Fyodor Dostoyevsky pitching a book idea to a modern literary agent

Fyodor Dostoyevsky Couldn’t Get Published Today

I don’t think Fyodor Dostoyevsky could get a publishing deal today. Agents want easy-to-digest stories with “pacing” and direct prose. I’ve been to writing conferences where you pitch your story ideas to agents, and they all want the same thing: something that will sell. It no longer matters if it’s good; it only matters if it will sell.

We still buy Dostoyevsky because we know how great his books are, but I doubt he could walk into a pitching session with literary agents today and get a book deal. They would look at him like he was crazy.

For example, very little happens plotwise over the 700+ pages of The Idiot other than a series of conversations. But it’s the content of those conversations that make the book fascinating. I can picture Dostoyevsky trying to convince modern agents that our society needs to hear these conversations and consider the questions within them while the agent sips her Diet Dr. Pepper, yawns, and nods politely, knowing she’ll never call him back.

It’s a shame, and a good thing these books don’t have to prove themselves to the modern publishing industry.

Until tomorrow, read slowly – take notes – apply the ideas.


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