A Gent's Outlook

A Literary Agent Divulges the TRUTH about Publishing

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

No Means No

Thanks, Naomi Gluckstein, for your response to my rant. I am glad you brought this up. Brought what up, you might ask? Well, in Naomi’s comment, she mentioned the following:

“the big rejection, despite, quote: well drawn characters; excellent dialogue, fast moving, good plotting. Ho hum. What was wrong with it, er, well, I had two heros and two heroines... major and minor. Perhaps it was guilt, but they asked to see my second manuscript - not quite so long to wait this time, only 18 months. Then the famous email: good dialogue, well drawn characters but pace a bit slow. And that was it.”

At this point, I want to point out something that many writers snivel about--not that you are sniveling, Naomi, but your comment brought this to my mind and I had to post on it—and that is what those rejections really mean. Agent 007 did a post on this, but let me reiterate my position on rejections: If an editor or agent is truly interested in your stuff, he/she will offer a contract, offer representation, or ask for a revision. Otherwise, that rejection note means just that—your work is rejected. It wouldn’t matter how many heroes you had; that can be revised. All of the items mentioned could be revised. If there is no offer for revision, then there is no interest…period. I have seen many writers who hold onto their rejection letters like they are scraps of gold. No means no, so move on to the next victim, er, agent.

I know some folks like to say, well, you are getting closer because you are getting hand-written notes or personal rejections. Bullshit. Keep in mind that most editors’ lists are full, and in order to get on one, your shit has to outdick all the others on the list. Remember this, all—in this biz, your work is either accepted or rejected. There is no middle ground here--no almost--only desperate writers eager for some kind of encouragement who are trying to decipher a code that doesn’t exist in a letter designed to do one thing and one thing only: Say “No.”

Monday, November 28, 2005

How Sammy Dares

I'm in the mood to rant...and so I will! Mondays after a holiday are hell.

I had a writer berate me the other day, after I’d rejected her, that she had invested a year writing her novel, so how dare I call it a piece of crap? HOW DARE I?!? Let me shout so all of you can finally understand how I DARE. Writing, dear wannabes, is merely a hobby until you finally get someone to invest their money in publishing your crap. Until then I, being a PAID professional, can DARE tell you to FUCK OFF and get away with it.

Case in point: A golfer is just a golfer—a duffer, if you will—until he is good enough to turn pro and, even then, that golfer is still not considered a real pro until he places in the money in competition with his peers. Okay, I hear you. It’s unfair that Sammy compares golfing, a sport, with writing, an art. Okay, wri-tahs, let’s use dancing as an example--that is if you agree that dancing is an art form. How long does a person need to fork over hard cash for training before she starts making money at dancing—days, months, years? Probably years, right? If ever? Even then, after years of practice, how many dancers become prima ballerinas? Maybe one in a million…maybe.

So you decided you want to be a writer. Most wannabes of the variety of which I speak decided in their 40’s because it seems all wannabes get that gleam in their eye about this age. With no novelist training, you picked up your pencil and began. In most cases, most of you who receive rejection from me had no coaching, no schooling, no practice—no fucking anything. You sit your ass behind a computer keyboard and have the nerve to suddenly declare yourself a professional writer.

There’s miles and miles between whacking a ball and being a professional baseball player, and there's miles and miles between dumping ink on a page and being a writer. It takes talent, first of all, and years of practice, persistence, performance, and being pissed upon. You don’t just dash off ninety thousand words and declare yourself a professional novelist. So don’t tell me, “How could I dare?” Who are you? Your job is to know who YOU are and YOUR standing in a profession YOU hope to aspire to. As far as I’m concerned, until you are professionally published and have readers flocking to bookstores panting for your next novel, you are a fucking wannabe.

God, I hate the holidays!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Sammy's Turkey Day Wishes

What I won't do for a little holiday lovin'! I didn't even think about posting a Turkey Day message until my lovely bedmate rolled over and said, "Hey, is this your vibrator or mine?" And then it hit me--the idea, not the vibrator--I forgot to post a T-Day massage, er, message.

Well, Gorgeous notices my scowl of concentration and asks what's wrong. When I explain, carefully referring to my bloggy-poo here as my "web site," Lovely refused me any more nook until I got up and posted this. She isn't anything if not conscientious, thoughtful, and really hard to resist when she uses them honey-flavored body oils.

