The Death Knell

Buh-bye, Agents!

If there were such things as “death cats,” there’d be a bunch of ’em gathered at the Big Publishing door right now, mewling and yowling for blood.

If there were such things as banshees, you’d hear their chilling howls echoing through the canyons of the gatekeeper industry.

It’s dying. I’ve been saying so for months and months now, and I’m not alone. I’m not, despite anyone’s thoughts on it, sided with a bunch of nut-job rebels with mullets and tattered denim jackets with the sleeves torn off who hate the publishing industry and wish it out of existence. I’m part of a new movement — well, relatively new anyway — which recognizes and supports that ePublishing and e-SELF publishing in particular are the wave of the future for the print and publishing industry.

And now, Kristine Kathryn Rusch — who has for months been tolling the death knell for the industry also — has provided yet another amazing bit of insight from a business professional in the print and publishing industry. She’s NOT refutable, even if I am because I’m not a million-seller or “traditionally” published. Which I am, and therefore what I say has merit, even if it isn’t “fiction”, because I’ve gone through an agent, dealt with editors, copy editors, publishers, deadlines, and a lot of contract and agreements and yes, payments. But hey — if that doesn’t count because it’s all in the non-fiction realm, fine; good luck dismissing KKR that way.

Most of the writers I see around the Internet, meet face to face, or have as friends or acquaintences, are seeking agents. If they don’t have one yet, they’re trying to get one. This means a bunch of stuff, like how they’re not writing for their readers but for the agent, and now KKR is telling the world how those same agents — which I have openly accused of being gatekeepers NOT established to help you get INTO the industry but there to keep you OUT of it — are actually criminals. Well… maybe that’s harsh. But they’re trying to make rights-grabs on the work of authors and get them to sign away their privieges and powers into perpetuity. Not just for the life of the contract, but into perpetuity. Forever is a very long (and not legally binding) time.

KKR gives specific examples and stories which should curdle the blood of any would-be published author. To me, it’s simply more proof — and yeah, I said PROOF, not EVIDENCE — that the publishing industry is predating on the writers it needs to stay alive.

I can’t stress this enough — let that industry die it’s horrible and well-deserved death. Agents used to be worthwhile… in the 1940s and 50s. Now they’re vampires, sucking the life and blood of their “victims”-cum-“clients”. They don’t and really never have worked for writers. That’s just what they claim, and writers, like dopes and dumb-asses, have been falling for it ever since the inception long ago.

The world is a new world, and you can ePublish your work on your own and have as great or greater chance of getting your book into the hands of your readers than you will of getting an ethical agent who’s worthwhile and will work on a verbal or simple agency agreement. And the odds of you making it to publication if that first hurdle is passed are even longer.

If you’re a writer, what’s the point? So many look at getting an agent as the point, they’ve forgotten why they write. So many look at getting into a publisher as the point, they can’t see the forest for the trees, won’t read the writing on the wall, and a bunch of other well-suited cliches which simply mean they refuse to acknowledge how pathetic and sick this industry is. “But it’s my dream! How can I give up on my dream?” I know it’s hard to do, but writers need to adjust their goals, their dreams, and their business models to accommodate reality, because reality is not going to accommodate the writer. Period. PERIOD.

I had a lot of dreams and I still do, many of them for writing. FICTION. And I’ve adopted my dreams to a new standard — the standard I see presented before me. Do you know my wife hasn’t visited the library in about two and half months? She’s a voracious reader with a huge appetite for books, and yet she’s discovered the joy of eBooks and has never looked back. She decided she wanted a tablet because of reading eBooks. And she’s excited about what comes next with the world of literature because eBooks make a lot of things possible which simply aren’t.

If you’re a writer and you’re not seeing this sort of thing (which isn’t, by the bye, unique to my wife in any way), you’re eyes aren’t open. I’ve seen literally every argument Joe Konrath lists on his blog as excuses to continue banging heads against the brick wall of the gatekeeper system fall out of people I know who write. Almost every one. It’s sad to see how many continue to hang their hopes and dreams on an industry which is parasitical and seeks to screw them, openly, blatantly, and simply shrugs their shoulders and says, “What’re you gonna do about it?”

