A Gent's Outlook

A Literary Agent Divulges the TRUTH about Publishing

Friday, September 30, 2005

Oh Saaaammmmmy, Just Like That!

As I promised (and unless I am married to you, you can just about bet I am a man of my word), here are some more tidbits for you to chew on:

From and editor
"I hate writers who send perfumed stuff or stuff that has been doused in cigarette smoke. I have allergies, and that just about kills me."

From a contrite writer…
"I once met an agent and he didn’t like my work, so I told him to piss off. Then I got published by an imprint of a pretty big house and sent him a note detailing how wrong he had been. His answer was really professional and nice. He wished me well and congratulated me, reminding me that this business is subjective. He basically indicated that it wouldn’t have mattered to him how great my book did, he still didn’t like it. It was then that I realized what an asshole I’d been. Not everyone is going to like my work and that is just a fact of life."

From an editor…
"I hate editors who tinkle away their time pretending to work. I work in a fairly new publishing house, and already I am starting to see cracks in the cement that holds this place together. Everyone here worries more about vacations than books. I would just like to see one of my author’s books get out there and do really well, then I’ll take a break."

From an editor…
"Sometimes I get so fed up with this business! Where have all the good writers gone? Jesus, everyone wants to be published, and nobody wants to take any criticism or change their work. Everybody thinks they’re Joyce Carol Oates, for Pete’s sake. It is getting rottener and rottener by the day. Do you know how many threats I have to make a day just to get the revisions I need?"

And under the “What the fuck is this, true confessions? Do I look like Sammy the Confessor to you?” category…

From an agent…
"Once I slept with a guy at a writer’s conference even though I knew he just wanted me to take him on as a client. His worked sucked, but he was a great late date, if you get my drift. I don’t know why I did it because I usually don’t do those kinds of things. But, I think for once I had just had it with people sucking up to me in hopes I would be their agent. I guess I just wanted to see how far he would go. He went pretty far. I never saw him again, but I hope he is well, because he was very sweet about all of it."

From an editor…
"I once responded to a query from a writer with a horrible, nasty note. Something like, “If you write us again, the green police will arrest you for killing trees to print out your garbage, you dirtbag. Your work sucks that bad.” I felt really bad afterward, but not as bad as I would have felt if the asshole had been published and got famous. That would’ve sucked real bad. I hope he’s not reading this now…"

From a conference volunteer
"One time I gave an editor a blow job after our conference had ended for the day. I didn’t even write what he was acquiring, so I guess I just liked him. He didn’t protest, and I think he sort of appreciated it. I let him know it was on me, not the conference. I mean, it was my idea--the conference doesn’t offer blow jobs to its speakers! We still keep in touch, but he hasn’t been invited back to our conference yet (not because of me, though, just because we rotate speakers sometimes). When he is, I will be waiting with bated breath. Literally. God, this is so naughty! I never knew publishing could be so saucy!"

From an agent…
"What I would like to know is why the hell editors are reading your shit when they should be working on my clients’ projects? Jesus, is all people do nowadays blogging? What is that all about? This is such bullshit. Goddamn it, I hate the internet!"

More? Do I hear you want more? I guarantee that, just like a busy giggolo, it’s coming soon, my dears, coming soon.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Naked Blogging

You know what one of the perks of blogging is? You can be naked and blog and not have to worry about the gendarmes, or whatever the hell the French call their police, coming to get you. As I write this, I am stark naked. Some of my best posts come from communing with nature au natural.

Just thought you would want to know.

Be Careful What You Wish For

Thank you for the great comments I’ve been getting on my blog. I especially like the ones about how small my equipment is and how a noxious odor seeps from my gonads. The writer calls him or herself anonymous, but I think it must be from someone that I’ve jilted lately, surely not someone I’ve slept with. Anyway, keep those cards and letters coming, folks, and I’ll try to keep you entertained. Not really.

