Some of you may have noticed that I have almost stopped posting on this blog. It's not because I dislike keeping a blog or writing. But I've discovered I really do intensely dislike writing about work, about agenting, about query stats and helpful hints for people who - let's face it - should already know better. For me, writing about being an agent is tedious and dull and - as far as I can tell - lends nothing new to the great hive mind of agent blogs out there that are already doing the very same thing.
If you really want to read a blog only about agenting and getting published, this is not the place for you. Go visit Nathan Bransford and Rachelle Gardner and Jessica Faust; in my opinion, these are the three best agent blogs out there. (And unlike me, they genuinely enjoy writing about what they do!) In fact, I think you'd do well to bookmark those three blogs and skip most of the rest. Spend that extra time writing. Or reading. Or better yet, spend that time playing with your kids or dogs or cats. Or spending time with friends. In other words, spend more time in the real world and stop worrying about which agent has the better advice on how many words a query letter should be or whether your salutation is perfect or whether angels are hot in YA right now or whether you should use MS Word's wordcount or go with an antiquated (and ridiculous) 250-words per page calculation that someone made up 100 years ago. (For the love of all that is holy, just get over this obsession and use the frakkin' word count tool in Word!)
Because the truth is that NONE of these things is going to make you a better writer, or will better your odds of getting published.
What will make you a better writer? Living a full life. Having friends. Having lovers. Having a real community of people around you. Living outside your own head. Putting down the pen and paper, turning off the computer and walking away from it now and again and just allowing yourself to experience a real life.
And that goes for me as well.
I try to keep a log of all the books I've read; over the past twelve months I was appalled to discover that I'd read only twelve books that were not client manuscripts or manuscripts that I'd requested from queries. Twelve books. And this from someone who used to be able to read a book a day.
I became a bookseller and moved into publishing for one reason and one reason only: because I love books. I love the art of storytelling. I love the words on the page, in whatever format or medium they are delivered. But since I've become an agent, I've mostly stopped reading for pleasure. I no longer have the time. I requested too many partials and too many manuscripts and found it impossible to stay on top of the reading.
And let's face it: much of what we agents read every day is simply mediocre - not bad, but not good and certainly not memorable - so after a time I began to dread approaching my own slush pile. I simply didn't enjoy reading anymore.
But the worst thing was the realization that over the past year, I'd spent less time with friends and family, less time with my community, my cats and the people that I love; the trade-off simply wasn't worth it.
And I had nobody but myself to blame.
So in 2010, some things will be changing for me, too:
- I'll be attending fewer writing conferences, and more conferences on digital publishing, which is rapidly becoming a passion of mine.
- I'll be taking on fewer clients this year.
- I will be much more discriminating in what I request to read, and there will be far fewer requests overall.
- I will no longer be writing about agenting on this blog. (Whether I keep the blog as a book blog - the way it used to be - is still up in the air.) I may pop up with the occasional post to let you know if I've closed to queries or if my submission guidelines get tweaked. But I will continue to host impromptu #askagent sessions over on my Twitter account; you're always welcome to come ask me questions there when a session is scheduled.
- I'll no longer be taking the time to provide detailed reasons as to why I'm rejecting a partial or full manuscript. The simple fact is that it's not my job to make a writer's work better. It's my job to sell my clients' works to publishers and help guide their careers. If you want someone to help you fix your manuscript, hire an editor. Here are some of the best freelance editors on the planet: Papertyger, Sterling Editing, Third Draft. It'll cost you a couple thousand dollars, but that's what the services of a good editor are worth.
- I'm going to make time to read at least two published books a week.
- I'm going to take better care of myself physically and emotionally (the first step of which is putting this post out there and setting some work boundaries).
- I will personally smack anyone I hear whining and kvetching about how publishing is dying. Publishing isn't dying; it's evolving, like it always has, and evolution is a painful process. I love this business but I accept that it is flawed. So what? Name an industry that isn't. If you want publishing to work better, than be a part of the solution. Or I will absolutely smack you in the mouth.
- I'm going to have more fun. Period.
And to all of you, a joyful and peaceful New Year.