Thursday, July 26, 2012

Everybody Has an Agenda

I have a few other things I need to be blogging about -- I have to answer my "Would You Rather" questions, of course, and I have a blogging award I just got today -- but I had another topic I wanted to address first on the tails of my discussion of literary agents

Writing is a crazy, tumultuous industry right now.  In reality, everything is a crazy industry right now.  Technology has made producing and distributing goods different than ever.  The Internet has forever changed the way that businesses can interact with consumers.  And the economy has changed the way that consumers are buying things.  It's nuts, and it's HUGE and a lot of people think it's a temporary thing and maybe it is but maybe it isn't. 

The point is, navigating these waters is really hard, and most writers are looking for someone to hold their hand and guide them down the right path.  And I just wanted to touch on that, briefly, because there's something that writers need to know but maybe don't really think about:  You are not going to get 100% impartial information from any source.  

The thing about writing and publishing (or should I say, distributing) is that there are suddenly multiple pathways to success where there used to be just one.  That's why so many people are saying that it's wonderful to be a writer right now.  It might not always feel like it -- considering how tumultuous everything is -- but it's true.  We used to have pretty much just one viable path.  Now we've got a whole bunch of them and they're all on surprisingly equal footing. 

Writers trying to decide which pathway to take end up searching for answers and advice, and the advice is conflicting.  Who do you listen to?  What's real (or not real, har har)? 

So here's the thing.  Everybody with an vested interest in something is going to have an agenda.  That's not a bad thing.  It's only bad if it's a hidden agenda -- ie, the person says one thing then does another.  For example, vanity publishing is bad because it claims that its purpose is to publish your book, but it's really making money from you, which is not how book-selling should go.  But everybody else -- agents, editors, bookstores, authors -- everybody who weighs in on the debate about the future of publishing?  All of those people are coming from a specific place, with specific goals in mind, and that's going to color their advice. 

Obviously if you ask somebody from traditional publishing whether that's the better option than self-pub, they're going to give you advice that benefits them.  Agents aren't going to say, "You don't need an agent!" and publishers aren't going to say, "You don't need a publisher!" because they like their jobs and have a powerful need to eat. 

On the other hand, you're not going to hear self-publishing people saying "Don't self-publish!"  But why is that?  Why are they all such big champions?  You'd think they wouldn't want more competition. 

Except the really vocal self-published writers (like Konrath).....seem to have made an entire platform by telling people how to self-publish.  It's pretty likely that, if you know who J.A. Konrath is, you know that because of how vocal he is about publishing. 

So who do you listen to?  What do you do? 

I have three pieces of advice for you.  And, if you're wondering where I'm coming from (as you should be) -- my agenda is the same as yours.  I want to figure out the best way through these dark, crowded woods, and I'm approaching it as rationally as possible.  And bringing you for the ride. 

  • Always know the motive of the person giving you advice.  This is something to live by, not just in writing but in every facet of your life.  Whenever you're approached by someone telling you anything, ask, "What is this person trying to sell?"  Are they promoting a new book?  Are they in a business that's related to the advice they're giving?  What do they stand to gain from you taking their advice?  Just because somebody has an agenda doesn't mean that they're wrong.  A lot of times they're totally right.  But you need to know.  
  • Research everything exhaustively yourself.  Don't rely on any single source.  There's a reason why your research papers in school had to have at least 3-5 sources.  The more research you do, from more people, the clearer idea of the total situation you will have.  Try to get the widest variety of answers possible.  
  • There really isn't a single right answer.  This is probably the hardest pill to swallow for us writer folk who are sitting here saying, "Just tell me what to do!"  But the thing is, when people say "Choose the path that's right for you, there are no wrong answers," they're not bullshitting you.  There's a lot of paths to success and all of them can work.  It's just an issue of doing your research, figuring out what resonates with you and doing what works best for you.  
And that last part is what I want to leave you all with.  There are no wrong answers here.  There's just better and worse options to suit your needs.  So look in your heart, figure out what you really do want/need, do as much research from as many sources as you possibly can....and go forth and capture your dreams. 

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