Friday, July 15, 2011

An Open Letter to Agents

It's harder to break into the major publishing markets today than it has ever been before.  This is the era of diminishing returns, as there are fewer readers and more writers than ever before.  Anyone with a computer thinks they can write a book and the internet gives them the ability to peddle it as soon as they type it out, while the mainstream of society seems more content to watch television on a weeknight rather than sample a fresh paperback.

It is no surprise that Agents are hard to get.  They generally stick to what they know is a guaranteed money-maker; the previously established authors who have already managed to make it above and beyond the average slush pile—for the most part.  It is the Agent's purview to make money, period.  While a writer might have the luxury to play artist, and seek to bring beautiful pieces of literature to life, the Agent can't always be concerned with aesthetics.

However, there is a secondary purpose for Agents, and that is to identify and promote new, unknown talent.  This can be a time consuming venture, though it also has the potential to change the future.  Not only are there many quality writers out there who could be successful with a little professional support, but there are still readers out there eager to see something other than what the current batch of famous producers are cranking out.

I have long held the opinion that many people aren't reading today because they don't like what is being published.  Whether they'd like what isn't being published is anyone's guess, but I dare say there are some new readers just waiting for a fresh voice to deliver "their kind of story."  That is where the Agent's secondary purpose kicks into gear; to get the unknown writer onto the scene.

Of course, there's no way to know how successful a new author will be, so Agents must logically become more and more selective.  That's why they generally stick with what they know is already selling, as opposed to what might sell.  Comparing it to other investments, this is the equivalent of buying gold and silver, as opposed to stocks.  You know the precious metals will still be worth something, no matter what, so why risk your time and money on a stock that might go belly-up?

I'm not saying Agents don't take new, unpublished writers as clients.  Yes, writers are still able to woo them, though it isn't easy.   The writing itself is only part of the bargain, and that is where I often find myself at a disadvantage.  I'm pure writing skill and talent, able to produce quality stories of speculative fiction, though the only way to know that is to read my books.  I don't have a long list of college credits, I don't have a trendy angle, and I'm stuck out here in the middle of nowhere, so I can't show up to the big conventions and play the showman.  As such, most Agents have thus far given me less than a passing glance.

I would like to make this public appeal to any Agents who are looking for talent in the Science Fiction & Fantasy genres:  Consider my material for representation.  I'm not a household name at present, but at this point the only thing holding me back is lack of fanfare.  I have all the skills and imagination of my contemporaries who have already busted through into the mass market of book publishing.  If you want to make money with someone and bring entertaining stories to the world, then I'm your writer.  The reading world is thirsting for more than the same old stories about teenage vampires and autobiographies of politicians nobody really cares about. They want what I've got, only you need to tell them that!

No, it isn't ego.  I'm just a damn good writer.  Try me!

1 comment:

  1. I love the message behind this post - to all agents out there, Martin IS a talented writer and deserves to be given a chance.

    I agree that a lot of people aren't reading because the types of books they want are not out there. Take for example where I work - do we do sell adult sci-fi and fantasy novels? No. Would I buy them if we did? Yes.

    Some people say horror is an under-populated genre but I point towards a new writer in this field - Christopher Ransom. Other than Dean Koontz and Stephen King, he's the only other horror novelist we sell. Guess what? We've sold buckets loads of his books. People want horror.

    What does this all mean? Booksellers need to take risks to find out what people want to read! Stop playing it safe.

    Ellie Garratt