A Gent's Outlook

A Literary Agent Divulges the TRUTH about Publishing

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Forums? I'm Against Ums!

God, please help me to stay away from writer forums!! Why can’t wannabe writers get the clue that unless you are well along in your path toward being an established novelist, you do not query a literary agent or even talk about getting one?

Actually, the post that ruined my breakfast was on a different subject. It went something like this: Do agents always have to have control of my money? Why can’t I have the checks mailed from my publisher to me, and then I send my check to the agent? On the surface, this is not a bad question, and I can imagine every wannabe on that board nodding and mumbling to themselves. This sounds good, right? Why shouldn’t I control my money?

Well, dear wannabes, in the first place, it isn’t all your money. Fifteen percent of that royalty, advance, or otherwise, belongs to your agent. The other part of this is that the agent, in every case, has more clout than you do and can get your money when a publisher decides not to pay on time—not a rare occurrence, by the way. The other part of this is that the U.S. Treasury owns part of this money also and wants to know who got what. If you, the writer, want to take care of hiring an accountant to do such things as issuing 1099’s, I’m sure that can be arranged.

The part that really upset me was this incessant buzz that seems to permeate writerdom. This, “I don’t want to pay for anything so I’ll find me an agent” thing. It drives me nuts. Writers shouldn’t pay for copies, writers shouldn’t pay postage, writers shouldn’t pay reading fees, etc. So, my question to you, dear writ-ahs, is: Who the fuck do you think you are? What talent have you got that makes you think you have that kind of power? So you can write—so fucking what? My ten-year-old nephew can write, but he sure as hell doesn’t demand that I send his shit to editors. And if I did, he would at least wash my car for me. Good lad.

So, you might take this into consideration the next time you open your yap about what an agent should or shouldn’t do: What do I have that’s powerful enough to get people to do things for me—for free? I’m sure that if you send me a manuscript that’s worth six figures, I will kiss your ass for you. Well, I will pretend to kiss your ass (I’ll pucker up, but blow when you aren’t looking). But I can tell you one thing for sure, wannabes, if you get one reject from one agent, your shit will not fetch six figures. When that happens, you should have the first clue who does the ass kissing in your client/agent relationship. If you cannot figure out who kisses (or in some cases licks or sucks) what and when, then don’t bitch when an agent asks you to supply your own copies and possibly even pay for messenger services to get your shit to an editor.

I can’t tell you how many writers grovel for an agent and then, when we sell their work, suddenly, Joe Jockwritah decides that 15% is too much. Why, that book would have sold no matter what, it’s so good, so why not 5% percent? Why not 2%? Why not nothing? What did that stupid agent do that earned him that commission—I probably could have done it myself. Blah, blah, blah. And off rides Jockwritah Joe and his one-hit wonder book into oblivion.

End of story. End of post.


  • At 3:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I've always wondered why I can't abide agents--you just answered that question. I read your treatise on self-love; my question is: who's the gent?

  • At 6:17 PM, Blogger Peter L. Winkler said…

    This is a broken record. Agents are salesmen. That's all they are. Without talented writers, you can go sell real estate or shoes. You create nothing. You are a parasitic intermediary.

    Quit flattering yourself. Maybe you think this shit you're offering as publishing wisdom doesn't stink because you've been accustomed to smelling it for so long as you shovel it out to others. But it stinks to high heaven out here.

    Agents who charge reading fees and ask for routine expenses up front do so because they can't sell anything (or don't even try) and don't earn any commissions.

  • At 2:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    "But I can tell you one thing for sure, wannabes, if you get one reject from one agent, your shit will not fetch six figures."

    Are you saying that no manuscript that has been rejected by one agent has gone on to fetch a six-figure deal?


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