Thursday, May 27, 2010

A poor get-rich-quick scheme

by Jessica

My father, who worked in the newspaper business, was especially fond of quoting the New Yorker writer A.J. Liebling, who remarked that “freedom of the press belongs to the man who owns one.” Book publishing may not suffer from quite the same issues (not least because most publishing companies are now owned not by individuals, but conglomerates) but it’s a still a business in which it does not hurt to arrive equipped with your own funding.

As we all know, in the present market, publishing houses are looking for authors with well-established, and ideally national, platforms. For non-fiction writers especially, this translates into having the resources to spearhead their own publicity and promotion. Such resources may not necessarily be monetary—authors may possess celebrity, the backing of a large and well-known organization, media connections, or all of the above. These, mind you, are in addition to credentials and the ability to write well (or hire someone who can). Being an expert in your field is rarely enough. You need to be able to demonstrate that you can drive sales. Sometimes you need the wherewithal to actually deliver sales. Nothing sweetens a deal like a letter of commitment for the purchase of 10,000 books.

The business of building platforms, including putting together websites, blogging, networking, doing p.r. (on your own or with the help of a freelancer) is costly, whether in terms of cash or time. It’s true that on-line media may mean that publishing, unlike politics, is not solely a rich man’s game, for it offers to the intrepid and web-savvy a relatively cost-effective means of building a following. But it’s also real and time-consuming work, work that comes in addition to your professional and personal obligations, not to mention the actual writing. I can understand why many writers find the demands of the publishing industry onerous, a bit like the to-do list Cinderella's stepmother commands her to complete before heading to the ball. In addition to being talented and credentialed, writers must be marketing whizzes, masters of social media, twitter adepts with legions of followers. If it sounds a little crazy, it is. The demands are many and the rewards few. For many published authors, writing is less a revenue stream than a long term investment. And sometimes it’s solely a labor of love.

Publishing a book is perhaps the worst get-rich-quick-scheme imaginable, but it seems that few of us—writers, booksellers, agents, editors, designers, sales reps, etc.—are in it for the money. Although there are always a few exceptions who prove the rule (and it’s true that publishers must make enough money to publish another day, and satisfy the media conglomerate of which they are a part) the book business still tends to draw people who are passionate about books, those for whom writing, or working with writers, is something of a calling. What keeps you in the publishing orbit? For me, it’s the constant opportunity to learn. Plus the ability to lose myself in a terrific novel and call it “work.”

15 comments:

  1. bitter and twisted27/5/10 10:33 AM

    The publishing industry is not quite dead yet but it was nice to read its obituary in advance of its impending demise here.

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  2. I have no idea what the first comment is about. This is not an obituary. This is just a fact of life. And, yes, it is the thrill of writing that keeps writers, editors and other people in the business. There is nothing like the written word to make something come to life. Not a movie, not speaking it...just writing something down makes it real. Just keep writing and believing.

    PLJ

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  3. Isn't it becoming a bit like vanity publishing? Hard to see how the author is going to recover his costs of travel, video, promotion by any and all means from his meagre advance and even more meagre royalty system, unless he can see Russia from his bedroom window or declare war to save nuclear missiles from falling on his city in the next fifteen minutes.

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  4. I agree wholeheartedly with this post. Perhaps I am speaking from youthful naivety, but I believe if there is a will, there is a way. If an author chooses to write for the pure joy of writing, and not out of desire for monetary gain, then I am willing to bet that theirs will be the book publishers choose to print. Why? Because those are the writers that, in the end, simply work the hardest: honing their skills, researching the market, going to conferences, reading, traveling, blogging, networking, persevering─ just because they love it. A book deal does not begin with a publicity team; it begins with passion, and a damn good book.

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  5. There are times when I wonder whether I stick with it out of pure, pointless stubbornness, but those times don't last. My love of writing fiction always comes back.

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  6. bitter and twisted27/5/10 11:47 PM

    hey anon, so you need the obvious explained; o-kay, but first I have to say anon is a bit too boring so lets give you a handle...I think 007 suits you (secret agent - get it)

    For anyone who would like a good view of how the agent has evolved and their roll today can I direct you to the SFWA site and to their writer beware blog to find the excellent
    Why a Writer Needs a Literary Agent
    An Opinion by Victoria Strauss

    Before making a proper start 007, let me first say my comments are in regard of fiction. I can see a little value (only a little mind) in the type of "platform" mentioned in this blog post with regard to non-fiction.
    And I also would like to say although I am expressing an opinion that may seem anti-agent it is not quite what it seems, I do in fact think Victoria Strauss hits the nail pretty much on the head, but I also hold an expanded view on what she says. Which is some of the demands on a new author are beyond reasonable. Also the guys here at D&G I think are very much better than the majority of agents in their outlook towards and their treatment of new authors.

