Blogger: Rachelle Gardner
As I read my mail and cruise around the web, I’m gratified to see that people’s general level of knowledge about publishing is much higher than it was several years ago. Access to information on the web has changed everything for writers! I’m so glad about this. But I also see that some myths about publishing are still alive and well. Here are a few common myths—but for everything I say, there’s going to be an exception. This is my perspective based on what I’ve seen.
Myth #1: Getting published is a catch-22.
I hear this all the time and it drives me crazy because it’s so untrue. People say, “You need an agent to get published. But you can’t get an agent if you’re not published.” Writers believe this lie and then spend all kinds of time and energy fretting about it. Closely related is another myth, “Nobody’s taking on any unpublished authors.” Both are completely untrue. Sure, it’s hard to break in to publishing. But there is a huge reading machine out there that needs to be constantly fed. We need new content, and we will always need the infusion of new voices. Our agency takes on many unpublished authors every year.
Myth #2: Agents don’t read submissions.
I’ve often heard the fear that agents don’t even read their submissions. One writer shared her suspicion that when it’s time to choose projects to represent, agents “lock their office doors, close their office blinds and employ eenie meenie miney moe.” How fascinating! That would sure be easier than the way we’ve been doing it – which is to actually try and assess each project in terms of (a) whether we like it, and (b) whether we think we can sell it. Bottom line, any agent who’s actually looking for new clients is reading submissions; if you happened to get a pass letter from an agent who didn’t read your submission, then they don’t have time for new clients or they’re not the agent for you anyway. So there’s no mileage in worrying about this.
Myth #3: Agents talk with one another about bad queries.
A commenter once said she pictures an agent reading a query and thinking, “Ugghhh…that again!?” Then speaking with other agents about how horrible and annoying the letter was. The truth is, most agents are way too busy for this. Some agents write about bad queries, good queries, and mediocre queries on their blogs as a way of trying to help writers. But as far as calling up our friends and going, “You wouldn’t believe this horrible query I got…” Well, there’s just no point. With dozens of queries coming every single day, we don’t have time to gossip about them.
Myth #4: If you don’t follow the “rules” you will get automatically rejected.
This is something that bothers me. Agents sometimes blog and tweet about ways to make your writing better, ways to improve your queries, and what not to do in a query. The problem comes when writers interpret everything we say to mean, “If you don’t follow this ONE piece of advice, we will immediately reject you, and you will never get published.” That’s NOT what we’re saying! Every piece of advice is simply that – a tip to help you become a better writer or create more powerful queries. So please, take our tips for what they are—TIPS—and try not to stress out so much thinking any little thing can make or break your entire writing career.
Myth #5: Most agents won’t consider a manuscript over 120k words in length.
NOT a myth – this one is true! Until you’ve proven yourself with a couple of books that sold well, you’re not likely to sell an epic or saga much over 100k. There are always exceptions, of course. But if you’re trying to break in, your 180k-opus is probably not the ticket.
Myth #6: Once you get a publishing contract, you can quit your day job.
For the most part, we don’t recommend this, and many successful authors who eventually did quit their day jobs will tell you they didn’t do it until they’d had a string of successes. If you can separate your writing from your family’s need to buy groceries, your life will be much less stressful.
Myth #7: Getting an agent means you’ll get published.
This is usually true, and if an agent takes you on, they’re typically going to work very hard to get you published because agents don’t make any income otherwise. But sometimes, hard as they try, an agent can’t get you a publishing deal. At that point, there are various routes you and the agent can take, such as trying again with another book, or parting ways.
Myth #8: Agents are snarky, scary, and just plain mean.
This one, of course, is true.
What are some myths you’ve believed about publishing but found out they were untrue?
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