WRITER – STOP LOOKING FOR AN AGENT

The early working title of this article was, Editing Workshop in Wexford and What I Think I Actually Learned There. Sometime between then and what you see up there now, it was titled Self-Produced—Doing It (Almost) All. Such are the sensibilities of editing. 

I’ve come to think of editing in b – r – o – a – d terms, more so now with blogging, and such things as tags, and links, and ping-backs and whatnot.  I tend to come at every piece of writing from many angles, viewing it again and again, knowing even so that it may never be enough.  Therefore, when someone offers a free workshop on the subject locally, I’m all in, especially when that someone is the group WRITE TO PUBLISH. I went, and came away with more than I hoped for.

I learned of the editing workshop in an e-mail from Randy Johnston. She knows me through an article she did when Steve Mann and I shared the Artist of the Month honors at ENTITY. She writes for the newspapers—not all of them, only three. The writers’ workshop, sponsored by her group, was Saturday, February 11, in the Cadillac Library conference room.

The featured speaker was book-doctor Heather Shaw, a professional editor/writer from Traverse City. It sounded interesting. I thanked Randy and started thinking up a list of questions. The first one I had was, “How could they do this for free!?!” But I supposed that Heather Shaw was marketing herself somehow. That’s fine. That’s good. [Scroll to bottom for a link to her services]

WRITE TO PUBLISH, by the way, is a progressive group of writers gathering to learn from each other.  They’ve been bringing in guest speakers twice a year to better their own writing and that of the community. The core group meets every other week at Horizon Books in Cadillac. It’s open to anyone with an interest in writing: contact Becky Herring for the schedule at 231-775-2425. Yes, they have coffee.

So I started out for the big event early, stopping along the way at three local libraries with signed copies of RESET as donations. They were graciously accepted, and I was feeling like a writer proper when I showed up to the presentation. To see more than 50 other writers there was exciting. 

When all was said and done, several things stood out for me about this workshop. As is usual with these events, there was the unanswered question, unanswered in some cases because it is unasked, whether forgotten or elsewise—I’ll get to that later.  There was also the revelation; another standard at such events (more about that later too, trust me).  And then there was the hoped-for reassurance, that I already knew much of what was being presented. Oh, and there was the one minor disagreement, I had with what one of the presenters stated as fact, given with qualifiers and with no exceptions, and relating to the previously mentioned unanswered question. Got that?

I found Randy to say “Hi.” She’s making progress on her European travel book, and still at the papers, much to their credit. She said she was also giving a presentation as part of the program.  A multilingual retired professor, literary critic and woman of the world, Randy’s list of credentials was nearly as long as Heather’s. Her presentation was Newspaper Writing and Editing.

She gave 10 reasons why people might want to write for a newspaper. Having written for the paper myself some years ago, I could relate, though I was never as good as she. For me, the job was the much-needed training for a lot of what I do now.

She led us through a mini-lesson on how to write and edit a newspaper story. She talked about the importance, to All writers, of using a style manual. She concluded by handing out the following addresses to online resources for writers.

http://www.tameri.com/   http://owl.english.purdue.edu/  and,  www.newsroom101.com

(Appreciative applause. Ten minute break. Sweets and coffee and small talk.)

Heather’s presentation was Manuscript Editing for Today’s Writer. She stepped forward, trailing credentials long and varied—several ongoing editing jobs, several awards, and she teaches at (NMC) my old school. She was engaging, smart, pretty in black, author-itative, a brave speaker and . . . I could go on, and then I could use her advice ‘to get naked’, to strip it all back out.

Her talk was steered toward the widening self-published path, away from the traditional.

She advised us to write the book we wanted to read, and then to read it aloud. Ask, “how does it sound?” This she calls ‘cooking your book’.

She suggested using more verbs, less adjectives and adverbs. Write what you mean.  Eliminate qualifiers.  Leave room for the reader to create their own picture.

She stressed the importance of beta-readers, an often neglected resource. Beta-readers are easy to find. Use their advice to get ready for your final round of edits. Maybe consider a professional beta-reader for a paid ‘critique’.

Then . . . then, she said, “you must, MUST hire an editor.” A grand command at a thousand dollars a book.

Being herself an editor, also the author of the book Write, Memory, she may have been tempted to break her own rule. Thus formed my unasked question; “did she hire an editor?” She did say that a writer is apt to read right over their own mistakes, whereas they would probably catch the same mistakes if made by another. I’ll give that a nod, but I wonder if it must always be so. 

She and Randy ended the workshop with a long question and answer period. Quite informative.  I wondered about literary agents. I noted the table near Heather, and the fifteen books there that she had edited, all but two self-published, and one she had written. “If this is the way of the future, where does an agent fit into all of this self-publishing?”