    O-kay 007 lets get started. if you have read the article I previously mentioned note the date periods of the rise of the modern agent. You will see it coincides with the fall in book sales, this despite the fact that there are more titles on offer each year. I must point, out as we have already debated 007, that more titles is not equitable with more choice.

    I strongly believe that the fall in book sales is very much linked to the absents of choice provided to the book buyer and I believe that choice has been eroded by the method of picking which manuscripts to represent used by agents.

    First there is the query letter that must pass the most rigorous test with the rule if the query letter isn't perfect then the author can't write. But the ability to write a query letter and the ability to write a story are about as different as making cheese or butter. You can use the milk from one cow to make both, but you end up with two different things. Also in a query letter there is an overplayed enthuses on the author's bio. I do understand publishing is a business and everyone in the process needs to make money, we all have family to feed and a mortgage to pay, but that doesn't mean that integrity has to be sold just to make an extra buck. What I'm saying here is there is absolutely nothing in a query letter that will guarantee the accompanying manuscript will be of worth. So why is it that a query letter that isn't absolutely pristine condemns a manuscript before the first page is read.

    I know a lot of wanna be authors are nothing less than deluded about how the world is on tenterhooks waiting for their work to be published and most of these are very poor offerings. I suppose agents feel the query letter helps eliminate these an the earliest stage, but again these type of offerings get found out in the first couple of paragraphs so then why not just read the manuscript in the first place.

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  7. bitter and twisted27/5/10 11:49 PM

    Now synopsis. Most agents ask that a synopsis be presented in not more than two pages, some demand one page only. These two pages must cover the whole story and include the ending, this of course is only applicable to the first time author as a second book could just be presented to the agent by the author as they will already have a working relationship that allows this. Here I could list a thousand bestsellers that would never have gotten published due to the author not being able to condense to the format of synopsis. I will settle for giving you one and a challenge. Dune by Arthur C. Clark; if you can give a two page synopsis that fully covers that book then you can saw my legs off and call me Shorty. The truth is a story with a good plot will not condense into 2 pages, where weaker plots will be a much more comfy fit and this a reason why a lot of good stories don't get to see ink. Because agents don't even look at them because they don't pass the synopsis test. Another factor in my opinion, is a good plot will keep shifting its conclusion a little further from your mind's grasp as you read. I've only read 3 Agatha Christie’s but never managed to catch the bad guy until she gave him to me on the last page. That woman could plot a story. The point here is the agent, although having picked a plot that is not first rate is further


    hampered by the fact that the conclusion of the story picked is known and so when reading the manuscript cannot properly gauge if the story is teasing and tantalising in a way that will satisfy the reader who has parted with his hard earned for exactly this experience.

    Manuscript: All is revealed in the manuscript. A good story will speak for itself. No nonsense with sample, partial, full. Just read it. If after the first page you don't want to read the next page, reject it. If after any page your not compelled to read the next page, reject it. If you reach the last page, print it.
    That will fill the shelves with books worth reading. That would get me back in the bookstore buying.

    Now 007, about the obituary. You make a good speech about the written word, so here's me. As a kid I had a lot of learning difficulties, It would probably be called dyslexia these days, then it was called you dumb ass. This didn't just affect reading and writing but speech also and I had a few years of speech therapy to distinguish pronunciations though there was no understanding then of how confusing written words could be. I would sometimes get my P's & Q's backwards and my Es & F's. and it was not uncommon to find I had written numbers instead of letters. I could be made to write a word 100 times and then the very first time I wrote it after that I would spell it wrong. Also I was left handed, so every time I held a pencil the nuns, who were the teachers at my school, would beat my hand with the edge of rulers and strips of electrical flex until I became a right hander. I developed a hard exterior and when I couldn't truant a class where I might have to read out loud I contrived cunning get-outs. Once I filled a glass with milk, mustard chopped carrot and a few other savoury ingredients, then just before it was my turn to read, behind a my desk-lid I took a big mouthful then spewed it on the floor. Anyway, long- short I got though my entire school life, which took me to the age of 14, without ever reading a book. I was 18 years old when I first read a book cover to cover and it took me the best part of 6 months to read it. I have to say I am so, so grateful it was a good book, because if it wasn't I would probably/maybe never read another one.