What you do about it is up to you. For me, I’m finished chasing this corpse, this zombie, this rotted compost pile of vultures who prey on naivete and stupidity drawn by unbridled eagerness.

I’m out. Period.

How about you? If you’re a writer, you’re going to have to make a decision sooner or later… and sooner is BETTER than later. How do you lean?


Copyright 2011, DarcKnyt, all rights reserved.


10 thoughts on “The Death Knell

  1. It’s the dawn of a new age! Awesome!

    It IS awesome, isn’t it? And I know how much my writer friends just LOVE when I post stuff like this. I’m pretty sure most of them have stopped reading my blog because of it.

    Although when it comes right down to it, if someone asked me if I want to be on the mullet team or the no-mullet team, I would have a very hard time choosing. I appreciate a heartfelt mullet.

    I’d definitely mullet, if it meant I didn’t have to ride in the back of a rusted-out pickup painted primer gray and orange. OH, but I gotta lose about 50 more pounds first.

  2. I’m sure I’ve made it clear which side of the fence I’m on, so I won’t belabour that point. What I do notice, though, is there’s still an awful lot of stigma about self-publishing. As soon as anyone discovers I’m working on a novel, the first thing they ask is, “So, are you looking for a publisher? Do you have a publisher/agent?”

    Belabor to your heart’s content Charlotte. My blog is becoming a beacon of self-ePublishing asylum for self-ePublishing entrepreneurs who feel they have to defend their choice as if it’s some sort of second-rate settlement rather than the preferred method now.

    As for what you’re saying — I get it. I really do. I mean, I used to BE one of those condescending people before ePublishing became the standard. I figured if you weren’t good enough to make it in traditional publishing, you went and self-published. That’s true in a lot of cases, and the stigma of self-publishing can be warranted. But vanity publishing is its own animal, and so is POD publishing. EPublishing is FREE of charge, and THAT’s why I’m such an advocate. NO RISK to the writer, whatsoever. 🙂

    Partly this is because this relatively new alternative isn’t fully known about yet so people just assume based on the old model. But I hate it when people kind of nod knowingly and lose interest as soon as I say I’m publishing it myself. Like they immediately assume ‘o right another wannabe’. I reckon that’s part of the reason why some people are unwilling to make the swap. You have to be particularly tenacious about sticking to your guns in the face of that kind of instinctive condescension and dismissal.

    I’m doing my part to get the word out and convince as many as will listen to jump ship. It’s sinking. And the condescension and dismissal? THAT stink is put on by the gatekeepers, Charlotte. They WANT writers and readers to think that way. The agents especially, but think about it — if more readers are savvy to what’s out there for eBooks, and more writers self ePublish to Kindle, Nook, Sony, Kobo and others…what’s left for them? They get a whopping 15% (watch for it to jump to 20% soon!) of nothing. Can’t have that! So it’s a power-grab and this is one of their weapons. Marginalize or ridicule the ones you fear and turn sychophants against them. Old game, been around a long time.

  3. Again, love Kathrine Rusch, her posts are great and always insightful. I’ve gone back and forth so many times on this issue when I finally realized (with your help, I might add) that I should write first, worry with the publishing industry second. Besides, and I know I’ve mentioned this before, I’m not really the type who wants to be famous or popular or anything typical of the writerly dream. I just want people to enjoy my work and for me to pitch in with the bills. That’s it, haha.

    She’s pretty amazing. A great head for business, and a good voice for the new industry, I think. It’s heartbreaking to know she’s not reaching all of her writer colleagues, but what can you do? Some folks are more hard-headed than others, I guess. Lord knows, I’ve been hard-headed plenty in my time.

    I think it’s all right for you to be ambitious. But you need to listen to people like KKR and JA Konrath who say things are changing and it’s to a writer’s benefit to get off the sinking ship. Trying to continue to seek representation from gatekeepers doesn’t make any sense in light of what she’s saying.

