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On tenacity. And agents.

Around two years ago, I wrote this blog: 
In it, I’m resolutely unfazed. (And, no, this blog is not a disguised ‘I got an agent!’ post. Trust me. You won’t miss that one.) In reality, I crawled through most of 2016 with a focus on getting my Abendau commitments done and done well, and try to sell Waters and the Wild. Oh, and retrieving what I could from the whole sorry Inish Carraig saga (which, perhaps, turned out to be my happy ending – that little book and world is my pride and joy).  I completely underestimated, misunderstood, whatever, the effect losing an agent would have on my career. I took the steps to keep going, but lacked the clear direction we need to give impetus. My focus went onto each book, not my overall career (luckily, in my non-writing professional world the ship was steady).
Perhaps, after Inish, another writer would have decided the self-published world was the one for them. But despite four of my books currently being self-published, it’s never been what I wanted. This isn’t because I look down at self-publishing, or self-publishers, in any way. Quite the contrary. It takes so much work to be a successful self-publisher (maintain a mailing list, make contacts and networks, to be promo-savvy) and that has never been what I want to do. I do a lot of admin running the consultancy, I promote and sell myself and maintain contacts – writing is my escape, not another place to have to manage. And, also – I don’t really inhabit the space a successful self publisher needs to. I don’t write easily defined books that can be launched into an Amazon subset and that’s part of what successful self publishing is about. I don’t read loads of self published work (I mean, I do read quite a bit); I don’t hang around a load of self published forums (I’m in some, but no more than the places that focus on trad works); I don’t have any real visibility in that world or the time to create it.
Instead, I’ve been sending out query letters for The Wildest Hunt. I’ve arranged to go to a pitch session with an agent to get some experience of that. Despite my previous experiences of being agented, and the fall out from that, I’m back on the query mill. Why?
That’s a hard one to answer. Given that I have a reasonably steady self-publishing platform (and have no plans to do anything else with Inish Carraig 2) I also inhabit a lot of places trad authors hang out. On the convention scene, on forums, a few other places.  Apart from various pragmatic reasons (like funding is hard for me to access for self published projects; like that, in Ireland, being published is still perceived a sign of quality; like that I am time-poor and self-publishing is time-heavy) it is what I aspire to be, on a personal level. Being on bookstore shelves (I am on a few, but only in and around Belfast), in libraries, a little more visible. That sort of thing.
This isn’t about the money (although a writing friend of mine yesterday did put it succinctly in a post that making money in Self publishing is more of a myth than we like to admit – sure, some do it — go check out my friend Nathan Hystad’s debut, if you want evidence that it can be done – but most don’t. Most of us shift a few hundred copies, and that’s it). My day job pays me and my writing add-ons, lecturing and the like, pay me. This isn’t about income.
It’s about wanting to be read, I think. That’s what drives most writers: the story that they want to share. And, frankly, on a traditional platform I stand more chance of more people seeing my books.
Once you know where you want to go, the steps become clearer. If I want to inhabit that world then I need an agent. If I want an agent, I have to query.
And therein comes the stickability. Submitting is a soulless task. Every writer knows that. I reckon over novels, short stories, articles, I’ve over 200 submissions. That’s the way the business is. You have to learn to put rejections into a little place marked ‘De nada. Do not fret’.
Once on this path, the writer must always know there is the possibility they won’t sell their current project. What then? In the past, I would have self published it, but I don’t think I will this time. There is enough out on the market for people to come and see if they like the quirky stuff I write. And I promise, regardless of this little one, once Inish Carraig 2 (must get title) is finished, I will bring it out. I value my life.
If this doesn’t find a home, I guess I’ll just write another in the time honoured tradition. I believe that tenacity, at the end of the day, is another behaviour an author must have.  And that’s one I do have. In spades. Now, back to that query pile. 🙂