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  8. bitter and twisted27/5/10 11:51 PM

    But I was lucky it was a good book. And if it wasn't, I'm not even going to start to say what might have happened to me. The thing here is, I think every agent and every publisher has a burden of responsibility to ensure that every book that reaches the bookstore is a good book, because for somebody it will be their first book.
    Moving on, I devoured books, pretty soon I was reading one a month, then one a week, two a week sometimes. Then one day I said something really stupid, I said, in a conversation, anyone can write a book. Of course I was mocked for my comment, so I had no choice I had to write a book. And what a mess I made of it. But in that mess there was a story. So a rewrite. And another rewrite. 17 rewrites and I started sending it to agents None of them read it.... until one day it was rejected with some very kind comments (can you believe that an agent that made comments, but it's true I swear). More rewrites and sending off to agents. I used to turn the forth page upside-down so if it came back the right way up I knew the agent had read it. It never came back the right way up. 23 rewrites, the rules of the agent were send a synopsis send the first 10 pages - I sent the whole manuscript and a begging letter; read one page for me and as much as you care to for yourself.
    The phone rang.
    The agent said he read it in one sitting, couldn't put it down. He was very, very complementary and asked if he could have an exclusive for one month "to see what he could do with it." I told him to get F*@$ed; joking; I was jumping though hoops. A month later a nice rejection letter arrived (if a rejection letter can be nice this one was)He was also nice enough to accept a phone call from me and suggested I tidy it up a little and we could maybe try again. At this point I broke the 11th commandment, I stopped writing. I had personal things going on and not much time but also the disappointment of getting so close and yet getting nowhere took its toll.
    Anyway few years later and I'm writing again, got two on the boil now. One is o-kay, sort of thing that would squeeze down into a two page synopsis. The other one is a real story, so I reckon has no chance of getting published, but that's by the by. With my enthusiasm rekindled and new projects going well I just couldn't stop thoughts of my nearly manuscript from creeping into my mind, so out it came from the very back of the cupboard. And it was nowhere near the standard I had remembered it as when it went into the cupboard. The story itself is faultless, but my application of it had a bit more than wriggle room in terms of how it could be improved. So I have given it 3 more rewrites (through edits would be more honest) and oh so easy now I have a computer, yep all those 23 rewrites were on a typewriter with a dictionary permanently open. So with manuscript holding a great story and now "tidied" plus anther one not too far from complete, time to get back in touch with the agent who was receptive to it previously. But sadly for me and much sadder for him, he died in the intervening years. So its back to pitching to agents who will never read it because it is not to formulae, because it doesn't fit the business model, because my bio in the query letter doesn't say grad with lit masters, because it has a real plot and can't be squashed into 2 pages. But I'll keep on pitching because it's going to change, because it has to change, because people are starting to not buy books because there are not enough good books making it to the shelf. Stacy, agent and blog author here had lunch with a publisher who had just signed a self-published author without the involvement of an agent, for the reason "that her work was good" so maybe that change is a’ coming.

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  9. bitter and twisted27/5/10 11:53 PM

    Well 007. that's me. So about your lecture regarding the written word, best you go tell to someone else because I know the value and the joy of reading and writing. I would even go as far as to say there are very few people in the world who treasure what lays within the covers of a book with the intensity that I do. And that is why the blog comment is an obituary. because it is not far short of ridiculous to expect an author to bring a readership with him as part of a publishing deal. The misconceived idea that blog and twitter comments will persuade people to buy a book is nothing short of dumb. If a twitter-er has a 10,000 following who just can't make though the month without an injection of the thoughts of their great guru get to read a posting that the oracle now has a book published, discounting friends and family who would buy a copy anyway I very much doubt if sales would increase by more than ten. Is anyone serious in thinking droves of people are going to part with $20 and more on the strength of a twitter. Granted there may be the odd exception, for instance if the twitter-boy's soon to be published book had a title like - 100 ways to make a tinfoil hat.
    The fact is the need for a "platform" is just another obstacle between a good book and the reader who wants to buy it, but can't find it. Over the last ten years the "platform" has been more and more a requirement imposed by agents on authors, now it is demanded as necessity, over the last ten years have book sales gone up?
    Here's a fact, an author's platform is his/her book. The author writes a good book, people buy his/her next book. The author writes a bad book people don't buy his/her next book.