My own mainstream dreams have long included the unquestioned search for an agent to help sell my next books. To that end, which would really be a new beginning, I had already committed many hours of preparation. I had already resigned myself to the long grueling search ahead. By most accounts, a writer bent on going through an agent should expect to spend years looking, then prepare to spend years more finding a publisher.

Couldn’t we just self-publish, and get on with it? There may be only a few self-published authors making millions, but they don’t owe 15% of it to their agents.

She went over the standard short-list of the pros and cons of having an agent. She explained that the reasons for using an agent (or are they using us?) are fast disappearing, along with the publishing houses. The fact that the remaining publishers aren’t giving as many big advances these days is no small consideration.

Many of us hung around after the closing remarks, anxious to make new acquaintances of our own kind. A pair of the WRITE TO PUBLISH members got me together with another self-published author there to ask us if we would consider ‘sitting on a panel’ at an upcoming workshop they are planning. “We certainly would,” we said.

At home later, online, I went looking for information to support this great strange idea that there was no use in chasing the old tale. Most of what I found corresponded to the same info I already had about placing one’s faith in an agent, how and why to find one, and all the variables that contribute to the experience. [Some new stuff of interest is linked beneath article.]

We all know that the vast majority of new writers will never become old authors.  Bless us for trying right?  Bless us for loosing the serpents in our minds upon the world.  For making people cry.  For torturing our protagonists.  For insisting that life be lived.  For exposing the beating heart of humanity.

We do what we can. But we can do more.

“More than an agent?” Maybe.

“How? Agents have all these odd connections with people that a writer never will.”  Bull!  We are writers.  Knowing people and odd things and making connections is what we do.

“But, agents have a way with people. They’ve got the personalities suited to selling.” That’s a nice way of putting it. Nevertheless, it’s mostly to make up for the fact that people would usually, if they could,  rather talk directly to the author. Be your own agent. Do your own marketing.

“Well, agents save the author time, time to write.”  Wrong wrong wrong.  We make our own time to write, usually out of the merest scraps of the day.  Besides, everything a writer does, everything he sees, hears, feels, thinks and dreams, feeds his mind and moves his pencil.  Doing for oneself what an agent does for 20 or 30, can’t take that much time.  And if the experience can be counted on to enrich one’s work, where’s the downside?

As for hiring an editor, or paying for a critique, I do still believe that a writer should be able to do it all. That is my aim. However, since I’m probably wrong, I may seek to trade service for service when the next time comes around, just to be on the safe side—pair up with another writer with some skill at editing, and his own book ready to be looked at.

More and more good books will continue to be self-published, self-agented, and even self-edited. Maybe an author should embrace this new model. For those who can do it profitably, “way to go!” It’s all in our hands now. Writers are able to do things never before possible. 

The old publishing houses are having the same cash flow problem as the rest of the world, and predictions of their apocalypse fill the search engines.  Well, everything fills the search engines these days.

It’s probable that the traditional publishing model will hang around awhile, morphing as it has to, to maintain appearances.  Workers and words and money will flow. Job descriptions will change. The holey Trinity of author/agent/publisher won’t just break up and melt away in the light of a new day. It might take a couple new days, but new days seem to be coming quicker and quicker.

Writers and readers will win in the end.

Brian Cool

RELATED LINKS

Whether it’s a book on spirituality, a cookbook, or fiction, if you are fairly sure of the potential for moderate book sales on a ‘completed’ MS, take it to Heather to hedge your bets.  Check out her services and upcoming classes at:  http://heatherleeshaw.blogspot.com/

For ingredients to a recipe for a delicious writer-reality-check soup, start here: http://ninabadzin.com/2011/07/05/are-you-addicted-to-finding-a-literary-agent/

Oh boy is this hot stuff! There is actual steam rolling off this next page.  This will have the agents looking both ways: http://lmmartin.hubpages.com/hub/Are-you-looking-for-a-literary-agent-Want-to-vent-a-little

Wow, this woman has let a nest of bald-faced hornets loose in the kitchen.  EVERYBODY RUN!   “WHERE?!!”  EVERYWHERE!:  http://maryww.wordpress.com/2009/04/14/the-talent-killers-how-literary-agents-are-destroying-literature-and-what-publishers-can-do-to-stop-them/

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Merry National Library Day

“I had to crawl to get to the toilet, but I wouldn’t have traded it. ”

For library freaks like me, I’m going to include a spot over on the side of my blog, as a guide to where readers can find a copy of my book RESET by Marian Evans. The list will begin with MY local libraries where I have already donated copies; Cadillac, Leroy, Tustin and Luther — soon to include two or three more.  If your library doesn’t have it, try requesting it. The more the merrier.

