A Gent's Outlook

A Literary Agent Divulges the TRUTH about Publishing

Friday, July 29, 2005

Drop the Word Processor and Pick Up Some Chocolates

Here is a little tidbit from an editor of a mid-large house. New writers should read this at their own risk!

Have you ever heard of a profession, besides politics, where any dork can walk in and think that they are qualified to contribute to that profession without having an iota of experience or expertise in the field? Apparently, writing is just that type of profession.

The problem with this is that every time a writer wannabe--you know, those folks who dream of adoration and fame and fortune--decides to submit his/her garbage, they take time away from the serious writers and their work. Serious writers, you remember, are people who have written and slaved away learning their craft for years, only to have the pipelines clogged by those who think that world needs to hear their wonderful message. They are that gifted! Wannabes will change world--thank God for them! No one else has ever had the idea to write about terrorists in and outside of America. Nor has anyone EVER written a picture book designed to make kids feel good about themselves. And don't forget the romance that no one has ever conceived of with a quirky, funny, vulnerable heroine who ends up with a studly, romantic, sort-of-dangerous-but-in-a-good-wholesome-way hero. So original. So thought-provoking.

Such bullshit.

Everyone can write, right? It's something we learn in what, the second grade? Used to be, though, writing in book form was hard. Not everyone wanted to sit at the old Royal for hours on end pounding those keys. I'm talking here about the days when they sold White Out by the gallon. Those were the days when only the extremely dedicated even sat behind a typewriter. Yes, they used to be called typewriters.

Then a new age dawned. Let's call it "The Age of the Word Processor." Or "The Age of Anyone Can Do It." Or "The Age of I Want to Be an Adored Celebrity." Suddenly, everyone was a writer. Folks who would never have thought of changing a typewriter ribbon are suddenly proclaiming to anyone who will listen that they have written the Great American Novel. The whole damned country was abuzz with writers. AOL was probably the first to usher in all those new wordsmiths, their faces all aglow, fresh from their latest brush with their muse and ready to talk to any and everyone about what they had discovered...

"My God, Barb, I was sitting there and suddenly it came to me. Oh my God!! It's so beautiful. I actually wrote something and it made so much sense to me. My sister and her kids love it. I think I'll send it to Harper!"

"Dude, this is way better than whacking off all the time!"

"Oh Leslie, do you think Random House would like my story of how I overcame childhood trauma to become the woman I am today? It's so different from what's out there."

The next big thing to hit the shit filter was all this buzz about scammers. Those rotten bastards wanted to charge me for just reading my beautiful prose. Bastards! Why, they actually charged me money and never got me published!

Could it be because your writing sucks and your emotional neediness to have a large group of people validate your empty life overrode your common sense? Without dipshits who are desperate, scammers can't scam. This goes for any type of scam. Watchdog groups who target these frauds, cons, and reprobates could save a lot of time and energy if they posted one thing on their sites: "Hey, newbie, if it seems too good to be true, it is. And if you don't know enough about the publishing industry to not be able to distinguish whether something an agent/publisher does is common practice, then YOU SHOULD FIND ANOTHER PROFESSION!"

It is not like con artists are coming up with brilliant schemes. If the same person tried to sell you the Brooklyn Bridge, you would probably figure out not to buy the scammer's game (after all, Uncle Ed bought the bridge in 1979, so how could this guy have it for sale?). But, when it comes to writing, people will believe any moron who says, "I can get you happily published!" And by the way, they believe any book that says that, too (but I won't digress onto this different, higher-level type scam).

My advice is put down your word processor and pick up a nice big box of chocolates. There used to be whole industries dedicated to food for the emotionally needy. Since the invention of the computer, these industries have gone broke. Something needs to be done about reviving this time-honored pastime--bon-bons for bad feelings. Look at Forrest Gump. Were his words of wisdom wasted? My God, people! Someone needs to lead this rebellion and restore Russell Stover to its former glory. Doing this would be like pouring a bottle of Draino down the publishing tube. Think of all the shit that wouldn't end up in agents' and editors' inboxes. Of course, the postal system would have to raise it's rates again, but there is rumor that this is going to happen anyway, so what the hey?Less chocolate, more bullshit, and higher postage rates--that, dear readers, is why writer wannabes suck. (Can you tell I ran out of steam and just ended this? But I am not a writer so it’s okay. Hell, it would be okay if I was a writer! Cool, huh?)


  • At 1:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Which of course explains why we're getting novels from 17 years olds pitched as the next best thing, why authors younger and younger are getting first books. They have life experience, right? Are you discounting, just a bit, the influence of the marketing guys?

  • At 5:16 PM, Blogger SammyK said…

    Actually the novels by 17-year-olds are pretty good. What I was referring to is the rest of them, the unpublishable, those who think they can write because Aunt Maud said his or her book was wonderful--those writers. Marketing has nothing to do with it. Oh yes, dumb books are published, but they are usually from those who have already been published, have an audience so can write anything. I was mainly referring to what I see, not what is published.

  • At 5:42 PM, Blogger Pantherchick said…

    Actually, any new writer would probably be better off eighty-sixxing his 'new and original' idea for a rehash of a romance novel, diet book, or 'How To get Rich' book, because that's the kind of rewarmed tripe the American mush-mind gobbles up.


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