Thursday, May 12, 2011

Adult fiction is hard to sell

In late January of this year, literary agent Stacy Kendall Glick at Dystel & Goderich wrote a blog post she titled What I'm Looking For. In agentspeak, that means the sort of work and authors from whom she especially welcomes queries. A post like this is fabulously valuable to an author ... especially, of course, if what the agent is looking for matches a project for which the author is seeking representation.

Alas, what Ms. Glick wrote about the type of book I write was not the stuff that dreams are made on.

"I'm signing up a lot less adult fiction," she wrote, "because it's so hard to sell but also because my time is limited and fiction can take a lot of work to develop."

Boy, do I get that. Fiction takes a heck of a lot of work for an author to develop, and (extrapolating here, because in actual fact I am not now nor have I ever been a literary agent) it's easy to imagine that an agent who takes on a fiction project, especially fiction written a debut author, is likely to have a lot of reading and suggesting and cajoling and re-reading and further suggesting to do before the manuscript is ready to see the light of an editor's desk lamp.

Interestingly, I wasn't discouraged by this frank acknowledgement by an experienced & reputable agent who works for a top-drawer New York agency. Not even a little.

Why not?

Well, the easy answer would be that there are a lot of agents (and editors) out there. What Ms. Glick is less eager to represent is another agent's bread and butter.

But ... glad as I would be to find an agent, to see the agent find an editor interested in pitching my manuscript to a publisher's acquisition board, to be courted by a publisher eager to put my manuscript between covers and into bookstores, and from there to find a vast (or even respectable!) community of readers ... the truer answer would be that I don't write adult fiction because I think it's the most likely path to that sort of success. Nope. I write adult fiction because adult fiction is what I love to read, adult fiction is what kindles my creative passion, writing adult fiction is what I really, really, really want to do.

A few weeks ago Nathan Bransford posted a video on his blog without much in the way of explanation. Nathan is a former literary agent whose first novel, Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow, is being released today, 12 May 2011 -- congrats Nathan!

Here's the video Nathan posted last month, Scott Weaver's Rolling through the Bay:

So ... what's the connection? How does Scott Weaver's elaborate construction have anything to do with adult fiction being hard to sell?

Here's how:

Mr. Weaver didn't take 35 years (yes, you read that right) to build his truly, geekily cool toothpick-sculpture-slash-ping-pong-ball-obstacle-course because he thought he could sell it, or because he figured it would bring him fame and immortality. I mean c'mon, does the guy sound crazy to you? Mr. Weaver built his sculpture because it's what he really, really, really wanted to do.

I get that too.

When the phone rings and the caller is that agent who does want to represent my finished adult fiction manuscript, Consequence, can you guess what I'll be doing? Yup. That's right. I'll be working on my next adult fiction project. It's what I really, really, really want to do.

What do you do just because you really, really, really want to?


  1. I am maybe possibly almost positive it is a coincidence you posted this 3 days after I sent you a story, teacher. * Was looking for it here, actually. Kids, don't try this at home..!