A Gent's Outlook

A Literary Agent Divulges the TRUTH about Publishing

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Walk Tall and Carry a Big Poster

This post was left by Anonymous:

What I understand is that you don't really understand--you are buried smugly in your own philosophical environment. Yes, the Islamists are going over the top on this Danish cartoon thing (for other reasons than the cartoons themselves, by the way), but the cartoonists and newspapers were dumb as rocks to create and publish them. Anyone who bothered to check (which, apparently, isn't the smug you) would know that use of human images--especially the image of Mohammad--scoots off in a whole new dimension with the Islamists. Carry a poster of Jesus sticking it to John into Jerry Falwell's church and see what the reaction is.

And here is my response…

Maybe YOU don’t really understand, so let me explain. According to Islam, Mohammed is not supposed to be depicted in images—everyone now knows it because of the brouhaha over the cartoons. But that doesn’t mean the subject is off limits to those who don’t believe. A political cartoon expresses an opinion, by the way, and when an opinion is expressed, some people disagree and some don’t. That is freedom of speech and something writers should understand.

Maybe the cartoonist is like the bozo-head writers that I try to discourage and just slapped something on the paper to submit without doing any research, thinking a timely cartoon about the Middle East would really sell (need that publishing credit!), and it did. Great strategy, and a great way to get published. But—surprise!—this artist discovered the major problem of getting his work out there (newbies, take note): When people see your work, they will respond to it—some by sending nice notes, others with death threats. It’s a fifty/fifty risk.

If you did march someone into Jerry F.’s church sporting a poster of Jesus ass-fucking anyone, do you know what is supposed to happen? According to Jesus, and I am paraphrasing here, followers of Christ would turn the other cheek (no pun intended). True Christians are supposed to offer love and support in the face of such offending behavior. Do you know what will happen if you send someone into a church with a poster like that? Screams, shouts, and evangelists buying air time to pray and ask for donations to start a lawsuit, if the perpetrator hasn’t already been caught and summarily executed…things like that. Absolutely no one will miss the opportunity to point out how their religion has been offended and demand that everyone start believing so they can be appeased. Sounds just like publishing. If you don’t tow the party line, you don’t get an invitation to the next shindig. Personally, I like private parties much better anyway.

You know, I put up with Oprah and her dabbles in literature, even though I have done nothing but answer stupid fucking questions since her book club started. I have seen nothing but an increase in inane and worthless books since talk shows became a PR venue. But I don’t riot in front of her offices or send threatening letters.

She’ll probably end up doing a show on how to get published next, and, of course, gather all the usual suspects in the quasi-low levels of writerdom (shhh, don’t tell them, they think they are the gurus…shhhhhh). You know, the lead watch groups and their groupies, the “top” agents (ha ha ha) who spend more time soliciting throught their blogs than working, famous editors (of crappy chick-lit books, cookbooks, memoirs meant to emotionally pander, and the newest teen novel by Mary-Kate and Ashley), not too mention writers who have been on the NYC b-list for the last thousand years for books like The Da Vinci Code, The Purpose-Driven Life, Harry Potter, The Princess Diaries, The South Beach Diet, Confessions of a Video Vixen, the alphabet mysteries with Kinsey Millhone, or any book by Danielle Steele or Nicholas Sparks. And let’s invite James Frey, too, just to make it look like we are forgiving creatures. That’s right, what a show that will be! Oprah perpetuating publishing myths—the blind leading the blind. A true metaphor for the industry today. Yep, get all those fascinating folks in one room and start filming the bullshit.

Then call some Muslims and tell them they’re the ones who drew the cartoons.

Sammy's Whammy

Oh, the irony!

Someone brought to my attention a rather prophetic post I made in September that perhaps James Frey should have read prior to submitting his work as a “memoir”…

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.

Do you need any more proof that I am who I say I am? Plus, I'm psychic!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

You Might Be A Zealot If...

