Yesterday I told you about my panel with Abby Zidle from Pocket, agent Kevan Lyon, Deb Werksman from Sourcebooks, Tracy Ferrell from Harlequin and agent Emmanuelle Alspaugh (today I corrected all spellings. ouch.) and mentioned that the one common theme I’m hearing at the conference, from editors and agents alike, is that publishing is struggling these days. In fact, in my conversations yesterday with colleagues many were saying the same things.
My advice during this time is to continue what you are doing and that means continue to submit, continue to write, and keep moving forward. Many of you asked why? What are agents doing during this time and why doesn’t it make sense to wait a year until the economy recovers?
As usual I can only speak for one agent and what she’s doing and that’s me, but here are my thoughts on the subject. Publishing is in a huge period of transition and change and sure some of it is based on the economy and some of it is based on the success of e-readers like the Kindle, but the truth is that some of this has been coming for a long time. Changes have been needed and expected and while everyone has her own theory on what needs to be done and what will become of publishing over the next five to ten years the truth is that no one really knows. What I do think we can all agree on is that the book as a creative art form is here to stay, but how readers read and obtain books and how books are published is changing.
So why do I suggest you continue submitting and not wait a year until the economy rights itself? IBecause there’s no guarantee that the economy will right itself in a year, but more importantly, we don’t know that just because the economy starts an upswing publishing will too. In addition, what you’re writing today is for today’s market and tomorrow’s market might change. Most importantly though, I don't think it makes sense for anyone to put a career on hold because of situations you can't control.
You also asked what I’m doing and I’ll tell you about a conversation I had with a new client this weekend and yes, I said new client. I’m continuing forward almost as if the publishing world is in the same shape it was a year ago or even two years ago, I’m controlling what I can control. This client and I discussed the importance of time and how frequently agents might say that sometimes timing counts and while that’s true what’s the even more important is quality. I’m still actively submitting, I’m still actively taking on new clients, but I’m pickier. I’m working my clients hard and sometimes proposals and manuscripts are going through one, two or even three or more rounds of revisions before we even consider pitching publishers. I’m demanding that books we submit aren’t just perfect, but one step above perfect. And personally, I’m taking on more nonfiction these days since I’ve found that nonfiction is easier to judge (for many publishers), it’s less subjective and easier to compare a nonfiction project to a currently published book and get a feel for numbers and finally, I’m not worrying about something I can’t control, but instead focusing on those things I can.
Despite blog posts like this I see myself as a Pollyanna. I hear lots of people complaining about the economy and how it’s effecting them and while I can’t hide from the numbers (there’s no doubt book sales are down and bookstores are in trouble) I think it’s about change and frankly, I’m not scared. It means we all have to work harder, but the truth is we all love books and books have been around for a really, really long time. That’s not going to change. The stories you write are always going to be wanted and needed and (hopefully) someone to support you through whatever the publishing process is will be needed too. If not, maybe I could become a shoe salesman.
Kim would like to point out here that before I become a shoe salesman I need to learn to walk in my shoes. See, this is why I typically don’t share my blog posts until they’re posted [wink].
So other then the bad news what did I see yesterday at RWA? I saw thousands of people flocking to a book signing to meet and buy from their favorite writers (okay that was Wednesday night). I saw authors who were enthusiastic and confident about their careers. In fact, I met a young agent yesterday from another agency who really buoyed my confidence in the writing community. At one of the many awards events (this one served chocolate fondue which was to die for) this agent came to introduce herself to me because she is a daily reader of the blog which I so appreciate. You know for a long time I pretended I blogged in a bubble and that only aspiring writers read my words. Ha! I think I’ve been outed. What was really neat about this agent was the enthusiasm she had. She was literally bouncing out of her seat at the excitement of being an agent and meeting the authors she has admired and loved for years. It was sweet, it was inspiring and I think I might love her. Because this is what it’s all about and this is why we’re all here, at the conference and reading this blog. We love books and we love what we do and in the end that’s what makes it all worthwhile.
And as if this blog post wasn't long enough already I thought I'd leave you with one final conference tale. All day yesterday I wore these rocking red patten leather pumps. I mean rockin'. After a full day of running through the gigantic hotel and a few walks outside to various restaurants my feet were a little tired and while I'd like to blame this experience on the shoes or maybe even Kim, I suspect it was all me. While heading to dinner last night Kim and I were walking down Connecticut Ave chatting when all of a sudden, out of the blue, I found myself on my hands and knees on the sidewalk in front of a very crowded outdoor dining area. I'm pretty sure my skirt stayed down this time and I flashed no one, but if in fact I did, I apologize. I'm seeing a common theme here and it's making me a little nervous about how today might play out.