A Gent's Outlook

A Literary Agent Divulges the TRUTH about Publishing

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Prologue to the Agents are Whipping Your Ass Tales

It amazes me that people have completely forgotten about James and Kaavya and have latched onto this whole Absolute Write thing, but they have. The Opal and Pieces tragedy actually means something to publishing; losing a forum named after a piece of office furniture where people gather to GOSSIP is not a threat to the industry. The disaster that is a million little pieces of Opal is. Not to mention The Da Vinci Code. Maybe writers care about this most recent development, few others do. Has the world gone mad? Sigh…

Anyway, I had to put my two cents worth in on this, or rather, my opinion, which is based on fact…mostly. I may have not actually written it even. It is so long-winded that it will take two posts. Read PublishAmerica, or How Sammy Nostradamus Tells the Future for Free first, then read PublishAmerica--And Now for the Rest of the Story...after that, or it won’t make sense, not that it matters to the psychos who will read two words and send me a nasty e-mail.



  • At 6:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    There are some legitimate agents out there who have been hurt by the nasty gossip on Absolute Write, so it is joyous to me to see the site come to its demise. All these writer-wanna-be types have nothing better to do than tear other people down, and it's so unfortunate.

    Miss Snark needs to get on a "Jet" and "Reid" a book along the way... and hopefully find herself a purpose driven life. Beyond blogging.

  • At 8:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hmmm. I read a few paragraphs and then had to come back and post, 'cause I thought I'd share why I read you. More with other commenters, really.

    It's 'cause you might be the other side of the story, or you might be Miss Snark, or you might be lying through your teeth even as you toss a few gems of truth out. Sure, Miss Snark has a few other agents backing you up and I can't find much in the way of references for you-- but it's fascinating to imagine a kind of 'support the wannabes' conspiracy floating over the elder underlevels of publishing. It's fascinating to look for lines of connection between the different points of view.

    I suppose that's part of the fun of anonymous blogs: wondering where the lies are. Heck, that's fun reading almost any 'true story',but when none of it can be verified it adds spice.

    Plus, you're so /funny/. Sammy's such a /guy/. And Miss Snark's such a /lady/. So it's interesting to wonder how many of the differences are just emphasized gender biases.

  • At 9:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    OK, this cracks me up:

    From Preditors and Editors...
    "Gent's Outlook, A: A blog allegedly written by a literary agent. His advice appears to be counter to much of that given out by many agents, editors, publishers, and writers. Caution is advised in using his advice."

    I'm trying to figure out what advice you've given other than 'wannabes give up and go home'. I mean, sure, you've said nasty things about other people. You've claimed you charge reading fees, and that many successful selling agents do that. You've said a lot of whole lot of obnoxious stuff. But in terms of advice? Mostly it's... 'chick lit is dead' and 'wannabes give up and go home'. And you've pointed out that writers who write well are going to write well without being coddled by the creative writing blog community.

    Tell me, Sammy, are you in favor of critical thinking? How would you encourage such a thing?

  • At 9:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    My comment is mostly unrelated to your post--I've been reading about Barbara Bauer and the Absolute Write thing all morning and I've decided to choose not to have an opinion either way.

    But I have just perused your blog for the last several minutes and would like to tell you that, after several entries, a picture of you began to form in my head. In my picture, you look like Melvin Udall (Jack Nicholson's character in AS GOOD AS IT GETS) and every day as you walk through your literary agency you are a very, very grumpy man.

    I'm actually giving you a compliment here.

    Plus also, Melvin Udall found love and happiness with a cute little dog and an underpaid waitress in spite of his grumpy nature...so it's all good, SammyK. It's all good. :-)

  • At 12:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Maybe I’m just slow, but the way I read ‘ol Sammy’s blog entries (and I'm just a visitor not a regular reader) all writers trying to break into the industry are wannabe losers who only want to be famous.

  • At 5:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Back again. What I find really disturbing about vitriol directed at you, Sammy, is that you're not trying to sell us anything. Miss Jenna of Absolute Write? She's got a book or two and her sig insists I NEED that book on predatory publishing practices. And yet nobody can stop singing her praises.

    Creepy. It's like a popularity contest.

    Oh, and anonymous-the-second-- the way I read Sammy's blog, all writers skulking about on the internet spending all their time reading blogs and talking to fellow unpublished writers and patting each other on the back are wannabe losers who only want to be famous, and who only get completed and published through all the back-patting they get through the unpublished writer community, which is so nice and supportive that it doesn't actually provide any constructive useful qualitative feedback, and oh, that community is now also turning out editors and agents who are assisting these wannabes in getting published.

    But writers who spend all their time writing and learning and refining? They're okay.

  • At 6:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    "I will only say that which I have said before: real agents don’t give a shit about wannabes or watch puppies or scammer agents. They don’t blog all the fucking time."

    I happen to agree with you on this point.

  • At 7:24 PM, Blogger Mark said…

    Frankly I'd have to agree with the comparison, or dichotomy between Vaaya, Frey and a forum for learning newbie writers. Publishing's a big business and the latter is the small pond section.

