A Gent's Outlook

A Literary Agent Divulges the TRUTH about Publishing

Thursday, May 25, 2006

PublishAmerica--And Now for the Rest of the Story...

Here is the rest of the post I wrote before my pal e-mailed me:

No, this isn’t a post about PA. However, if I post anything with the word “PublishAmerica” in it, the watch zealots and their misguided minions, as well as every other wannabe, will be on here in a heartbeat, ready to jump at the chance to take PA and anyone who doesn’t call for their literary demise down. This is, in the normal world, called being obsessed with something, but in the wannabe world, it is the equivalent of the maenads engaging in omophagy (look it up, dimwits, a real writer would know this). Anyway, now that I have your attention, I think that I have something to say that they will find very interesting. Here we go…

Well, well, well…the worm turns (and remember I wrote this BEFORE that board went down—I am so psychic).

It looks like maybe real agents are fighting back against the pathetic, power-hungry entities that have tried to convince everyone that they can save you from every scammer in the writing biz, except for yourselves. I bounce around on the boards, and guess what I saw? Yep, I saw that some naughty little posters got into trouble. Not the trouble they usually get into by going against the gurus on the boards who are 100% pro-watch puppies and solicitous agents, but because they opened their uninformed mouths and basically said some very unflattering and untrue things against some very big, big agents, who caught wind of it and apparently decided to flex some muscle. One minute the nasty comments about these agents were there, and the next time I looked, the entire thread was gone, as if it never, ever existed. How could this possibly be?

I will tell you how. Someone told said agents that they were being bad-mouthed, and they had a wittle chat with the board sponsor. The moral of this story is that, unlike what writers seem to think (and you should know better), you can’t just go around making statements that reflect on the professional reputation of others, especially if you are wrong or simply responding to the overwhelming urge to blast an agent. Courts of law are supposed to try alleged criminals, not writers on writer boards. That’s vigilante justice and not right in any case. Agents of all stripes have been condemned based on evidence provided by…writers. Any police detective will tell you that you have to have some kind of objective evidence before you can get a conviction—circumstantial evidence and that provided by hostile witnesses and biased witnesses won’t get you very far in a real court. But, boy, it keeps the writers’ forums busy. I often wonder how many of those posters are wasting their time trying to show how much they know when they could be grooming their skills and maybe get published. I doubt we will ever know.

In both cases, I noted that each agent was, in fact, legitimate, and had enough 5 and 6 figure sales to impress even the most determined watch puppy. However, these baaaaaad people had dared to do something that is not supposed to be industry standard, at least not according to a bunch of writers who pretend to know what industry standard is, when they DON’T. Since what they were doing was not unprofessional, illegal, unethical, or anything remotely fishy, it appears that the board sponsor felt compelled to remove the posts, which were mean-spirited diatribes attacking the reputation of said agents with no evidence that they had done anything wrong. They hadn’t. If you ask any good agent—and I don’t mean the pathetic ones that agree with all the bullshit strewn around in magazines and writers’ boards as gospel—they will blink, especially after hearing the name, and look at you like you are an idiot. And if you buy into the whole system as it is now, you are an idiot.

If you have watched the evolution of this whole culture, you will see that all along each group has tried to say that their guidelines are the industry standards. Of course, they never totally agree with each other, sort of like the numerous Christian faiths, only with more venom. Or maybe not. Anyone who actually works in publishing who doesn’t like to perpetuate to the wannabe that there is a snowball’s chance in hell they will get published was blasted, discredited, and/or called a liar, incompetent, or a scammer. But if you watch the rules from these watchers, you will notice that there have been a lot of disclaimers added over the years. This is because they have said things they wish to be true, that in reality are totally off base in the real live working publishing world. So, quietly, some agent or editor informs them they are idiots, and, like a sheepish Microsoft programmer using a service release to fix MIE, the watchers slip in the updated information with some qualifier that some agents are, indeed, allowed to do this or that, never fully admitting that they got it totally wrong to start with.

What do you expect? These people are NOT agents or editors or anything, actually. They have no qualifications except they are writers who purport to be experts who care about poor wittle wannabes. Look, I have hobbies, too, that I have done for years. I have amassed information in these areas that would make me look like an expert, but I am not. And I know this because I have been around experts in those hobbies and I pale in comparison. Just because I have friends who are experts in the hobby who give me information doesn’t mean that I am an expert if I have never, ever worked in the field. NONE of the watch puppies have ever been agents or editors. Well, none of them have been LEGITIMATE agents or editors who have actually had success in the field, let’s put it that way.

