Back in the good old days of publishing, there were editors, publishers, agents and the infamous slush pile. Editors and agents met, usually over martinis and lunch, to discuss writers, writing projects, trends, and whatever other publishing “business” was the sizzling topic of the day. Back in the office, the editorial assistants laboriously read through the slush pile, passing on to the editors any hopeful manuscripts that had come through the mail – the regular pony-express mail, that is.
Flash forward to today. There are still editors – acquisitions editors, specifically, meaning those who have the challenge of actually buying enough manuscripts to fit a publisher’s spring, winter, and fall lists. These acquisitions editors continue to meet with agents, who continue to represent writers with the hope of selling their manuscripts to the highest bidder, thereby generating a nice income for both agent and client.
There are, however, two notable changes between the editors and agents of the past and those of today: Because of the current economy, many editors are no longer able to meet agents for lunch. They must conduct business over the phone or via email. Some publishing houses have even temporarily put a hold on acquisitions altogether, preferring to have editors focus on the manuscripts they already have under contract. Agents, also because of restrictions put on them by publishers, often feel they can only afford to represent clients whose projects they anticipate will ship many, many books – 100,000 is a nice number to toss around.
As for the slush pile? Perhaps an occasional manuscript makes its way via regular mail into some publishing house, somewhere, but considering that many publishers are actually asking writers and agents to only submit query letters electronically, and since, by now, most serious writers have given up on the hope of being discovered without having agent representation, and since less than 1% of the books published actually ship 100,000 copies, well, suffice it to say there’s a whole new game afoot in publishing.
One fact remains: Editors, publishers and agents need writers and they must be increasingly clever in finding them. No longer are they served up over lunch by a savvy agent.
Writers, too, must find increasingly clever ways to convince editors, publishers and agents that they have the talent and mettle to make a career out of writing.
So, take the current economy, add the downsizing of many publishing houses, the need for manuscripts and writers, the hand-tied agents who can’t afford to take on new clients, and the abundance of writers since the advent of the computer. Shake and toss on the table and one solution will surface: Writers who are serious about being published will take matters into their own hands. They will self-publish, write blogs or e-zines, have a website dedicated to their topic, and be active on Facebook and Twitter. Here’s why:
1. Serious writers write.
This may sound obvious but there are many writers who continue to hold the lofty idea that someone will come along and discover that mystery novel they wrote years ago because it’s so good – everyone says so. What they fail to realize is that writing a manuscript, whether it be fiction or nonfiction, is only one small part of the writing business. There must also be proposal writing, query letter writing, self-promotional writing, marketing plans, and any other possible way to get your message in front of readers. That’s where the Internet comes into play. If your message and your qualifications are out there for all to read, you have another avenue to attract readers, agents, editors, or like-minded souls.
2. Serious writers help editors to find them.
Since a project represented by an agent will cost the publisher more, and if editors want to buy numerous projects and stay within budget, they must find writers who are not necessarily represented by agents. This means magazine writers, e-zine writers, bloggers, self-published and print-on-demand authors who have a track record of selling their own books, via seminars, the Internet, a lecture series, or on a table at the county fair. In the numbers game that is publishing, how you sell isn’t as important as how many.
If you are serious about writing, get serious about using the latest tools of the trade. Believe it or not, these methods actually put the power of publishing back in the hands of the writer and take it out of the hands of large conglomerates who, more often than not, pander to those 100,000 copy authors and ignore the vast majority of other writers who make up most of their lists.
This article is archived from the original Edits Made Easy website and is re-posted here to our new blog under a new date.