A guest blog by novelist Elizabeth Musser
I’m home now. After almost twenty-five years on this writing journey, I’ve finally found my way home.
I certainly don’t mean I’ve found my permanent publishing house. I’ve had four different American publishers and four different international publishers along the way, and the book I just launched was my first indie novel.
I don’t mean I’ve finally settled into the perfect routine, finding the way to balance my 30+ year career in missions with my calling as a writer. I still juggle, after all these years.
Nor do I mean that I’ve become a savvy marketing-social-media-writing genius.
What I mean is simply I’ve come home to accept that my writing life will always be on a roller-coaster.
And boy, am I thankful to have an agent who rides that roller coaster with me.
A little over ten years ago, I met Chip at a writers’ conference. I took his Professional Writers track and greatly appreciated the advice he offered. Chip was just starting MacGregor Literary, and because of my blockbuster sales on my already-published novels, begged me to let him be my agent…
Ahem. Okay, it wasn’t exactly like that.
I was looking for an agent, but I wasn’t sure I needed an agent. I had four published novels, a contract for two more novels, and I had been working with the same acquisitions editor and substantive editor for ten years.
Didn’t I have it made?
I knew very few people in the American book industry, and I lived in France, so I wasn’t meeting many other professionals on a regular basis.
AND (foreboding music) the publishing world was changing!
So Chip took me on, fully aware that he wouldn’t even get to negotiate a contract with me for a while.
Fast forward to the present. Did I need an agent? The answer is a resounding YES in the midst of this crazy roller-coaster ride.
How does an agent help authors? Well, here’s a short list of what my agent has done (which is what I believe a good agent should do):
He or she:
- helps us creative types figure out how to actually make a living in the writing life
- encourages us to set goals so that we can measure success
- reminds us that the key to marketing our books is finding our audience and standing in front of them
- helps us discover/create our brand
- gets our stories in front of publishers who are interested in our genre
- looks ahead at the book industry. Chip predicted the slump in contracts for my genre (inspirational literary fiction) and began encouraging his authors to consider going hybrid. No! No! No! Just get me a contract, any contract! I don’t want to self-publish!
- encourages us to jump into social media, but in a savvy way
- regularly updates us with what’s happening in the real world of books (because we may have our heads stuck in the cyber clouds)
- answers my never-ending list of questions
- meets with me in person when possible
- celebrates my successes
- encourages me to keep going in the midst of rejections
- oh, and yes, negotiates contracts.
My point is simply that I was naïve, thinking I didn’t need to do anything but write my novels. And I was very, very wrong.
A writing career involves a lot more than just writing. I am so thankful that my agent (who just happens to be Chip—and no, he isn’t paying me to write this!) has counseled me with all of the above as well as introduced me and my work to many different publishers and editors.
In short, my agent has helped me accept the blood, sweat, and tears of the business side of writing as simply a part of the job. Everyone who works has parts of the job that are enjoyable and other parts that aren’t. Did I think I could somehow skip (or at least skimp) on the parts I disliked?
I’ve even come home to embrace social media, little by pulling-my-teeth-out-little, realizing that although it is crazy time-consuming, it does give more interaction with my wonderful readers.
On my long journey home, on this roller-coaster ride, I don’t think I would have persevered if it hadn’t been for my readers. “Your books have changed my perception of things.” “I love the way you portray characters who are real, who struggle with life and faith.” “Thank you for writing stories with a soul.”
And for my agent.
ELIZABETH MUSSER writes ‘entertainment with a soul’ from her writing chalet—tool shed—outside Lyon, France. Elizabeth’s highly acclaimed, best-selling novel, The Swan House, was named one of Amazon’s Top Christian Books of the Year and one of Georgia’s Top Ten Novels of the Past 100 Years. All of Elizabeth’s novels have been translated into multiple languages. The Long Highway Home has been a bestseller in Europe.
For over twenty-five years, Elizabeth and her husband, Paul, have been involved in missions’ work in Europe with International Teams. The Mussers have two sons, a daughter-in-law and three grandchildren who all live way too far away in America. Find more about Elizabeth’s novels at www.elizabethmusser.com and on Facebook, Twitter, and her blog. See photos from scenes in The Long Highway Home on Pinterest.