We have train tracks that come up from the south, travel right through town and then exit our little burg heading across the prairie to the northeast.  Our house is situatuated in such a way that it sounds like the train chugs through our living room and out our bedroom window. 

It doesn’t really bother me.  I don’t mind the whistle and the rumble.  What I don’t like is being railroaded.

In my real life  (as opposed to my imaginary, writing one), I feel like I’m being pushed “hastily or without due consideration” in a business transaction.  Thanks Webster

I think it’s because I’m a female and all the other players are male.  Or maybe it’s because I’m blonde or short or 38.  Regardless, the “neutral” party in this matter is anything but neutral. 

Back when I started writing, I subbed directly to editors a handful of times.  Picture books and chapter books aren’t lucrative and finding agents willing to take on a big project with big risk and low returns was difficult at best.  I figured it would be just as easy to deal directly with the publishers.

And back then, it might have been.  However, technology has changed so rapidly and so drastically I realized that having an advocate for my writing would be in my best interest.  I didn’t want to get railroaded into a contract that favored one party (the publisher) significantly over the other (me).

Because even when I know what’s going on (my real life), people still try to take advantage of others.  And I certainly don’t know enough about the publishing industry to sufficiently safeguard my assets.  Nor do I want to settle for a lesser deal simply because I’m blonde, short, 38 or female.

Instead, I want someone firmly in my corner.  Biased toward me and my writing.  Passionate about what I have done and can do and knowledgable enough to keep my train on the right track. 

I’ll leave all that up to Agent Awesome.

How about you: do you want a publisher or an agent?  Are you afraid of being railroaded in an industry you lack sufficient knowledge about, or are you comfortable enough with your skills to navigate the train tracks on your own?

17 responses to “Railroaded

  1. I think that having an agent is the best way to go, if he/she is a good one with a consistent track record. However, if I end up having sent query letters to everyone on my list and my MS is not on THEIR list/don’t know where they’d place it/don’t love it ENOUGH to take it on in the current market, then I do plan to submit directly to publishers (those who take unagented submissions, at least).

  2. We can hear the train whistles in the distance at night – if it were up to my seven year old, we’d be living in the houses that overlook the tracks, so he could watch the trains all the time!

    I tend to think of writing for publication as a two step process: step one, agent, step two, publisher, through agent. I’m not worried about being railroaded, though. I think an unhappy, not-writing best selling author might not be a commodity that a publisher wants!

    • Belle,

      My kids love watching the trains too. It’s fun, but loud!

      I have definitely adopted your vision of publishing. Agent, publisher. Things change so quickly now and with the “uncertain” future of publishing, it will be nice to have an advocate to help keep the tracks clear and keep me heading in the right direction!

      Does your son have a train whistle? I love those things.

  3. I vote for an agent. I would feel like I was wandering the woods waiting for the wolf to find me without one. I would feel safer with an agent who knows the biz. 🙂 Hope all is well with you.

    • Lisa,

      Thanks, all is well in our little berg. And speaking of wolves, I just read Sisters Red and loved it. This YA was a shiney new take on the Little Red Riding Hood story. Beautifully told. So don’t wander around alone. Put on your cape and take an agent’s hand!

  4. Cat: I really love how you tie some personal aspect of your life to your writing life and I wonder if it helps keep you grounded. I only say that because I know how far out I can get in my imaginary world when I writing. Either way, your posts are always imaginative and thought provoking.

    The publishing world does seem like a jungle and from everything I read, it’s changing at a fast pace. I do think if you can find an agent who loves your work, that’s ideal. But I would try all the avenues that are open to you.

    Knock on every door and see what opens!

    I’ve moved to Blogspot Come and see me here: http://guardiancats.blogspot.com/
    in case my name links back to wordpress.

    • Rahma,

      Knocking! And I did knock your blog door the other day. I do have to admit that I love your new “old” look. Your cat pic in the library speaks to me. I love it. I’ll stop in again to visit your Guardian Cats soon.

      Yes, blogging about my life is three-fold actually. It helps me process my world and my life. It allows me to reflect on my writing and what all of it means (the journey, the passion, the frustration and the joy.) It also allows pushes me to write. I love opening up after being behind closed doors for so long. I think combining all these things centers me.


  5. I highly doubt that you could ever be ‘railroaded’ 🙂
    But the sad fact is- we don’t have the concept of agents here in Turkey and the publishers do take advantage of writers. Writers, even the best selling ones, can never make a living just by writing because there is no one to advocate for them and help them get paid what they deserve. This was one of the many reasons why I wanted to get published overseas, because I do want an agent…

    • Lua,

      My heart hurts for you. It is a difficult road here, where there are publishers and agents everywhere. I think the internet will help writers like you who are plowing through this journey on your own in a less than friendly environment. More contact and interaction is being done electronically, which really diminishes the need for proximity or $$ to send via snail mail. Hopefully technology can help level that playing field for you a bit.

      I wish you the best and highly doubt you get railroaded either : )

      hugs~ cat

  6. I’d like an agent. There’s always too much I don’t know. If I can’t get an agent, and I do eventually get picked up by a publisher, I think I’d look for a contract lawyer familiar with the publishing business.

    • Barbara,

      There are many very successful authors who never even try to find an agent. I’ve heard that finding an agent is harder than finding a publisher. But then so many houses are closed to nonagented writers that it seems like a very convoluted process no matter which way we try to go.

      I wouldn’t worry too much if I were you; you have the savvy to take care of your assets!

  7. Cat, I just sent back the signed contract for my first book deal and let me tell you…looking it over made my head spin. I think more and more in this market, the details of a book deal will require so much back and forth, and while I don’t doubt there are writers out there willing and able to navigate these waters alone, I don’t know that I could.

    You’ve got great posts–I look forward to checking in again!

    • Thanks so much for stopping by, Erika. I’ve been on vacation and will get back to posting again soon!

      Congracts on your book contract. I’m excited for you and hope everything goes well. Like you, I’d like an advocate on my side to help me navigate my way through this process. I used to think I could go it alone, but as I’ve gotten further down the path, I’ve realized that I’m a writer, not a professional submitter, right’s negotiator or any of the other wonderful things that agents are to their clients. Sometimes it’s best that we know our limitations.

      I appreciate your commentary and hope to see you around.


  8. I would really love to have an agent. I’m betting that with the right agent, I would have a fierce advocate and even better writing. People keep suggesting that I sub directly to publishers but I just can’t bring myself to do it.

    Here’s to the small females in their thirties!!!! I’m not blond but I definitely get the “railroaded” thing. You hang in there!

    • Kate,

      You have a great game plan and one that will work for you splendidly. Once I joined AQ and contemplated the value of an agent, I realized that I really did want an agent to help me through the process. If all else fails, we can go the publisher route. But, I think it may be more difficult to do the reverse.

      Wishing you the best and sending a virtual toast for us little ones!

  9. Cat, even though I’ve had a great experience with Five Star, Books in Motion, and Harlequin Worldwide, and I’m fine with their contracts, I still want an agent for my new manuscripts. Agents know more and they have the ability to negotiate with more than one publisher at a time.

    • Very true about an agent’s ability to negotiate and deal more effeciently and effectively than we can. You’ve been blessed with good experiences in the past and are an inspiration to those who go solo.

      Thanks for sharing.

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