So, here is Sammy's official Thanksgiving Day post:

I hope everyone has a great fuckin' holiday and great holiday fuckin'! Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Free Advice (which means it is worth nothing)

Tambo posted this question on Anti-Plot Writers Rant:

Thanks for the post!I have a somewhat related question about pitches, if that's okay. I'm about to turn in my third novel with a major publisher (to complete my contract) and they've requested five or six more concepts to be pitched this spring. I don't pre-plot. How would you suggest an intuitive writer create a pitch package for several books when, other than loose "I'm thinking something sort of like this..." there's nothing to actually show?Just curious...

Sammy’s answer:

I don' t know that publishers would want that many ideas from an author--I have never had anyone ask for that--but what the hell, I'll play along.

Of course you pre-plot. It’s just not called a pre-plot but a story idea. Books don’t come out of thin air. They appear as thought germs that become “what-ifs” and “but, what-ifs,” which become questions and more questions and more questions until there is a story. Stories might be character-driven or plot-driven, but they are stories nonetheless.

The character/characters should always determine directions the story might take. If you let plot drive your characters, you will have a story that is forced, dumb, and unreal. This is what I was raving about, not just plotting in general. There is this idea out there, probably from MFA schools, that you get a plot board, map out the story, then insert your characters. In real writing, the kind gifted writers get involved in, plot is a loose idea. The story might go the way the story idea was originally formulated, but characters always must be given free reign to determine how the story will eventually go. Situations created by the author are acted out by his or her characters. There is no script. In a properly written story, the characters are free to act as they will. They may do one thing or another; this is the joy of writing fiction. The author watches and records the story as his or her characters act it out.

So, in your pitch, summarize five or six story ideas. You can flesh these out by injecting characters into them and begin by creating a life change (conflict) in the path of each character. Now envision how each character in each given scenario will react and try to resolve (try to move things back to normal) the presented dilemma in each given situation. This is how you present it; however, your finished story will probably never be the one you present.

For your purposes, you don’t have to go too far. You only have to think up five or six stories. For instance, two normally honest people rob a bank then find out they were programmed to do this by some unseen force (science fiction). A woman’s life is shattered when she falls in love with her first cousin, then later learns that he was adopted (love story). A woman flees from an abusive relationship only to find that her husband is stalking her with the intent to kill her (suspense). These examples are corny and have been done a thousand times, but, hopefully, you get the general idea. Flesh can be added to these story skeletons as needed for your proposal.

The other option is write five or six novels before spring--you get to pick.

Hey, look Ma, no expletives!

Monday, November 21, 2005

What Happens When Sammy Doesn't Get Laid

I will tell you what happens: He spends the weekend beating his keyboard to respond to comments. Here is the first of many to come...

Dave Kuzminski wrote...Interesting remarks. I noticed that you didn't mention that one of the major problems in the industry is that any schmuck can start a site with the intention of scamming writers.I agree that one of the major problems in the industry is that any schmuck can start a site to help writers as you and I are clearly trying to do. But if we don't, then who? There is no federal agency riding herd. We can't rely upon state attorney generals. That leaves us, doesn't it?

Yes, Dave, and any schmuck can also become a fucking watchdog or start a porn site (not that I have, mind you, Wife #3 wouldn’t go for it…bitch). As far as helping writers, that’s not my purpose as anyone who has read my blog knows. My purpose here is to vent. Besides, many of the writers who read either of our sites are, as far as I’m concerned, beyond help.

As far as federal agencies and state attorney generals riding herd, who cares? They get paid for such things, and apparently they don’t see a problem. If you keep doing their job for free, why should they even bother with it? Maybe they are tracking down people like Ken Lay and his buddies, or maybe they are busy protecting their covert identities in case Dick Cheney/Karl Rove (Honestly, have you ever seen them in the same place at the same time? Have you?) decides he doesn’t like them. Most of the scammers you identify are small potatoes compared to the filthy pigs who scam for a living raking billions off of people through identity theft, corporate fraud, money laundering, insider trading and other scams people can’t avoid or have no control over.

The federal authorities don’t have a lot of time to deal with people who get scammed because they let their need to be someone special overrule their common sense. I would much rather my tax dollars pay to rescue someone’s little girl from the clutches of a dirtbag than to have some egotistical, sniveling writer who should have known better get his/her $200 back. I know what you are going to say, and it is true…I am way more full of expletives than sympathy.

