Challenge,  On Writing,  publishing

Just A Few Thoughts…

The Agent Theft News Has Me Thinking…

I am sitting here in a beautiful condo high over the city of Las Vegas, staring at this screen on my little iPad and wondering where I would be if I hadn’t fired my agents and then found this new world of Indie Publishing.

I might be here in Vegas somewhere, but I would not be writing. Of that I have no doubt. I was fed up with all the crap with agents and baby editors and lack of respect. I was done with writing and always hurrying up to hit some deadline or another then only to wait until someone got around to bothering to send payments.

I was really fed up with some human who had never written a novel in their life thinking they had the god-given-right  to tell me how to write a novel, especially since that person hadn’t even been born yet when I wrote my first novel.

That’s right, after twenty-some  years, New York publishing and the stupidity it represents had chewed me up. I was done.

So what would I be doing now? I wouldn’t be writing. Writing, like skiing, golf, architecture, and law would have been another thing in my past. Chances are I would be playing professional poker, but I honestly am not sure about that either.

And I sure wouldn’t have been teaching at all. I believe that a person must always learn from someone who is not only doing what they are teaching, but is successful at it. So I would have quit writing and never taught another class. Period.

And Kris and I would have never started the stores and bought the bookstore on the coast. And we never would have started WMG.

Over the last few days, the news about this major agent theft hit the papers. And it is only a tip of a massive iceberg that has been there all along, but no one believes those of us who have been shouting about it.

And this news will change no one who has an agent, either. The desire to hold onto this ancient way of doing things is just amazingly powerful. And writer after writer will tell me that they “trust” their agent. It’s only other agents who rip off writers. Never their agent.

I saw all this well over a decade ago and quit, walked away from traditional publishing and writing. Luckily, the indie movement got me back to writing.

So now I sit here looking out over the lights of Las Vegas much like my character Poker Boy sits in his invisible office looking out over the lights of Las Vegas. This news has got me thinking, wondering about roads not taken.

A lot of writers right now who are caught up in this theft mess are at a crossroad just as I was over a decade ago. Many will do what I was headed to do, quit and become a “whatever happened to?” A few will hold on with help and stay writing on the indie side. But very few.

My wish is that every writer with an agent who reads this will start an audit of their agent.

My wish is that every writer with an agent who reads this will immediately call their agent and get all payments split. A simple addendum to a contract with the publisher will cover it.

My wish is that writers will grow some business sense.

Of course, those are only wishes. I know from experience not a one of them will come true.

I suppose I should feel bad for all the writers who were stolen from. One major writer caught up in this did a poor-pity-me blog today saying he was sorry for blaming everyone but his agent. And as he said, this is only starting.

The legal lawsuits are going to be off the charts. The publishers will get wrapped into this, the agency will go into bankruptcy, and writers will not have a clue what to do next.

I should feel bad for the writers. I really should.

But I don’t. They gave all their money and all the paperwork with that money to an unliscensed, unregulated person with a business card and are now surprised they got taken.  Sorry, that level of stupidity in this modern world just can’t get me to even shed a tear.

So for the moment I think I’ll just sit here and look out at the lights of Las Vegas and think about how freeing it felt to quit traditional publishing all those years ago. And wonder about roads not taken.



  • E. R. Paskey

    I told my husband this story after you mentioned it here and explained the whole agent thing to him. He looked at me like I was crazy. I think at first he thought I was making it up! Then he shook his head and said that was about the dumbest thing he’s ever heard. He can’t believe that’s actual business practice in the publishing world–said people are just begging to be conned for being so stupid.

    To a non-writer outside the publishing world, the idea of giving an agent this kind of free rein and control is absolutely crazy. But the myths are so strong in our culture that people still think it’s perfectly normal. All I can say is I am very grateful that I did not go down that road–you and Kris and a few others were the reason I decided to strike out on my own.

    • E. R. Paskey

      This is also yet another reason I’m happy for the whole indie revolution. I’m glad you and Kris are able to keep writing and teach what you do.

  • Janine

    For some reason, writers under the age of 35 or so tend to believe the myths much more than their older peers. Despite some of them growing up during the indie revolution, either from books or other mediums. They have shed the old ways in so many other aspects of society, but they seem to swear by the old ways of writing and publishing novels.

    Honestly, I think if you did quit and/or the indie movement didn’t happen, I think a lot of people that comment on this blog would have quit writing fiction as well and gone on and done something else with their lives. I know I probably would have done that, likely gone back to writing in non fiction spaces like I was before since I know I’m a bit too off the beaten road for mainstream traditional fiction publishing. You and Kris and some others are really the safe zone away from all of these destructive and deeply embedded writing and publishing myths that float around the community.

    • Alexandra

      I know very few writers over 35, but I know a ton of writers under, and you are absolutely right. Even trying to talk to most of my writing friends about the myths is like trying to argue against their religion or something…

  • David Anthony Brown

    I’m grateful I never submitted a novel to an agent. Heinlein’s rules one and two largely prevented that at first, and then I found your blog and Joe Konrath’s. If I had to rewrite my novels for an agent, or produce something “marketable,” I’d never make it as far as I have. I resisted indie at first, but am so grateful for the revolution now.