A Gent's Outlook

A Literary Agent Divulges the TRUTH about Publishing

Friday, April 28, 2006

The Book of Literary Revelations

Oh God, this is too funny! Just call me Timely Sammy! Have you heard? The publishing industry is going down the tubes…really fast. Oh wait, have I said that before? Maybe I might have. No matter. Sammy, yet again, has hit the nail in the coffin right on its pwetty wittle head.

God, I hate chick-lit.

But first a word about those lousy-ass writahs who set themselves up as goo-roos and watch puppies (yes, you’ve been downgraded—not since Condoleeza Rice and that pesky 9/11 oversight has a watchdog fucked up so badly) and the wannabe minions who praise them and keep them in power (and, of course, the same pathetic wanna-wannas whom I always bitch about): WHOOPS! Yes, the word is WHOOPS! That’s what you all should be saying right now. Just like I’ve said before, while all you hacknits are rolling around mired in the quicksand of your own soul-sucking desperation, distracted by ego-boosting muck-raking and mutual warm and feely sharing sessions, real publishing is going on right under your noses, and you have completely missed it.

I don’t see any watch puppies shredding major publishers or editors, and rarely do they say anything about anyone in NYC or LA, where we now have the new HollyWORD crowd firmly entrenched because NOBODY was paying attention (or was hoping for a movie deal for themselves). No, the focus is always on bullshit: PublishAmerica and fees and manuscript turn-around times and finding the best agent because your work is so bloody wonderful, and yak, yak, yak. Nobody paid attention to the fact Judith Regan moved operations to LA in CA to make more mon-AY. Nobody has noticed that movie rights sell before the actual book is even printed. And a hundred other clues I have dropped over the last year. Hmmm, I wonder why that is?

Anyway, perhaps you haven’t heard the newest news. Too busy revising that manuscript you’ve been nursing for twenty-some years, I bet. HA! Surely, you have seen this bullshit about Kaavya Viswanaathan, a budding chick-lit writer who was paid too much money by Little Brown for a book that contained at least forty passages “allegedly” unconsciously lifted from the girly author’s favorite author? Well, I have. EVERYONE is talking about this shit. Some of them, like me, are laughing. Others are livid. Others just sigh and figure, what the hell, this is publishing, isn’t it? Yeah, this is publishing, alright.

I got this letter from Anonymous, and I thought I would post it, with A’s permission, of course. Don’t want to get sued…HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA! Anyway, this nutcracker needs to vent more than I do. I am not sure whether he/she/it is a writer, agent, or editor, but I have a clue. I think you will, too.

Read on…

Damn! Fuck! Damn! How is this possible? How is this stupid ridiculousness even possible? I work my ass off for years—years! I still have nothing to show for it. I’m a good, no, fantastic, writer, dammit! This is not fair. Not fair. Not fair! Not fair!

I know lots of good writers out there struggling, and some snotty brat gets handed $500,000 for a teen chick-lit? For God’s sake, haven’t we had enough of the “fish out of water” one trick pony yet? YET? How can a major publishing house give that much money to a kid in high school, then expect anything but what they got? She has no life experience. She hasn’t even had time to write that much, meaning that she hasn’t had enough time to write her way into her own voice. THAT’S why she lifted passages. Who are these stupid people? Why would anyone pay that much fucking money for a teen chick-lit? Why? Why? WHY!?!

I am sure by now, Sammy, that you can see that I am upset. Mad as hell, as a matter of fact. What are publishers thinking? There is no book or books worth that much money, and to pay it to a kid—I reiterate, what did they expect? I know what they expected. They expected that the snots in NYC would rally around this new budding talent because she is ethnic, goes to Harvard (how important!), she’s a “prodigy,” and chick-lit sells. Holy God, man, do these people have their heads completely up their asses? The whole multi-cultural thing has been out since everyone discovered being of a certain ethnicity or sexual orientation doesn’t mean you can write worth a damn. That’s right! There are born writers, and God doesn’t dole out the talent based on something as stupid as race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. Just because you are born into a group doesn’t mean you represent that group, and any time publishers want to stop pretending that certain writers are good just because it gives their stable diversity, that would be fine by me.