That’s Sammy, baby.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

WRITER SANITY TEST

I just created this unique visual sanity test for writers, watchgroups and solicitous agents—you know who you are. Read the following two paragraphs below, and then, on a separate sheet of paper, summarize what you see.

FEES FEES FEES FEES FEES FEES FEES FEES. FEES FEES, FEES FEES-FEES FEES. FEES FEES FEES. FEES FEES FEES FEES FEES FEES? FEES FEES FEES FEES FEES. FEES FEES FEES, FEES FEES FEES FEES FEES FEES FEES FEES. FEES FEES FEES? FEES FEES FEES FEES FEES FEES FEES FEES. FEES FEES, FEES FEES-FEES FEES. FEES FEES FEES. FEES FEES FEES FEES FEES FEES? FEES FEES FEES FEES FEES. FEES FEES FEES, FEES FEES FEES FEES FEES FEES FEES FEES. FEES FEES FEES?

FEES FEES FEES FEES FEES FEES FEES FEES. FEES FEES, FEES FEES-FEES FEES. FEES FEES FEES. FEES FEES FEES FEES FEES FEES? FEES FEES FEES FEES FEES. FEES FEES FEES, FEES FEES FEES FEES FEES FEES FEES FEES. FEES FEES FEES? FEES FEES FEES FEES FEES FEES FEES FEES. FEES FEES, FEES FEES-FEES FEES. FEES FEES FEES. FEES FEES FEES FEES FEES FEES? FEES FEES FEES FEES FEES. FEES FEES FEES, FEES FEES FEES FEES FEES FEES FEES FEES. FEES FEES FEES.

The answer will be in a future post. Happy testing!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Anyone for Some Smoked Snark?

As usual, some dweebie newbie e-mailed me when he saw a recent post on Ms. Snark's blog and asked my opinion. Of course, I am so shy about offering it that I...oh, hell, let's get on with it, shall we?

In short, I was shocked by what you said, Snarky-poo. Do writers really believe that dog-dung you generate? You sound so outraged that agents should even think about recouping their money that I’m sure by now that you must be a writer, not an agent. You certainly had me fooled though—for awhile. Either that or you are very, very confused.

There are only a couple of agents I know who are this adamant about fees, and they are new agents hungry for clients. Solicitous agents let's call them. For most agents, this is a non-question: So what? What’s it to you?Who cares? The only agents that care one way or the other are those who are hungry and hope to solicit and harvest some newbies, so they coddle them. Established agents don’t even consider this worth wondering about. They bill their clients, most of whom are published authors, and published authors could care less if the stupid charges are up front or in the back or not at all. What a professional cares about is if her damned manuscript is going to make it to the right editor at the right time and if the damned mistakes on the royalty statements are being attended to. That’s about it. Only the newbie writer worries him or herself sick about how they are going to screw an agent out of money. If I have said it once, I have said it a thousand times: Writers are cheap and expect everything for nothing. They want an agent to do all their work for them and give them a free ride on top of that. How well does that work? Ask a hooker about free rides and see how far you get.

Agenting is a business, my friends, not a charity. Publishers do not exist to publish your books and give you an avenue to have a glorious career--they have to make money and so do agents. Don't give me that shit about, "Well, if the agent works hard enough, the large advance he gets will pay him for his work and for all expenses incurred for the joy and glory of handling my novel and being a part of my greatness." Fuck you, your greatness, and the little bitty horsey your greatness rode in on.

So, dear Snarkalina, you are undoubtedly a writer--a knowledgeable one, granted--but a writer wannabe is a wannabe nonetheless.

A horse is a horse, of course...

Of course!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Let Your Binky Go (or How to Pass Up a Blowjob and Get Happily Published)

There comes a time when a child must leave his pacifier and blanky behind. The same is true of writers and their critique groups.

Critique groups are a poor man’s professional editor. I understand that finding and paying for a real professional editor can be time-consuming and a possibly painful experience, but there is no shortcutting the necessity for competent editorial review. If you, as a writer, want to be published, you are going to have to make some sort of sacrifice in the name of growing beyond the ordinary and comfortable.

In the real world, as it normally happens, agents and publishing house editors are constantly bombarded with comments like, “I’ll run this by my critique group and get back to you.” New writers are even being so bold as to take their critique group members’ advice over that of their agent’s. This I one of the best ways I know of to lose representation.