    The scam agents are pathetic, but it takes a quite a bit of ignorance not to know who a real agent is. These top 20 are not only bad agents, they aren't agents at all.

  • At 3:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I think Absolute Write has gotten what it's had coming to it for a long time. The site is there to make money and to glorify its owner, nothing more. Try expressing a dissenting view there and see what happens.

  • At 10:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    In life, thinking is optional. The people who populate these boards and writers organizations do so for any number of reasons, one of which is that misery does so love company.

    On the other hand, those distributing advice ought to be taken with a grain of salt. Why are they there? What have they got to gain? Are they also wanna-be writers offering up their years of "experience?" Experience in what? Submission? Rejection?

    Are they long-term midlist writers (barely), who want to hang on to a following by offering up their contributions?

    Are they newly published authors, looking to develop a following ("go for it, you can do it too, just like I did") to buy their books, so blatantly advertised in their sigs?

    Are they start-up agents, who hang out to answer questions and so endear themselves that they become uber-agents in a matter of months, not based on any long-term record but on their accessibility and therefore the number of submissions?

    Everyone on the internet has an agenda. If that agenda meshes with yours, terrific. Just be smart enough to recognize that people don't offer shortcuts to the process, secrets to breaking through, etc., out of the goodness of their hearts.

    And in the end, the only way to become a successful writer is to have the talent, the craft, and to keep you ass in the chair and write. Every day. Not talk about it. DO IT.

    NOT everyone has the talent, and no amount of participation in listservs, writers' groups or organizations, or courses will give you the talent. That's a gift you are either born with, or not. You can learn craft, and take that and do something with that.

    Sort of the difference between fine art and illustration.

    It's great to feel part of something, to have a peer group. Just watch who belongs to that peer group, and what they want from you before you fall into a bigger pyramid scheme (buy my book, course, lecture, workshop, etc.) than any of these phony agents.

    Anyone with half a brain can tell who is legit. But as I said above, thinking is optional, and people believe what they want or need to believe.

  • At 3:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Interesting how the Opal saga and James Frey fray, real publishing debacles, faded into obscurity so quickly. The world actually got to see the publishing business as a business. And it was an eye-opener for a lot of people. Before Opal, who outside of publishing or writing had heard of book packagers? Or knew the audience was being pandered to and manipulated in such a focused manner?

    As for Absolute Write, it's very easy when you can hide behind an online identity to wreak havoc with someone's reputation.

    Too many people are enjoying the vigilante atmosphere, and self-appointed watchdogs are rarely the experts they claim to be.

  • At 6:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The last anonymous has it Absolutely Right. Self-appointed watchdogs are DOGS who need a leash of their own. There has to be a system of checks and balances. None of the existing ones do (or understand the need for) due diligence.

    We all have to remember this is no easy industry in which to thrive. Many agents out there get trashed before they ever have a chance to succeed. Honestly, if I decided to become an agent to make money off unwitting wannabes, do you REALLY think I would enter the book publishing industry? Come on! Hardly anybody in publishing makes real money, unless you're Dan the Man Brown or some freak who thinks men and women come from neighboring planets. There are legitimate agents out there who care about writers and their success and are trying to help many unknown writers succeed, but it doesn't help when snarky bitches crawl out of the woodwork to try and tear them down for no legitimate reason.

  • At 6:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Regarding that first anon comment, is there any evidence that Miss Snark is Janet Reid?

  • At 5:08 PM, Blogger Dave Kuzminski said…

    Due diligence, huh? You mean post the complaints and other documentation in public for you to see? Yeah, that would be useful...to the scammers who want to threaten the people who shared their documentation with the watchdog sites.

    You don't have to believe it, but P&E does have documentation on file. There's a catch though. We offer confidentiality to those who share their information with us. If we didn't abide by that, we'd be toast. Not many writers want their identities known because some of them have already been threatened or simply can't afford to get into a pitched legal battle with a scammer. Even though their information is documented and they'd be vindicated in court, the legal cost can be destructive to their finances especially since some scammers threaten suit, file, and then fail to show up leaving it to the court to simply dismiss the case. For the writer in some instances to go after the scammer for damages then becomes an even more entangling financial trap. Also, it takes away time from writing.

    You can disbelieve P&E and the other watchdog sites that also document complaints if you want. Just remember that some sites like P&E and Writer Beware have each been doing this for a decade already. Speaking for P&E, not one scammer has yet challenged P&E in court. The reason should be obvious. P&E has documentation on all of its recommendations going back to when P&E started. Any scammer taking P&E to court would lose not only in court, but in the further exposure of their operations.

    Now, anyone want to guess why our critics use anonymous or fake names? Could they have a conflict of interest? Could they even be some of those very same scammers?

  • At 6:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Some of the comments on AW border on libel. There is sometimes not enough common sense and way too much trust in who is out there and what is being said.

  • At 6:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    No question, scammers should be outed. OUTED. Perhaps through a Better Business Bureau set-up.

    But even if they are scammers, how is it fair to post one-sided documentation? There are two sides to every story, and everyone in this country at least deserves his day in court.

