Views From The Captain’s Chair- The Agent Dilemma
Last week I posted about my YA novel, Intentional Haunting, being nominated for a Bram Stoker Award. It’s all pretty cool, I do admit. While I am honored to be included with so many amazing writers, I am also a little confused as to what comes next.
Does this mean anything, the whole nomination thing?
Quick answer? Not a clue.
There are a million things that go through my head as I think of what a Stoker nomination means for my writing career. But the one thing that really stands out is whether or not I can capitalize on this and perhaps get an agent again.
Back story! I had an agent, the very wonderful Adrienne Rosado of the Nancy Yost Literary Agency, and she was actually representing me when I wrote Intentional Haunting (now on sale for $2.99!). She shopped it around and it never found a home. After some time, and a serious career shift for me, I decided that I needed to make a break and go it alone. I was no longer the single manuscript writer, but a churner of pulpy goodness and that isn’t Adrienne’s game. Totally amicable split.
Since that split I have negotiated all of my own contracts and I ended up making a decent living in 2014. I actually made more from full time writing in one year than I had made the year before working at a full time job and writing on the side. This is good. It means my leap of faith (and by my I mean my family’s leap of faith) paid off.
But, I have a fear that my writing career might be stuck in one gear. It’s not a bad gear and I am not complaining, I just happen to be one of those people that is compulsively driven to keep rising. I despise complacency and every fiber in my body screams to move on to the next level.
What level? I don’t know.
Which is why I am seriously thinking of hunting for an agent again.
There is one major problem, though: I don’t have a manuscript to shop.
I am no longer a spec writer. I already have a contract in place to write eight novels this year. I have no need, nor time, to worry over a manuscript that may or may not sell.
What’s spec? It is short for speculative or speculation. It means a writer writes a novel and speculates whether or not it will sell. It is also known as gambling, except instead of gambling with money the writer is gambling with time/labor. Which, as we all know, equals money. This is the traditional way many writers work and there is nothing wrong with this.
And agents want spec manuscripts. That’s how agents work. They sell manuscripts to publishers.
But, being a full time writer with a contract in place, I am no longer one of those writers. Sure, once a writer is established with a publisher, the agent can then sell pitches instead, but I am not in that position. I sell my own pitches to my publisher and get the contracts worked out, but I am in the small press world and I’d love to get into the big press world.
So how the hell do I get an agent without a product in hand that they can sell?
And this is when the eyes roll. I know, I know, I am very lucky to be where I am. I also know that big press publishing is probably not going to treat me as well as small press publishing does. I get that. I also know that small press publishing does not have the reach that big press publishing does. And I like reach (please see my comment above about being compulsively driven to rise).
I want my books to be on billboards and in multiple print ads. I want to have a shot at the NY Times Bestseller list even if it is rigged and decided by an archaic algorithm which involves chicken entrails. I want to see my novels on the front table at Barnes & Noble. I want the possible increase in income that goes with an increase in visibility.
But, most of all, and this is important, I want my novels themselves to take that next step: TV and/or film. I am a huge fan of visual media. Back in high school I wrote my ass off all the time, but my desire was to be a filmmaker. Then I saw the reality of what that meant (this is pre-digital, folks) and decided I neither had the means nor the desire to sell my soul and move to Hollywood.
Yet, now, I could have a sweet hybrid dream of writing full time and seeing that writing end up on the big or small screen. No soul selling (right?) and moving to or really dealing with the Hollywood machine. If I have an agent. If I have someone that can shop my rights around to producers. If I have someone that is willing to be the intermediary between me and the Hollywood machine.
Which brings me back to my original question: will the Bram Stoker nomination help get me an agent? Is it one of those things that agencies look at? Are there people in New York reading the list of Stoker nominees and thinking, “Hmmm, this Jake Bible guy sure is cranking out some books and constantly in and out of the Amazon bestsellers charts. Maybe I should shoot him an email…”. Do those folks exist?
Or is this nomination really more about peer recognition (which is awesome too)?
I have zero answers and I have zero idea what happens now. And what if I were to actually win the award? Is that the golden ticket? Do golden tickets exist in my world of small press genre pulptacularness?
And if I do get noticed by agents, am I willing to hand over 15% of my income to them? That’s a sticky issue right there!
Shit, I actually think this post has raised more questions than answers. Good one, Bible. Good one.
Anyhoo, this is what’s on my mind as I continue my journey through the land of full time writing (the land is not on Google Maps, so don’t bother looking). Maybe one day I’ll stroll this land with an agent by my side. Or maybe not.
I’ll keep y’all posted.