    The comment is an obituary because it means even less good books will be published, and 007, if you can't read that between the lines, maybe it's because they're not double spaced, but it's more likely you are blind. It's all very well you giving your speech on the trill of writing that's an easy thrill to get, I sit in front of my keyboard and write. But what about the thrill of reading? To get that it needs an agent to promote a good books and good authors, not just a rehash of last week's fad. Don't get me wrong nothing wrong with making easy money off the fad but alongside and not at the expense of a good quality story.

    Anyway 007, I was going to say more but I think the comment following yours covers a good lump of it. Lets talk again soon.

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  10. Bitter and Twisted, this is at least the second time you've posted pretty much identical comments.

    You've got a bee in your bonnet about the cover letter.

    If you're looking for most jobs, you have to jump through at least three hoops that have little to do with your ability to do that specific job: you have to write a covering letter, have your resume in good order, you have to be good at interviews.

    Writing a novel is a job. Someone pays you for your work. You don't need to send in your resume, you don't have to do an interview. All you have to do is send that covering letter, then show someone a little bit of your work.

    What does the cover letter prove? Professionalism. Publishers want someone who understands the market, with the ability to finish a book. A cover letter also demonstrates clarity and attention to detail. They don't want someone who just rambles on or makes sloppy errors.

    I don't know you, I think I see the problem.

    Allow me:

    "I will settle for giving you one and a challenge. Dune by Arthur C. Clark"

    I'll take that challenge: 'Arthur C. Clarke didn't write Dune, or spell his name that way'.

    I'm not trying to sneer, I'm trying to help: the problem is you sound like you don't know what you're talking about. Ten seconds of checking your own work would have fixed that. So the point isn't 'ha ha, you don't know Clarke spelled his name with an E at the end', it's 'messing up small details can seriously undermine your case'.

    (The story of how Frank Herbert struggled to get Dune published is an interesting one, and there have been at least three books that have covered it in detail, including The Road to Dune, which reprints his cover letter)

    http://books.google.com/books?id=Hmg0YFP52XcC&pg=PA176&lpg=PA176&dq=dune+frank+herbert+initial+enquiry&source=bl&ots=PSm4QuAjWm&sig=J4q2fmSGOzrdT4Le-fTUU45f0zg&hl=en&ei=i6j_S53UGIH_8Ab0y7D2DQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=7&ved=0CDwQ6AEwBg#v=onepage&q&f=false

    Instead of railing about what a cover letter does and doesn't do, use the opportunity you have here to ask a bunch of agents what they're looking for in one.

    You're aggrieved that you have to submit to the gatekeepers. It's worth noting that these gatekeepers, at every stage, can't ever make money by rejecting a manuscript, so have every incentive to accept as many as are even potentially viable.

    But leave that aside, and try to see that a cover letter can really help a writer to have a clarity of purpose. 'What's my book about, at its core?' is a really useful question to have an answer for, purely artistically.

    Commercially it's a crucial one, too - 'which other books is it like?' isn't a surrender of all originality and integrity, it's an acknowledgment that yours is not the only book out there for people to buy and read, and that when people buy a book, they buy it for a reason.

    The 'you have to have a Twitter account' thing is banal, I agree there. If Snakes on a Plane was the biggest movie of the last few years and Ron Paul was President, I'd be convinced that 'internet hype' = 'actual cash sales'. But the broader point, that it's a crowded market, that a book needs to 'get out there' and that an author is the best motivated and suited to do some of that work, that's a good point.

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  11. bitter and twisted30/5/10 10:40 PM

    Hey 007, Knew that name was a good fit.

    Well that was a marvellous cock-up I made.
    Thanks for putting me right on the authorship of Dune, your not the first person to do that, it’s part of the condition I was telling you about where something gums in my mind and refuses to straighten up. I actually know how this one sneaked into my brain, when I was reading Dune I had to take a long train journey and forgot my book. So I brought another to occupy my travel, which was Childhoods End by Clarke. Since then I can’t help myself from the association of Dune = Clarke. Funny thing though it doesn’t work out that Childhood’s End = Herbert. Mind you your absolutely right I should have checked it, because I know I am prone to these type of errors, but in my mind it was with absolute conviction that Clarke wrote Dune that I committed it to the comment. And in a couple of days time I will again be convinced Clarke wrote Dune and if it comes up in conversation, someone will again put me straight. One day it might fix in my head Dune = Herbert, but it took me about 10 years to stop putting an E on the end of the word work.
    This is just something I have to live with and though sometimes (like now) its embarrassing, it’s not a handicap, just an inconvenience. There are a lot of people who have to suffer things a lot worse. And there’s a flip side with me that is a bonus, the logic part of my mind works in overdrive. Which I guess is why an uneducated oik like me gets to be project manager on £50, mill. construction sites.
    As for leaving the E off Clarke, sloppy; yes, but I do so much checking and rechecking in letters and manuscripts that I’m not going to apply the same for blog comments, one check only and what I miss will stay missed.

