In the rise of technology, something frightening happens within human interactions. Automation becomes the norm. We’re used to dealing with non-human interactions over the phone and on the Internet. I’ve noticed it’s quite simple to go through a whole day (or two, or a week) without interacting with hardly anyone if I don’t want to – and yet still get a million things accomplished. I don’t have to talk to anyone to get gas. I can order everything I need online (even groceries). I can even publish a book without interacting with a soul. Amazing. This is all very convenient, but I’ve noticed in the past ten years of my life that it’s much too easy to distance myself from people. In all honesty, I’d rather talk to a human being on the phone than go through an automated system.
I had a conversation with a good friend of mine a few weeks ago about this automation in our lives. She said that she feels like it creates an us vs. them mentality, and she’s absolutely right. You get big corporations running all this automation, and all those hands and faces are unseen, and quite frankly, it’s easy to question their true motives. I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen that humans actually like to interact with other humans. In fact, it’s a need. Most of us need to belong, and most of us need to feel like we are part of something important and personal. It creates a safety zone. For me, that safety zone is best when it’s small and intimate and within my control. I know motives. I know intentions, and those people know mine.
Ever wonder why zombies are so big lately? My friend pointed out that this automation may have something to do with that and all this dystopian craze going on. We’re scared. We’re scared of becoming so disconnected, that we are dealing with zombie-like systems because everything has become so automated. A theme I see far too often in stories is the us vs. them mentality with technology (especially a computer gaining too much intelligence and taking over). So overdone, but understandably so.
Where does publishing fit into this? When you step back and think about it, those Big Six publishers are pretty big. They might seem a bit faceless, and even automated, if you aren’t part of the system (or maybe even if you are part of the system, I don’t know). I think it’s impossible for them not to feel that way because they are so big, so there’s no way around that, but it explains why publishing might feel so impossible and frightening to a lot of writers. It also explains why agents are such a necessity in this business when dealing with larger publishers. Not only does an agent help an author navigate through those huge organizations, but an agent also provides that face – that connection between a huge faceless organization and the lone author.
This is why I’m much more comfortable with a small press where I can call up the president most times of the day on Skype and we can actually take face-to-face. It’s very personal and connected, and I need that in my career right now because, especially as of late, I’m beginning to see that I’m really not made of what it takes to jump into anything and make it huge right off the bat. I can see why authors working with larger publishers and very busy editors need that agent connection. It makes a lot of sense.
So I have not ruled out going with a larger publisher in the future. If I ever do, I will most definitely need and want an agent, but for now I’m really happy with the close, accessible relationship I have with my publisher – and for the first time I understand a different reason why.