By C. Hope Clark –
Having been to my fair share of conferences, I’ve picked up a habit that started during a frustrating conference in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I noted that the sea of agents in attendance tended to cluster. They whispered to each other, stealing glances at other attendees. As a shy writer, I truly understood partnering with a like soul at a strange event, and assumed that was their motive.
But at the banquet, the agents filled a couple of tables en masse, not sitting with any of the writers who paid to brush elbows with these professionals. They texted, emailed, chuckled, and passed notes to each other as the keynote was delivered. I recall writing down all their names, vowing never to submit to them (Ha! Showed them, huh!?), but better yet, never placing them in my newsletter. To this day I study agents at events, watching to see if they are taking the conference seriously, or if they seem to be just putting in their hours until they can fly back to New York.
But a BIG however goes right here.
Not all agents are like that. I’ve met some quite pleasant ones. And diligent ones. And ones that believe to the tips of their toes that their authors are grand. Just like not all self-published books come up lacking, not all agents are arrogant.
We cannot afford to lump self-publishing, traditional publishing, agents and publishers into walled boxes of stereotypes. Each and every category has its shining stars . . . and its flawed participants.
That’s why you do your homework to learn the facts, not the rumor and opinion, of each tentacle in this octopus we call publishing. I’ve already been chastised this month by one reader for not giving traditional its due, emphasizing self-pubbing too much . . . seriously? It’s Indie Month. Traditional has had its glory for decades.
But you have to know what you are doing. You can’t self-publish and expect other people to do it for you. You have to be resilient and innovative, doing the things that a traditional publisher usually does . . . what an agent usually does.
Accept the responsibility and do it right. Use the proper rules and tools to make your work professional, not homespun. Not jerry-rigged. Not amateur.
What if I told you never to paint your bedroom, grow your garden or fix your car? What if I told you the only way to deal with these do-it-yourself tasks was to hire a professional? You’d balk, because some of us are very equipped to handle DIY ventures. I just painted my bedroom and my garden is glorious. But I’ll hire a mechanic. It’s all in knowing our strengths and weaknesses – capitalizing on our skills yet recognizing when to fall back on the skills of others.