Need I say, I’m a junkie for the written word? I’ve a special penchant for words written about writing. I also like  genre fiction: classics of sci-fi and horror, but I’ll read almost anything.  One year I read 72 books (not counting a hundred or so books on tape).  I was laid up for six weeks that winter and averaged two books every three days.  That was great.  I had to crawl to get to the toilet, but I wouldn’t have traded it.  Call it readedication or bookaddiction, it has driven me on from an early age to pursue the writing life.  Now it’s gone beyond the stage of someday-soon with some small income.

For those who will consider buying the book, I’m trying to provide as many options as possible. You might want to support your local independent bookstore. Good! They can get it for you in a few days if you ask. 

Also I want to have RESET stocked in all of my local bookstores (I’ll go for anything within 100 miles).  As that happens I will include a guide on the side to promote those places.  I’m also going to include a link on the side to the website IndieBound. They will help you order the book and direct you to your nearest local independent, where you can purchase it.
http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781463599560

“The mission of the IndieBound Community is to help people across the United States share and find independently owned businesses. By connecting indie-conscious people with local businesses, we’re working to strengthen the health of Main Street ecosystems across the United States.” 

Yes my book was made possible by the beautiful monster Amazon.com, since it was produced (but not published — a guy named Self is the proud publisher) using tools from two of their divisions, Createspace and Kindle.  But hey, they offer the best services to get the quality results I was hoping for, and that’s just business. 

Yes, Amazon does compete with independent bookstores, but then they also make it easy and quick for any bookstore to order these POD (print-on-demand) self-published books.  Or, as an option, the author can profit by personally peddling his work on consignment to his local bookstores  — and why not? Everything ‘big’ started out small and local.

As a farmers market manager in my other guise, I am in love with BUY LOCAL — well-versed in its many merits, as well as its shortcomings.  RESET was a collaborative project that came out of local talents, but it is available worldwide. I’ve made the effort to allow as many channels of distribution as possible, on speculation that it might eventually pay. I especially like the fact that my books that are bought in the US are also printed here.

Will it make sense (as in dollars and cents), to chase these local sales?  Ask me in 10 years, when I’m bringing down 10 grand a week.

I have a hunch that most writer’s first books are giveaways, whether or not the author is headed for future success.  Those who stay in it — see it through to the fourth or fifth book — should be making a living off it by then if they have turned out some decent work. 

I’ve given away as many copies of RESET as I’ve sold, or more.  Given them for various reasons.  I’m happy to do it.  I should’ve given away more in fact, printed some ARCs (advance review copies).  Next time I’ll add that all-important step of lining up some advance reviews.  Get some blurbs. 

We learn. Where? Visit your library.   Brian

Why shop Indie?
When you shop at an independently owned business, your entire community benefits:

The Economy
■Spend $100 at a local and $68 of that stays in your community. Spend the same $100 at a national chain, and your community only sees $43.
■Local businesses create higher-paying jobs for our neighbors.
■More of your taxes are reinvested in your community–where they belong.

The Environment
■Buying local means less packaging, less transportation, and a smaller carbon footprint.
■Shopping in a local business district means less infrastructure, less maintenance, and more money to beautify your community.

The Community
■Local retailers are your friends and neighbors—support them and they’ll support you.
■Local businesses donate to charities at more than twice the rate of national chains.
■More independents means more choice, more diversity, and a truly unique community.

http://www.indiebound.org/indie-bookstore-finder

OLD NEWS IS AN OXYMORON

 But here’s some old news anyway, for posterity’s sake if nothing else.

The following article about RESET appeared Dec. 16, 2011 in the Cadillac Newspaper, prior to our second Saturday at ENTITY. It included a graphic of the front cover, and directions to the place in a sidebar.

It was an honor to be interviewed and written about by Jeff Broddle. He has a talent for getting the story.  Brian

“Mann did the book’s illustrations, drawing the rich landscapes Cool envisioned in his escapist story of an archetypal journey on a parallel Earth.”

 LeRoy sci-fi author hosts book-signing in Marion

BY JEFF BRODDLE   CADILLAC NEWS 

MARION — Art, writing, publishing, the end of the world — any topic will be up for discussion as some of the creators of the fantasy science-fiction novel “Reset by Marian Evans” welcome the public to the ENTITY art gallery in Marion Saturday.

Although the book is titled “Reset by Marian Evans,” it was authored by LeRoy resident Brian Cool, who has been selected as ENTITY’s Artist of the Month for December. This self-published novel is subtitled “a post-apocalyptic dream where prophecy meets legend.”