Did you ever notice how some writers just can’t stand rejection? They hold off sending anything to anyone until they build up enough nerve, then they wait anxiously for the rejection bomb to blow up in their face. My timid little tit-mice, writing for publication is not a career for the meek or those who do not seek exposure. Sooner or later someone is going to hate what you write. Look at me. Everyone hates what I write, but does deter me from my mission of pissing off the world? You bet your ass it doesn’t. Not one bit!

Have you ever considered that what you write might be accepted and not rejected? What happens then? Which is more scary: getting a rejection letter in the privacy of your own home or having to explain your book in front of a million viewers and a live national television audience to a dickhead interviewer who hates your guts? Would you then die? Would you become so ill that you’d lock yourself in your home and never come out? Have you ever considered that everyone is afraid of being exposed, of being famous? Acceptance can sometimes be scarier than rejection. Think about it.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Sammy's Back and Ready to Blog

Sammy’s back! After a nice long weekend of not doing anything except banging my girlfriend (and she even enjoyed it, too!), not reading anything, and consuming lots of good food and wine, I am in fine form. Aah, it is good to be me!

Waiting for applause to stop.

I can see that while I was gone, somebodies have been busy little commenting beavers, oh yes they have. But what is even better is that I returned to a mailbox full of goodies from editors, other agents, and other folks in publishing who have things they want to say but can’t dare say them around colleagues or chatty writers who like to post the contents of every reject on their websites or writer discussion boards. I had been getting a few here and there, but now the flood gates are open. These poor souls need a place to vent their frustrations and fast. And that’s what this blog is for, so here are some of the shorter ones to get us started. Yippee!

From an editor:
The day the business started to decline was the day the marketing people were told they were in charge. We used to be able to say, here’s a good book, figure out how to market it. That’s your job. But now we get this bullshit about how marketing doesn’t think this or that book will go. I just want to say to these people, what the hell is that? Don’t they teach you how to market at marketing school? Or do they just teach you how to memorize five strategies for effectively selling a product and if a book doesn’t fall into a category you recognize you shake your head and pretend that it couldn’t possibly be the bestseller the house is looking for (because, after all, isn’t the house’s best interests your main concern? Right)? I just want to tell these pinheads, look, your job is to market the bleeping book and if you can’t figure out how to sell it, you are fired, end of story. As it is, all you do is wander out long enough to pick books with recognizable names that make your job easy and then slink back to your offices where you daydream about bonking the copy girl, who, by the way, is bonking the associate publisher. Sorry to spoil your day.”

From a publisher:
I’ve looked at all the posts here and blogs elsewhere. The insider posts seem true for their level in the industry. But what the hell does an editor really know about publishing? Or an agent, for that matter? Give me a break. Sure they can tell you how they rejected so and so or how they took such and such book through the process in their particular house, but what do they know about distribution, wholesaling, or marketing? Writers, to be really good at this profession, you need to know everything about the publishing process. Once you know that, you’ll realize that you don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell to ever make any money in this business.”

From another editor:
I wish writers wouldn’t send me self-published books. I can’t do anything with them unless they have sold a buttload before it reaches me. Most of the ones I get are truly pathetic anyway, and it makes me really sad that so many people feel that they have to get published to be special or to feel fulfilled. It’s really sad.”

From an agent:
I get really weary opening my mail to find out that people who want me to represent them have not done any research to find out what I take, what my guidelines are, what I have sold in the past…zip. I am very, very tired of people trying to “hook” me with some hokey “grabber” without giving basic information about their book, like a word count or the genre. I think they think that if they WOW me, I can sell their 300,000-word diatribe against the Reagan Administration. First of all, Bill Woodward has already probably done that and second of all, I can’t sell anything that runs that length. I would rather know this up front than after requesting a partial, so I quit requesting anything, no matter how good it sounds, if I don’t see a genre and a word count. Some people like to put these items at the end of their query, but if they aren’t at the top, where they should be, then I reject it out of course Important info about your book is your hook, dumbass!”