    Consider complaints about a normal company, any company, and some watchdog organization posts anonymous complaints about their product. How is that fair? How is that right? This is America, remember?

    If you aren't going to make all details public, then this data should be turned over to authorities, and let them deal with it. The word vigilante was used before, and I think it's accurate. I think it reeks of Taliban-esque behavior.

    Who appointed any online group to be the godmother to all these people who should be doing their homework before they clog up the publishing channels for the rest of us trying to catch a break?

    If someone is stupid enough to fall for one of these jerks, they deserve what they get.

  • At 7:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    anon # whatever:
    are you suggesting this fracas is merely a catfight among agents to get standing and clients?

    On the one hand, that's just bizarre.

    On the other, there's a whole new "class" of newbie agents out there who suddenly have pretty big profiles.

  • At 10:26 AM, Blogger Dave Kuzminski said…

    A BBB? Get real. That's a business itself created by businesses to represent them and give them a better image. Several scams have possessed recommended profiles from their local BBBs right up to the day they were arrested. The All a business usually has to do to remain in good standing with their BBB is acknowledge that they received the complaint and have addressed it, not resolved it. In other words, they don't even have to make those complaints public in order to warn consumers. Talk about a toothless watchdog, the BBBs are operated by businesses since they pay to be members. You're better off taking your complaint directly to the local media (unless the complaint is about the media).

    Sure, some of the complaints on AW border on libel. However, that's up to the business to deal with. If they've truly been libeled, then they can take it to the court. However, doesn't anyone find it strange that those comments and the individuals who made them haven't been taken to court? Maybe there's more truth in what they stated than some others would have us believe. So, again, I ask, why does anyone want to shut down any of the watchdog sites? After all, if they libel someone, they can be taken to court. IN OTHER WORDS, there's already a check and balance in the system.

    Now let's clear up one other belief. The right to free speech applies to what the government can control, not the media. In other words, it's a right that's guaranteed that the government can't muffle your opinions. It doesn't mean that the media has to print what you have to say. Nor do they have to present both sides of a story. If the scammers want to post their side, they're free to do so in whatever media accepts their words. P&E has always had that posted on its site that it would post opposing views. However, unlike the courts, businesses and private organizations are not required to post opposing views, so don't confuse the two.

    Also, like the news media, watchdog sites do not have to disclose their sources when they grant confidentiality. This is because the watchdog sites are part of the news media. What's different is that we cover a narrower world view than does Newsweek or the New York Times. Our beat is mostly the publishing industry.

    Lastly, stupid people are not clogging up the publishing pipeline. Nor do they deserve to be scammed. Besides which, even pros have been scammed because scams are often polished traps meant to appear like real offerings from legitimate businesses.

  • At 5:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    In RWA groups there are people known as "contest junkies," because they write wonderful first three and synopses for contests. A lot of them win, repeatedly. But a lot of them never go on to sell books, because they're so hooked on entering contests and winning. They taste success in that achievement, that small picture. But they've lost sight of the bigger picture and their ultimate goal.

    A lot of people are addicted to writer's online groups as well. A great place to be snug and accepted by your peers.
    But for the most part, those helpful people online are unpublished and haven't a clue as to what goes on in the publishing business.

    No one should be taken advantage of or stolen from, but as per the anonymous who commented about "stupid people," naive people allow themselves to be duped.

    A lot of people spend time online asking questions and talking to other writers, rather than writing and submitting.

    It's really hard to write a whole book and send it out into the real world, to be judged against real world standards, and it's human to look for help.

    But wasting time online for hours won't help you get published, and there are lots of nasty people who enjoy being big fish in teeny ponds. They are not experts. You don't see Stephen King posting advice. He wrote a really good book that tells you what to do.
    Your online friends are not buying books. Editors buy books.

    If you want to be a writer, write a good book and start submitting. And keep submitting. And write the next book. Repeat until you succeed. Don't worry about finding an agent, or gossiping about what's going on with other writers. If you can do the job and work at it, you will succeed.

  • At 6:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Mark said:

    The scam agents are pathetic, but it takes a quite a bit of ignorance not to know who a real agent is. These top 20 are not only bad agents, they aren't agents at all.

    I agree. You really have to work at not knowing what you're doing to fall into the clutches of one of these people. Most of them have been around for years.

    There are two extremes of behavior I see on AW and the like. People who trust no one, who believe everyone is out to get them (and they are only talking agents here), and the flip side, people so slavishly grateful to have any sort of validation they jump through hoops when one of these jokers offers them the opportunity to hand over the bucks.

    Funny thing is that I've looked at this blog a few times. No one posts. Now, it looks like the AW people have landed! I hope this doesn't mean Sammy disappears. AW people, GO HOME.

  • At 6:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You know something, Sammy hasn't posted anything for days but the beat goes on (I'm probably dating myself here). It's amazing the truths that have come out on this blog without the blogger ever saying a word. My god, I think I'm going to orgasm!! What love--what freedom. Don't you love it? Reminds me of the '60s. Anyone want a flower?

  • At 8:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Times have changed, Dave listed above has been sued for the things he wrote on said site and lost. Guess he didn't have as much evidence as he thought.


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