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Monday, August 1, 2011

Things That Happened While I Was Homesteading

Most of July has been just awful, made worse by dangerously high temperatures that roasted us until we were near heat stroke. We haven't been able to finish a single project. It's like running on a treadmill. You sweat and you swear, but the view always stays the same.

Whenever I'm in a bind, I keep reminding myself to last just one more day. Yesterday, I think I hit my wall.

There's no point in going into details because I'm still trying to sort things out for myself. I plan to change some things, I just don't know what it'll be yet. One of the things that has pushed me over the edge is the economy.

I've never seen the economy this bad in my lifetime (and that's a pretty long time). It's forced me to reassess my priorities so I can still have the life I'd like to be accustomed to. :o)

If the economy wasn't bad enough, digital has for the most part destroyed the publishing that was. To be honest, I'm surprised it took as long as it did. Digital changed the music industry nearly overnight. The book dragons lasted a lot longer.

I blame publishing's old guard for their troubles. Any idiot could see they were spending too much money on advances they'd never get back. (Why does this remind me of the government?) Add to this, the draconian agreement they have with bookstores whereby if the bookstore fails to sell a book, the publisher is required to take it back. 

No successful business operates that way. If a buyer buys a line of clothes, they don't go back to the manufacturer and say, 'hey, these didn't sell, I want my money back'.

And now with a third of the physical shelf space removed in this continent country, the publishing industry is now forced to give each book submission a reality check. Well, duh.

As demand dwindles, agents are swarming on other opportunities. Agencies large and small are jumping into the self-publishing wagon. The Knight Agency is calling it 'Assisted Self-publishing'. How it's different from actual self-publishing, I don't know. I read their posts, but I couldn't see the difference.

I expected digital to overtake print. And I expected self-publishing to surge in popularity. But I never expected agents to step into an arena that crossed ethical boundaries. I don't care if they want to be publishing companies, but they need to take down their agent shingle first.

Enough is enough.

Are you tired of this circus yet?


Angelina Rain said...

Yeah, I noticed that agents are now going out of their way to stay in business. I guess with the popularity of epublishing and self-publishing, no one needs an agent anymore. The middleman is getting cut out of the publishing industry.

In other news, I'm sorry to hear about the heat wave you had to go through. Those suck. We're having a bit of a heat wave here and let me tell you, I'm loving my mom's pool right now. I go over to her place and take a dip in the pool almost every day.

How are the dogs handling the heat? I'm sure they aren't too happy with all that fur they have to carry around with them.

Angela Felsted said...

I agree about taking down the agent shingle. Talk about a blatant conflict of interest.

Maria Zannini said...

Angelina: Thank you for asking about the dogs. Those heathens live the life of Riley. They never leave their air conditioned comfort unless they need a potty break. Then it's zippity do dah and back in the house.

In my next life I want to come back as a pampered dog.

Angela: I agree. But I'm amazed at how many authors support this. And the sad thing is the only one getting screwed (again) is the author.

Angela Brown said...

The timing of your blog is very fortuitous. I just read a blog post yesterday titled Literary Consulting Services at this blog:
Agents are expanding their roots in what seems to be an effort to show their value.
I'll play devil's advocate here.
Could what these various agents are doing be considered a conflict of interest, opportunistic or just capitalism at work?

Maria Zannini said...

Angela: That post was ambiguous at best. It didn't state fees or what exactly they offer (aside from the broad label of consulting).

Corvisiero is an attorney and it sounds to me like she's offering strictly consultation and not actual self-publishing--which is different from the Knight Agency and Bookends.

As I've said before I don't begrudge anyone making a living, but authors are so quick to hand over their cash. It doesn't matter to me personally. I'm not about to tell anyone how to run their careers. I just urge caution when dealing with less than tangible assets.

Agents represent.

Consultants consult.

Publishers publish.

When you start to blur the boundaries, you cease being one or the other. And it starts to smell suspiciously of fish.

Krista D. Ball said...

Nitpick: Borders wasn't in Canada, so its closure did not affect our book space :) Though, to be fair, Chapters is cutting back their floor space for books, though I don't know if that's at every location (one of my locations has more books now and another

I've always been a fan of small press. Small press doesn't sell out advances. Instead, you get paid based on what you sell. They don't always offer returns, but offer a large enough discount for bookstores to grudgingly bring in a few for signings and local authors.

Beyond the money, small presses offer me two things that I find I don't get offered elsewhere: the opportunity (indeed, expectation) to grow and the ability to write different things. There are small presses who want my regional historical fantasies. There are small presses that are interested in me developing a following over the length of a series. Not everyone is a bloodsucking corporate vampire. It's really nice :)

Chin up and let the zombies sort things out. :D

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

I think part of the reason authors go along with this process is because we're conditioned to feel that our work isn't worthy unless an agent or editor says it is. In other words, traditional publishing provides validation. But when the industry can't support as many books as it used to, and agents/editors rejecting good books because they're not commercial enough, the validation aspect breaks down. We authors have to supply our own validation. But it's tricky finding the right balance between being confident in your work but not too over-confident that you stop improving.

