Myths About Agents
Myth: Agents don’t read submissions.
Truth: Most agents who are accepting queries actually read and consider them. If they don’t want to read queries and they don’t need new clients, they’ll usually close to queries (like I have).
Myth: Agents have reading software that scans query letters. If the query contains a tag word, then the software flags the query indicating it needs to be form rejected.
Truth: Honestly, I’ve never heard of this. I’ve heard that large companies use software to scan resumés in this way, but I can’t imagine agents doing it this way… except perhaps to automatically dispense with queries that are outside of the genre they represent. Of course, we could use Outlook to do this if we wanted. In any case, I don’t think it’s something to worry about. Agents will use whatever means they need to, in order to find the right books and clients.
Myth: Literary agents can’t be bribed by chocolate.
Truth: Chocolate works. So does a good bottle of wine.
Myth: “If you don’t follow this ONE piece of advice, we will immediately reject you, and you will never get published.”
Truth: Agents give a lot of tips and advice on their blogs and Twitter, but you don’t have to worry that we’re going to reject a great project if you don’t follow every last little tip we’ve ever given. Every piece of advice is simply that – a tip to help you become a better writer or create more powerful queries.
Myth: Most agents won’t consider any manuscript over 120k words in length.
Truth: NOT a myth – this one is true! Until you’ve proven yourself with a couple of books that sold well, you’re not likely to sell an epic or saga much over 100k. There are always exceptions, of course. But if you’re trying to break in, your 180k-opus is probably not the ticket.
Myth: Once you sign with an agent, the hard work is done.
Truth: The hard work is just beginning! Most agents will crack the whip—push you to make your manuscript the best it can be, encourage you to build your platform, etc. There will also be the “hard work” of waiting for the submission process to play out, and once you’re contracted you’ll be working harder than you ever imagined.
Myth: Getting an agent means you’ll get published.
Truth: Sadly, getting an agent is no guarantee of publication. Each agent has a different success rate but most probably don’t bat 1000.
Myth: Agents are snarky, scary, and mean, and love rejecting you.
Truth: This, of course, is true.
Myths About Self Publishing
Myth: Self publishing is easier than traditional publishing—after all, you don’t have to wait for the approval of that elusive agent or editor.
The self-pub route, if you are to be successful at it, is an incredible amount of work. You will have to do everything—you’re responsible for the editorial, the design, the marketing—and the distribution! To sell any books, you’ll be working so hard that you’ll hardly have time to write anymore. Amanda Hocking, who recently became a millionaire from self publishing, discussed this on her blog
. She works really hard—and still, she has no idea why she has sold so many books when others haven’t.
Myth: Most self-published books are poorly written, badly edited, and have terrible design.
Truth: This one used to be true, and in many cases, it still is. (Latest numbers show 765,000 self-published titles in 2009, and with that many out there, you can bet many are still poorly done.) But as people become more savvy and have more resources at their disposal, there are now self-published books available that are well written and nicely produced. The problem will be for consumers, in figuring out which books pass their muster and which don’t.
Myth: Self-publishing can make you a millionaire.
Well, obviously this is true! Self publishing can make you a millionaire—just like traditional publishing can, or winning the lottery can, or investing wisely in real estate can. It takes a lot of work and a certain amount of serendipity. Here is the important point: It makes just as much sense to use self-pub phenoms JA Konrath and Amanda Hocking as your role models as it does to use Stephanie Meyer or JK Rowling. Read Nathan Bransford’s blog
—his March 7th and 8th posts cover it pretty well, and include links to some more good reading on self-publishing.
TOMORROW… one more day of myth busting!
© 2011 Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent