Thursdays with Amanda: 30 Random Publishing Facts
December 19, 2013 | Written by Amanda Luedeke
Amanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
I turn 30 on Sunday (which is bittersweet…bitter because, well, I’m getting older…sweet because whenever people say “but aren’t you too young to be an agent?” I can reply “I’M THIRTY!”), and to commemorate this event, I decided to offer 30 completely and utterly random facts about publishing.
1. Publishing comes to a screeching halt in the month of December. This year, I’ve noticed a bit more going on than normal, but typically December is a vortex in which manuscripts are either lost or put on hold.
2. Agents who charge for their services are SCAMMING YOU.
3. Whenever editors (or agents, for that matter) mention a very specific type of book that they want…chances are, they won’t acquire it even if you show it to them. Situations like that are the result of meetings they’ve been in where they have either brainstormed or been told to look for something. But the mind can so easily change over time, and the desire for a historical serial killer novel will most likely either fade or they’ll take a look at what that actually looks like and decide they’re going to pass.
4. Speaking of me being thirty, in NYC, there are a number of twenty-something publishing professionals. Even ones who are building their own lists. So while you may be shocked to see someone “so young” in the business, it’s actually quite common.
5. HOWEVER, in the CBA (the religious side of publishing) there are far, far fewer twenty-somethings. It’s sad.
6. Yes, BEA is as crazy as you imagine. Gobs of people. You turn the corner, oh, there’s Tim Gunn. Turn another corner, it’s that Giada chef lady. Walk a bit, oh hi, Jim Carrey.
7. Most people in publishing do NOT make much money, and the hours can be horrendous. So whenever an author will tell an agent that the advance money may not be important to us, but it’s certainly important to them, we do a major eye roll.
8. The only way to make more money if you work on the publisher side, is to get promoted. The only way to get promoted is to have a book break out.
9. When an agent goes to a conference, they are hoping to come away with ONE new client (though they won’t sign that client until months or weeks later). That is the measure of a successful conference. Many conferences, we end up not taking on anyone.
10. Yes, dystopian is dead.
11. Yes, paranormal is dead…maybe not as dead as dystopian, but it’s slowed down a lot.
12. Yes, New Adult is hot.
13. Yes, New Adult is typically just soft erotica, but there are publishers who are looking for NA without all the sex.
14. How overloaded is an agent’s inbox? Mine is saying I have 134 unread messages.
15. Editors work at their own pace. Sometimes it’s painfully slow, and no matter what an agent does, there is typically nothing that can make them go faster.
16. Building off of number 1, publishing operates on a calendar similar to the school year. The busiest times are the first halves of each semester. The slowest times are during the typical school breaks.
17. Agents talk. If an author is hard to work with, chances are, their agent has mentioned this a time or two to others.
18. It really is all about who you know. While we don’t make every decision based on this, it’s surprising how much networking really does play into the game.
19. Every editor is in their position because they want to publish books that matter. There are some blog posts circulating that indicate otherwise, but I promise you…no one would do this job if they didn’t have a passion for books and great storytelling.
20. You don’t need to live anywhere near your agent for it to be a great working relationship. In fact, you don’t even need to meet them (though it is nice if you can).
21. 95% of business is done through email. So begging your agent to call editors to pitch your book isn’t going to do as much good as you may think. Let’s remember, most editors are introverts. They’d choose an email over a surprise phone call any day.
22. There is no “right” or “wrong” number of clients that an agent can have. Some agents handle 100 clients very well. Others do better with 25. It all has to do with whether the agent feels they are fostering the types of relationships with their authors that they want. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to ask an agent’s clients about that very relationship and what it’s like. Some agents keep everything strictly business, while others like to nurture friendships.
23. Yes, publishing professionals let the occasional typo slip. In a fast-paced world in which most correspondence is done by typing, typos are going to happen. This understanding also applies to manuscripts. We understand that typos happen…so we’re more concerned with the frequency of typos in a manuscript and whether the author commits the same errors over and over again (such as always referring to “they’re” as “their.”)
24. Conferences are GREAT ways to rub shoulders with professionals and get your foot in the door. Especially smaller conferences where it’s easier to get that one-on-one time and make a good impression.
25. When an agent offers feedback, it’s rarely just based on our opinion. Usually, we are pulling from everything that we have experienced in that genre over the past year or so. So, if I tell someone to build up the theme more in the opening chapters of their memoir, it’s because I’ve seen rejections based on that. I’m trying to help you get through to publication…I’m not tearing apart your work just because I can.
26. A vast majority of publishing professionals read manuscripts on ereaders. So the question of whether to double space and how to format the manuscript, doesn’t apply as much as it used to. This also means that it’s best to send your manuscripts as a .doc attachment instead of a PDF or a .docx. This is because .doc is most easily transferable to an ereader device.
27. Just because a work is rejected one place and then picked up another doesn’t mean that agent or editor “missed” something. Fact is, books many times succeed because of the team behind them, and there’s no telling whether a book would have had the same success had it been picked up by another house.
28. We want to help you. We want you to realize your dreams. But we can’t please and help everyone. We aren’t here to make you feel bad about yourself, though we understand that sometimes that happens. And we’re sorry.
29. Many times, we aren’t as up-to-date in our pleasure reading as you may think. I have people oftentimes say “oh, I just read yada yada book by so-and-so author…but you’ve probably already read that, so there’s no use in explaining it!” Actually, no. Thousands of books are published every year, so I probably HAVEN’T read that one. It doesn’t make me a bad agent. It just makes me human, with a human amount of time to spend on reading every day (and a stack of author manuscripts too tall to measure).
30. Publishers usually don’t know how to market any more than you do. I talk about this briefly in my marketing book, The Extroverted Writer. But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t right when they tell you that you need to build a platform or you need to write up a marketing plan. So listen to them…even if they can’t give specifics when you ask them “how?” That’s what people like me are there for
Well, there you have it. 30 Random Facts About Publishing. Did you learn anything new, or is this all old information?