, "what would you think of a vampire romance" and actually showing the material.

It is possible the agent learned that his contacts are not right for your book.


Anonymous said...

Ok, I hate to be the anti-Pollyanna, here, but...

My MS went out on submission right when the economy was starting to go heads up. Though it has now been turned down through round two (and possibly three!), I feel like a top agency would not have taken it without thinking it passed muster and deserved to be published. Nonetheless, its chances of ever seeing the light of day NOW are nearly zero; it has been seen by most of the editors who would find it appealing. It seems likely they are only greenlighting the most likely moneymakers. My MS is now "shopworn," and I rue the day it was sent out in this climate. Years of hard work and dedication, probably wasted. It makes me heart sick.

What could be done differently? I think it would be hard for any author with the promise of good representation to sit on her MS for any length of time. However, I wish my agent had been much more selective when submitting it--really targeted it instead of sending it out to everyone in town. After the first round of rejections, perhaps we could have sat on our losses for a while,seen if there was any common thread in the rejections, and regrouped. I might still have hope of seeing my dear novel published.

Anonymous said...

I put the finishing touches on one of my novels in January. With the economy in a never ending sink hole, I thought the timing couldn't be worse. I read all the comments from writers saying they were planning to wait for better times and considered doing the same.

Then I reconsidered.

I sent out some queries and found out I landed in the middle of the largest query landslide ever. Again I thought, egad, worst time ever to submit my novel.

Maybe. Maybe not.

I now have three agents considering my work. (terrific, well respected agents)
This may not be the best time, but apparently, it is my time and I'm glad I took the chance despite the odds. I don't have an offer for represetation yet but the possibility is there. So, if you feel your work is ready, get it out there.
Take a chance.

Debra Lynn Shelton said...

If you've got a finished work that you're excited about, send out queries. The economy is only one of many things we can't predict. There's no time like the present.;-)

Elissa M said...

Many writers are so wrapped up in their current project, they have no perspective. The thought of THIS book not getting published after all the hard work horrifies them.

I understand the emotions involved, but they're misplaced. A book is a commodity, and too few writers can see that. To them it's art and a child of their hearts, and they cannot truly come to grips with the commercial world of publishing, whether or not they have their work published.

This is more common with fiction than nonfiction writers, but it can be observed throughout the writing community. The attitude fosters all the angst and fears one sees running rampant among writers of all types.

Learn to let go and move on. It's how to stay sane in an insane business.

Anonymous said...

Amateur hour.

Penny said...

Thank you for the encouragement!

Anonymous said...

It's amazing to me that someone would ask those questions. How could I not write, no matter what's going on in the world? How could I not seek to share my work with others? I can't stop doing that just like I can't stop breathing. Take away my oxygen and I will still TRY to breath. Take away my industry and I will still write.

RB Ripley said...

Well said, per usual.

Let's all just keep moving forward...

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:11, I'm sorry about what happened to you. It is heartbreaking.

talshannon, the question is not to stop writing but whether a writer is better sitting on a manuscript to wait out this economic crash.

Jim said...
"Here is another thought, I just got a rejection letter from an Agent who let a little thing slip. In the rejection, he had the material for two months..He stated he checked with all of his contacts and while he loved the material he couldn't find someone who was interested. no matter how good or bad the query letter is, the agent isn't going to go out on a limb, until they "shop the material around". From my experience as a working actor, this never happens in the movie/tv biz. An agent likes or dislikes the talent, takes them on board and then does everything in their power to sell that talent. If Lit Agents can't trust their own judgment what's a writer to do?"

Your analogy isn't quite right. The actor has to be sent out on auditions, so he has to be taken on by the agent first. Don't compare book literary agents with Hollywood talent agencies for actors -- compare them with Hollywood literary agencies for screenwriters. Yes, slipping a script to a producer or D-girl happens all the time.

An agent has to decide if they want to take on all the work of a new client. So they sometimes do this first to see if they have a viable project.

I know the book world is different, but your post confirmed something I suspected about some book agents (but not all, as Jessica said).