Not as animated as me, are they, boys and girls? Oh, it gets better, though, and I will post some of the longer ones later. As these newbies get more seasoned at opening up to Sammy Blogmeister, I am certain I will have some shit that will burn holes in the web. I can’t wait!

Welcome back to me!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

So Ya' Wanna Be an Agent, Huh?

There’s a new trend, or maybe it’s an old trend and I’ve just found out about it. I had a conversation the other day with a writer I rejected sometime in the past (I didn’t remember her—small tits and stringy hair—but she said I had). During this conversation she asked me if I needed an assistant and when I answered in the negative, she informed me that she was going to form a literary agency but thought it would be best that she worked for someone in the biz first. My response was that I didn’t think that would be a good idea, to which she replied, “What’s wrong, afraid of the competition?”

Needless to say, I ended the conversation at this point. I find it very easy to end conversations with flat-chested, obnoxious women...or even big-chested obnoxious women, for that matter.

The point is that writers somehow believe they are uniquely qualified to be agents. I’m guessing here, but it’s probably because they somehow feel their fellow writer’s pain. Is that it or am I missing the point here? If I am, please steer me in the right direction. We have open discussion here, not like other blogs that I won’t mention.

Yes, having empathy with writers is an important aspect of being an agent. I won’t deny that. But what about editor contacts? As Agent 007 has pointed out on her blog, editors prefer to work with agents they have worked with before, those who they know (many times personally) and trust. So, as a writer, do you have these contacts? Probably not, because if you did you could get your own stuff published, right, or is this the real reason you want to be an agent in the first place?

There is a huge area that writers who want to be agents always lightly pass over. It’s that part actually, the contract part, that agents first came into existence to deal with. But writers, at least the newbie types, think big advance and forget about—THE CONTRACT.

Scares the shit out of you the first time you see one of these monsters. Have you ever tried to decipher the dense legalese? These things are written by lawyers for other lawyers to understand. They have sneaky little things about them that if you don’t know what you are doing, you’ll end up buying the local Wal-Mart. How do you, as a writer, plan to understand the ins and outs of something that lawyers train for years to write? How do you negotiate terms favorable to your client without blowing the entire deal? And, even worse, each contract is different. Some are standard, but most are written by in-house lawyers who put their own twists and turns in the content so that satisfies that particular house’s special needs (and maintains job security). After awhile, when you have worked a vast number of contracts, a pattern emerges and they all begin to look alike, just like blondes with big blue eyes and massive hooters (you've seen one, you've seen 'em all). But what’s going to happen to all those clients (your supposed friends and fellow writers) who have put their trust in you in the meantime? You screw them, that’s what, maybe even to the extent of ruining their writing careers. But anyone can do it, right? It’s so easy. And yes, dipshits, there is a test for agents. It’s called knowing what the fuck you’re doing—that’s the test. And if you fail, you'll be the one that all those writers bitch about on writer boards, watch group sites and at conferences. You won't get to play in any reindeer games, except when Bubba (you know, Loretta the Christian fiction writer's third kissin' cousin twice removed--but only with a crowbar--with the nervous twitch and dislike for anything legal) wants to come hunting for your head.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

He said, I said

I got a call the other day from some jerkoff with a whiny nasal voice saying something like, “Um, Mr. Kitzler, I am from ACME Writers Watchdog Group, Inc. and we have some questions for you.”

“Fuck off,” I said. But he proceeded to waste my time with the following conversation.

”Um, Mr. Kitzler, we have had a complaint that you charge reading fees. Do you charge a reading fee, Mr. Kitzler?”

“You’re goddamn right I do,” I said, “Fuck off.”

But he persisted.

“Um, Mr. Kitzler (hack, snort, cough), we here at ACME Writers Watchdog Group, Inc. don’t believe that it is standard practice for agents such as yourself to charge any fees before you sell your clients’ work. We believe that you could be what we call a scammer and…”

“Spell that,” I requested.

“Um, “s” and “c”, then “a” and two “m”’s and an “er”,” he said.

“Fuck off and rot,” I said. But he droned on.