Don’t get me started on the college thing, either. The world is run by Yale and Harvard men and women—you can’t get away from them. No poor idiot from Local City Tech will ever amount to anything, not because the education was lacking, but the college doesn’t have the prestige that Y and H have. How is this fair? Kids who go to Harvard don’t need $500,000 dollars for a two-book deal! It’s the kids in the little dink towns that won’t make it otherwise who deserve that kind of “incentive.” Has the world gone crazy?

Let’s not forget talent. Yes, you have to have talent. I mean special talent. That’s what everyone has told me. You have to have something extra. I refuse to believe that a 19-year-old has that something extra. If she did, she wouldn’t be writing chick-lit. Now, if she had written a literary masterpiece, then she would be worth it. Otherwise, the publisher was just trying to get buzz by overpaying a freelancer. Happens all the time in this dirty business, but usually there is something that will guarantee a print run selling out. Wait, isn’t that supposed to be that this is chick-lit for teens? Have you read the synopsis for this POS? It sounds pretty damn stupid to me, and this is what the geniuses at LB paid all that money for. This is not going to sell that much. Or maybe it will now that it has publicity. Before now, all it had behind it was the bookstores pushing it on customers. Yeah, that’s how this all works. Bookstores use some crappy formula to come up with what they think the buyer wants, and then they force the publishers into finding it, even though the customers, say, like young girls who read for fun, don’t want that miserable tripe that keeps getting shoved at them

I have a niece who is desperate for reading material. She skipped to the adult books a long time ago, because, let’s face it, books written for kids her age are those like Opal. A super dumb or super brainy girl thrown out of her element and trying to survive even though it is such a challenge. Wah wah wah, how exciting. Yawn. Publishers, that boat has sailed. It is not funny or interesting anymore. It’s been done about three thousand times. Done, I tell you!

This case is just another example, like George Bush’s presidency, where somehow a whole bunch of deluded people get together and decide to invest a lot of money in something that they believe for whatever reason is going to make a huge profit. Usually these little projects are based on the belief that people want to be smothered with the same inane, trivial and mindless crap over and over again. But it is not true. NONE OF IT IS TRUE! Writers everywhere should be up in arms. They should go on strike. Until publishers figure out what consumers really want, they can go to hell. I am not sending out another word until someone sits down and explains what these “professionals” in your screwed up industry thought they were doing.

Sammy, I just needed to vent, but if you want to post this, go ahead. It’s not like I get paid for my writing anyway.

Eat me,
Anonymous

Poor A. But I guess I feel sorrier for the folks who finally, after being beat over the head with indisputable facts in these ridiculous cases over the last several months, are realizing that editors and publishers have given into the greed and decided to start using wannabes in worse ways than any scammer agent or vanity press or whatever PublishAmerica is, and, of course, greedy wannabes are falling for it. Who wouldn’t? When someone from a house as established as LB agrees to buy your book for too much money, it seems like a dream come true. However, there is a mystery here. Somehow, a book that lifted passages from another novel got published, and no one, not the book packager, the editor, the publisher or the writer, seems to know how that happened. But it’s like in any investigation into any “incident”—there is always a witness, someone who knows something. In this case, I know something: I know that, yet again, those who think this industry was built for them and their dreams of literary glory have brought it to its ruin. There is no going back now.

Happy?

Monday, April 24, 2006

Saved from Being Hacked to Death—A Chick-lit Eulogy

God, I love it when I am right and chick-lit writers are wrong. This disastrous little trend is so dead. All the agents I know are flooded with this shit--even published writers are being dropped right and left, and, ironically, these lovelies are back out looking for that perfect mate, I mean agent. Suddenly, the boat is too full and someone is going overboard. The problem is that in this literary sea, none of these hacknits can swim, if you get my drift.

Oh, the drama!