As much as I would like to discuss the quiet passing of the chick-lit TREND, something that would bring me an immense amount of joy, there is another issue that needs to be addressed here. While I am not a political animal by nature, I am into the politics of publishing, and free speech is very important to me. I cannot help but be saddened at the recent events sparked by the newspaper cartoons published by a Danish newspaper that depict the prophet Mohammed in a less than flattering way. These cartoons have enraged those who follow Islam, and there have been riots, calls for the executions of those involved, burning of flags, and lots of other attention-getting behaviors involving shouting, grenades, and governmental political posturing.

Reminds me of working with the major NY houses in a way.

But that’s not what I want to say here. I may appear to be a money-hungry, sex-crazed, chauvinistic, wine-soaked, stubborn, willful, arrogant bastard, which is, in fact, true. Hey, not everyone can be a puss like Brad Pitt. And besides, it makes me a hell of an agent. However, I am relatively tolerant of religion—only God knows why—even though I find that, taken all together, the religions of the world somehow manage to discriminate against just about everybody and everything. But I put up with it, only venting occasionally, just like I put up with wannabe writers.

I put up with religions that cruelly oppress women, who I happen to believe are God’s finest creatures, making them wear burkas, those little white caps, or a shroud of marital compliance devoid of almost all of the remotest sexual pleasure except that which is derived only from the knowledge that reproducing is “God’s plan.” I put up with people who insist that their god is the God, knowing that I don’t buy it for one minute, but hoping that I will be embarrassed enough to nod and agree because we are in public—just like the writer who corners me at a conference and won’t let me leave until I say this his idea is the most unique I have ever heard. I put up with people constantly celebrating the oppression, repression, and eventual freedom of their religious group. I put up with listening to people declare that their religion is a peaceful religion and that those who commit atrocities like bombing abortion clinics and flying planes into buildings are on the “fringes,” even though these same people support the death penalty and war, the murdering of people who break their laws even though those people are not of their religion, and don’t speak out against violence/prejudices in their groups even when asked about it. And I put up with nice little old men who live a peaceful life but must cleanse themselves if they are ever touched by a woman.

Are you tired of this bullshit yet?

I am. Here is how is it supposed to work: You can have your religion, but it does not allow you to kill or hurt those who don’t follow your belief system or censor what they have to say about it. Governments don’t have to censor what their citizens say about your fantasy world, because everyone has a right to his opinion. Everyone has a right to his own fantasy, too. Some include deities, others sacred books, and some include rituals involving peyote. Also, keep in mind that screaming and yelling and killing those who have so heartily offended you makes you look sort of cartoonish and just like the stereotypes people have of you.

Do you wannabes see the connection yet?

How many of you have blasted an agent because he didn’t want to see your work or rejected it? How many of you show your asses when an agent or editor rejects your work, becoming the epitome of the awful wannabe all of us have in our heads? How many of your have sent nasty e-mails chastising one of us for being part of the system that won’t let you in? For supporting the publication of garbage when we despise it, too? What about throwing the term “elitist” in our faces? How many of you have done that recently?

Some of the worst offenders here are certain news organizations and governments who refuse to show the cartoons because “they respect the religion.” How’s that again? Respect people who cause riots and call for the slayings of other humans because of someone’s opinion they don’t agree with? That sounds suspiciously solicitous to me, and you all know how I hate solicitous folks. Sounds, too, like the wannabe writer and their watch group friends, who immediately attack and disparage anyone with an opinion or idea that doesn’t benefit them. See why I discourage wannabes? The mindset is the same; the rage and vindictiveness is just as real. And the damage to the global order is just as devastating.

Do you understand now why I don’t like the solicitous literary people feeding off of wannabe power, like politicians trying to appease those who are obviously more bent on harshly beating down opposition to their ideas than tolerating those who think differently? Tolerance doesn’t mean you like someone; it means you don’t agree with the way they do things, but you don’t kill them so you don’t have to put up with them. If that were the case, many editors I know would be in BIG trouble.

My philosophy toward the events of the past few weeks is the same: Someone needs to tell these protesters who are so out for blood that, sorry if you’re feelings are hurt, but you don’t get to kill someone to appease your religious zealotry (and, yes, when somewhere in your religious tenets it says killing the opposition is okay, you are officially a religious zealot). This is the 21st century, and your religion and writing careers have their place.

And it isn’t in my face.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Marley's Special Spot

It's been a while, but heeeeeeere's Marley...

