I found this picture while searching for “confused.” I’m not sure why it came up, but I like it. Also, it definitely looks like a book cover for a young adult book, no? So, I’m going with it. It would be for a book with a cliched one-word title no doubt. Something like Noodle or Wasn’t or some shit… I don’t know; I’m in a mood…anyway…
Okay, here’s the thing: I went to this writing conference and found it useless. For me. I’m sure it was useful to some; and I’m not trying to say it was bad or anything like that. It was just not helpful to me as an individual. And I’ve been trying to figure out why. So bear with me while I think through this on my blog. I won’t name it. And I love that it was available to me; and I think the organizers put a nice conference together and all that. And actually it gave me a chance to think through my strategy as an author a lot, so maybe I’m not giving it enough credit. Whatever. Here’s the actual post:
I went. I had a critique. It was pretty negative. The sessions seems business-y and boring and didn’t offer me as a writer anything all that useful. I also don’t love mingling. So that was forced and probably obvious. But whatever–it’s part of it. And if I didn’t know anything about subbing a manuscript, then oh my yes, it would have been wonderful. But I do. And I got to thinking, the panel probably has more “expertise” in passing on knowledge about the business of publishing than writing craft. So, cool. They brought it. I just didn’t really need it.
That begs the question: what do I need? What did I hope to get out of the conference?
Well, I hoped to get contacts. Sadly, that didn’t pan out. The editor worked for a house that already rejected my first book. The agent clearly wasn’t into my manuscript. Bummer. You can’t predict these things. Sometimes you just don’t match. But as an author, you can’t help wondering: Is it really that I’m a bad match or is it that my writing doesn’t hold up to what the market wants and what is considered quality?
Let’s assume my writing is not quality enough: Okay, I’ll keep working on it–an obvious solution. And who would possibly ever think: NO THIS CANNOT GET ANY BETTER! Not me. And, I think I’ve identified a true weakness in my writing. One which I’ve committed to trying to work out.
So, let’s say I do work that out, and my writing is then quality. Or, maybe my writing is of publishable quality already (could be) and I just encountered an agent who didn’t “get” my writing. What does that mean?????
Well, my friend who was with me this weekend has suggested that maybe I’m targeting the wrong kind of person. It got me thinking…Do agents tend to pick up writers who they think will make them money over writers who may or may not? I mean, yeah, of course they do, but how sales-focused are agents? If my past experience has taught me anything, it’s that if you as an author don’t sell to a big house, you may not be worth keeping as a client. Now, this is speculation on my part. I will also say I don’t blame my former agent for my book not selling. I was the writer. I didn’t write a manuscript that moved people to purchase it. I accept that. Maybe it’s coincidence that he only pitched it to the big league houses. I don’t know. And I’m glad he aimed high! But when that didn’t work, he stopped. Maybe it had nothing to do with my book. I will never know. I just know he stopped submitting it.
And it leads me to wonder if agents are reluctant to pick up authors that don’t seem like they could garner big time sales. I recognize it’s a business. Oh, do I. I also know my writing garnered a pocket full of rejections with reasonings of “I’m not sure how to market this” and “You definitely picked the unpopular ending, huh?” I take this to mean, sure the writing shows talent, but you won’t earn me enough money to make your book worth my time. I’m willing to accept this, if my interpretation is correct. It’s far more complimentary than “you’re writing isn’t right for my list.” Whatever that means. I think maybe it means, I don’t really have the time to tell you what faults your book has. So, the fact that I got feedback I almost understood was pretty cool. But still, I remain unpublished. And, as of now, un-agented. Anyway, that kind of feedback plus the kind of feedback at the conference that was given over and over to multiple authors (“this isn’t marketable”) really made me think: am I targeting the wrong person with my writing?
Maybe I’m a writer who should target smaller publishers, boutique publishers, or whatever they are called. If my writing doesn’t reach that wide and universal kind of reader, do I need an agent? Or, more specifically, do I need the kind of agent that these kinds of conferences I attend attracts? Just because I got an agent from this kind of event in the past, doesn’t mean it’s what I need, or that it’s what’s good for my writing. In fact, seeing as how it didn’t work out with that agent, maybe I should learn from it. Maybe I should try another avenue to publishing: NOT getting an agent.
But that just seems so weird and wrong. Like maybe I’m making an excuse for my writing. And really, I mean, the research!! My god, the research!! I want an agent so I don’t have to worry about where to send my writing! Where it will be a good fit and blah blah blah!
So, in the end, I’m left with this question: Are there agents out there who will look at my writing and want to represent it for reasons other than a certain amount money it may earn him or her? If I have the talent (and it is an “if”), is that enough to overcome questions of marketability?