Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Are those nasty publishers being mean to you, snookums?

This post over at Mad Max's place had me shaking my head this morning. An unpublished author complains to "Mad Max Perkins" (an anonymous publishing industry professional): "I can’t get your attention without being published, and I can’t get published without your attention."

Garbage. Editors are looking for good material to publish. They're not buying solely from the well-connected, unless by "well-connected" we mean people who have the modicum of sense required to search out and hire competent agents. Publishers are in the business to make money, and if they think a particular writer's product can help them do that, they'll be eager to get that individual under contract.

The whiny writer goes on to say, "I get no feedback from a form letter saying, 'this material isn’t right for us.' Sure, it’s easy to write another book, but will it be better?"

Ah, gee. I really hate to see a fellow writer display ignorance of that magnitude. Snookums, where did you get the idea that it's an editor's job to instruct and encourage writers not already under contract? And as for your ludicrous line about it being "easy" to write another book, I can only suggest that if you honestly believe that, you are almost certainly doing it wrong.

Again, we're offering products for sale. If the "retailers" don't want to buy our stuff, that's their business. They don't owe us any feedback on how we can improve our wares and make them more appealing.

Here's part of Mad Max's reply to our clueless comrade:

If you're not getting published, it sure ain't because you're not part of the "In Crowd." This conspiracy-theory gobblety-gook is a favored excuse for people who haven't got the talent or haven't got the drive, or both. The world is lousy with literary agents; and literary agents only get paid when they make a sale; so they're a competitive and fast-acting group. From my perspective, there are basically two reasons why a writer doesn't have an agent: either the writing's not quite good enough, or the writer hasn't applied himself seriously--doggedly--to finding one.

I don't have an agent because I never went hunting for one. With my first manuscript I targeted a publishing house that was known to look at unagented material. But most writers do need agents, and that Catch-22 everyone talks about--that you can't get published without an agent and you can't get an agent without having first been published--is an absolute myth. No, you're not likely to snag a Big Name agent. But you can get someone capable of sliding a manuscript onto an editor's desk.

And if your work is quality stuff that fits your targeted publisher's market, that's all the "edge" you'll need.


Brenda Bradshaw said...

I don't know that I agree 100%. I used to have that same mentality last year. (June is 1 year that I've been writing "seriously" and looking into the industry as a whole.) I used to make the same types of comments, because as a newbie in the field it *appears* that way (Catch 22 on the agent thing). I don't think it reflects on my writing, or my determination. Making that type of comment reflected my ignorance in how this market works. Just six months into it all, I realized my thinking was wrong. My writing is good, but not as good as it could be, so I put the agent hunt aside while I concentrate on craft.

And that ignorance of being new is quickly righted, intelligence gleened, once one delves into the industry. Which is why I love groups like RWA, I love when PANS work with PROS and give us a dose of "how it is". Until a writer gets serious and gets deeply involved behind the scenes, well, that's when the clue-stick starts beating us about the head. I had this realization, and I'm sure that poor soul that wrote to Mad Max will feel the stick soon, as well.

Note to self: Don't take meds before posting on blogs, you sound like a rambling nimrod, Bren. (Err...Me, Brenda B., not you, Brenda C.)Rah! I need to go back to bed! Well, hopefully this made a bit of sense.

Brenda Coulter said...

Until a writer gets serious and gets deeply involved behind the scenes, well, that's when the clue-stick starts beating us about the head. I had this realization, and I'm sure that poor soul that wrote to Mad Max will feel the stick soon, as well.

We Brendas should stick together, but I'm going to argue a little. I don't think "being new" excuses this fellow's complaining. It's understandable that a new writer would look for shortcuts and ask about secret handshakes. But something in this guy's tone suggests gutlessness rather than inexperience. I don't think he is just like you, Brenda; I'm not sure he will learn. When he was faced with the reality that this is hard work and nobody is going to help him, he didn't square his shoulders and get to work (like you did), he started whining about how nobody will give him a break.

Yeah, I'm coming down hard on a guy I know only from a few paragraphs posted online. ;-) But I'm doing it because he's safely anonymous and I think there's a lesson here for new writers. Heck, for all of us. You seem to have figured it out, Brenda--this is not a business for wimps.

Brenda Bradshaw said...

Howdy, Brenda C! Well, I'm back here to agree a bit more with you. After reading yours, I went to Mad Max's and read the entire thing. I basically said the same thing there that I said here, plus got in my own personal "agent rant" (totally different topic, though). I think I may have fallen into my personal little downfall: I wanted to see the best in this anonymous person. I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, especially since I knew, and admitted, that I'd thought the same thing on many occasions.

It does bug me that he posted anonymously. I have NO PROBLEM with posting my name. Even if I'm wrong in the end (which I may very well be with this anon-guy), I still want my name attached to my thoughts. I'll take responsibility for my words, even if they're sooooo off the mark that they fly into a realm of "What the HECK is Brenda rambling on about?!" Because that IS how we learn. We get out there, in the midst of it, with our NAME, our FACE, and find out the truths.

I think you're right: I don't think this guy wants to acknowledge the fact that he may simply suck, and rather places his failure on a very, very tight industry.

And hey, whatever gets him through the night, I guess. ~shrug~

Btw, Brenda, may I link you from my blog? :)

Brenda Coulter said...

Brenda, you sound like a classy dame. I'd be honored if you linked to me.

And if anyone else is so inclined, I'd like to mention that except in very rare circumstances (where I believe a large portion of my readers would be offended by a site's content), I'm always good for a reciprocal link.

Brenda Bradshaw said...

LOL ummm...I've been reading the Blaze line lately to see if I want to submit to them or not, and so you may want to personally check out my link. It may be offensive and I would TOTALLY understand if you chose not to link me! (Lately there's been a sexual angle going on...I blame Blaze!)

Brenda Bradshaw said...

FYI, I linked your blog under my blog list, and your website under AUTHORS on my blog. Two different sites need two different listings, dontchaknow.

Brenda Coulter said...

Oh, I'm linking to several bloggers who read or write some pretty racy stuff. Check my list over there on the right and you'll see a wide diversity of blogs. I figure that while we may not all enjoy reading or writing the same kinds of books, we can still find lots to talk about. I want this blog to feel like a big tent where everyone is welcome.

But I do draw the line at linking to sites that use excessive profanity and include lengthy, frequent, and graphic discussions of sex in erotic romance novels. A couple of blogs like that have very kindly linked to me, and while I appreciate the traffic and believe those folks have contributed some interesting and insightful comments to my blog, I just don't feel able to return the favor by providing reciprocal links.

Thanks for linking to me, Brenda. I'll check you out later--gotta go now.

Anonymous said...

In the latest issue of the SFWA Bulletin, Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg address the issues of Writing/Publishing Myths. They both are of the take that having a terrific book is not enough and they say that getting to know the editors, agents and other writers--networking--is essential for the want-to-be-published writer. Whether one agrees or not--and there are exceptions-- it's a very interesting article where they address various "myths" as they see them about the profession.


Brenda Coulter said...

They both are of the take that having a terrific book is not enough and they say that getting to know the editors, agents and other writers--networking--is essential for the want-to-be-published writer.

I would agree with that, Mir, not because you must "know somebody" to get your work looked at, but because those connections can help you hone your writing skills and give you an understanding of the business that will maximize your chances of success. It's true that a "terrific book" isn't enough--not having a market in mind as you write is like shooting an arrow with your eyes closed. You're not likely to hit a target because you weren't aiming at one.