Jesus fucking Christ, people! What the fuck is going on? I’m not talking about James Fray or Free or Frey or what goddamn-ever. That was too hilarious--outsiders actually figuring out that publishing is nothing except a business where publishers take your money and give you little or nothing in return. And they don’t care. No, I am talking about something that is actually important: A sudden, sickening wave of worship for Judy Blume, children’s writer extraordinaire. Or so some say.

Perhaps you have figured out that I don’t say, because I can’t stand Judy Blume’s books, and the dweeby freaks who think she is the end all are really scary. Unfortunately, most of them are children’s editors. In one week I read that some chick-lit hack is going to write some homage to JB in a short story collection or some ridiculous thing (hey, when you’re published, you can write anything), and a book review--long-winded and no cuss words--by a woman who used every Judy Blume book she had read to rag on a book by Simon Pulse called Rainbow Party. Granted, this book needed plenty of ragging on (instead of getting a rainbow on your penis from seven girls with seven different lipsticks, why not get one girl, seven lipsticks, and a paper towel? Logistics, people, logistics!), but the theme of the review led me to believe that this woman was brought into womanhood by JB’s books. What? You had to read Judy Blume to get through puberty? You folks who can’t get published in the kiddie lit world now have your answer. The reason you can’t get “in” is because the editors who review your work were all weaned on this pre-yuppie, post-hippie “it’s all about me and getting my period” bullshit.

Oh, I know. Some of you are already tsking and shaking your heads. Hell, if I took on Poe and Hemingway, why wouldn’t I take on Blume? Come on, people. Have you read Are You There, God, It’s Me, Margaret? Have you? You know what I came away from that book with? The feeling that it must be nice to be able to turn in a letter instead of the major school project that was assigned and get by with it because you were so confused about growing up. Huh? The book Forever is even better. Comprised of 20,000 pages, in which the dirty parts are really hard to find and way too brief to be of any value to a hormonal teen, this book, according to the reviewer I mentioned, frankly discussed issues of the day about sex. Do you know what I remember about this book? The girl was always thinking about sex, even more than me, and she was a slut. Maybe it’s because I skimmed through it looking for the sex scenes, something from which I could have drawn some real inspiration, but at the time I remember thinking this chick didn’t need frank discussions, she needed a hobby that didn’t involving anything resembling the male reproductive organ.

You know what is worse? Some of the editors my friends deal with reference these books. They grew up with them. These books made them laugh. They made them cry. They made me cry, too. You want to know why? Because I wanted a real story to read. Something so fantastic that it was real. I didn’t need Deenie and her special spot and stupid back brace or a book to make me feel better about being fat or thin or the new kid or freckled or whatever. I needed a fucking story, not a story about fucking (although I never would rule that completely out as a plot point). What did I get? Feel good, didactic crap. Want a good book for your kid? Try E.L. Konigsburg. Try Nancy Drew, which is one of the most poorly written series I can think of, but by God, something is going on besides Nancy finding herself or worrying about getting her period (Thank God Carolyn Keene thought to add Ned).

Finally, keep in mind that editors who read Judy Blume acquire books that millions of people will read. Now does all the strife in the world make sense?

I thought it would.

Fuck you,

Kiwi Pigfucker Tells All

I can think of nothing more vile than agents who are not only solicitous, but who ply their trade on writer forums that charge a fee.

Am I dreaming?

Some guy e-mails me about this forum, so I check it out. Sure enough, there are agents on there dispensing advice. The problem is that it is members only, and the membership comes at a price. Where are the watch groups screaming “scam”? Where are the writers screaming for justice? Nowhere. They are all on a brainwashed vacation. How is it okay for a writer forum run by some unknown twit to charge a fee, but agents who actually provide a service can’t? How is it okay for a self-proclaimed watchdog to donate money to a writer forum and not be questioned?

It is official—the world has gone mad.

I wouldn’t be so outraged except that the agents on the forum I checked out are supposed to be legitimate agents—hell, I KNOW some of them are legit—yet they give voice in an arena that profits from the ignorance of writers. And yet I get hate mail because I charge an exorbitant reading fee, mainly to keep the lowlifes from querying me. Where in the hell are the editors and agents who really know how the publishing world works? Why isn’t someone saying anything besides me? Why are there now all these agent and editor blogs using their real names and answering writer questions (for goddamn free) when they know the truth about our industry?