Who the fuck do you have in your critique group? Stephen King? Nora Roberts? Patricia Cornwell? Most critique groups are comprised of two kinds of people—the power-hungry and the emotionally needy. Talk about a match made in hell… I have never understood the mentality of a published, successful writer who goes back to become the diva of a critique group. Where does she get the time? Why are you training your competition? The answer: Feeling like the adored and powerful leader of group of people who would be lost without you has its own rewards.

Critique groups are fine for the beginner. However, when your writing reaches the point where you are seeking a literary agent, you should be beyond the need for critique groups and their moral support. At this point in your writing career, critique groups should only be used as confidence builders to get you to the query stage, not as writing mentors. I have had an agent friend (yes, I have friends, and some I don’t even sleep with) who have dumped clients because the writer argued some bullshit about how his critique group loved his book. The agent, he thought, was being too harsh on his novel. Then, after threats and a lot of screeching, the writer finally revised and the book sold. Unfortunately, the dumbfuck took the contract to his critique group, and they advised he hold out for some piddly-diddly fucking thing. My friend was half-insane and furious, and told him to fuck off after the editor ran screaming the other direction—those fragile souls can only take so much..

Why do wannabe writers go to other wannabe writers for advice on getting published or editing their books? Go to a professional—not a scammer, but an industry professional who can offer truly helpful feedback. That means you have to research and research and maybe save up by forgoing a blowjob or two at the local International Festival, but, I guarantee that it is worth it. Besides, trust me, the blowjobs from Slovenia aren’t worth the $15.

Anti-Plot Writers Rant

The other day I was walking and listening to the birds sing. It’s Indian summer, you know. Then I got to thinking: What makes this business go ‘round?

I’m always thinking business because I’m a business man. But I’d just once like to think about plain old-fashioned writing, the kind I fell in love with when I was a kid. What happened to that?The hero wore a white hat and always won in the end. The cattle got to market; the detective solved the case; the runner, against all odds, won in the race. Simple. End resolved. What is all this stuff about the anti-hero winning? That jerk-off never won anything and all of a sudden he or she is the hero. What’s happening?

Well, it’s like this, dear writers. There are only so many plots. Let’s talk about this for a moment. Do you believe in destiny? Do you think that there are those who should do one thing or another and this is somehow programmed into their genes (spelled genes, as opposed to jeans)? There are many who think that anyone can write, and many entities out there that sell an awful lot of how-to books to writers desparate to believe they, too, are born with the gift. Writing ability doesn't come from a book.

I’m of the belief that, yes, anyone can write, but then there are those, who, through no visible effort, seem to be able to write circles around everyone else. Let’s, for the fun of it, call it a natural ability, shall we? These blessed few seem to get anything they write published and the rest of you, those not blessed with the writer gene, are extremely jealous. So someone devised a thing called plot. Now, supposedly, there are only so many plots that have ever been discovered and even this is in disagreement (scholars seem to disagree a lot). I’ve heard this expressed by at least five schools on creative writing. If writing well is a not, after all, a learned ability, then how do we make loads of money teaching lunk-heads to write?

But if writing is a natural ability, then that means that only certain people will be writers, right? Isn’t that pure discrimination? Well, I guess. If you can purify discrimination. But there are those who have the ability, and that’s that. Can you accept that fact? You and I know it, don’t we? I, at least, know this because I deal in such things. I know this is going to get me in trouble with those writers who love to plot their books, but I’m going to say it anyway...

“Natural-born writers don’t need a plot to write.”

There, damn it, I’ve said it. Plot-writers suck. Plot is a crutch for people who don’t have a natural ability. Plot can be taught, but natural ability cannot.

End of Plot Rant

The Blue and the Gray Come Out

So, are we going to remain anonymous forever? Okay, well, I am, but you ladies WANT to come out, don’t you? I think many folks by now have figured out it isn’t an East/West coast thing as much as a North/South thing, isn’t it, Peaches? I just love that girl-on-girl action!

I know how you feel, you know. I grew up in a family that was half homosexual and half heterosexual. My father was a perceptive, kind man who stayed with my mother until her passing, but after that he came out. He had been gay and lived a lie so that he could raise his family without worrying about repercussions against us for his sexual orientation. This was way back when gays were still arrested for just being alive. Then, in his later years, he met a man and they made up for lost time, soulmates until he passed away himself. My point in all this? At some time, I had to break the news to him that I was straight, and semi-, okay, full-on, promiscuous. Remember, this is a man I loved dearly who taught me everything I know about being human and everything that goes with it, and I didn’t want to disappoint him. But he wasn’t disappointed in me as I was, just disappointed that I ever felt I had to hide anything from him. He knew how awful that was, and so I sometimes wonder about exposing myself. I mean my identity, you heathens, not my body. Get your minds out of the gutter.

