Monday, January 19, 2015

Agency Lessons: I'm too ugly for a book deal

Agency Lessons is a weekly post that gives authors and readers an inside look into the mind of a literary agent and a peek behind the curtain of how books are made.
  
I broke one of my rules over the Christmas holiday. I was reading some publishing article (the subject of which is now long forgotten) and for some unholy reason I scrolled down to read the comments. I know, I know. I can only figure I was momentarily possessed by a publishing demon.

Anywhere, here's what I saw:
 "I am not famous. I am not beautiful. I don't have the world's most interesting back story, and I am not young. Therefore, I will never get a traditional publishing contract."
 GAH!

I shouldn't need to say that this is possibly the biggest load of horse poop on the internet, but just in case you are the random guy who wrote this..."This is the biggest load of horse poop on the internet!"

Let me break this down.

1. Being famous, beautiful and young and not prerequisites to getting a book deal. They just aren't. But coverage of new author deals makes it look that way. Because it's big news if some A-lister signs a book deal. Also, it's a news story if a 19-yr-old gets the book she wrote during study hall signed. In general, it's not news when another middle aged mom or dad signs a book deal. It's super cool for that person and it happens more than the signed A-lister, but it's not news. 

When I am working with an author, I am concerned with their ability to tell a frickin' amazing story. After that, I'm concerned with their ability to work with editors, take criticism, etc. And finally, I am looking at their ability to be a part of the marketing efforts. Areas I am not looking at include: recent appearances at the Oscar's, birth certificates, and glamor shots (is this still a thing that people do?). I could care less if you are a wrinkled old man who just celebrated his 80th birthday if you can write a book that knocks my socks off. End of story.

2. Everyone has a back story. You didn't jump into this life at the age of 40, fully grown. You went through life and had a completely different experience than anyone else on this planet. You are completely unique. On the surface you might think your story is a lot like everyone else's. As a writer, you need to dig a little deeper and identify the part of you that set you apart. If you can't sous out your own unique story, I question your ability to tell some else's story.

3. Boo hoo, life is hard...now get over it. Look, publishing is not an easy business to break into. There are a ton of hard steps and obstacles on the way to getting your book on the shelves. Don't be another obstacle. This list of "reasons" you aren't getting published isn't a group of set in stone exclusions. It's a list of excuses. Easy outs for why you haven't reached your goals. Excuses like I'm not the right kind of writer, or I don't write erotica, or you have to know someone to get published have no place in your publishing journey. Don't give them head-space. A negative attitude is only going to hold you back.

Instead of focusing on all the made-up reasons for why you aren't published, keep your attention on what you can do to get closer to your goal. Work on your manuscript, seek out advice from other authors, take a class or attend a conference, workshop your query, and the list goes on and on. Focus on the steps you can take to reach your goal and leave the moaning to internet commenters.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing this. I think a lot of authors, especially future authors, fall into the archetype of "nerdy dude/chick with self esteem issues." A lot of the time, we love reading and writing because it lets us get out of our skin in a way that we can't always do in that "real world" place I keep hearing about. So in one respect, a self-defeatist attitude is almost par for the course, as sad as that is. Still, you've got to believe in the work, even when you don't always believe in yourself.

    Though I mean... in all honesty... most of the authors I've seen on the inside flap of my favorite books are not Hollywood perfect. I kind of prefer that. They're usually the kind of people I could see myself buying a cup of coffee, not staring at them from across the room giggling.

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    1. Absolutely, a lot of authors deal with confidence issues. I guess we need to recognize in ourselves when we allow that lack of confidence to morph into walls that we put up. By identifying all these external excuses for why we aren't where we want to be, we let ourselves off the hook. Instead, we have to do the scary thing and really ask ourselves "Am I doing everything I can to be successful?".

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