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Sunday, July 31, 2011

EPublishing…is it the new “Slush Pile?

So, I am lurking around various author sites on the web and Facebook and I have found common questions among many of them…Literary Agents.  Where are they? Are they part of the groups?  Do they have their own FB pages?  Well, like me, I am pretty sure that many of them are lurking our pages, blogs, and sites.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they are the main group that is downloading free samples of our work to their kindle, iphone, ipad, or pc.   But then what?  Do they mark those they like and watch them, to see their progress?  How well they do?  The reviews, the rankings?   I bet they do!  And then, just like Ebay, right before the auction ends, there they are making a bid for it. 
And why not?  At this stage, all the major work has been done for them: sales, trends, target audience, reviews and rankings, cover art, etc.  All they now need to do is gather that data and use it as mere backup for an easy sale to one of the Big 6 Publishers, that is, if one of their agents didn’t come in first and “steal” that bid away.  So, if that is the case and the ebooks out there become the new “slush” pile of agents and publishers, then can we finally say Farewell to that dreaded Query letter?  That 250 word essay that can make or break a life?  In hindsight, how crazy are we to rely on the opinion of someone who may prefer sci fi to romance or romance to mystery or nonfiction to paranormal, and etc.   Why do we kill ourselves to impress someone whom we have never met and keeps a carrot dangling over us simply because they have “connections”?  I say with smiling sarcasm, so what.  We are slowly moving to an era of the death of the literary agent.  Take Amanda Hocking, for example;   I admire what she has done.  She loves to write and she did.  She loved to tell stories and she did.  So, she put it out there for anyone to come and enjoy her work and boy, did they ever!  Over a million of them did!  And then, with an ironic twist, Amanda’s agent found her AFTER her readers found her.   Am I impressed with that agent?  NO!  Why should that impress me?  That agent did nothing to merit being part of Amanda’s success; this agent nor any others that rejected her previously had any cojones.  Instead, I’m impressed with Stephanie Meyer’s agent who gave her a shot even if it was against the rules of YA novels of that day; I’m impressed with JK Rowling’s agent who saw something in a children’s book and gave it a shot…those are the agents that deserve kudos and should relish in the success of those books but definitely, not the agents of today.  Today, they are all running scared as they sell out to the Big 6.  They see it- their slush piles are getting smaller, their query letters are decreasing and writers are no longer bowing and rewriting their novels as per their demands.   Writers, like true artists that they are, are taking their works into their own hands and controlling the outputs themselves.  Just look at Fantasy Island Book Publishing for example.  A co-op group made up of not just a publisher but also editors, illustrators and writers who collaborate with each other in complete support for the success of the books in the group.  And this model has proved successful with the international best sellers currently in their lineup. 
So, is epublishing the new slush pile?  Well of course it is…that is, for the new readers out there.  Those with whom we want to share our stories as they patiently wait for us to get them out via the new wonderful world of the internet.  Publishing will become digitally commercial with the populus controlling the outputs and success, not a select few with huge egos and small minds.

6 comments:

  1. I started the process back when you actually had to snail mail a box full of paper and wait 6 months for a response.
    Even then, and more so today, it seems there is a paradox: They want something new and different from everything else out there, yet they want it in a clearly defined category. The more that is "out there," the more diverse the field becomes; niches develop--just like cable TV. Not everyone likes or watches FOX programs.
    I don't think epublishing is a slush pile, if slush pile implies something of lower quality, but rather a common area (think town square) where people share their ideas, free of the rules and big sticks of lit agents, trad pubs, and media outlets.

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  2. Wow! I hadn't thought of it that way, but I bet you are right on the money Patty :-D

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  3. Hi Patty,

    Thanks for inviting me to take a look at your new blog! There's a lot of excellent commentary on the web right now about the present state of epublishing. No secret that it's evolving so quickly everyone in the game is trying to get a foothold on the new norm so that we can all create better art and take advantage of the many benefits epub has to offer.

    Anyone in the publishing game in any role back in December 2008 can explain how the epub environment was fueled by the economic crisis and the loss of publishing related jobs of all types during the following year. Entire agencies disappeared. Contacts writers spent years establishing dried up faster than an oak leaf in November. But epub was the phoenix that rose from the ashes of traditional publishing.

    Losing the need for an agent and a publishing house have opened the doors to a lot of talent. But for every really fine ebook spun out onto the web, there are dozens of others that have no business seeing the light of day. What we miss most from the days of traditional publishing are good editors. It's a loss that shows in plenty of ebooks hitting the market.

    My issue here is that, as an ebook reader, I must wade through a lot of junk to find a gem. (Outside of the big names that have extensive credible reviews, or course.) With not much to guide us, picking out ebooks by new talent is a crap shoot. So I suppose I miss a bit of the gatekeeping (not much of it mind you - I have published both ebooks and paperbacks) that assured us some standard of writing skill. At the end of the day, there is a huge difference between being a skilled writer (no matter what your genre), and writing stories.

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  4. It is true that 'the times they are a'changing' in the publishing world. The next 3 years will be interesting to watch.

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  5. My experience was a little backwards of that--I ended up with my first deal through an agent referral and the agent was the route to the project. That said, it IS all changing. I think what we need to ask ourselves is what the agent adds for us. An agent takes a percentage. For that, they do their lawyerly thing, they act as gatekeepers for SOME (but not all) of the major publishing houses... so if our sales are small or our book might be suitable for one of those houses--the tails, basically, it helps. It may, though, for some, be better to just pay a lawyer a flat fee to check the contract (or maybe you know somebody) and try to go with a smaller publisher.

    I don't know. I have a pair of double-agents and I love them and I really feel like they are doing it for me. I am not against self-publishing, I am just getting a few of my traditional titles out there FIRST as my projects I think I will self-publish are part of a trilogy and the second and third need rewriting (I want to do them at about 3 month intervals when I'm ready.) Going into that though, I write Mystery and YA for the traditional stuff, and both of those are still easier sells to the traditional market. There is a lot of stuff that goes into our decision.

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