Learning from agents (yes, agents still exist)
If you want to learn about the business of books, it helps to be hungry. Not only hungry to learn, as the expression goes, but also just plain hungry, literally—it helps to have an appetite. Or an expense account. Ideally both. Because no matter how much the world of publishing has changed over the past hundred years—and, boy, has it changed since the days of Blanche Knopf, Horace Liveright, and Bennett Cerf—some things remain the same. It is still a business of relationships; it still relies on the professional connections among authors and agents and editors and the mighty web of alliances that help bring a work of literature out of the mind of the writer and onto readers’ screens and shelves. And those relationships are often sparked, deepened, and sustained during that still-sacred rite: the publishing lunch.
This is an interesting article by Kevin Larimer on the Poets & Writers website. It’s worth reading, I think, in spite of its length because many aspiring writers who want their books considered by mainstream publishers and reviewers forget that agents still exist. They are your route to big publishing. Yes, I know, in an era of Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace, nobody thinks about agents or the standard methods for approaching major publishers.
Yes, publishing is changing, but one thing that hasn’t changed is that if a writer publishes his/her book, s/he will never find it on the New York Times bestseller list or reviewed by Kirkus or in the local Barnes & Noble store. Take that to the bank. So, from time to time, a reality check can be a good thing just to see how you would approach publishing if you seriously wanted a six-figure book deal and more movie options than you could shake a stick at.