    Your right I have got a bee in my bonnet about the cover letter, but it’s nothing compared to the bug I got up my ass about synopsis. I pulled Dune out of the hat, as the synopsis challenge, because I know I couldn’t do that myself and my thought was suppose Clarke…oops Herbert, were submitting it today and could only present an inadequate 2 page synopsis or a decent 12 page synopsis; would it be cast aside because of the agent’s requirement that things be just so?
    By the by, thanks for info on Road to Dune, I didn’t know about that and its gone straight to the top of my must read list.

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  12. bitter and twisted30/5/10 10:42 PM

    Your also right the comment posted was near the same as previous, but if a things worth saying, it’s worth saying twice. (At least.)
    But you miss my motive in what I’m saying, it has really all been prompted by the question asked here; why don’t men read books? My answer is a question; why are there no books for men to read? And it is posed as a reader rather than a wanna-be writer.
    In the last three years I have gone into bookstores at least 6 times, spent at an hour or more there and walked out without buying a book. Yet I can walk into a charity store and I will find 3 books in 10 minutes. I go for genre mostly, horror, Si-Fi, sometimes fantasy. I do read other things as well, but not so much. When I shop for a book I always read the first 2 pages in-store and if the book doesn’t grab me in those 2 pages it stays in the store.
    I read somewhere online that book sales have dropped 40% in the last 10 years….hold on, that might have been the last 20 years. Is that right? It seems a very dramatic drop to me. Even if that figure is wrong, the consensus of all opinion on book sales seems to be the numbers are falling. So is that because younger people don’t pick up books and as the more mature readers die off they are not being replaced, or is it that people like me, not quite ready for the grave yet, are turning away from books because they are not getting full satisfaction from the books on offer. Could be a combination of both I suppose.
    Harry Potter and Twilight go some way to indicating that young people are interested in and will buy books, but what happens once the young market matures? If, like me, they start finding modern adult literature dull; will they stop buying books? And why is it I think modern books are dull when 30 & 20 years ago I thought the bookstore was Aladdin’s cave. Honestly I hardly know a dozen names of modern authors, while 25 years ago I would know hundreds, (sometimes I would even know which ones wrote which books.) So what has changed?

    Not the economy, you’ve read already my thought on that. Not TV and film taking readers away, they were well established 30 years ago. Computer games? I could see that having an effect, but not to the extent that they cripple the book market and again Twilight and Potter show books can match up to game-boy. So to me it seems what has changed most, is that the quality of books has fallen. So to examine why, the question has to be asked what has changed in the last 30 years?

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  13. bitter and twisted30/5/10 10:44 PM

    007, you said “I don’t know what I’m talking about.” Well your absolutely right again, I’m on the outside looking in, with a few points of reference, trying to draw a line of logic to join the dots. Is the reason the quality of books is not what is was simply there was a wealth of good story tellers then and now that golden age is past and what we have now is the status quo?
    I don’t think so. for the last four years I have been involved with an online writers workshop and have critiqued 3 short stories or novel samples a week, which comes out about 600. When I have done this I sort of play at being an agent and on 6 occasions I have finished my comments with “Good luck with your soon to be published story.” About a dozen others were close to that comment and in my view with a bit more work or maybe with a little of the right help would get a gold star and a couple of those were actually deserving but just didn’t flick my switch. Overall the percentage of these stories I found to be good is far higher than I would have expected, which leads me to believe that there are good authors out there not getting picked up. Why not?

    I don’t know if I’m right here, but I’m sure you’ll let me know if I’m not. I think of agents as a fairly small community, that is very well interconnected. And it seems to me when one has a really bad idea and announces it, rather than knocking it over and upsetting whoever put it forward (especially if the agent putting it forward is Charley Big-Potatoes.) the idea gets adopted. The twitter platform being a real daddy of a bad idea. Though I’m glad you agree 007, I’m a little aggrieved that you do, as I wanted to offer what I think is a proof how banal it is. Of course I’m going to offer it anyway. You guys had a opening sentence competition here not long ago (nice one. I think the first sentence in a book is very much the most important one.) Shot in the dark here, but I would guess with all the hype about twittering all the guys an’ gals who made the 10 entrants were twittering like they possessed in order to get votes and the winner got a bit more than two and a half hundred I believe; so what was the total vote? I’m guessing about !,500 -2,000. That includes people that will have supported them contacted though other means than twitter and your own D&G audience. The voting process was just sit at your computer and click, so if 10 guys can only get 2K voters how many sales; which involves putting on your coat, going to the bookstore and hardest of all parting with money, can twitter boost a book by?
    But now a good many agents will not get to the manuscript because the twitter numbers don’t look viable.

