Thursday, April 21, 2011


This is the first, but probably not the last, time I'll tackle this topic head on.  

After years in the business, I can say without reservation I don't like agents.  Oddly enough, there is still one agent I have respect for and that's probably misplaced.  Oh well.

Agents wield an enormous amount of power over your life and they don't often have the intelligence or compassion to wield it wisely.  I told my agent, Barry W., much to his horror and denial, that there are 3 sides in any negotiation.  Mine, his, and the buyer.  He denied it of course "I'm on your side."  Nah.  I love you Barry but it's not true.  You threw me under the bus for Paul.

Agents are running a business.  As another of my ex-agents, Deborah S., told me "We're not friends, this is business."  That's a POV that puts a writer in a seriously creepy position.  You work closely with this person for an extended period of time, you reveal your heart and soul, you become vulnerable and then you find the money is the issue not you or your work.  

They handle what they want to handle, not what you want to write.  If you write something they don't handle, too damn bad.  I happen to be interested in a lot of different arenas.  Too damn bad.  As the agent Michael Larson told me "You are a victim of your own talent."  See it was a bad thing I could do too many things well.  It's better to specialize.

Sure there's wisdom in that.  Brand yourself as a fantasy writer and that's good for business.  

But it's not good for a writer.

So a year ago when I started this blog, I had just dipped a toe into digital.  I don't think many people had a clue what would happen in the next 12 months.  Joe Konrath didn't know.  We were all gambling that it could be a good thing.  But still being in the tradpub mindset, I didn't want my name mixed up with something that might ultimately hurt me.  Don't forget I'm the person with 2 resumes, 1 with the television credits and 1 without because those credits hurt me in the eyes of agents and editors.  I had no idea what digital publishing would do.  Would people hold it against you?  Was it "vanity publishing"?  Was self-publishing an ego trip?  How would it be perceived?  No one knew.  Okay then.  Let Robin O'Neill (my old pen name) take it on the chin for me.  I could distance myself from the ebooks and this blog and still be abused by tradpub without repercussions.

This week some quite well known writer in her genre spoke up on a mailing list I'm on.

I may be just a tad overly sensitive to the word "hack" at present,
having lately been told by my very knowledgeable agent that, yes, she's
interested in representing my proposal for a historical novel but she'll
have to present it to editors under a different name than [redacted]
because my having written 23 novels of history /mystery /would
be a liability. If an editor shows interested, then she/he could be
told about my other books, but to know beforehand that I was the author
of history /mysteries /would count against me. So -- decades of
in-depth research and developing the skills to write well and use
history in novels count for nothing because I've used all that to write
 /mysteries. / I find I am annoyed -- to use the kindest word possible in
the circumstances.

This is obscene.

1 comment:

Chris Crosby said...

This is so true.

Love this blog!