Anyway, I figure by now that Peaches and Cream are just chomping at the bit to come out, to say what they say without all the cloak and dagger bullshit. To be taken seriously and get credit for those nuggets wisdom so lovingly heaped upon writerdom. I, on the other hand, have never been taken seriously in my life, which only made it more satifying when I dropped in on my high school reunion a few years back and slept with the wife of the guy who fucked my prom date three days before the big night. So, who wants to come out and play?

Ladies first.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

I Am Drunk

I am drunk. Really. I just spent a nice evening fondling a lovely lady who writes nonfiction of the type that I don’t handle, and we dipped into the love ambrosia to the tune of a couple hundred bucks…which means I am drunk. Unfortunately for her, even though I am drunk, I had the sense enough to tell her I don’t handle her kind of shit, which I believe I had made clear weeks before our “date.” All evening she kept talking about her book. I thought she really liked the ol’ Samster. Apparently, the lovely darling only heard what she wanted to hear, and she really thought she could get me drunk enough to take on her work, and not just her. I don’t think I have ever been that plastered in my entire life.

So, yet again, Sammy-boy gets scammed by a writer who will do anything to get published. Luckily, I have friends in close places, so I am not going to waste the rest of the good bottle of vino I plundered from the restaurant. I called an old friend who is on her way over right now to share it with me, along with some carnal bliss, which I could use. It helps me forget how much my industry has disintegrated into a bunch of conniving, unpleasant, do-anything-to-get-what-I-want cretins. It helps me get past the fact that every day I realize there are fewer and fewer real writers and editors and more and more people who want to call themselves those names but don’t want to put the work into it. How did we get to this point? Everyone wants to get rich in one generation.

And you know the sad thing? Our entire culture has turned to shit because of it. People actually think it is okay to screw someone over because it is their right to climb higher on the food chain. I may be a complete asshole, but I haven’t ever deluded myself into believing that I “deserve” the good things that come my way any more than the bozo sitting next to me in the limo. But what do I know? I am just a drunk, babbling literary agent who is about to get laid by one of his ex-wives.

Speaking of which, she is a-knockin’ at my door right now. Have a nice one.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Work for Hire

Poor Marley needs to vent...SK

Jesus fucking Christ, people! Do you really think that I work for YOU? Are you fucking kidding me? Let’s get this straight: I work on commission, and I select the people I work with based on whether we can form a MUTUALLY beneficial relationship. I don’t work on projects where I can’t get a commission, and you shouldn’t work with an agent who can’t get you results. I DO NOT work for you, you lameasses. God, how arrogant is that? Do I go around spouting off about “my writers”? No, you are my clients…no more, no less. And I am your agent. Not your servant or your momma. And you don’t own me, and you sure as hell can’t fire me. You might go to another agent, but even johns frequent different hookers once in a while. It’s the nature of the business. No boo-hoos here.

Why am I ranting? Because I just told a client to fuck off, that’s why. And her response? “You’re fired!” ala The Donald. Why did I dissolve our relationship? Well, regardless of what bitchface says, it had to do with the following bullshit:

When I ask for a revision, I want a goddamn revision. No arguments here. I don’t ask clients to work if I don’t think it will benefit us both. Stephen King revises. Nora Roberts revises. And if you are my client, you better goddamn revise!

I don’t want to hear about what your critique group, writers workshop, or some geek mentor says about your goddamn book. What I say is important. Nobody else’s opinion counts. I am the one talking with editors who might buy your book, or did you forget that?

If said geek mentor wants to put his name on your work and send it out, then go with what geek mentor says. Otherwise, he can go fuck himself. My reputation rests on what I send out, and if I say your second novel sucks, it sucks. Don’t argue using some geek mentor’s comments. Remember, I got you fucking published in the first goddamn place.

Jesus Christ, people! Do you even realize how agents and writers are really supposed to work together, or are you so caught up in your own fucking egos so far that it’s made you braindead?

Fuck you, and fuck bitchface,
Marley