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  14. bitter and twisted30/5/10 10:45 PM

    Another one doing the rounds is “It’s o-kay to have a downbeat protagonist, but he must have at least one redeeming quality or the reader will not form an association with him,” I can just see that agent writing a rejection letter.
    Dear Mr Dickens
    I‘m sorry but I cannot accept your manuscript, A Christmas Carole. Although I found your writing of quite a high standard, I’m afraid your protagonist Ebenezer Scrooge was lacking in the human quality that readers need to affiliate with. Perhaps if you rewrite making him more cuddly
    Yours sincerely

    So this agent and any others that jump on his bandwagon are now going to ignore any manuscripts that have a stalwart mechanism of salvation of a lost soul as a theme. I find these “rules” instructing authors how to write ridiculous. The worst of it is, these “rules” are only applicable to an author who is not published. If an author who had already had just one single book published that did no better than o-kay in sales, then presented a new manuscript to an agent employing this rigor…. Sign him up, or show him the door?

    007 you said.
    What does the cover letter prove? Professionalism. Publishers want someone who understands the market, with the ability to finish a book. A cover letter also demonstrates clarity and attention to detail. They don't want someone who just rambles on or makes sloppy errors.
    I have to say the only thing that shows the ability to finish a manuscript, is a finished manuscript. Nothing else and certainly not a letter. With the exception of understanding the market everything else mentioned can be discovered in the first page of a manuscript. I know this from workshop manuscripts and I know this from the books that I put back on the shelf in the bookstore.

    Which other book is it like? Your comments there are spot-on. But what about Dune, Dracula, The Stand, Animal Farm, I can see Peter Benchley could say - it’s a modern day Moby Dick, but what comparison could Herman Melville have made?
    So why I accept your comment, I have to ask; what about the true ground-breaker?

    I don’t find your comparison of author to any other job not quite so on the mark. For an author hoping to be published it is a labour of love, with a distant and very slim chance of any payment. Steinbeck said gambling on a horserace was a sounder investment.
    In the industry I work in looking for a job would be. Application (= query letter). Interview (= synopsis). Start the job (= manuscript).
    I can tell you without fear of contradiction, that in the industry I work in at least half the people involved in management do not have a hint of a clue with regard to what they are doing. They may send a pristine application, interview with magnificence, but when it comes to the job they are as much use as a row-boat made of sponge. Tell me how many times do you receive a query letter that is immaculate and a synopsis that that is faultless that are accompanied by a manuscript that is not fit for butt-wipe?
    Writing a letter and telling a story that lifts off the page to become something real in the readers mind are as far apart as Mombasa is from the mountains on the Moon.

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  15. bitter and twisted30/5/10 10:49 PM

    Please, don’t take this as agent bashing, it’s not. I’m just asking where have the good writers gone? I said early I didn’t think TV affected book sales, but maybe it does. I have to say I think the standard of TV shows has risen over the last 20 years. Sopranos, The Wire, and even though I can’t stand it myself, Ugly Betty, Burn Notice, there’s loads of good stuff. So maybe TV isn’t so much taking the book reader away but more taking the book writer away. Maybe all the original writers are finding it easier to make an impact though scripts, rather than books.

    As you say 007, I don’t know what I’m talking about. I’m just sort of thinking out loud. I know the importance of an agent, I have never heard of one published author saying anything other than how essential their agent is to them. But I do think agents in general have tied themselves into a bit of a knot with their criteria on selecting new authors. Twilight and Potter have something else in common besides being among the biggest sellers of the decade, rejection. A lot of rejection. An industry that rejected those two, time and time and time again shouldn’t really be too defensive of its selection process. It should be looking at how come it misses the goodies so many times and trying to make sure it doesn’t do it again. And lets not forget Harry Potter was selected for publishing by an 8 year old who didn’t read the cover letter or synopsis.

    Anyway I must say how much your blog and comments are enjoyed and appreciated and I leave you with this ancient wisdom.

    You should never judge a book by its cover -(letter).

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