What will these girlies do? Break into another genre? I wouldn’t take ‘em. Fuck ‘em. If they couldn’t write anything but chick-lit to begin with to “break in”, fuck ‘em. I hate writers who use a genre to learn their craft and then move on to something “better.” How arrogant is that? I bet fans love to hear it when these bustles carp on Oprah about how they started the genre but felt they just had to grow, “…Sigh, aren’t you happy for me that I have achieved my dream, you little people?” Well, aren’t you happy for them, dear readers? Aren’t you happy that someone gave you a product you like, but now she doesn’t want to make it anymore? The person who wrote the book you liked so much was only using you as statistic to get to the level in her job she felt she deserved to be at. Don’t you wish you could use people like that?

And they say agents suck ass. What bullshit.

Finally the smoke and mirrors game is over. Readers figured out that “chick-lit” was yet just another name for books by writers with little or no talent and no clue. What is a chick-lit novel anyway? Is it a romance? Sort of. What else is it? Umm, I don’t know. But it has a young chick as a protagonist. Okay, so if a novel has ghost for a protagonist, are we going to create a whole new fuckin’ genre for it? Nope, we tell it to get its supernatural ass back where it belongs. What if the book has a whale for a protagonist? Are we gonna create whale-lit? No, we are not, because whales don’t buy books. But dumb chicks do, although I guess if you considered fat chicks whales it might work.

Cluck, cluck.

I am so glad I never took that shit on, because I would now have a bucket full of nitwit girl writers who think that their words deserve the same attention as The da Vinci Code. How ridiculous. The da Vinci Code doesn’t deserve any attention, either. (What’s that sound I hear? A cat yakking up a hairball? “Hack! Hack!”)

The whole cheesy marketing scheme gone all bad has given wannabes with average writing skills and little else the opportunity to sit on top for a while. If they would have asked me, I would have let them sit on top and not even made them write anything, but no one cares about a gripey male chauvinist’s opinion. If they had asked, I would have said something like, “Girls, listen to me. This whole thing is going to blow over in a short time. Don’t bother with that inane shit. Let’s work on your literary stuff and go for the Pulitzer or something.”

Of course, I would have been talking to MY clients who have the talent to do other things besides write a story with a quirky, funny, lovable, vulnerable—yet sassy!—gal who has all the wrong values and tries to accumulate material and emotional wealth through self-deceit and questionable strategies. How hard is it to pretend that you are yourself acting out a fantasy and writing it down on paper? Hell, lots of people do that. The good stuff we call erotica, and, by God, it serves a purpose. Have you ever tried to whack off to chick-lit? The covers alone are enough to make my pecker shrivel and hide in my buddies. Of course, maybe reading about other gals gives the ladies some naughty thoughts, but I thought that would fall under clit lit, er, I mean, lesbian fiction. Unless it was marketed to guys (Hot lesbian angst right here! Girl-on-girl whining like you’ve never read!), but that takes us back to erotica again…

And so you can see how frivolous the whole chick-lit thing is. Let there be no mistake: these types of novels are plain ol’ mainstream, the kind that Hemingway used to write. Only his books were for the guys’ guy, not the girlies’ girl. And you couldn’t whack off to those either, unless you had a thing for fishing or soldiers.

I guess I should say, in conclusion, that…

DING! DONG! THE WITCH THAT IS CHICK-LIT IS DEAD!

…but this is supposed to be a eulogy and that would be inappropriate. Oh wait, this is Sammy we are talking about here.

DING DONG, GODAMMIT, DING DONG!

Conspiracy Theory

Sammy-baby is back…but for how long?

I don’t fuckin' know, but it is only because time prevents my type-type-typing. It's none of the bullshit some of you conspiracy theorists have sent to me:

Sam, dude, did Miss Snark get the goods on you, man? Dude? Dude?

Hey, what happened? Did you get sanctioned by your clients? I knew you couldn’t remain anonymous forever, you nasty bastard.

"%@*#&$! Finnaly, wannabes can rest in piece, you mean &@$*! Hopefully, the blog patrol got you and you won’t be able to post your poisen again. %@*#&$!" (from a wannabe, maybe?)