So, we have a nice little game here. The watch groups and board monarchs and publishing entities based on selling shit to wannabes tell the newbies what they want to hear, and like the mob that went after Frankenstein, these poor souls have something they can focus their anger on instead of accepting the fact that their writing is too poor to make the cut.

The reason that agent didn’t take on my work is that he is incompetent or a scammer, based on the guidelines set forth by Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum and the aliens under my bed.”

Unfortunately, these people don’t set the industry standards like wannabes think they do, and most of us in the industry just smirk at this shit. Your common sense and your business acumen are supposed to set the standards, if you have any at all. As I said when I first started this blog, if you are not in publishing because you waited to have a family and have another life, then you don’t belong in publishing. My industry is not here for your self-gratification, and the idea that there is talent floating around out there in the masses just waiting to be discovered is the same fairytale perpetuated by Simon and the gang on American Idol. Here’s a clue: They don’t care about singers either; they just want the ratings and the paycheck for the exploitation of “talent.”

But now agents are fighting back, for better or worse. You can’t just say whatever you want about people because they are agents and YOU heard from so-and-so’s such and such that this agent or that agent is good or bad or sucks this or fondles that. It is wrong and possibly a crime. Another person committing a crime doesn’t justify your actions, no matter how altruistic you misguidedly believe your actions are. I have seen friends of mine who are hugely successful and honest agents blasted on these forums and sites and by the watchers in their twisted sense of right and wrong. How many times have these people in general had to back up and eat crow and qualify what they have said or written? How many times have boards had to dump threads because of the comments made there? I am sure that if anyone had asked prior to the Viswanathan debacle, no one would have said anything about that agency that represented that author, or even the packager (if you want to know who they are, you go do your own goddamn research). And maybe something needed to be said…do you think? Who was asleep on that one? Ladies? An explanation? Please?

I can tell you what wrong is, and that is letting people believe that you really know what you are talking about, when all you know is what you want to be true. You are not only misrepresenting yourself to them, but you aren’t being honest to yourself, either, and that means you need to grow up a little. Hey, I am a promiscuous, chauvinistic prick, who happens to be a hell of an agent, but I don’t lie about it and I know what I am. Quit pretending you understand the rules of the publishing game, when you aren’t even really playing.

Or, as we have seen, the umpire will throw you out.


  • At 8:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    So I wonder, what's your goal here, Sammy? I'm not sure I see a connection between a wannabe-support industry that feeds off the hopes and dollars of the wannabes, and Opal and MLP. Or how MLP and Opal are hurting publishing-- are people swearing off books or something?

    Is the connection that some of these nice supportive agents are actually working and selling, and they're so interested in helping people get published that they're not taking a close look at what they sell? Is your campaign against the idea of niceness as more valuable than quality? I can sort of see that. I've been disheartened by how often I see positive comments on total shit. It's horrifying. It makes me wonder if people can no longer recognize 'good' when they see it, if taste has been destroyed by constant exposure to the sewage encouraged by not wanting to be responsible for making somebody feel bad.

    Oh man, I could rant about that so much... but I'll be good.

  • At 4:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    No, here's the deal. Sites like Absolute Write make money. Who provides that money? Well, the wanna-be writers who are allowed to post there and vent their frustrations. And how are they encouraged to show their gratitude? Well, by buying the site owner's books, or by subscribing to her newsletter, or whatever. She gets hers, and the wanna-bes keep their happy delusions going. Everyone profits, albeit Absolute Write's is of the monetary variety.

    Want the truth? Ninety-nine percent of the people there will never get published, they don't have the skills, and the people running the site know this. But they also know that encouraging "the dream" keeps the money coming in. In the end, when you really think about it, Absolute Write and PublishAmerica have more in common that many think.

  • At 4:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This is so much rubbish.

    No, people don't post on Absolute Write saying "Blah, won't publish me, it must be a scam." They say "Blah published me, now I see how I've been scammed." BIG difference. And the Absolute Write site is back up and The Neverending Publish America Thread is still there.

    Why wouldn't a real agent tell a novice what constitutes a scan? Why not? Don't take long and it costs nothing?
    Why wouldn't someone who's been scammed tell somebody else what happened to them and how to avoid it?

    If somebody ripped me off I wouldn't lurk in the undergrowth laughing as they ripped other people off too. I'd report them to whoever dealt with their area of business and I'd tell anyone who asked the truth. And that is not taking the law into your own hand. It's doing the right thing.

    Minding your own business and staying out of it, is sometimes just the spineless option.


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