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Bedtime Story for Writers
By Mickey M Dodson
Thursday, September 06, 2007
Rated "G" by the Author.
A bedtime story to help aspiring writers sleep better
There is this very large circular enclosure. It is surrounded by an eight-foot high barbed wire fence - electric charged. There is no gate in this enclosure, but there is one opening - the width of one stick figure. Inside
the enclosure are thousands of stick figures each one with one arm elevated and the hand holding a scroll - a manuscript. We'll call them scroll sticks.
The figures are different colors, red, green, yellow, black, and white. The green figures have been here before and succeeded in getting through the opening and selling their scroll. It got made into a book and sold at least 2500 copies. The red ones sold a scroll, but the book did not sell 2500 copies. The white ones have sold lots of commercial text, short fiction, and scrolls they wrote for someone else (ghost writers - that's why they are white). It's their first time in the enclosure without a mask. The yellow ones have never been here before, nor have they ever sold any words. Finally, the black ones are here all the time; they are the mass that fills the enclosure so tightly. They write things like 'I did made my teecher madd when I stuk my finder in his eardrum.' These black stick figures make up about 80% of the crowd.
On the outside of this enclosure is another smaller enclosure. In it are more stick figures. They all have dollar signs for heads. They too are different colors, some gold, some silver, some black. The gold ones have a key ring so full of keys it takes both hands to hold it. These are $ heads who by sheer luck have bought a scroll and sold it to a padlock head, and it produced a book that sold at lease one million copies. The silver ones also have a key ring, but their ring has fewer keys, and they can hold it in one hand. They have bought scrolls and sold them resulting in those 2500 copies sold books. The black ones don't have any keys, but they do have a key ring. They haven't sold any scrolls. Also milling about this enclosure in little groups clustered around each of the $ heads are scroll sticks.
On the opposite side of that enclosure is yet another single stick figure opening and outside of this opening is a large smoke filled room, furnished with comfortable couches and a bar. Lounging in this room is the final group of stick figures. They have padlock heads. They are the publishers' editors.
Back in the main enclosure, the stick figure crowd is constantly milling about, pushing and shoving and jostling in an attempt to get in front of that single opening. Once there, the stick figure has 15 seconds to attract the attention of one of the $ heads. If he fails, he is jostled back into the crowd, and must continue in the pushing and shoving until once again he reaches the opening and gets another 15 seconds. He repeats this process until one of the $ heads reaches out a hand and guides him through the opening.
Needless to say, because of the large number of black stick figures that are constantly abrading the $ heads with their inane 15 second hawks, the $ heads are rather bored and cynical, so to get their attention, a stick figure really has to sing a unique, attention grabbing 15 second song.
Once the $ head offers the scroll stick a hand, he leads him into the middle enclosure and explains the facts of life. If the $ head is honest (many are not), he tells the scroll stick that continuing forward is going to cost money - the scroll stick's money.
You see $ heads don't work for free, and using the keys costs money - printing, postage, lunches, long distance phone calls, time. Since $ head is going to receive 15% of the gross earnings of scroll stick once a book is sold, many scroll stick's think that will pay the cost. They aren't living in the real world. If a scroll is sold and made into a book that sells for $16.95 per copy, scroll stick is likely to gross a maximum of $4 per copy on the first 2500 sold. That amounts to sixty cents per copy for $ head, or a whopping $1500, IF the book sells 2500 copies.
Now if scroll stick is green, he likely got offered a hand by one of the gold $ heads. Track record and all. If he is white, it is possible he got taken by a gold, but more likely was offered a hand by a silver $ head. If he is yellow or red, it is possible he has been invited into the inner circle by silver $ head, but much more likely by a black $ head.
If he is green and his first effort while not selling a million copies, did sell substantially more than 2500, he is very likely to be able to get through this center area with little or no outlay of money. If not, or if he is white or yellow, he should expect that it is going to cost him a minimum of $1500 to market his book - and there are no guarantees.
Where does this money go? Those gold $ heads with all the keys can quickly open padlocks to get a scroll seen by a publisher. The silver $ heads must work a little harder, and the black $ heads harder still. In most cases, they will attempt to contact six padlock heads a month, offering the scroll for their perusal. They will provide a submission package, which will likely include a synopsis and three chapter samples, a bio of the scroll stick and a marketing plan (that's the scroll stick's job btw).
If they are fair, they will charge for paper and printing, postage, and $25-30 per hour for their time, totaling somewhere between $20 and $40 per submission. They won't wait for padlock heads to respond, because that could constitute anywhere from 2 to 12 months. Instead, they will continue sending these packages each month until one of the keys fits and opens the lock or scroll stick says 'pockets empty, I give up'.
Understanding that there is cost involved in these submissions, and that only gold $ heads get immediate access to publishers, and that only green scroll sticks get gold $ heads for agents, you have to understand why an honest agent charges for these submissions. Remember back to where I said that if a book sells 2500 copies, an agent receives $1500. If he has expended that much or more in submitting the book to publishers, he is either working for nothing or losing his shirt. Besides that, it could take three years or more for the book to actually sell those 2500 copies.
If a scroll stick is yellow or white, the $ head has no guarantees that even if he sells the book, the book will earn him that $1500.
Why have I told you this story?
Bop around the internet and you will find all kinds of blogs where 'writers' are listing 'bad' agents who charge fees. These 'writers' are nincompoops who have never sold a book or probably even had an agent. They are also foolishly unrealistic.
Just because we are willing to pour our soul onto the blank page with no promise of seeing $$ in return, we must not think that agents are the same. We cannot fail to understand that once we type: The End, it becomes all business.
Site: Mickey Dodson
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|Reviewed by Vivian DeSoto
|Great insight. The Business of Writing: 101. Should be a manditory 'course' before typing "The End".|