I will tell you why: If writers really knew how the publishing world worked, they would not pay for memberships to writer organizations, magazines, or online services who claim to have the “keys to getting published.” Nor would they listen to agents who, for God knows what reason, offer free advice to millions of writers, one of which will get published in the next decade. Ninety-nine percent of this writer-centered crap is bullshit; there are no “keys to getting published” any more than there are keys to curing cancer or world peace. Getting published is a complex series of events that involves strategic preparation and a great deal of luck. And let’s not forget that tiny little thing that puts you over the top—talent (although no one has ever called my “talent” tiny!), There are things you can do to prepare yourself for success in the publishing field, and there are things you can do to up the odds of getting published, but anyone who charges you money for what I am about to give you for free--just to shut up the wannabes--is full of shit. Here is exactly what you need to know to get published…

1) Learn how to write in your area
2) If you are talented, you should keep trying.

Other than that, there aren’t any “keys to publishing.” The books and magazines are a waste of fucking money that will tell you things writers should already know. For instance, you only need ONE example of how to write a query letter (it’s a fucking business letter—the standard for which is now taught in high school, probably elementary school). Also, what is a novel? Don’t know the answer? THEN DON”T TRY TO WRITE ONE! Writer magazines have published the same 12 articles over and over for the past 50 years…and no one seems to get it. Wake the fuck up! Don’t just read the articles and books with titles that have “how to get published” in them.

And for God’s sake, quit getting excited over little things that mean dick. I keep getting e-mails from dimwits chastising me and blathering about how close they are to getting published because they are getting personal letters from editors and agents. Or because they have an agent who just sold Milo Pigfucker’s celebrity tell-all, which was written by his chihuahua Kiwi, and their book is bound to sell, too. I have said this before, and I will say it again: There is no “almost” in publishing. You are either published or not published. Have a signed contract in your hand from Random House? Great, now you can get excited. And enjoy that twenty seconds of excitement, because before the ink is even dry, you will be working your ass off doing revisions.

Welcome to the real publishing world.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Dog Days

Well, well, well…

Sammy bows out for just a minute, and all kinds of things happen. I have been away from my blog for too long, but at least I was selling books. Sammy needs to vent, and, like a teenager who will hump a bike rack, I will take the opportunity to feel a release no matter how far removed from the real thing it is.

For example, I read on CNN today that drug smugglers are cutting open puppies and implanting liquid heroin in their furry little tummies as a smuggling technique. Am I the only one who immediately thought about reporting these fucking halfwits to PETA? Do you have any idea what those folks will do to them? These are people who can bypass security to get close enough to celebrities to toss fake blood (or maybe it’s real, who the fuck knows?) on them, so they can certainly hunt down and torture stupid fucks who use puppies—puppies!—to smuggle drugs. Say what you will about me, but I have never used a puppy to sell a book, or even get a date.

However, I bet at this very moment, some wannabe somewhere is already plotting to use a cute little puppy to get an editor's attention. I have, in the past, been sent pictures of dogs, cats, parrots, kids, and one time something that was possibly supposed to be a sketch of a naked woman, although with the glitter on the paper, it was hard to tell. Sending pictures of yourself or your family members, no matter how furry they are, only aggravates and irritates agents and editors. What are we supposed to do with these keepsakes, put them in a photo album? I'll tell you what I do, I pick a name out of the phone book, tuck those fuckers in an envelope, and mail away.

On second thought and back to my original idea, don't call PETA, call the soccer moms Marley always bitches about. These were Labrador puppies, considered the most adorable in yuppydom, and I have a feeling that Mrs. P.W. Jones, III, is not going to stand for any relative of her family pet being abused. Go get ‘em, you minivan ho's!

And then there is the death of chick lit. A bump in the literary road, but worth a mention nonetheless. Raise your hand if you didn't see that coming. I can't help myself, so that subject gets its very own post soon. Very soon, after I wipe the grin off of my face.