Sammy, man, you want I should take care of any problems for you that might be preventing you from providing me, your fan, with the postings I so much desire?” (This one I thought was a leeeetle scary.)

Where in the fuck are you? Mars?

I knew you shouldn’t piss off those editors. Mean bitches that can’t get laid to save ‘em. Take off the glasses, girls, and pull up the skirts. That will change your outlook.” (from another agent--he's a real dick, though)

Did underwear woman sue your ass? Good. You’re a sex addict, you creep.”

…and on and on and on.

Really, I didn’t know anyone cared.

The truth is that I have been dealing with deals and deals appeals and dumping a major pain-in- the-ass client and acquiring two new ones who will net me more than the asshole I dumped. I can talk about him here because he is so blind to the fact he is obnoxious that I could describe him to the last detail and he still wouldn’t recognize that I was talking about him. Asshole.

You know how writers always want to know about agents’ nightmare clients? Well, this guy was mine. The only reason I kept him so long is that I liked his wife—not in a fucking kind of way but in a kind kind of way—who is constantly going around after Mr. Pigheaded Asshole and cleaning up his messes. She would call and beg, and since he made me a hell of a lot of money, it was easy to say fuck it. The truth is, I made Pighead a hell of a lot of money, too, even though, on the last book, which was not his best, I didn’t feel like he was worth it. But name recognition sells, and so I held the house’s feet to the fire when they balked a little.

BUT…here is the hammer that he slammed on my balls: he wanted just a percent more royalty here and an extra little bit on the advance there, none of which was negligible at this point considering his level in the biz and that he was getting way more than he was worth. But it wasn’t ever about that for Pighead. No, he did this every goddamn contract—EVERY GODDAMN CONTRACT! Sammy, can you get this little bitty change here, or Sammy, can you get this little bitty change there…or I WON’T SIGN. And of course the editors would oblige, even though they knew it was a power play. I actually felt sorry for one or two of them. Needledicks.

Then this last contract, I get him a great fuckin’ deal, and he pulls the same shit. So I dumped his ass. Unceremoniously. I refused to take Mrs. Asshole’s calls to avoid hearing her beg, and I just dumped him. There are some things money can’t buy, and besides there are a few people, only some of whom I have slept with, I got tired of subjecting to this power freak’s wishes. Besides, it opened the door for me to take on two writers who have been waiting for an opportunity to work with me on a couple of projects. They appear to be okay so far, but if they aren’t, adios, baby.

So, you want to define a nightmare client? How about one whose ego is bigger than his earning potential? Or worse, one whose character is more flawed than his writing?

Yes, I think I like that last one best, and even though it would piss off Marley, I think Hemingway would agree.

PS The wannabe re-naming contest will be mentioned next week when I have had ample time to go through the slush.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Call For Submissions

Heh heh heh…

I can’t wait to see which lameasses will read the title of this post only and indignantly e-mail, their messages coated in their own self-righteous syrup (take that any way you want—you just never know). I can see the cries of foul now.

“SEE!” they will shout in all caps, “WE KNEW YOU WERE JUST BUILDING AN AUDIENCE SO YOU COULD BILK POOR WANNABES LATER! SCAMMER!”

Assholes.

Speaking of which, that is sort of what the call for submissions is for. Read this very carefully. V-E-R-Y C-A-R-E-F-U-L-L-Y.

This call for submissions is for suggestions only. I need another word for wannabe. I am really tired of using it over and over again, so I thought I would put a call out to see if anyone could come up with a different word. Something along the lines of glory-sniffer, but with a literary bent. I get tired of doin’ all the thinnin’ around here.

If you are interested, e-mail me or post a comment with the new word in it. I will leave the door open for suggestions for about a week or until something strikes my fancy with a feather. Oh, and don’t send me a suggestion and then get pissed off if I use it. By sending or posting your words for the call for submissions, you are agreeing to let me use it if I want. Your reward? You can brag about it to all your friends. But I wouldn’t post it on writer forums or discussion boards, if you know what I mean.