“If you don’t stop charging reading fees, Mr. Kitzler, then we will have to advise the writers who contact us that you are engaging in practices that are not standard in the industry,” he explained. Hack. Snort.

“You can also advise them that I make goo-goo faces at editors and eat only one meal a day consisting of taco chips and wine. Also, I co-mingle funds—makes it easier to steal from my clients that way.”

“What? I didn’t get all of that, Mr. Kitzler,” he whined.

“Hey, pal, you ever been an agent?” I asked. Politely, of course.

“Well, um, no, Mr. Kitzler, but I am a writer with 12 published novels to my credit and I know plenty of agents and none of them…”

“Listen up, Mr., er, what was your name again?”

“Todd Smith.”

“Okay, yes, that’s right. Okay, listen up, Mr. Dipshit. You don’t know what you are talking about. You have never been an agent. You seek the adoration of writers who hang on your every word because you pretend to fight for their rights against big, bad, evil agents like me, when in reality you don’t know a goddamn thing about this business except as a writer. Got it, Mr. Dipshit? Oh, by the way, fuck off.”

Click.

Now, this isn’t quite what was said. I am paraphrasing here, and, believe me, I used way more expletives. But it’s close. Normally I don’t give a fuck about this stuff, but every once in a while some dweeb will call or write and threaten that their organization will “put me on their list” of agents to avoid. The thing is, I couldn’t be happier. I only take clients by referrals from people I have worked with for years, and the only reason I get queries at all is because my name is in some old outdated writer’s guide—which I never requested to be in, by the way—and so I still get some yo-yos who say things like, “Oh, Mr. Kitzler, I am willing to take a chance on you, even though the writer groups say you charge a reading fee. Your record speaks for itself, and I am willing to consider you as my agent.”

Really? Really, really? I am so thrilled. They usually don’t write back after I send them my standard reading fee request with a note that I don’t review any manuscripts without one. This keeps the riff-raff out of my hair. The people who I get by referral are more than willing to pay me to read their work because they know I have picked lots of winners in my time and they know me by reputation. I don’t refund it, either, if I take them on as a client and sell their work. And they don’t get a written critique or any of that bullshit. That’s extra. Way extra. That reading fee money pays for my expertise in determining whether or not their work is marketable. It is an “application fee” just like you would pay at a college. When I take someone on, they get an education, and that reading fee pays, at least in part, for the knowledge they gain, which is a damn sight better than at college where you pay an application fee and then have to pay for the actual classes, too.

If I were starting out today, I probably would think twice about agenting. Why? Because everyone claims to know everything about the biz when in reality they only know their teeny-tiny little part of it. Everyone thinks it is easy to agent. You wouldn’t believe the stupid questions I get. How in the fuck was I supposed to know if Mr. Todd “Dipshit” Smith was actually with the group he said he was with? I was waiting for the phone query to start—writers will try anything to get to an agent. Who polices these yahoos? Does anyone ever call them up, wasting their time asking ridiculous questions about what they do? Are there whole websites dedicated to being able to spot a fake “watch group”? No, dumbfuck writers just believe them.

On a final note, since I am an actual real-life agent, I will take it upon myself to return the favor to these people and set standards for what they do. Here we go-go…

1. A watch group who claims to help writers avoid scamming by agents or publishers should be headed by someone in publishing or agenting who has been in that field for 10 years or more, with legitimate experiences and knowledge to determine what may or may not be standard practices.
2. Writers should not be allowed to participate in these groups, because of the potential conflict of interest. Duh.
3. These groups should be pro-active in going out and dialoguing with agents and publishers (which is why you need someone they would recognize instead of some writer, unless it’s John Grisham) on a yearly basis and keeping information updated by actually contacting people as opposed to sitting around and waiting for a writer to complain.
4. This would be set up as a non-profit organization, with the workers actually getting some compensation for what they do. Never trust anyone who works for free.
5. The goal should be to help clean up a crap-filled industry, not help poor writers avoid getting scammed. The industry is bigger than one group of people. If you really look around in publishing, you will find that writers are not the only group of people who get scammed.