Maria Zannini said...

Krista: My bad. I thought Borders crossed the border too.

Ref: zombies
It may come to that. LOL. Thanks.

Sandra: Bingo. One reason I didn't self-publish right away is because I wasn't sure if I had something worthy of publishing. It took several novels published in small press before I realized, yup, I can do this.

Giora said...

The rage against literary agents becoming also publishers is all over many blogs. Blogger Courtney Milan has an legalistic essay about it. I think that many aspiring auhtors support what agents ar doing (i.e. going into publishing) because they want to keep good relationships with th agenst, in the hope that they'll help them to become published authors.
Even in Canada is too hot now. I can't imagine living in a much hotter climate, like the one in Texas and Arizona.

Michelle Fayard said...

I've heard a few writers say if agents were to get involved with self-publishing, it could help improve some of the negative rep it's earned. But if you have an agent involved, I'm a little confused as to where the line gets drawn between self-pubbing, on the one hand, and PODs and eBooks by a smaller yet still traditional book publisher, on the other.

Barbara Ann Wright said...

Sometimes I get tired of the circus. More than that, I'm tired of this drought!

Maria Zannini said...

Giora: Courtney Milan wrote a very passionate and honest essay on what's been going on. It should be required reading for all authors. Sarah Hoyt also wrote an excellent post on her decision to give up her agent.

Michelle: My theory is the negative press of indie work is going away all by itself now that there are so many legacy-published authors joining the ranks. It has to shake itself out and sometimes that's messy.

Barbara: I hear you! Holy moley, it's hot! My thermometer just hit 108 degrees in the shade. Let's hope this is over soon. I've had enough heat for one season.

Shelley Munro said...

The publishing business should have seen this coming. No other business expects their employees (authors) to wait so long to get their income. Waiting months to see income is ludicrous, yet that's what has been happening.

Agents are obviously losing out bigtime at present and scrambling to claw back some of that loss. I've been shaking my head. It's a conflict of interest.

Maria - I definitely want to come back as a dog. From where I sit it's a mostly cushy life. Puppy has been doing some creative gardening this week. She makes me laugh even when I'm telling her off.

Sending a big hug to you. I've been watching things in the US closely. I don't envy you all over there. I think things will get even tougher before they come right.

Maria Zannini said...

Shelley: Oh, I forgot about the huge delay in payment. You're right. What a racket.

Ref: puppy
Creative gardening? I once had a puppy who was into full scale excavation. LOL.

Misha said...

I'm watching the developments in the publishing market, especially the move of agents into self-publishing. Because the fact is, they're experienced, the know what they're doing and they have money.

If experience, knowledge and money is what I need to get my work out, hell yeah, I'll hop right on over to the agents.

I think what I'm trying to say is this: We can look at this as a problem, or we can wait a bit and see if it isn't an opportunity. I'm hoping that it's the latter.


Maria Zannini said...

Hi Misha!

The problem is that agents don't necessarily know what they're doing. They're dealers in merchandise (a manuscript) trying to get the highest bid for the person they represent.

Agents sell, pitch and broker. They don't know anything about formatting, cover art, or promotion. Some know a little about editing. For the most part, unless they have a team of experts who know how to do each of these steps, they're no more knowledgeable than the average person on the street.

It is a problem (imo) because it breaches their core reason for existence--to be an advocate for the author in contract negotiations. If they start swinging authors to self-publishing (with their companies), how do I know they didn't at least try to sell that work to the Big 6 first?

Either way they're making money. There's no guarantee the author will fare as well.

Cate Masters said...

Agents are scrambling to keep themselves relevant in this shifting business. I read a post, too, that said agents once strutted through conferences with confidence, but now are much more meek and humble. I only know I wouldn't use one for self-pubbing or epubbing, for that matter, unless epubbing begins adding large advances and other perks in line with the big six.

Hope all's well with you!

Maria Zannini said...

Cate: Hmm...that's interesting. There's an interesting quote about agent sentiment on The Passive Voice: “If you can’t get me to a publisher and a six-figure advance, I’m really not interested in anything else you offer.”


By the way, I think The Passive Voice, aka Passive Guy is a must read blog. I really like how he parses the many arguments in the blogosphere and brings it down to plain language.

Mike Keyton said...

This is a really interesting discussion, Maria, to which I have nothing to add, but thank you.

Ref heat - we're sweating at 70 F : ) But we'r e promised lower temperatures and rain tomorrow. English Summer.

Ref economy: pity grand-children.

Maria Zannini said...

Mike: 70 F? I wonder if the chickens would miss me if I spent the summer at your place.

Ref: grandchildren
Even the generation getting into the workforce today is going to have it tough. Very few companies offer pensions anymore. And most are miserly with 401Ks and medical. Unless the new workforce is very clever (and frugal), they will have to work the rest of their lives to achieve half of what we did. I feel for them.