If you hang around the book-publishing business long enough, you’ll hear some funny stories. Some of them even involve agents.
A friend tried to fire his agent once, but said agent asked for a redo. Eighteen frustrating months later, after the agent fully realized that he didn’t “get” his author, the agent did the firing. Albeit in a nice way: via email he carefully worded an out for the author, who read between the lines and accepted.
It was a good move for both of them, which proves that you need to really think through all the alliances you make in your book-writing career. Writers who become authors – those “rewarded” with a book contract – tend to take the first thing offered. This also extends to securing an agent.
Remember what I’ve said before: even if you are a wet-behind-the-ears writer, if offered a book contract, act like you’ve been there before. If a publisher offers the chintzy 10 free books, ask for 200.
The yellow-brick road to writing nirvana is paved with authors who didn’t achieve what they wanted (which is usually fame and fortune). Those who do get there often can’t even take credit. Sure, talent is involved, but the whole process is fraught with danger.
It is true that fame and fortune can happen. Just last week, it was announced that Dutton Children’s Books offered seven figures for “debut novelist” Ally Condie’s project “Matched.” It is written for a teen audience and is a three-book deal.
Ally will have a good Christmas.
On the heels of Stephenie Meyer and her “Twilight” juggernaut franchise, we will probably see fantasy novels for young people. That shouldn’t discourage you from plodding along with your series about a plumber from Brooklyn who doubles as a crime-fighter hero by night (Shoot! I just gave away the new hot deal!).
I’m a big believer that if a writer stays focused – get those horse blinders on – he or she can get to the writing promised land. You must resist the temptation to jump off your plumber novel and begin writing a hot new series about young vampires.
As an agent friend told me years ago, your goal should be to craft a manuscript that will make all the publishing pigs squeal. Agents, editors, publishers, buyers: all root through the mud looking for a few ears of sweet corn.
Now, it’s true that imitation is a reality in publishing. “Twilight” has made so much money (now from film, as well) that publishers naturally produce more-of-same. But the cycle will play out one day, and that’s when you’ll be standing there with your own trend.
Perhaps the key need of humans is hope. Hope also serves a writer, who must work the day jobs and peck away at night and hope for the book contract. Obviously, persistence is often the key.
I’ve never forgotten the story of screenwriter/novelist William Goldman and his deal for the script of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” Goldman toiled for eight long years on that story, then sold the script for a then-record $400,000, a staggering sum 40 years ago.
Goldman originally worked this material as a novel, then decided to write it as a script. Because of that key strategy, we now enjoy iconic images like Paul Newman and Robert Redford peering over a steep ledge at a river far below. Truly, writers can create amazing worlds for us all to enjoy.
And that is your chief reward, I think, as you write and shoot for the moon. You want to create something that will last. Sometimes you even make some money.
And notice, even in this economy, writers like Condie are still making big money.
Oh, the agent who fired his author after he first avoided being fired? The agent became a plumber in a large Midwestern city. He left the stress behind, literally.
The writer? He spent the rest of his career making a very, very handsome living!
He made ‘em all squeal.