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Insecure Authors! I’m Talking to You. Listen Up!

27 March 2011

Dean Wesley Smith writes a must-read post on the Myth of Security.


Myth: Selling to Traditional Publishing Means Safety and Security.

As a person who has been a freelance writer for over 25 years and sold my first short story in 1975, that just makes me laugh. But sadly, I believed it early on, and then came to understand that there was no other choice but the crap game I call traditional publishing if I wanted to be a full-time writer.

But safety and security in traditional publishing?  Never.

. . . .

In other words, it’s a very hostile environment for writers trying to supply new product to traditional publishing. Traditional publishing’s attitude has become (over the last ten years) “If you don’t like it, I’ll find a writer who does. There are always more stupid writers to take your place.”

And on top of that, traditional publishers, because of the lack of education of most writers in business, have come to treat writers who do get in the door like they are babies who can’t think for themselves and need their diapers changed. And writers over the last twenty years have come to expect this “take care of me” treatment and then wonder why they were dropped by their publisher or agent.

. . . .

Agent Security:

Most writers, as I discovered doing early chapters of Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing, think that “getting an agent” is a career advancement. Not sure why that is, to be honest, anymore than any business hiring an employee is a business advancement, but young writers over the last ten years have turned hiring an agent into a major thing.

And agents have led them to believe that, as if the agents were the gold standard for something. What that something might be, I have no clue. But to many writers, having an agent adds to their feeling of security.

The belief is that an agent can be trusted with all the writer’s money and will take care of the writer against all the bad stuff of publishing.

Sadly, with most “beliefs,” there are few hard facts from history to back up the belief. But agents sell that belief to writers as well as any backwoods revival preacher in a tent trying to make enough to get to the next town.

—Truth? An agent will drop you the instant you are not making them any money.

—Truth? Agents mostly work for publishers and protect their interests with the publisher over your interests, so when something is happening to you, your agent will usually side with the publisher.

—Truth? An agent will push you to sign contracts not in your best interest as a writer because not only do they then get paid, but they don’t really even know you or care about you. But they do know the editor who is a best friend and who they have lunch with once a week.

—Truth? You are only one of thirty to fifty clients and there is always someone else to take your place if you start asking them to do too much for their 15% of your money off into the future.

There is no security just because you “got” an agent. Sorry.

Link to the rest at Dean Wesley Smith




Agents, Big Publishing, Self-Publishing