    And I think self publishing will get me that way, way, way better than traditional. But that’s just me. I might’ve been listening to you for too long. ;P

    There’s no such thing as listening to me for too long! HA! 🙂

  4. I recently read somewhere–can’t remember where because all those sites/posts blend together sometimes–that PBS’s Newshour and…I forget the other…did pieces on self-publishing losing its stigma. From what I read (and I didn’t see the segments), they were positive stories. As more people learn about self-publishing, the stigma should fade.

    Interesting, but media didn’t make the current system dominant; I doubt it will usher in a new system either.

    I’ve noticed that since I’ve had my first story accepted and published online, plenty of people still don’t give online publishing the same respect as print. I can tell it would be “better” to have a print publication take my work.

    That’s too bad. Sorry to hear that. I know people who’ve been published that shouldn’t have been, online AND in print, and maybe some of that is why those publications don’t get merit as print? It makes no sense to me, garbage is garbage, online or otherwise. I’ve read plenty — PLENTY — of crap in both mediums. I think it’s about WHO the gatekeepers are, not where they publish.

    But oh well. I’m happy to have gotten a story somewhere.

    I’ve heard it many times — a cred is a cred.

    One thing that seems to be overlooked in a lot of these discussions (so many going on these days) is the small press. You know, the labor of love press that doesn’t require an agent to approach. Some of them are very niche and open to different things. They aren’t all trying to have bestsellers, so they can experiment and they can work more personally with writers.

    Small presses are often guilty of putting out the aforementioned garbage. I can name at least one “labor of love” press who puts out a couple of books a year, and not one has been worth the paper it’s printed on. (I won’t condescend to mention names.) I know they can fill niche markets, but they can also be another variety of vanity press. (The one of which I speak doesn’t charge the authors for publication, but they also don’t provide marketing help, promotional aid, or pathways into any brick-and-mortar booksellers, either.) So the small press might get lumped in with POD, vanity press and such. Maybe?Or, maybe it’s just because they’re not enough of a force in publishing to be considered one way or another in the discussion. After all, these are comparative discussions, in general, and sales figures are key.

    I’ve been exchanging a few emails with an agent (who seems like a perfectly nice human being by the way) but if that doesn’t work out, I want to try the small presses. And they can do the cover and the typesetting and formatting. I don’t want to do those things alone. And I don’t want to pay money I don’t have for someone to do them.

    I’ve met a LOT of “perfectly nice human being” types on the Internet. I have a very different view of them now than I did when I exchanged a few emails. Agents don’t work for authors, they work for themselves, full-stop. And the agent, by the way, isn’t going to get you a cover, or typesetting (which is a non-issue in e-Self-Publishing, btw), or any formatting. Matter of fact, most agents are going to tell you to have your manuscript in this format, with that font and this type size, and these margins, and those bits of information here and here and there and over there… and if you don’t do that? Rejection. Just pointing out, an agent’s not going to do ANYTHING beneficial for you, or any writer, unless it has some clear benefit to themselves. And if you’re not interested in spending money you don’t have, you’re going to be in for a bumpy ride when the agent sends you an Agency Agreement which is convoluted, chock full of legalese, and you have to hire an Intellectual Properties lawyer to protect yourself and your heirs from losing every right to the property you have. The article I linked to is very informative on this; standards have changed and you have to keep up with them if you’re going to pursue the gatekeeper system. Sorry to tell you.

    The good thing is that these decisions aren’t final. A writer can pursue either one and change his or her mind later. There have, after all, been successful writers who’ve switched paths in both directions.

    True enough. I like to get in early on things like this if I can. But that’s me. 🙂

    The publishing world is changing. And I’ll be interested to see where it is 10 years from now. Things are bound to happen we haven’t imagined yet.

    One never knows exactly what the future holds, but a lot of prognostication about this has already proven accurate. I think those same folks who are seeing where things can go will inevitably be proven right more often than not. I, for one, would like to see writers connect directly to readers without intervention, but we all have our own aspirations and dreams. Since my view of “successful author” only lines up with others like me, I guess I’ll share their viewpoint and never understand the other side(s) fully.

