Konrath on uncertainty


Interesting post…. and lots to think about. Getting an agent may seem like the end-goal to many new writers, but there are rocks ahead….

I’m not sure I agree entirely with his statement: “Even good agents can be wrong sometimes, which is why they’re unable to sell much of what they acquire.” Because, of course, I am never wrong (I wish). No, actually, it’s the part where he says good agents are unable to sell much of what they acquire. It is true that occasionally a project might not sell. Some of those have languished in the author’s trunk while we went on to sell other projects. If the market changes, we come back to them, and take another shot (and, yes, I’ve been successful at doing this). Or projects just might take a lot of time and a large number of submissions (I think my record is currently 2 1/2 years to make a sale, but it all worked out in the end). But it’s true that one might not expect to sell everything. 100%? Who has that kind of luck in any job? I disagree with the “much,” though.

That just the agent part. Go read the article to hear about all the weak links in the publishing chain: the editor, the buyer for the bookstore, the readers, etc.

He also says: If you’re a guy, it’s like having to propose to your spouse all over again every few years. And ladies, it isn’t romantic. It’s nerve-wracking. The possibility of being told no can terrify the stoutest heart when speaking of being between contracts, in which the author is the man and the publisher is the woman. I did pause to wonder whether our national divorce rate would go down if both parties had to make a recommitment based on merit (in his scenario, publishing numbers) on a more regular basis rather than just taking the next year (in his scenario, the next book sale) for granted…

This is my favorite line, I think (though I do think his solutions should allow for more communication prior to making decisions such as dumping your agent or changing publishers – as stated, they seem rather abrupt and are not always that simple and there are factors to consider):

I posit–and I’m 99% right–that your worst enemy in this business isn’t your agent, your editor, or the publishing industry as a whole.

It’s you.

7 responses to “Konrath on uncertainty

  1. Oh, I definitely agree on the worst enemy being yourself. So true! Thanks for the link and commentary.

  2. An interesting essay.
    I’m curious as to how true the idea that it’s easier to sell your first book than your second book is; it seems that if that were the case, there’d be a lot more people using and discarding pseudonyms for that chance at the easy first novel brass ring.
    Also, while it seems obvious that at least some projects fail to find a market, do you often find yourself in a position where you can’t sell anything that an author you’ve agreed to represent sells? Konrath seems to imply that it’s a fairly regular occurrence, and something worth worrying about. Is it?

  3. Dang, this is a scary industry sometimes. 😀 Still not quitting!

  4. Frankly, if I had a story to sell, Konrath’s comments about not selling much of what he acquires might dissuade me from querying him. Then again, what do I know. I’m enough of my own enemy that I don’t have any finished stories.
    I’m sure I agree about the national divorce rate, though. Marriage as a limitted term contract, rather than as a tenure position, seems like a good idea, although there would have to be allowances made for children, as single parenting is too hard a job for most mortals.

    • Querying Konrath won’t get you all that far since he’s an author, not an agent or editor.
      Good point about the children. It takes a village, so they say.

  5. I agree with Konrath, the blog is very much a self peptalk, and a pretty good one at that.
    His plaint is of being between contracts. Obviously he hasn’t had a best seller, for if he did, he would have a new contract to produce another one just like it. But he did have a contract, so he must’ve sold something, just not enough.
    Yes, a fine author can go thirteen years between contracts, but I would venture that that is because they are artists and insist on doing what they want. For those of us less fortunate, yet more flexible, there is a little more wiggle room.
    He answers himself with write, believe, think. As I said, a good pep talk, good advice. It is the think part that I would like to address myself to.
    Where is his first agent? What happened to his first editor? Did they use him like Kleenex and then toss him away? Accidents happen, there can be miscommunications, perhaps they just used him and abandoned him, but I doubt it. However, I’m pretty sure someone wasn’t doing her job.
    A competent, working, writer needs to know what it is that they do that sells. If their agent and publisher won’t or can’t tell them they must find out for themselves. They should Google themselves and their book titles, visit the forums. Find out what people are saying, if anything. If they can’t find a forum, maybe they should start one. Do they do signings at bookstores? Did they talk to anyone about their book? A craftsman gives the people what they want. An artist gives the people what they want and makes them want it too.
    Publishing is a business but writing is an art. We’d all like to be artists, but it’s definitely a field where many are called but few are chosen. If you’re not good enough for people to accept whatever you do, then be a craftsman and find out what you can do that they will accept. And yes, van Gogh, one of the greatest painters who ever lived only sold two paintings in his entire life and those were to his brother, but let’s not go down that road. Consider instead Manet, or perhaps it was Monet, who while selling his paintings on the sidewalk one cold winter realized that the only ones he sold were the ones small enough for the buyer to put under their arm and walk away with. So, since he was an abstract artist, he cut up the big ones into arm carrying size and fed himself in his tiny family that winter. Even artists can make exceptions. I’ve heard they’re still trying to put some of those big ones back together.
    wplasvegas (I’m signing this because I don’t have an identity URL)

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