A Gent's Outlook

A Literary Agent Divulges the TRUTH about Publishing

Sunday, June 18, 2006

A Bitchin' Post, Dude

Here’s a comment by Sam B. that I didn’t post earlier because it contained speculation about the identity of Miss Snark. No offense, Sam, but I don’t want to muddy the waters with assumptions, whether true or not. That wouldn’t be any fun at all. Part of the fun of knowing Snarky’s identity is waiting and hearing the morons who take her word as gospel collectively gasp when they discover not who the Snark persona is, but the reason for doing the blog in the first place. The longer it goes, the worse it will be when the mighty tumble. And I will be there to say, “I told you so.”

Here is the other part of the comment:

One thing Ann Coulter's words made me think: Why do 9/11 families get millions of dollars because their members died in the attacks? Thousands of people die horrible deaths every day and their families get nothing. Why is it different for those who died in 9/11? Just because someone kills you in an attack entitles your family to millions, while that murder-rape victim's around the corner gets nothing?

Good point and well said.

And speaking of saying things well, my colleagues provide me with endless snippets of amusement and glee when they write to me, and I have been remiss in letting them join in the fun. So, here are some comments from folks in the biz who like to bitch but value their jobs. I have loosely grouped a few by their general ideas, but didn't put a lot of effort into it. Good luck.

From an editor…
I hate writers. Do they realize that I am not editing their treatise on life because I want to? I have a list to get out there. Some of these idiots I inherited and I can’t get rid of them. The ones who have multiple books out there are the worst. Some are so unprofessional. They are lazy and never on time, then blame it on the publisher or me directly. I had one use the excuse that she was wining and dining for publicity purposes, and since we asked her to do that, she wasn’t responsible for her edited manuscript being late. What an idiot bitch.

From an agent…
I happened to be at a writers conference several months ago and sat on a panel with editors from major houses who actually told the audience that it doesn’t matter what mistakes they made in their manuscript as long as the story was good. I was appalled! Doesn’t anyone have standards anymore? Would you want a doctor who didn’t know the bones in the body or a contractor who didn’t know how to use a tape measure? Yet writers get a free ride because it’s “all about the story”? How about an architect who doesn’t understand basic physics? Don’t people realize that you have to master the English language to use it to write? Geesh! As the conference wore on, I started to realize why so many crappy books get published nowadays. Editors don’t try to find professional talent that can produce good books for years, but focus on one book at a time, which makes new and stupid writers happy. They don’t know they are being used as cheap labor. The problem for the writer is that after one crappy book, your career goes nowhere. How do I know? I get letters from writers every day who were published once and then the book didn’t sell and so they are trying to claw their way back in. No way!

From an agent…
I’m so tired of this bullshit about how agents are only allowed to agent. Editors and writers can do whatever they want, and they are never called incompetent or scammers. I am good at other things, and if I choose as a professional to take on a new challenge, why shouldn’t I be able to? Why am I held to some rule no one else in publishing, or entertainment for that matter, has to follow? Editors and writers do all kinds of stuff outside of their job descriptions, and no one says a word. Why discriminate against agents? Would you tell Steven Spielberg that he could only direct if he wanted to dabble in something else? I don’t think so. Is it okay with you idiots if I volunteer at my son's daycare? Or would that mean I was a bad agent for not spending all my time on your worthless garbage? Maybe I should put him up for adoption? He does take a lot of time away from the grind. Maybe I will get a divorce, too. Would that show my dedication to you whackos?

From an agent…
Sammy, do people even know what we do? I am sick of writers who are uninformed sending me a query that tells me they are only contacting me because mainstream publishing won’t look at their work otherwise. They need my connections, but they remind me that their work is so good that they could sell it on their own if the really big publishers weren’t filtering through agents. Usually the book they send sucks. But why do writers think it is okay to remind an agent that they are only a necessary evil? My clients love me for ALL of the stuff I do for them. I am more than a human rolodex. I manage careers. I can just see these idiots reminding their husbands that they only needed them for the sperm donation. Losers.

From an Editor…
Oh my god. I am under attack from these idiots. I just started a couple of years ago, and what an eye-opener. All the things I heard about writers are true. I could write a blog myself! I will give one example only, though. I had heard that writers tend to read those articles in the magazines and follow their advice, even though some of it is wrong. Friends who were already editors would tell me that they could tell when an article came out, because they would see several queries or manuscripts that followed the tips in the article. Here’s a big tip for writers: Read the bio of the article writer at the end of the piece or look him or her up on the Internet before taking their advice to heart. Editors are qualified to write articles on industry standards, not freelance writers who go around and interview editors to get the information. Usually they are doing it so that they can talk to editors and make connections where they can send their book for review. So the writer who isn’t really even qualified gets paid for writing something and networks in the process. As my tween would say, “That’s vile.”

