Agency Lessons: You aren't fill-in-the-blank

I wish I had a dollar for everytime I heard, "But (insert famous dead author) did it and look at how successful they were". I would use those dollars to buy a pair of earplugs that would prevent me from ever hearing that phrase again.

Here's the deal. Lots of authors of yore got away with tactics that today would be considered big no-nos. When people see this they generally assume one of two things.

1. These famous dead authors were nothing more than hacks who must have bought their way to fame,
2. The professionals of today have no idea what they are talking about.

The correct answer, which is almost never assumed, is neither of these.

Yes, you will find plenty of "red flags" in the classics that if submitted today would get the big heave ho. The reason is because times change.

Just like the fashion, reading preferences evolve over time. Women of the 1800s who wore high collared dresses were not emotionless prudes anymore than the women of today who wear booty shorts are harlots. Women from both time periods are dressing to the fashion of the day.

You can't write a novel as if it was 1814 and expect to be successful.

More is demanded of you as an author because readers have higher standards. Not that the readers of 100 years ago were willing to read trash. But they didn't have nearly the selection we have today. Keep in mind that for a long time, reading fiction was considered a useless way for a woman to addle her brain. 

And we don't even have to go back 100 years. Literature expands at such an increasing pace that it's not hard to go back even a decade or so to find books that wouldn't meet today's standards. That doesn't mean those books are bad or that today's publishing professionals are wrong.

It means, life moves on. People change, fashion changes, books change. 

By all means, study the classics. Learn from the first masters of fiction. Be inspired by their willingness to cross new boundaries. 

But understand that your work has to sell in today's marketplace.

*Side note: I am going to keep the intern position open until the end of this week before I start narrowing down my candidates. Thank you to everyone who has helped to spread the word.