Sometimes, a foot in the door isn’t good for anything other than a bruise.
Being a guy with a vested interest in the publishing industry, it turns out I spend more time than I should reading websites geared towards writers, especially those discussing agents and publishers. Been doing it since the old Bleak House days, and in the decade plus of my time in publishing, I’ve learned a lot from those sites about the industry and the personalities who people it. When I felt like I had something to contribute, I’d chime in to give my thoughts/advice.
The publishing industry has changed a bunch in the last ten years (and likely, if you asked people who have been around for the last twenty years, they’d tell you it’d been changing rapidly since then). One of those changes, enabled by the evolution of technologies, is that a bajillion new publishers have sprung up from the electronic dirt. And, as a cottage industry, a half-bajillion new agents have risen in their shadows. Terms with longstanding meanings have been bent and blurred to mean new and multiple things (“indie publishing” and “bestselling” being the most apparent examples I can give).
Trust me, I’ve droned on at great length about variations on this theme. If you dig through the archives of this site, you’ll see what I’m talking about. Ok? I’m aware. I’m also aware we’ve talked some of these things through until we’re blue in the face.
BUT, I need to say this—not all publishers and agents are interchangeable. Not all “credits” are equal. And, much to the point of my opening sentence—sometimes getting “a foot in the door” is more injurious than anything else.
What do I mean?
I mean, being excited to sign a contract with a publisher nobody has ever heard of that won’t sell any copies of your book, isn’t the beginning trickle of coins you’re hoping to follow to the pot of gold.
In a recent discussion I was following, an author argued that he/she was excited to be published by XYZ Publisher because it was a foot in the door, as though it were going to lead to bigger and better things. The publisher in question doesn’t seem to land media placements for its authors, sell books to the retail market, or do anything else of note. These are not the dance moves to win the big Charleston contest.
Make sure, dear author, should you decide to trust your work to a company—be it a publisher or an agent—that your partner can do something for you. And by that, I don’t mean stroke your ego or make promises to you that sound good but have no hope of being realized. It shouldn’t be hard to find a professional track record of your prospective partner. What have they done for others? Asking for information is your right and if you choose to ignore it, you’ve got nobody to blame for your bruised foot but yourself.
Be well and write better,
Benjamin LeRoy talks about a bunch of stuff on his website http://www.benjaminleroy.com