Writers and Agents and Editors



Poets & Writers, July/August 2013


This post’s title says most of what continues to be said about the often dysfunctional relationships that have traditionally stumbled toward writers’ publication success, whether for fiction or non-fiction. P&W editor, Kevin Larimer begins with a statement synopsizing the way most writers feel about the publishing industry: A fortress to keep the writers out.

But this isn’t the way of writing for all authors; Neil Gaiman has been with the same agent and publisher since his career launched. And there is an annual listing of first-book authors in this issue to prove the publishing industry may not be quite the fortress it seems.

In an interview, Agent Eric Simonoff says all the things writers want to hear:

  • he desperately wants good manuscripts
  • he lays out what he looks for, what turns him on in a manuscript
  • says short story collections are commercially viable

But then there are the implied things:

  • the industry doesn’t develop writers any more
  • you must have a commercial platform before a publisher will be interested
  • publishing a decent book may take a writer years

And there’s a statement I’m currently most aware of, whether for self-publishers or those published by small indie houses – –  You have to pay (publicity, travel, etc.) to be noticed. If you don’t, you won’t.

And then there’s Anna Stein’s depiction of what it takes to make a query stand out (to her) – something that sinks the hearts of most aspirants:

  • much oohing over a query referral from established writer Jamie Quatro
  • pre-reviews of the manuscript by both Don DeLillo and Dennis Cooper
  • an MFA degree.

To be fair here, the interest in the MFA is the supposition that the manuscript was been extensively workshopped  – something else aspiring readers should note.


In summary: make contacts, pester established readers to champion you, workshop your stuff…and be patient.


But that’s old news, stem to stern. Hang in there, writers.


Visit my website here, where you’ll have an opportunity to download an audio eversion of my latest, Sam’s Place, as well as select book review podcasts. Then there’s my FB Fan Page here. On both you’ll find more on ideas and events that matter to me – and possibly to you.




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