There we go! Now go out and spread the word so that all those concerned writers out there can find these standards and start comparing how their watch groups hold up to them to see if they have chosen wisely.

I won’t hold my breath.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

You Get What You Pay For

Many writers are cheap. They want to throw words on paper, call it a masterpiece, have someone read it, edit it, market it, and give them feedback and lots of money in the form of an outrageous advance (so they can brag to their friends) while they contribute nothing, monetarily or intellectually, to the process.

Most professions, including mine, require some sort of expertise. Yeah, I know the writer’s adage that anyone can be an agent—there’s no test and all you have to do is say you’re an agent, and man, you are one. But dude, are you, really? (Cortez, dude, that’s for you) Many try, some are in jail, but most just disappear after a year or so of dismal failure. They are kind of like hack publishers who disappear the same way. The capitalistic system is cruel to those with no talent or ability. It’s its way of cleansing itself.

Oh, the horror--these agent failures take innocent writers with them when they crash and burn! The terms “innocent” and “writers” are misused here. Babies are innocent. Most writers are greedy, either for power, recognition, or money, and not that many are innocent, especially when they try to send me shit and hype their way onto my client list. Writers are those who can actually write. As in, they can produce a piece of writing that people want to read. In most cases, those who crashed and burned were probably not on the road to success anyway, and they probably signed with an agent thinking their book was going to get published the very next day; therefore, maybe they were innocent in some respect, but they were also stupid to believe that books get placed overnight.

So, what’s the secret to success? One of the many little secrets is to be aware of what has commercial appeal and what doesn’t. Try reading something. If you are one of the cheap-asses I have been talking about, try the library. You know, that big building in or near your city that houses books people might actually read, unlike bookstores that shelve anything the majors (okay, and technically me, too, indirectly, though) tell them to.

God, writers are cheap.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Another Agent Weighs In

As hard as it is to believe, I actually do have some friends in publishing, including some that I haven't slept with yet, although Marley isn't necessarily in that category (Hey, I don't kiss and tell, although I do nibble and tell). As I mentioned in my Blog Orgy post, I am going to post some stuff from other people in the industry who don't want a blog of their own, but want to vent now and then. Here is one of those posts:

Jesus fucking Christ, people! You call yourselves writers? Get this: If I have one more "writer" send me something that starts with description of the setting, I will go insane. I don't care what your freakin' English teachers taught you, and I don't care what made those same English teachers give you an "A." What I care about is not having 20,000 words of descriptive narrative blocking my view of the goddamn story. How hard is this to understand? I have given lectures on this I don't know how many times, and, still, Goober Writer will come up to me and hand me a piece of trash that begins something like, "...and the fall leaves glistened in the sunlight as the crisp autumn air surrounded Tom and Marge and the garbage truck made its way through the city." Can anyone tell me what the story is here? Anyone? I want to know about Tom and Marge. Are they fucking? Fighting? Placing bets on the next presidential fuckup? And don't give me that shit about how you are building suspense for the reader, and the reader will keep reading, blah, blah, blah. Know this: You are pissing off the reader! The reader keeps reading to find the story. If you are writer who has to bribe the reader with descriptive narrative and false suspense, then you don't have a goddamn story. Here you go if you want an example:

Bad: The willow outside Molly’s window blew softly in the breeze, and the smell of lilacs filled the spring air. Molly made her way across her room, being careful to not trip over the piles of books on her floor. She admired the pink curtains at her bay window, the ones that matched all the other pink things in her room—her bedspread, her walls, her pillows, her tiny portable telephone. She grabbed her new jewelry box, which she loved even though it wasn’t pink, and plopped down on the window to explore the wonderful gift from Aunt Gina.

Good: Molly held her new jewelry box near her ear and listened. Yep, there was no mistaking it: Something was definitely rattling around in there. Molly frowned. What in the world could be wrong with the crazy thing? She’d only had it two days! Suddenly, as if in answer to her unspoken question, one of its legs dropped to the floor and out rolled the biggest, most glittery diamond Molly had ever seen.

