Tuesday, May 04, 2010

We all just wanna have fun...

by Miriam

Jane and I were meeting with a prospective client yesterday, a lovely young woman with a great book idea and lot of good questions about the agent-author relationship. In the midst of explaining who we are as an agency, and why and how we do things, Jane mentioned that few authors, even those who are successfully published, end up getting rich from their efforts. So, the goal, she said, should really be to have fun with the process. The comment stuck with me. Even though “Have fun!” may seem to be as much of a platitude as “Have a nice day!” the sentiment is one that I wish more people in our business would take to heart.

In the midst of gloom and doom predictions about the industry as a whole, flagging book sales, the terrifying juggernaut that is the electronic revolution, and the fact that readers are dumber, more distracted, cheaper, unable to read more than a couple of Twitter feeds at a time—fill in the blanks with whatever the wags are wagging about at any given moment—it’s hard not to take what we all do as seriously as a migraine. Happily, we at DGLM are lucky in that, as a group, we’re fairly sophomoric in our sense of humor and more delighted than most by the absurdities and ironies inherent in the publishing process.

Yes, we do keep a binder with samples of the worst query letters ever sent, we treasure anecdotes about authors behaving badly and editors throwing office furniture at their assistants, we are inveterate gossips, and we spend way more time than we should chortling over pictures of the Mr. Romance contest at the Romantic Times conference. Does this mean that we don’t consider our work and that of our clients and potential clients important? Not at all, it means that in order to be good at what we do, we have to have perspective and even a sense of play. A potentially disastrous conflict between an author and a publisher can be defused by reminding both sides to “Lighten up! It’s not brain surgery.” And, our jobs are infinitely more engaging when we remember that before we were agents, editors and “serious” writers, we picked up books because they provided a world of fun.

Bottom line is that if we allow ourselves to forget how much joy there is in the vigorous exchange of ideas, in the beauty of a perfect sentence, and in the collaboration with brilliant people to create content that inspires, instructs, and entertains, then we might as well cash in our chips and leave the table. Meanwhile, we’ll keep doing what we do until it’s no longer fun.

21 comments:

  1. What a great post! I had a meeting this morning with a former student who is just beginning to send his work out, and we were discussing this very thing. I write because I love the process, because I love to work with other writers and editors, and because I can't imagine a life in which writing and reading were not at the center. Period. I'm going to share this post with several of my writer friends and students. Thanks much!

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  2. Interesting that the industry (you) recognises that the folks responsible for the content (the writers) rarely make a decent buck from the process and largely cannot leave their real jobs to write fulltime. And yet the industry still insists, and manages, to make a good living on the backs of these part-time scribes. If you look at it through a synical enough eye, you can almost see the serfs in the fields...

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  3. I love this post! Not only does it shed light on how human agents are (I think we, as writers, easily fall into the habit of thinking agents are godlike figures in the shadows, tapping their fingers against their desks while shredding bad manuscripts), but it really does remind us that we should be having fun with every step of this process!

    Thanks for this, Miriam. :)

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  4. What a fantastic post, Miriam! So refreshing and insightful. It relates to one I recently wrote myself, so if you don't mind, I'm going to link to this... ;)

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  5. I'm glad to see a post like this! I've mentioned it on a few other blogs, but it seems lately there have been quite a few posts about how much work being an author (or agent) is, how much time you have to put into it, etc. That's true. Being an author does require a time investment, but if it gets to the point where you're not allowed to do anything else or you don't "want it" enough, as some of the other posts stopped just short of implying, then I can't imagine how it would remain enjoyable. And why would you pursue a career, especially one not guaranteed to pay the bills, if it's not enjoyable? I think we all need to remember to have fun and enjoy what we're doing once in a while.

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  6. Yes! Great post. I don't care if I get rich off my books when I get there, though it'd sure be nice, I just want other people to enjoy reading my story! Because that's what books are for. :)

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  7. (Follow up to my last anonymous post...)

    Dang - you'd think that if I took the time to be critical of an entire industry - and one that is, ironically, powered by words - I would have at least of had the good sense to spell "Cynical" correctly. Sheesh... It's hard to be taken seriously as revolutionary these days.

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  8. "...unable to read more than a couple of Twitter feeds at a time..."

    Wait a minute! I can only read one Twitter feed at a time!

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  9. I really want to see that query folder! :D

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  10. Yes! Thank you.

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  11. So true. When I focus on world and character building, and let the story play out as it wants, I am having the most fun - and are the most productive. Sounds like a win-win.

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  12. Excellent post. So say we all! (Okay, maybe just me.)

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  13. FUN!... that's why I invented Haste yee back ;-), but then, you're not considered *professional* or of serious intent!

    (laughin' all da way to da po house)!

    Haste yee back ;-)

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  14. What a great reminder! Good fun is the perfect reason to write or read a book.

    I wish I could take a look in the worst queries binder. I bet there are some real LOL worthy ones in there. Heee.

    Is there a chance we could persuade you to post a few excerpts (names changed to protect the innocent of course)?

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  15. Well written post, Miriam.

    I must agree with Anonymous and ‘Haste yee back’. Much walking is being done upon the bent backs of scribes. If the e-revolt stirring about the Publishing Kingdom's walls will deliver a felling blow, remains to be seen. But I write because it is what I do, even while I am doing something else. Should my work see the light of day, I pray my love for the process never changes.

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  16. Writers don't get paid much for their efforts; they have to endure 'helpful' advice from non-writing friends and relatives; their personal lives are generally put on the back burner; all too often their hard efforts don't even result in publication. Sometimes finding the fun in this business is a tough call.

    (Please tell me that you white-out the authors' names in that awful query binder. Because if my first one isn't in yours, it'll be in someone else's...)

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  17. (In the spirit of having fun in writing, a good blog post would be to ask writers what their worst querying mistakes have been. I'm betting I'm not the only one who'd have fun answering this.)

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  18. Yeah, I write and read because I would otherwise shrivel into dust. It's honestly not always fun, but it is life, air, food and drink.

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  19. I honestly have no clue how much I'd make if I got published. I'm probably remiss in not investigating because I do like money, but I am more interested at the moment in getting my book out there for others to enjoy and get good reader reviews (hopefully). As long as I still get that excitement when I've written something well and I know it, I will continue.

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