Want a Popular Blog? Become a Literary Agent.

By way of a quick response to a couple of emails I’ve recently received about blogs run by literary agents:

Yes, such blogs tend to be very popular. How could they not be? The audience for such a blog is unpublished writers yearning for representation. Naturally enough, they leave comments on the agent’s blog that they hope will impress the agent. Then they constantly check back to see if the agent has responded.

The result? The agent’s blog gets many comments, and large traffic. It’s the same reason a butcher carrying a sack of bones into a kennel is very popular.

As to whether such blogs are helpful to the would-be author’s career? I dunno. Depends on the blogging agent, I guess. There’s not a lot of any substance for an agent to convey about what they do. For 15% of whatever money your book makes, your agent will email to their friends in the publishing industry the proposal for it (that you will have to write). That’s it. That’s what agents do: they email their friends in publishing.

And them doing that on your behalf is worth 15% of your book’s earnings, too. Whom do you know in the publishing industry? If the answer’s no one, your agent’s 15% is the cost of your admission into the that small coterie. And 85% of something is, after all, better than 100% of nothing. And nothing is what you’ll get if you try to approach consequential publishers on your own. Their clubhouse is not open to the public.

Beyond sending out book proposals and manuscripts, agents don’t have time for much else. Theirs is a volume business. With both hands they’re throwing against the wall everything they can grab, praying that something sticks. When something doesn’t stick, they move on. When something does stick, they also move on. With an agent, it’s always about the next thing happening. It has to be. That’s how they live.

And it’s not the worst model in the world. Somebody needs to act like a filter for the big publishing houses.

Of course, those houses are increasingly desperate, and failing. The print that used to be king is being steadily usurped by the screen. The heavy, secret doors to the publishers’ clubhouse are deteriorating, crumbling, being blown away. But that’s really a whole other story.

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About John Shore

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  • http://imaginativewords.wordpress.com/ craig benno

    Hi John.

    As an aspiring author; I have set up a blog called “Imaginative Words” http://imaginativewords.wordpress.com/

    While I don’t know whether it will help me gain a direct footing with a publisher; I am hoping it will help me to gain a literary following of people who like my style of writing, which may lead to my writings being published…..

    What are your thoughts about “Self Publishing” as in “Self Publishing” and not the “Vanity” rip off’s

  • c.caine

    I thought your title meant that the Butcher wanted to kill the puppies…..which was an unpleasant simile. But maybe that’s what you meant. =)

  • Anonymous

    Self-publishing is or isn’t good depending on what you want from it. If you’ve got a large following, it’s great, because then you can sell directly to your audience. If you don’t have an audience, then it’s great if you want to author a book you can give to your friends and relatives. Otherwise, it’s something you wouldn’t have any reason to think a lot of people will buy.

  • Anonymous

    Self-publishing is or isn’t good depending on what you want from it. If you’ve got a large following, it’s great, because then you can sell directly to your audience. If you don’t have an audience, then it’s great if you want to author a book you can give to your friends and relatives. Otherwise, it’s something you wouldn’t have any reason to think a lot of people will buy.

  • Joanna

    Think I’m going to try the “My dad is bigger than your dad” approach with publishers and hope that they come from a long line of midget folk. Worth a shot, yes?

    PS. Look publishers, I’m witty and quirky.

  • Anonymous

    Love it.

  • http://andyrossagency.com Andyross

    Ok. I admit I’m a literary agent and I don’t think you are right about what we do. —well, what some of us do. It is true that we are the gatekeepers for publishers. But the reason for that is that we work closely with authors to refine their proposal (and their book idea) to make it attractive to publishers. I have found that more than once I have had to tell a client exactly what to write and what is the significance of what they write. Some agents are the first line editors of the work. Since publishers don’t have as much time to edit, this is value-added both to the writer and the publisher. We find them freelance editors when they need them. We find them ghostwriters when they want them. We have relationships with Hollywood agents and production companies. We negotiate deals in foreign countries.

    One could say that agents don’t spend much time on a deal. One could also say (in my case, for instance) I have spent 35 years on the deal. That is how long it has taken me to understand this business. After the contract, we continue to give advice to the author, field problems, advise on promotion and marketing, and work with authors as their managers, not just their agents.

    Some agents don’t do that. But that isn’t the agent you want.

    You can also check out my agent blog at andyrossagency.wordpress.com


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