A Gent's Outlook

A Literary Agent Divulges the TRUTH about Publishing

Saturday, March 11, 2006

A Few of My Own Million Little Pieces

Well, Marley sure struck a note with her blast against the English teaching population, and I’d have to say that I agree with her. Looking back, my all-time favorite English teacher, we will call her Ms. Z, couldn’t write shit, but, man, could she…oh, never mind.

Anyway, I have been getting bitch notes about how I don’t post very often. My pathetic excuse is that I have been selling books, and that I haven’t become enraged over anything recently. Remember, this is not a blog to engage in discussion, analyze the world, or any of that inane shit. It is my vent place. I vent when I need to and don’t when I don’t. BUUUUUT, I can’t be angry every day, especially on a day when I had a very nice fantasy about Ms. Z, courtesy of Marley bringing up high school English, so I thought I would post these excerpts from letters I get from all kinds of yahoos in the publishing business (and not) until I get good and pissed about something. I am sure it won’t take much longer.

Here we go…

From an editor at a small publishing house…
You would not believe the things writers try to pull on me, and when I call them on it, they spit back at me that I am a small publisher pretending to be a big one. For God’s sake, everyone knows I’m small—it’s posted everywhere! But the point is that these people don’t research and then lie—they will say ANYTHING to get me to look at their work. The problem is, I also do freelance stuff for other houses, and I see how the same queries get changed to impress the editors there. One book went from being a psychological thriller to being an edgy cozy. THESE ARE NOT THE SAME THINGS! This writer would have called his book a fairytale if he thought that’s what I was acquiring at the time. These people are either really dumb or just plain liars. And they get on me when I reject them like I hid the fact that I’m small potatoes. Geesh!

From a published writer…
I have been a writer for many years now, and it is so sad to see how things have changed. The agent witchhunts and writer-to-publisher meanness are just plain unnecessary, and the saddest part is the quality of the writing and editing I see has gone to shit. Maybe mine has, too. I hope not, because I have really enjoyed writing for my fans. This other stuff is so nasty and spiteful anymore! How do you stand it?

From a writer (who did not designate whether he was published or not, but I’m guessing not)…
This whole system is fucked up. I mean really fucked up. When I first started looking into getting my novel published, I couldn’t believe how ridiculous the whole process is. Who ARE these people who pick books? What qualifies them to tell me I don’t have something that people might want to read? How the hell did James Frey get published? Who thought his crap was worthy, when there are literally hundreds of memoirs out there just like his? How was his supposed to stand out? I get told I need to write something original, then all I see is the same old stuff about being addicted to shit. Everyone is addicted to something. Hell, I’m addicted to writing, but that doesn’t seem to be dramatic enough. Maybe if I get caught disturbing the peace by reading my novel in the middle of rush hour in NYC I can write about it and get a deal with Random House. What about that, Sammy?

From an editor…
I had a writer just send me an excerpt of something I had written in an article, trying to throw it in my face for rejecting him. “Well,” he said, “you said wanted such-and-such, and that’s what I sent you!” First, just because I want mysteries and you send me one doesn’t mean that I am going to offer on it. It has to be the right kind of mystery. Secondly, he misread what I had written, even though he took all the trouble to copy and paste it and send it to me, explaining how I was a hypocrite. All that effort and he completely misunderstood me. Like I am going to take this jerk on? Come on, what do writers expect?

From an agent…
You’re a little nuts, Sammy, and if you are who I think you are, I’m not surprised. However, I like that about you. I like that you are venting some of the things I want to yell at writers but avoid doing so because I guess I just don’t like being not liked. It drives me nuts when I see a rejection of mine posted on some writer board and people try to interpret what I said or make fun of me or say how I am not a “big” agent (I’m not? My editors at the majors think I am!) so what do I matter? I think I am a little solicitous, although I really don’t need more clients, I just don’t want to shut off the flow of queries in case one of my current clients dies or decides he’s had enough bullshit. I’ll tell you, though, sometimes I want to scream at these people. Who do they think they are? Why does everyone think that THEIR story is so important? If I get one more nonfiction from someone who survived child abuse or sexual molest, I will get sick. If you really want to get that story, which is like millions of other stories, out there “to help others going through the same thing” (yeah, right), get a blog or website or something and leave me the heck alone!

From an editor…
Do these writers have any idea how hard it is to actually publish and distribute a book? Do they? I am so pissed at one of my writers right now! I worked fucking hard on his book to make it the best it could be, and I told him that he would have to market it or it would tank. So he markets the hell out of it, and they start selling. Then he gets his royalty check and is disappointed in the low amount. I told him that it would be much higher next time, but he gets discouraged and quits marketing the book because he “wasn’t getting anything substantial” for it. Is he kidding? I put a lot of work and money into his damn book, and he just gets it into his head that the amount of royalty he is getting isn’t high enough and let his own book fail. He forgot that he got a nice advance and that his royalties paid off that advance and he still had some left over. In this business, that is amazing, but he had this delusion about how he should be rich by now. A bunch of his writer pals told him he should have made more, based on their valuable expertise—as what I don’t know. Asshole! I almost lost my ass because of him. I am so sick of pathetic writers. If I could write my own books, I would!

From a writer…(Sorry, I just had to include this one.)
Your a godam ideot, Sammy. You are probably some stupid writer who can not get lade. Ideot!

There's more, but I've gotta run.

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