So, think of a word that could replace the word wannabe in the vernacular, and maybe I will use it. Or maybe I will use all the words I get somehow. I plan to be spontaneous.

Ciao, baby.

Walk a Mile Holding My Pen

I have to admit that I had an experience in Italia that made me feel, for a fraction of a fraction of a second, a little drop of empathy for the wannabe. I felt the thrill of knowing that people across the globe were talking about Sammy-boy. And they were both pretty, too.

I was sitting in a little café-like place, and I could hear snatches of conversation all around me. I was reading, of course, so I was only paying half attention. Then I heard it. Across from me, two lovely ladies were speaking in low tones, but two words stood out among all the others…

Kiwi Pigfucker!

I was a little surprised, to say the least. To be thousands of miles from home and to hear those two words being bandied about by two lovelies in a little café. What are the chances that someone else has used those words?

Now I could go wannabe on this, but I won’t. Somebody was talking about my blog. That’s all. They could have been saying I was an asshole or just liked the way the words rolled off of their tongues (and they were very nice tongues, too). Or maybe there is a Kiwi Pigfucker who lives in Europe. I couldn’t hear the rest of the conversation clearly, but they were smiling and laughing. So it was a high to see that my words have actually gone international. Maybe I will start a Kiwi Pigfucker fan club.

Nah, too wannabe.

Positively Negative

I sometimes get letters from people who can’t understand why I am so negative all the time.

“What do you have to be so negative about?” they ask.

Well, here is the answer to that: I am not always negative. Sometimes I am positive. Very positive. Like right now. Right now, I am positive that the Daniel Edwards sculpture that is supposed to look like Brittney Spears giving birth on a bearskin rug looks just like Charlize Theron massaging the temples of a polar bear naked. I am also positive that I would have liked to have seen the other end of the piece (no pun intended, I mean it in a totally artistic way). Or would I? I wonder if the baby’s face on the other end resembles Kevin Federline or maybe the sculptor? After I rest up a bit from these last few weeks, I’m gonna buzz on over there. Yep, I will. And I will stand at the birthing end and just stare (and maybe lick my lips and roll my eyes) until I make the other patrons so nervous that I am asked to leave. I make an impression everywhere I go.

But really, I am most positive that writahs who send me notes about how they have worked hard and deserve to published are completely clueless. What do you mean, you deserve to be published? Is that like if someone blows himself up for the cause he gets 72 virgins in paradise? When did getting published become some reward for living a good life? When you hear yourself saying things like “I have worked so hard on this book! I deserve to be published just for my efforts!” then you can officially claim insanity. EVERYBODY who writes puts forth effort. Some people wait twenty years to get a break, mainly because some snot-nosed mealy-mouthed little prick wannabe was willing to chew on a couple of nipples more than they were (or worse). Surely some of you have met multi-published, famous authors before, and that means you know that some of them are not what we would all agree constitutes--how shall I say it?--a human. Some of them are assholes; others are bitches. Some of them are really nice and gracious. Some are just plain stupid, and some show their boobies to everyone who will look—DG, you know who you are—so there is no way, with this motley crew of fools who are the publishing elite, that you can say getting published is something someone deserves.

Besides that, do you realize, folks, that some consider a publishing credit a curse? The most recent example is probably James Frey, but there are lots of others. People who got published and then did the quick fade, never to be heard from again. Or people who got that seven figure deal and the pressure to produce a second book drove them loony. Think about what it must have been like for Frey to sit across from Oprah and have her tear apart his publishing dreams in front of millions of people. Yep, that’s the kind of reward I’m looking forward to.

Ah, well, I don’t want to keep beating a dead horse, especially when it is much more fun to beat up live wannabes. So, I will go for now, but I can tell you that if you truly look at publishing as some kind of reward system, you are going to be more disappointed than a social security recipient in 2012. Of course, no one will notice your disappointment because they will be too captivated by Daniel Edwards’ next sculpture, which I imagine will be something like a tottering caricature of Tom Delay eating snacks off of a boa constrictor wrapped around Bill Frist’s waist (with the proceeds going to the re-building of New Orleans, of course).