Tag Archives: agent

Writer’s Everest

mount everest

Any writer worth his salt clings to the dream through thick and thin.  And very few actually make it!  From what I have observed in this unforgivable business, these are the levels of success:

  1. The Act of Writing:  The writer simply picks up a pen or sits behind a keyboard and writes a poem, story, play, or other literary work.  Most writers start here.   And many of them end here as well.  The writer, at this point in the game, is considered more of a hobbyist.
  2. Low-Level Discovery:  The writer finally becomes published or known as her work is sampled within a small community (e.g. published in school or local newspaper; play performed by community playhouse, etc.).  She may or may not have received any type of compensation for her work.  If she did, it likely wasn’t much.  The recognition from this accomplishment finally makes the writer consider her level of seriousness toward writing.
  3. Willful Determination:  The writer finally decides that she is serious about the craft and completes her first large-body work.  Maybe it was a novel or a screenplay.  But the project entailed months of work and a great sacrifice of free time.  Now the writer decides to look for ways to get the work and herself discovered.
  4. High-Level Discovery:  The writer possibly decides to look for an agent.  In rare cases, he finds one and ends up progressing immediately to the Ultimate Discovery level of success.  More likely, however, he finally becomes either published in a magazine or other small work or self-published digitally or in print.  He may have even won a writing contest.  Overall, his work becomes available in the local community or nation in which he lives.  It may even become available internationally.  The fruits from the labor are still lacking, however, requiring the writer to keep his regular job working in sales, retail, manual labor, administration, or whatever other menial job he is working.
  5. Collective Growth:  The writer continues to work hard at producing and publishing various bodies of work while spreading the word about it in all ways possible (e.g. word of mouth, book signings, print and broadcast media, online social media, etc.).  Money continues to flow in, but still does not permit the writer to quit his day job.  Meanwhile, agents may be scanning his Social Media, watching him very closely in consideration for future representation.
  6. Stuck in Literary Limbo:  Most serious writers are unfortunate enough to find themselves stuck in this almost hopeless existence at this stage in the game.  They feel as though they have done everything in their power to represent themselves and their work.  But no one seems to be biting.  Sadly enough, many writers give up at this point in the game after having stayed persistent throughout the previous stages of accomplishment.  Though I mention this lack of success here, this could also end up occurring anywhere before this level I’ve suggested (e.g. at the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th levels).
  7. Ultimate Discovery:  The writer either accidentally or intentionally becomes discovered by either an agent or one of the major traditional publishers, though the latter is extremely rare.  If discovered by an agent, the agent — if he is at all worth a damn — will agree to represent her before all the major traditional publishing houses or production companies out there while receiving pay only when she gets paid.  So the search is on for a publisher who will contract this writer to write one or more books under their name.
  8. First Success:  The writer suddenly gets her chance to be published by one of the major publishers of books (e.g. Simon & Schuster, Harper Collins, etc.) or contracted by one of the major production companies (e.g. Universal Studios, Paramount Pictures, etc.).  The writer finally makes enough money that she can quit her job, though she is still not out of the woods and may not be quite wise to do so.  After all, many writers have fallen from their first book or production deal when their book, show, or movie did not earn all the money back that was used to produce it.
  9. Continued Success:  The writer’s first success contributes to a return on investment and possibly even brings in quite a profit!  He continues to have success in whichever industry he has chosen to write.  His profits continue to increase, and he can definitely now more safely quit his day job after having proven himself in the field.  In many such cases, the writer’s agent may get several requests from other publishing or production companies to negotiate better deals for the writer.
  10. Ultimate Success:  The writer is now known as more than being successful; he is now known as a trademark and / or one of the Greats (e.g. Ernest Hemingway, Edgar Allen Poe, Ian Fleming, Stephen King, Tom Clancy, etc.).  In some cases, the writer may become so filthy rich that he purchases a baseball or football team!
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The Busy-ness of Writing!

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Since I was a teenager, I’ve always DREAMED of being a writer.  Little did I know just how much work was involved.  I thought to myself, after becoming a journalist:  “Certainly being a book writer can’t be much busier than this.”  Man, was I wrong!

Shortly after I got out of the Marines, I researched what it took to become an author of fiction books.  I found out that it involved sending hundreds, if not thousands, of query letters to publishers and agents in order to either secure a book deal, or at least representation for such.  But those were the old days.  

Then came the dawn of self-publishing!  

I suddenly realized it was a brave new world for anyone who wanted to make their dream come true.  Unlike regular tradition, anyone who possessed enough money for the investment could pay to have their book made into reality.  There were no letters to send out.  No one you had to impress.  

The good thing about this was obvious.  Talented writers, who had previously not received a fair opportunity, and who had a great story to tell, could now get it out there and share it with the reading public.  Unfortunately, the downside of this was that some people who had no business writing a book would put — what many avid readers would consider — complete garbage on the market.  And then you had everything in between.  Thus, readers found themselves becoming much more selective and careful when making their purchases; and they found themselves publicly sharing their opinions (via the internet mostly) freely and liberally with any who would listen.

Just when it seemed that the writing revolution had played its last card, then came the ebook revolution.  Now anyone could suddenly write a book for free!  And the same thing as above happened once again, only this time in a new electronic format.

The main thing that all of these methods of publishing have in common is the writing itself.  And, if you do this correctly, this will keep you super busy in the very beginning.  Effective writers conduct research and schedule and keep interviews with key people who can give them helpful information for the books they write.  So here you have only three vastly time consuming duties in the single duty of writing.

As for the various ways of becoming published, there are advantages and disadvantages to each avenue.  I’ve never traditionally published myself, but I’ve heard that, the advantages in this classic way of publishing far outweigh the disadvantages.   For example, most traditional publishers will pay you up front to begin writing your book.  With the investment being made on the front end, the publishers make their money as your books begin and continue to sell on the market.  If they end up receiving a return on investment, then you can almost bet they will offer you another book deal.  If not, then there is always flipping burgers or dancing topless (or maybe both simultaneously…though I would not much recommend this!).  

As for the disadvantages of traditional publishing, many stories abound about how writers suggested a certain look to their cover and were totally blown off by the production team.  It is sad there is little creative control unless it is somehow written into the contract beforehand.  

As for self-publishing, it is about totally flipped upside down as compared to traditional publishing.  No one produces your book until you pay them.  Usually they will give you a lot of leeway in creativity.  Because of the usual steep investment required in self-publishing, most companies give you a lot of creative controls for your money.  

When it comes to ebook publishing, it is basically the best of both worlds, but without the final proud moment of holding a physical book in your hand.  You have complete creative control over everything.  And it costs basically nothing other than time (unless you pay someone to design your book cover) to produce your book and publish it to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and various other publishers / booksellers out there.  

The biggest thing I have discovered about both self-publishing and ebook publishing is that in the end, writing the book seemed to be the easiest aspect of the process.  The hardest part, that which I never bargained for, lay in the marketing required for making any sort of profit.  I’m totally new to the process, but I am becoming very savvy very quickly as I post constant updates on Facebook, Twitter, and other various social media websites out there.  With traditional publishing, this is one headache that many writers are thankful to avoid.  And for this, I am very jealous of them.  

Many of you probably ask:  Was it all worth it in the end?  I cannot honestly answer this, because I haven’t yet reached the end…whatever the end happens to be.  Hell, maybe I end up doing an imitation of the King of Rock and Roll and end up dying on the toilet — not exactly the end I’m wanting, but okay.  Or maybe I become the next best thing to Tom Clancy.  Now, there we go!

What I can surely tell you is that quite a bit goes into writing a book, no matter how you do it…especially if you want to make any kind of money for doing so.