I spent several hours today, yes HOURS, reading through blogs and blog comments about the recent Twitter-prompted discussions regarding agent pay and advances to writers. Links to most of it are conveniently collected over at agent Colleen Lindsay’s blog, which was nice of her. When I was done, I had a massive headache. Literally. Which made me angry.
Why angry? First of all, I didn’t really learn anything new. No one was talking about how to bake new and bigger pies, just arguing about finding new ways to slice the same old pie. The economy sucks and everyone wants to get paid more money for all the long hours spent doing tough work.
And I get that. Hey, I’d love to get a raise at the day job too. And yeah, cut out the mundane and tedious tasks while we’re at it. I work damn hard and I deserve higher pay. But it’s not going to happen until the corporation I work for starts baking more pies, er, making more profit. That happens by increasing income or cutting expenses. Usually both. That’s pretty basic. It’s also pretty tough to accomplish in a prolonged recession.
The other reason I felt angry, apart from the truly nasty headache, was the slow realization after reading all this same-old angst that I do not need to know this. Really. Nothing in this discussion matters to me personally. Might it eventually change the manner and amount of compensation I receive for writing? Sure. But letting all this divisive discourse into my brain will not change anything. Other than, you know, my consumption of Advil.
I’m a writer. I have no say in these decisions. None whatsoever. It’s not up to me.
It’s a business decision. Publishers will pay their suppliers (writers) what they think they can afford or get away with. Agents will do the same with the percentage they charge. Those decisions are based on profit and loss. Too much of one or not enough of the other, businesses are going to make changes. Apparently there’s an excessive supply (of writers) right now and not as much demand. That influences business decisions too.
And for some odd reason I don’t claim to understand, but which people seem to insist on calling industry standards rather than monopolistic control of the market, publishers and agents will pretty much hold hands with their respective colleagues and all decide to do the same thing at the same time. Yes, it’s a quirky industry, but we love it anyway. Suppliers (writers) will either accept that change or find something else to do with their product. Doorstops, maybe. I don’t know.
Nothing in that decision-making process makes me angry. When I’m ready to sell my product, I’ll enter the market as it exists at that time. Or stay out of the market until it improves. Or find another market. Those are my choices.
But I was angry with myself for allowing all this irrelevant-to-me discussion muck up my brain. And then I remembered an excellent essay Jenny Crusie wrote a while back about protecting the work. So I tracked it down and dragged the link over here. Go read it. It’s a great essay with an important message, even if you’re not a writer:
As a writer, the only thing I control is my writing. Whether that’s the novel or query or synopsis or blog posts or comments on other blogs or stuff on Twitter. It’s all writing. I control all of that. Really, I do. Might not always seem like it, but I do.
Everything else is controlled by others. Everything. And sure, it’s a good idea for writers to have some idea of what’s happening in the industry. So they know what to expect from others once the writing part is done. But it was not necessary for me to wade through hours of discussion about something over which I have no control. It was a huge waste of my time and energy and I blame myself for allowing it. I should know better.
So this is my reminder to any writers who might be over here reading yet another blog post about these issues. Stop it. You do not need the headache.
Focus on what is important. Your priority as a writer is to put your effort and creativity into the one thing you can control, that thing only you can produce. The writing. Everything else is a distraction.
Protect the work.