I attended a Continuing Ed class yesterday at SUNY’S prestigious Schenectady County Community College. Never been there before, and the email I received after signup didn’t say what room to go to. But I made it to class, taught by the pleasant Pauline Bartel. She’s published complete fan guides to Gone with the Wind and Elvis–not my genre by any means, but her experience in publishing was more than enough to keep my attention.
A striking lesson learned was the distinction between working with an agent, and working with a publishing attorney. Agents use their industry connects to get you where they are you fitting best, which works in their favor. Alternatively, one can do the legwork of sending queries and proposals to publishers, and get an attorney to make sure contracts are in one’s favor. This is situational, of course: some publishers won’t talk to you without an agent.
In joining online writing communities, my hope is to hone my craft through receiving advice in the court of public opinion, and to court friendships that will encourage me throughout my journey. Continuous study of craft and grammar fundamentals, and an effective marketing effort, might prepare me well enough to pursue publishers on my own. I don’t conform to systems if I see glaring inefficiencies, or simply don’t respect those in charge–I hope this does not occur while I pursue publishing. I’d prefer to work with an agent, though that involves relinquishing control. Hard for a writer to do, I feel, but I don’t believe anyone is self-made, not even indie publications.
Marcel Duchamp claimed that art is completed by the receiver. I tend to agree. It’s too easy to stand on the summit of one’s own hubris when invalidating the contributions others make, or can make, to the creative process.