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Breadcrumbs From the Void #18: To Be, or Not To Be Represented – That is the Question

Alex Schumacher

 

To Be, or Not To Be Represented – That is the Question

by Alex Schumacher

Day drinking. Sun burns. Barbequed carne asada. The waning cacophony of sunscreen and tequila in the air are unmistakable heralds of the summertime’s inevitable end here at Bread Crumbs from the Void. I, for one, prefer the gloomy frigid air of the fall and winter anyway. To say I find the deceased falling leaves and overcast skies preferable to the blistering heat and accompanying BO would be a massive fucking understatement.

Being a homebody — and most likely a borderline agoraphobic — I do not demand much motivation to remain a shut-in to concentrate on current work. For some of you out there, the dropping temperatures and shorter days may be just the kick in the ass you require. An uninviting outside might prove to spur you on in finally completing that manuscript whose insurmountable ending causes you to shit yourself at the very thought. The sun saying sayonara before dinner could possibly inspire you to write the first line of that short story which has remained but an itch in your creative ovaries all these years.

Whatever the case may be, if the upcoming seasons are incapable of coaxing your artsy side into action you are soulless. It is the most wonderful time of the year, for Christ’s sake!

Of course there is no feeling more wonderful than seeing your manuscript, screenplay, graphic novel, etc. receive the attention, enthusiasm, and interest it so rightfully deserves. (Can I get a fucking hallelujah?)  One of the tried and true ways to garner such curiosity from publishers is to acquire yourself an agent, as previously discussed in this installment: http://five2onemagazine.com/breadcrumbs-void-15-query-query-quite-contrary-alex-schumacher/. Though in this day and digital age, you may be considering the fact that a literary agent is no longer indispensable. You may be wondering why you should fork over your hard-won pesos when you could handle the same bird-dogging and bigwig anus-licking on your own.

While there is a sliver of truth in these musings, here are a few things to consider before deciding whether or not finding a literary agent is right for you.

Agent Pros

To be certain there are many a wondrous feats that an agent can accomplish for you and your career, specifically if you are new to the publishing game. And are capable of providing a decent hand-job.

Such notable exploits include (but are not limited to):

  • Placing your work with a venerable editors/publishing houses
  • Staying up-to-date with said editors’ interests as well as their contact information
  • Offering guidance and insight on making your work market-ready
  • Negotiating the terms of your contracts

Regardless of the ever-shifting landscape of publishing, agents indeed remain to be an invaluable resource teeming with sage-like and vital wisdom on the ins and outs of the industry. Yes, it is true you can research and compile your own list of prospective publishers, but agents already have the connections you desire. Agents know editors from a plethora of publishing houses. Agents know precisely what factors cause said editors to wet themselves with glee and can guide you to illicit such a reaction.

Your god-damn Fifty Shades of Gray fan fiction will only get you so far.

Believe me when I say the intimate and naughty details regarding specific editors and publishers are not readily available information you can amass from shitty and woefully incomplete bio pages online. An agent will be your chaperone, your escort, your captain through the serpent-infested and frenetic waters of publishing. Without an agent you are simply another meandering dingy searching for any port in the storm.

Sure, some of those ports may seem to be inviting and cozy harbors but you will walk away from the experience battered, penniless, and riddled with as-yet-to-be-named venereal diseases. That, my friends, is best case scenario.

Agent Cons

For the many sublime attributes an agent may have, there are also several less-than-admirable traits attributed to agents as well such as:

  • Taking a cut of your royalties/income
  • Tailoring your work to be “marketable” which is essentially asking you to relinquish some control over the finished product
  • Seeking clients who have at least some experience/credits
  • Focusing on those who bring in the dinero, while others take a back seat

I know the aforementioned factors may trigger your gag reflex, but know in advance they will be included in the price of admission. (NOTE: You should never, and I do mean never have to pay an agent up front. There is not one reputable agent in the business who will charge reading fees, agency fees, sign-up fees, etc. Any indication such charges will be forthcoming denotes a fucking scam.)

An agent will have a vested interest in assisting in making you a success as they will be entitled to a cut of the money. Make no mistake, you are a whore and they are your pimp. The most successful pimps in the business are the ones who know how to run their game and cash in on their hoes. Keep in mind the legit agencies only get paid when you do so they will demand some say-so in molding your work into a potential bestseller. If not a bestseller they will at least want to format a piece of ass they can double-book to turn two dollar tricks.

Agents will direct you to revise, if not amputate, complete sections altogether. They will recommend altering your tone or style. In the end you may or may not even recognize the tome which originally sprung forth from the placenta of your creative mind-hole.

You will also need to exercise extreme patience with agents. Until you are raking in the loonies — and even after you prove to be the goose who laid the golden dingleberry — there may be long stretches when all you receive from your agent is radio silence. They do not intend to be inconsiderate cum-rags, but the fact of the matter is you are not their only client.

Alas if you are the type of self-centered prick who throws a hissy fit whenever you are not the main focus of attention one hundred percent of the time, there is another option.

 

Self-Publishing

The technological boom has impacted nearly every industry imaginable. While many have been altered for the better, there are some which have been negatively affected.

As far as the publishing world is concerned, technological advancements have made it entirely possible to sail right over the heads of the gatekeepers — including agents — to make virtually any intellectual property available for the masses. Unfortunately giving every stay-at-home mom or dad, recent MFA graduate, or joe-blow who thinks they have something to say a platform causes the market to be overrun with absolute and utter horseshit.

This is not to say there is not quality material to be found in the gurgling, bile-filled cesspool of self-publishing. I personally know several writers, comics creators, etc. who are phenomenally talented and for one reason or another could not get a foot in the door. Self-publishing provides these kick-ass folks a means by which to grace the world with their shimmering brilliance.

These folks are the exception though, not the god-damn rule.

Most of the rambling dreck is not even fit to wipe a hobo’s ass. Before you go shooting some ill-conceived load all over Amazon, social media, etc. make sure it is actually worthy of occupying bandwidth. The best ways to go about ensuring honest feedback is to join a writing critique group and/or hiring an independent editor/proofreader. To be clear I am telling you not to rely solely on the compliments of your mommy or best friend.

At the risk of sounding preachy, an agent can serve as an objective sounding board. There have been plenty of times my own agent has taken me down a peg or two. As much as it singes my urethra to admit, he was right.

If you would like to hear me elaborate a bit more on my own process, you can find links to a couple of interviews conducted recently with me on my website at: https://alexschumacherart.com/about/. Drop me a line from the contact page if you have any other questions, complaints, or declarations of lust.

Bread Crumbs from the Void will return in two weeks, when the bulbous secrets of the personal essay shall be tasseled and exposed. Until next time, keep scribbling you freaks.

Stalk Alex online:

 


Profile 4Alex Schumacher has toiled away in the relative obscurity of minimum-wage jobs and underground comics longer than he cares to admit. Currently he produces the weekly feature Decades of (in)Experience for Antix Press, Bread Crumbs from the Void and The Fucking Funnies for Five 2 One Magazine, and Mr. Butterchips for Drunk Monkeys.

Stalk him at
https://alexschumacherwriter.com/
https://twitter.com/
AJSchumacherartalexschumacherwriter@gmail.com