  5. Matt and I were chatting about this the other night. I think this e-publishing is much like social networking, and online dating. Seemed like a kooky idea a while back, but hard to deny it’s power now.

    Think of it more in terms of online gaming or mp3 music, and you’ll get a clearer idea what it’s about and where it’s going. Things will NOT be the same, but I think this is much more dramatic a shift than even the music industry saw.

    • Yeah, that makes sense. I haven’t purchased a music CD since I was maybe 14 or 15 years old.

      And that will probably be true for a lot of readers in a few years, too. Haven’t bought a paper book since I was a kid is going to be a familiar refrain.

  6. I don’t want to cross swords here, but I do have a question. I published my novel as ebook and print. So far, print has outsold ebook. I use Createspace as my printer. I am the registered publisher (Two-Four-Six Publishing) and I bought my ISBNs. Is that what you refer negatively to as POD? If so, why are you against it?

    I’m not trying to be disparaging of those brave enough to invest in print books. I’m curious why you outsell eBooks with print, that’s another topic, I suppose. To be direct, yes, that is what I negatively refer to as POD and the reason I’m against it is, most people will never be able to make back their investment. I’m sure some do — you’re doing just fine apparently — but for the most part, the cost of having a print book set up causes authors to price the book far too high to be of value to a casual reader. The purchase of ISBNs alone is much, much higher than most people imagine. I don’t know if you went to the ISBN commission directly or if you had CreateSpace do it for you (or if they offered it as an add-on service), but when I looked into it (not long ago) it was breathtakingly expensive in my book. I just don’t have the capital to invest. And with money as tight as it is for many, many people right now (I’m not the only one without enough capital, I have found), price is one of the foremost considerations for making a purchase. That being said, how you promote, how you market and expose the book and how lucky you are all are factors which can make a liar of me in a heartbeat. But for the most part, eBooks are my preferred option because set up costs nothing, you can get very nice, professional covers for either no money or little money, and typesetting is a non-issue because the file is HTML. It’s just a lower (or NO) cost option and, in my estimation, reaches more people far more immediately than POD or ANY print publishing method.

    Now, I should probably confess here I don’t have direct experience with print models for self-publishing, but I know how difficult getting shelf space is. And I’m not willing to steer someone to that risk. On the other hand, GOOD FOR YOU! and keep up the good work! I’m much, MUCH more in favor of you going it alone, with no gatekeeper standing on your throat, than I am particular about how you chose to do it. That’s the bottom line — the gatekeepers are dying off like the last throes of the dinosaurs and I love it. So more power to you Linda! May you sell a million BOTH ways!

  7. I’ve only been published for two months, so the print vs. ebook thing could reverse in time. Or the preference for print may be due to my “genre.”

    I don’t think genre has anything to do with it. Sales numbers don’t lie, and sales numbers indicate eBooks are outselling print books, period. If it’s not universally true on every book, the stats still hold.

    I think we are talking two different types of print publishing. My only “shelf space” is in Internet bookstores. So, in my case, my ebook did not reach “more people far more immediately” than my print book.

    I don’t believe we’re talking different types of print. I’m not stupid, Linda. I know the difference. POD paperbooks are a good and viable option for a lot of people, you among them and that’s fine. I’d rather see someone do that and have a few sales of a great book than see someone labor for years and years against a system they probably have as much chance of penetrating as they do of winning the lottery. But print books won’t be distributed by brick-and-mortar outlets unless they occupy shelf space, PHYSICAL shelf space, and let’s face it, print books are sold largely through bookstores. Most people, and I’m not saying you but I am saying a fair number of people who go the POD route, are hoping somehow someway they’ll get into bookstores. It’s not realistic and a lot of naive authors don’t get it. If you understand how it should work, more power to you. Seriously.

    And though my set-up costs were minimal (under $100), I did have to price my book a bit higher than I wanted to in order to make a small profit ($3 per book). I’ll confess, I would not have felt published until I held a print book in my hands … yes, I’m old-fashioned.

