Is The Sky Falling?

Posted: June 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

Recently I received an email from an agent, who shall remain unnamed, asking readers what they thought about the question “Is The Sky Falling?” in the publishing market.

It was a rah rah talk designed to tell would be authors to dig down and work harder.

“Traditional publishing is dead. Everyone should self publish.”

“It’s harder than ever to get a book deal.”

“Advances are lower than they’ve been in years.”

“When you finally get a book deal, your advance could be spread out over two years or more.”“The big houses are aggressively seeking household names and celebrity authors.”

“There seem to be fewer slots for debut authors.”

“Amazon is going to take over the world and put everyone else out of business.”

Yes, it’s hard. So what? If it were easy, anyone could do it.Maybe the sky’s not really falling.

Maybe instead the sky is calling. Maybe it’s calling us to pull on our grown-up pants and deal with it. Maybe it’s calling us to be even more clear about our purpose and reason for doing what we do. Maybe it’s calling us to face the realities head-on, acknowledge them and keep on working.

So these quotes above are taken out of context. The agent agrees things are becoming harder these days, but then gives the rah rah and asks for other opinions.  Of course she got all rah rah back from her fans, her stable of authors, and the many still trying to get an agent.

Unfortunately I was not in a charitable mood. I think the field is changing and that authors are getting the short shrift. However, I also think eventually the internet will level the field and agents and publishers may be on the way out and authors may have greater flexibility via e-publishing and online publishing–yes there are websites where you can publisher books online for free and anyone can read them. See

Anyway, here was my response to this agent:

Yes, the sky is falling. The way you write reminds me of what my broker said when I was still in Real Estate six years ago about a Real estate bubble. He talked like it wouldn’t happen in Oregon, of course he was protecting the company’s bottom line.

If you don’t think the sky is falling, go shopping for a CD and you will see what is going to happen to the print book market. Limited selection and by the way, everyone under 40 is buying their music from Itunes or Amazon on line. In another twenty years you will be reading your library books digitally.

It’s one thing to fear what’s happening in the market and quite another to stick your head in the sand like an ostrich and pretend everything is OK.

Working harder will not change the publishing market. Publishers are digging in and going with the tried and true and so are agents.

It’s time for writers to think about themselves, because nobody else will.

I’m not saying self publishing is the answer for everybody because you will still have to do your own marketing–oh wait- you have to do that now anyway most likely. Well you have to make sure it is edited to your best capability because there will be no editors–oh wait, that’s kind of the case now for mid range authors too.

Well, you will be lucky to make much money unless you know how to manage the social marketing–oh, darn, you have to do that yourself too, and the advance is how much? $2,000 to $5,000 on a book I spent three years writing?

So what benefit does the agent and publisher offer now, anyway?

Whew, I feel better. Sorry to vent on you Xxxxxx, but it’s easier for you to say do this , when we have to do it.

By the way, when did agents decide not to respond to queries? I found recently, by subscribing to Publishers Marketplace, that most of the agents I query don’t sell anything in my genre, but they say they do. This is another huge waste of time for authors looking for an agent, and leads to a rejection that makes us think we are doing something wrong.

So Yes, the sky IS FALLING. But It will be on the heads of the big publishers and agents–not the writers. We turn out the product and as the web offers more opportunities, we will have more opportunities to get our work out to the public. Maybe we won’t get rich, but who says we are now!

Note: Publisher’s Marketplace costs only $20 a month and is a tax write off. When you are ready to query agents, I highly recommend at least a one month subscription to find out who is selling in your genre. I sent out 10 queries and of the ten only two represented mystery, but not my brand. The others who said they represented mystery had sold none in the past 8 years and several represented niche areas exclusively–like children’s picture books or non fiction. Since I’ve found most people who say the represent XYZ, really don’t. Its like they want to be listed in everything so they won’t miss that NEXT BIG BOOK when it comes along.

Do you think I’m too cynical or too harsh? What’s your take on the publishing market? Are you a Kindle-a-holic or do you prefer print books?
  1. Cindy Hiday says:

    Stop wasting your time looking for an agent! Go to Smashwords and Kindle and get your novel out to readers as an ebook. It’s free and relatively easy. I e-pubbed my back-list romances and am making sales (with very little marketing) while I get number three ready. Tranditional publishing is too busy playing catch-up. And by the way, you can already check out ebooks at the library. (:

  2. kelly says:

    You tell ’em tiger

  3. Martha Miller says:

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, Don, and I like your take on this whole publishing conundrum better than any I’ve read so far. Your approach is much clearer and represents the problems we face logically and without hysteria. Of course things are changing. They always do. Tell me something that hasn’t.
    Thanks for your post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s