Meet Cool and one of the book’s contributing artists, Steve Mann, at ENTITY, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday.

Explaining the title, Cool said, Marian Evans is a creation of his own mind, based on an author who lived 150 years ago. Hint: Marian Evans is the real name of the 19th century English novelist George Eliot. The mystery of Marian Evans’ identity is one of the threads of the novel’s plot.

Mann did the book’s illustrations, drawing the rich landscapes Cool envisioned in his escapist story of an archetypal journey on a parallel Earth. Cool also gives Linda Smith credit as part of the “Reset Crew” for creating the painting that became the book’s cover.

The book begins with a woman being drafted into the Army in a civil war set in the modern-day United States.

She is nearly killed, and after going AWOL, finds work in a mining camp. A passing comet causes a nuclear winter, leaving the woman as the sole survivor.

As the story progresses, readers discover a mythical island, a hidden race of human beings and the unfolding of a prophecy.

“This book is, in a way, an introduction to my world,” Cool said.

The novel also is available on Amazon.com in both print and e-editions.

REFLECTIONS ON MY MONTH AS AN ARTIST . . . OF THE MONTH

But That Was December. One might think that I should have posted this a month ago, but that would mean I had reflected in advance. And while I often do write on the spur of the moment, I prefer to let things steep like tea. If an idea brews for some time, it usually transfers quicker to paper; richer, clearer, with more objectivity and truth.

Still, it’s been a while between posts here, after a flush of several posts each week for awhile. How much time can it take to brew?

Well . . . till it’s done. Annnnd, there’s more’n enough content on the web already.

I really enjoyed the two days in Marion at Susan Hall’s ENTITY with Steve Mann. The place doesn’t get a lot of business though. It’s in a small town, and times are tough, so mostly we just talked to each other, or to Sue when she was in. We sold a few books and prints of the artwork each time we were there. And that covered the gas to get there, but probably not to heat the place.

Steve says, if I get us another gig, he is in. So I will try. It’s not about the money right now anyway. It’s about establishing a coherent body of work.

Original Photo by Susan Hall

I wish I had grand news about RESET’S sweeping success in the meantime. Got my first royalty check. 26 bucks, direct deposit. Truth is, I just haven’t had the necessary time to properly market the book–the unavoidable stuff of life (see list below) demands its due. She is young yet though, so we shall see, we shall see. The biggest thing for me all along has been the things I have learned, and am still learning, about the Art of Expression, and the expression of art.

And so, the writing of such a novel is more important than the selling of it. My goal was that I should like it, that I should be moved by it, without having to try, and I do like it. And I’ll continue to write with that as my objective. I didn’t set out in this business thinking to please an audience. If I ever do happen to do that, by some happy accident, all the better. If I wanted to try to write for a ready-made audience, I’d be advised to go with vampires or werewolves, a seemingly inexhaustible trough, or alien sex maybe (hey, don’t laugh. I have a friend whose cousin’s mother does it. Writes about it, that is. With over 30 books, she must be making some money.).

RESET did get a favorable reader review, which I was able to put on Amazon.com. Maybe I will create an audience all my own, over time.

Time . . . So much of it wasted.

My chances are thin I know, Time being what it is, and people so mortal, by all accounts.

That all said, I do plan to create some buzz over the next few months. So, among other things, I will look for some bigger places to meet more readers who just might like to give me a try. I’ve some experience now with such opportunities, thanks to Susan Hall. I hope that ENTITY continues to develop and grow for her, and for the enrichment of the community.

Unavoidable Stuff of Life: A much-abbreviated story of the last couple months Coming down with??? ‘crud’… sick with crud… December meetings for both the planning commission and the farmers market… Managing and vending at pre-holiday market with Christmas in LeRoy event… Selling 14 log trees off front property… Converting hundreds of old e-document files on my computing machine, from one format to another (so much fun)… holidays and half a dozen birthdays (grandkids are now; one, two, six, and seven years old. Chrissy, 26. Jesus, ancient.)… Recovering from crud…… Writing short story Olive Brown’s Christmas Cold… Ordering garden seeds… Shoveling snow… Getting life all in order (so glad that’s done)… Kidding myself once again… Doing taxes… Learning to juggle (and why not?)… Spring-cleaning early (even our weather has been oddly Spring-like)… Prepping for upcoming meetings (LeRoy Farmers’ Market Committee and LeRoy Township Planning Commission)… Canceling and rescheduling upcoming meetings… Slinging firewood… and oh so much more in addition to carrying the honor of Artist of the Month at ENTITY.