Thursday, August 27, 2015

Lies They Tell Writers, Part 18—Get an Agent.

The writing world has changed. And I am of the opinion that most of those changes have diminished the importance of the literary agent.
Not so many years ago, a writer had to be represented by a literary agent to have any chance of getting published by a reputable firm. To some extent, that’s still the case—certain imprints of the international publishing conglomerates turn their noses up at direct submissions. Queries from authors are lucky to earn a rejection. Most often, they are simply ignored.
But there are many, many small, medium-sized, and even large publishing houses more than happy to deal directly with writers. And, of course, there are innovations like digital publishing and e-books that essentially bypass the traditional publishing process—including agents.
So, does an aspiring author need an agent? I would never say it’s a bad idea, assuming you can hook up with one who’s reputable and recognized. On the other hand, I don’t think it’s necessary. I have managed to publish books with ten or so publishers, from fairly large ones to teeny-tiny ones, all with nary an agent in sight. And at least a few of those publishers had stated policies of not accepting un-agented submissions.
Of course my ability to evaluate contracts is lacking compared to the expertise of an agent. And, if I were overwhelmed with keeping track of royalties and subsidiary rights and such, I’m sure an agent would come in handy.
So far, however, my misdirected, misguided, and mismanaged literary career doesn’t require a whole lot of the skill or savvy an agent might provide.
Come to think of it, that might be the problem….

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Writing about Phil and Bill.

The summer 2015 issue of range magazine has arrived in mailboxes and on newsstands around the West. Inside its pages are two articles I wrote about interesting Westerners.
Phil Kennington is a well-known cowboy poet who has entertained readers and audiences alike for decades. But Phil’s life is much bigger than poetry. He was raised on a ranch where he learned early on to handle livestock—an education that served him well later in life. He spent decades lifting horses’ legs and tacking on shoes. You can read about Phil in the “Red Meat Survivors” section in the magazine.
Also featured is a ranch that lies between Utah’s Wasatch Plateau and San Rafael Swell. The Quitchumpah Ranch is owned and operated by Bill Stansfield, who runs cattle on Fish Lake National Forest permits, a BLM lease on the San Rafael Desert, and his own pastures. Stansfield—with help from family and friends—was branding calves the day I visited. Some photos from that day were posted here earlier; others accompany the article.
Read these stories and more in range. If you don’t subscribe, you can remedy that here:

Monday, August 3, 2015

Can you judge a book by its cover?

The old saying says no—you can’t judge a book by its cover.
Book publishers say yes—readers ought to be able to glean a good deal about what’s inside a book by the nature of its cover. And, for the most part, they live by that belief. The covers of romance novels share a certain similarity. As do mysteries. And science fiction. And thrillers. And fantasy. And other categories of books.
Including, of course, Westerns.
Which brings up the subject of my forthcoming Western novel (look for it in December), Rawhide Robinson Rides the Tabby Trail. While it is certainly a Western novel, you’d have to cast a pretty wide loop to catch it with the usual herd.
For one thing, it’s humorous—something I think is sadly lacking in Westerns. And most other fiction, for that matter. For another thing, while there are a few confrontations where people get shot at, but I don’t think anybody gets shot.
And again, like its Spur Award-winning predecessor, Rawhide Robinson Rides the Range, it’s filled with lies—or, to use more polite language, tall tales.
Or, as Rawhide Robinson would have you believe, the absolute truth.
Those differences are probably why the cover doesn’t look much like a typical Western novel. Still, the cover does tell you something about what’s inside—a book that’s not much like a typical Western novel.
Finally, if the quality of the artwork on the cover is any indication, what’s inside is likely to be pretty darn good.
If I do say so myself.