November 26, 2012

If You Don’t Have an Agent, Are You Really a Writer?

writers life

Comic credit: the hilarious Debbie Oh of Inkie Girl

When I was twenty something, I dreamt of becoming so rich I could donate enough money to fix hunger in Biafra (only a newly-grown adult thinks giving money fixes anything). Now, my children grown and my starry-eyed dreams stale like day old bread, I still want to make enough money to give it away–but now, I do it after I feed myself.

That, I’ve finally done. Through a chaotic collection of non-fiction books, freelance writing, commercial gigs, and a tech ed niche blog that has taken off, I will for the first time ever be able to support myself on my writing revenue. Don’t get me wrong–I’m not quitting my day job, but I see a future where my bills could be paid with writing.

Hold off the applause. ‘Writing’ is nothing like what I expected. I feel like the artist who dreams of Michelangelo and ends up LogoNerd. Ah, sweet muse. My agent has yet to consider my debut thriller ready for publishers, and when–if?–one of them adopts me, it’ll be a solid eighteen months before the novel finds a shelf to call home. Then, many many books must sell before I earn out my advance and pay for the celebratory ‘I did it’ dinner at my favorite Corona del Mar restaurant. By then, I’ll have the sequel completed and another cycle spinning. Who forgot to mention it takes THAT LONG to get a novel published?

Which begs the question: Is it time to jump off the merry-go-round, recognize it for what it is as an out-of-date albeit charming vehicle, and self-publish? I’m already about 110 in writer’s years. At the rate my agent-directed career is going, I’ll not have enough time to build my legacy before it’s all over. In those heady pre-agent days, I had decided to pull the trigger and self-pub. If I’d done it, I’d be published by now and doing exactly what agented book authors do–market:

  • set up a website (does the publisher help with that? Doesn’t matter. Sites are cheap)
  • set up Twitter/FB/ G+ accounts (no one does these better than the author himself)
  • set up a blog (same with a blog–personal is what makes it interesting)
  • network with like-minded writers
  • commit hours a day and weekends to marketing
  • repeat

Work with me here. If I self-pubbed or went with a small press right now…


I could have my book on the virtual shelves by Christmas.

But would I be a Real Writer?

BTW, there is one group that has no angst over the question of what defines a writer: Agents.

Jacqui Murray is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blog,Technology in Education featured blogger, IMS tech expert, and a bi-weekly contributor to Write Anything. In her free time, she is editor of a K-6 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, creator of two technology training books for middle school and six ebooks on technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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