Agents are a good thing. Right?

Agent of ChangePhil: Conventional wisdom is that the path to seeing your book appear on the shelves at Waterstones runs:

  1. Have great book idea.
  2. Write book.
  3. Pitch book to agent.
  4. Agent sells book to publisher.
  5. Publisher prints lots of copies which sell like hot cakes.
  6. Writer buys yacht.

It seems this isn’t the case. Last week’s literary event saw us listen to some horror stories of books that agents loved but ultimately never made it to the shelves.

All of the ladies had snagged literary agents, some more than one, but in each case the response had been along the lines of “I love your book, but I can’t sell it to a publisher.”

The issue seemed to be that they weren’t writing genre fiction. Good as the books were, they didn’t fit within the narrow definitions of the silos publishers like to work in. They want YA fiction with vampires, they don’t want vampires and requited love. That’s chick-lit and a whole different audience. Apparently.

Of course, the Ladies of a Certain Age weren’t having any of this. As one explained, at their age there wasn’t time to leave their book sat in a pile for months on end. I guess that this is one deadline that focussed the mind! More to the point, all had led full lives and weren’t the sort to put up with being messed around. If a door needed kicking it, they were willing to do this to achieve publication.

I suspect this is why co-publishing appealed. Spending money didn’t seem too much of an object, the important thing was to move the project on and they were willing to do what it takes to get things going.

Perhaps this is just another example of how the world is changing. Publishers genre silos are all very well, but maybe they are restricting the books that people can find and enjoy. As we discussed on the trip back home, music has changed with anyone who fancies being in a band able to produce and distribute from their bedroom.

Books take longer to write, and there is much more of a desire for physical product, but as we keep hearing from other authors, the “proper” way is no longer the only way.


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Filed under Phil, Writing

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