Monday, May 3, 2010

On Friction – Not Fiction, Part 1

Welcome to our table at the coffee shop. If your shoes are still squishy after that wet weekend, then you are part of a very large crowd. I'm ready to think about something other than the weather and since you're here, I trust that you are, too.

A special guest joins us, today. Sharlene Martin is President of Martin Literary Management and a literary agent who specializes in representing nonfiction books. (If you look over at the right hand column, you will see I added Sharlene to our nonfiction agents list (N-F A-List).) She recently published PUBLISH YOUR NONFICTION BOOK: Strategies for Learning the Industry, Selling Your Work and Building a Successful Career with her husband, Anthony Flacco.

This book is a must-read for every aspiring writer of nonfiction books. I am so excited by the high quality and clarity of the information that I found in PUBLISH YOUR NONFICTION BOOK that it will be THE BOOK for our giveaway drawing for the next three months. Everyone who has not already won a book in 2010 and who follows this blog by May 31, 2010 will be eligible to participate in a drawing for the first copy of PUBLISH YOUR NONFICTION BOOK.

I asked Sharlene to share some of the thoughts that are on her mind, right now. She chose to give us insight into the working of an agent's life. Sharlene, you have our attention.

"I love this job. I get up every day looking forward to doing this kind of work. But we know that every line of endeavor has its, shall we say, areas of friction. I find that the literary representation field is sometimes littered with dysfunctional attitudes of self-entitlement on the part of writers who aspire to major publication. I also sometimes see it on the business side in the form of the occasional editor who refuses to employ the rudiments of professional courtesy, or I see it with a publisher who finds reasons to stall timely payments because the total difference in accrued interest for that company is considerable. And still, I love this work. I am therefore thankful every day for the fact such people are the decided minority in the book world. My daily experience confirms that well-considered products of creative minds still command a residue of mutual respect lost to many other parts of social life.

On the writing side of the business, friction comes from a disconcerting number of wanna-be authors who contact me and indicate that since they have finished their book manuscript or have almost finished thinking up an idea for a book they would like to write, they are now ready for me to sign it, sell it, and make them rich, hoping I will do it before the end of the month because they are upside down on their mortgage. When I try to correct that notion, or someone on my staff attempts to explain the factual reality of the publishing marketplace, there is that percentage who react with anger and indignation. They feel compelled to hurl invective, to lob a flame-y email or slip in a hostile phone message. Students of irony earn extra credit for noticing that this manner of departure validates the decision."

I'm taking a lesson from Sharlene's words. As she says in PUBLISH YOUR NONFICTION BOOK, "Never discount anyone you meet." That includes agents who have rejected my book. It will always do us well to remember that good manners opens many doors.

Come back next time to hear about the minority crowd on the other side of the publishing table. I assure you, you will not be disappointed.

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