Do you see the difference? If you don't, don't fucking query me. Okay, well you can't query me because you don't know who I am, so don't fucking query anyone until you figure it the fuck out.

Fuck it,
Marley

Spunky as hell, isn't she? Yeah, we did it. And after reading this, I am going to call her to see if she wants to do it again. God, I love those fiery women!

Wine, Women, and Writing

You know there is nothing like a great bottle of wine or sex or both in the afternoon. Good wine makes my blood boil and even a bad day seem fantastic with sex in the afternoon. Afternoon sex makes one think that they are getting away with something. It’s almost like cheating and many times afternoon sex is—cheating.

Why do writers write? Let’s see, writing is like wine, and sex, too. All three have beginnings, middles and ends but the question was, “Why do writers write?” right? Probably because it’s there—pencil and paper were available—I had time on my hands . . ? No, that’s not it. I think it has to do with recognition—our fear of obscurity, dying with nothing and never having been anybody. We want to be known after we’re gone, not just a name on a hunk of marble. We want to be loved by more than our lovers and our children.

You know something, there’s always the possibility of rejection in life. But rejection is writing and visa versa. In peddling the written word, there seems to much of, “Not for us,” and not enough of, “Gosh you’re great, I’m going to publish your work.”

Sex and wine are much more satisfying. With these great gifts we win more often. As a great philosopher once said, “Even the worst sex I’ve had was wonderful!”

The quest for getting laid and finding a good vintage is mostly magic. Oh there’s always the possibility of rejection, but the beginning, middle, and ending are much more satisfying, don’t you think?

Saturday, September 10, 2005

The Numbers Game

I love a good mystery. There is nothing that’s more intriguing than a mysterious woman. This is especially true if that woman happens to be powerful. Being a romantic, I’m always excited by those women who hold their heads high and thrust their chest’s out—even if it is a 32A.

Here we all are, all us secret agents with all our little bloggie-poos, informing wannabes about all the rights and wrongs of publishing. I wonder how many more will join this cerebral gush. I can envision a day when we will have a big coming out party. Won’t that be fun? We can serve coffee and cake, beer and pizza, or salsa and chips for the more adventurous.

It’s got to happen, you know. That’s how it works on blogs. You have to have mystery as well as information. People go to car races to see a great wreck. Writers come to blogs to see cat and dog fights. So, fellow agent bloggers, we are going to have to do the spectacular or we’ll fail to be visited.

I say let’s meet and have an tryst and post the pictures. No? Paris Hilton did it. I mean, I’ve been married three times, what the hell? What do you say, Agent 007? Any other takers? How about you Miss Snark? Mad Max?

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Nice Piece!!

Hey, Agent 007!! Saw your Agent/Editor piece on you blog. Impressive and I’m jealous—wish I had thought of it first. Only one thing. Yeah I know, it’s easier to shoot at something that’s already in the pot. But here it is anyway: I find it scary that you would give up a client’s contact information to an editor before the contract. I mean I know he was sexy and all, but that should be all the more reason not to share, shouldn’t it?

I assumed you were independent, but your piece indicated that you were part of a firm. I know the scenario was fictional, or I assumed it so, but wouldn’t it have been more realistic in your natural element—no collogues (none that you can trust anyway)?

But anyway, congrats on a nice piece. Oh speaking of that, I know what you mean by good looks winning the day. Man this happen tres mucho. You can always tell, can’t you, when sex has reeled an editor in? They tend to act goofy and gush when they talk about your client—sickening!!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

With Heavy Heart

My heart goes out to all those in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama who have suffered such great loss during these last few days. Those of us who can afford it should dig deep to help those less fortunate than ourselves. I’m giving mine to the American Red Cross, but I’m sure there are other disaster relief organization to which you can contribute. These folks have nothing, so I’m sure any help will be greatly appreciated.

This disaster will test both our nation’s financial as well as our moral fiber. Hopefully we will survive it.