    If that’s what floats your boat, that’s on you. In my PERSONAL view (and ONLY my PERSONAL view), I won’t let being “old-fashioned” set me back any money I don’t have. How is content any different? And your costs are pretty good, to be honest. I wouldn’t have guessed it was that low, so great job keeping costs down.

    I still believe self-ePublishing is superior because the set-up costs don’t exist unless someone’s using a conversion service to get the book in digital format. The only cost to an author for eBook publishing is time to do the formatting and testing. And then the cost of the book is ALL profit. And so I continue — and yeah, I will continue — to steer people away from print self-publishing, because it’s going to involve investing dollars as well as time. But that doesn’t mean POD isn’t a viable option alongside, like you’ve done. I actually think that’s a good idea, if you’ve got the disposable income to do it.

    However, I’m not “doing just fine” yet and I don’t foresee getting to that point in the near future. UNLESS, I get a miraculous boost in publicity … like Oprah, J.K Rowling, and Stephen King simultaneously touting The Brevity of Roses as the next must read.

    “Doing just fine” meant only that you’ve got sales, which is more money from your book — from your hard work — than you’d be seeing if you hadn’t done it. Face it, you’d likely still be researching agents and waiting for rejections if you’d gone the gatekeeper route. I also only meant you’re doing fine in terms of choosing your route, your direction and getting out there with it. But if you don’t think you’re doing fine, that’s on you again. I can’t make that decision for you. I measure how I’m doing by how many dollars I’ve made, and to be brutally honest, I suck right now. I don’t know if that will always be the case, but right now, I stink because I haven’t sold squat. I’m not a marketing guru, and I’ve not done all I could, so my lack of success falls squarely on ME, and no one else. But more people have read my books than would have been able to if I hadn’t gotten them out there. From that perspective, I’m “doing just fine”.

    You might have published the book of the century, but if no one knows it, you won’t sell. I have at least 250 blog subscribers, a FB author page, almost 1250 Twitter followers. I’m active on Goodreads. I spend hours a day in effort to promote my book, to be visible. I have a total of 15 reviews online (13 are 5-star and 2 are 4-star) … and some of those are from total strangers. I’m not bragging because all that has meant virtually nothing in terms of sales.

    Not yet. You know what most people who are successful on Kindle will tell you? Keep up the good work. But the best way to get more readers/sales is to publish another book. So, write another book and publish it. Then another. Then another. And keep on keeping on. There’s no silver bullet, no juju to make it happen. I’d say you’re doing fine, but that seems to offend you.

    And yes, I might sell more if I priced my ebook at 99-cents, but that’s not an option for me personally.

    Well, again — your choice. I can do it because I have only time invested in my book. And I want to experiment with pricing to see if I can boost sales or get interest from people who only look for those bargain-basement book prices. If not, I’ll put it back to where I had it priced before and not worry so much. But if you can’t do that — well, as I’ve said many times, this is the advantage of only ePublishing. It’s cheaper and anything I earn is profit. I have no costs to recover.

    Good discussion, sir.

    Thanks. Sorry if I irked ya, but I’ve ticked a lot of writers I know off by preaching this gospel.

    • Golly gee, I guess I should have peppered my response with :-)s because I didn’t intend to convey that you irked me. Not at all. I wasn’t trying to be combative. Sorry if my response was clear as mud.

      It wasn’t as much combative as condescending. i don’t know if smileys would have helped that. It just seemed like you were in a bit of tizz over what I said. I wasn’t trying to be combative either but I’m not a moron and I have done due diligence, so I don’t easily back down from this message. Which even puts other self-published authors at arms it seems. I find that weird and confusing.

      Obviously, self-epub works for a lot of people. And it works VERY well for a few people. I have nothing against it.

      I try to turn as many people to it as I can. I think it’s the best chance writers have to connect to readers, and run their business successfully.

      I will hush now.

      No need to hush. Spread the word! You’ve done something brave and did it well, researched it thoroughly, provided a pathway for others to follow. Crow about that!

  8. One little slip of an eraser or a missing pin on a dot matrix printer and that woman’s got some very unfortunate initials.

    Yup, I got nothing of substance to add to this conversation.

    That’s okay. We like having you around anyway. 🙂

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