From an editor…
I am just a corporate flunky like everyone else in America. Writers think that I am supposed to publish their book because it will change lives or something. I produce a list because it will produce a profit and I will get a promotion and hopefully retire soon. I am not in this to make some writer happy. I am in this because I love books and working with books, but writers I can take or leave. This isn’t a glamorous industry. The only reason people believe that is that it is promoted in the movies. Getting a good book out there is hard, and writers are a small part of it. Over the years, writers have become more demanding and less talented. I know my place. I wish they would figure out theirs.

From an publisher…
Thanks, Sammy, for saying some of the things I want to say, even if you are an agent. I’m a publisher, and I don’t think writers or agents know how hard it is to get a book into the hands of readers today. It is a big investment with potentially little yield. Yeah, I need writers, but only because I can’t do it myself. I wish I could. But that’s only a little piece of my worry pie. I have to fight with distributors and the incompetents they hire, and it’s not pretty. Without publishers fighting these battles, no books would be produced. It isn’t about writers or readers; it’s about the people who make the book happen, and that’s me. I resent it when somebody writes me and asks like a little kid, “Why won’t you publish my book? You published so-and-so’s book and it wasn’t very good.” It’s like I tell my kids, when I say no, I mean no. Don’t argue. I have my reasons and I don’t have to tell you why. Why? Because I’m the dad (publisher) that’s why!

From an agent…
Since when is it required that I am supposed to give writers a reason for rejecting their book? I don’t want to represent you. Plain and simple.

From an editor…
I hate agents. They intimidate me. If I need a book to fill a list, I have to pay more for it than it is worth. Try to explain to your boss why you spent a lot of money on a book that is basically a placeholder. It isn’t easy. (show Sammy playing violin here)

From a writer…
I hate it when writers start publishing companies promising to publish all those poor helpless souls who can't find a publisher anywhere else. You can always tell. The first thing you see on the website is their submission guidelines and a statement about how they are there to help writers dissed by mainstream publishers get published. Do you think readers care about that? Writers do, but readers don’t. Some even document the struggle the writer had to get published on the darn book! That’s how you know that the publishers are just frustrated writers who published their own books and now want to invest in other people’s to cover their tracks. When I am researching publishers, I see tons of these publisher wannabes, as SammyK would say. They waste my time. There is no way I am going to submit to some publisher who has no distribution besides the Internet and lousy taste in books. Writers do need to wake up and stop being so desperate.

From an agent…
I have been very lucky in getting good clients, people who trust my judgment and don’t get their undies in a bunch over every little thing. All but one was published before I took them on though. I rarely take on new writers anymore. They freak me out with some of the dumb things they ask me and expect. They are so damn worried about getting scammed or getting a “bad” agent (which is what exactly?) that I can’t work with them. What I don’t get is that they don’t understand the business at all. Sure, there are a few scammers out there. Most have been operating for years and everyone knows who they are. Sure, there are some stupid agents. But for the most part, 99% of agents are just businesspeople.

From an editor…
I love agents. They filter all the crapola out and then deal with the writers that drive me crazy. Do you know how long it has been since I have worked with a writer who hasn’t argued with me on every revision? I ask for one word changed, and they invoke the spirit of creativity or something. This is why most books suck. They are compromises between overworked, underpaid editors who can see potential in a book and obnoxious, self-absorbed cretins who want to be the one writer who can lay claim to the honor that THEY were the one who stood up for their creative piece and it became a bestseller. Not likely. When you don’t listen to qualified advice, you get garbage. Behind every great writer is a greater editor. It’s just like the movies—most are made in the cutting room and the writer didn’t have a damn thing to do with it.

Th-th-that's all folks!


  • At 6:26 PM, Blogger Peter L. Winkler said…

    The reason the survivors of those killed in the 9/11 attack were awarded money-and the amounts varied widely, they didn't all become millionaires-was because they waived the right to file civil suits against the government, the airlines and the owners of the buildings for wrongful death.

    They had a right to file suits and there probably would have been quite a few filed. The claims would have resulted in substantial settlements for many of the plaintiffs, possibly more than those determined by the arbitration process.

  • At 9:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I guess since Miss Snark isn't busy calling writers "a**holes," "wannabes," "greedy hacks," etc., that's proof positive she's not a real agent. After reading this blog, and in particular this entry, that makes sense to me.

  • At 10:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I wrote the comment Sammy posted about the 9/11 families.

    How can those families have right to file suit against the government? That's like saying if I get mugged and beaten in the street, I can sue the NYPD because they weren't there to protect me. Give me a break.

    The government shelled out millions for PR reasons, nothing more. It costs members of Congress nothing and it makes them look good.

  • At 6:12 PM, Blogger Peter L. Winkler said…

    "How can those families have right to file suit against the government?"

    First, because practically anyone in this country has the right to file a complaint against any individual or governmental entity in civil court.

    Because the civil courts system exists to adjudicate disputes between different parties.

    You confuse the 9/11 survivors' right with a different issue, whether their claims have merit and on what grounds they can claim the government is liable for the deaths of 9/11 victims.

    Gee, now why would they feel the government was negligent? How about the famous Presidential Daily Briefing "Bin Laden Determined To Strike Inside US" or the fact tha FBI agents filed reports about two of the 9/11 hijackers suspiciously taking lessons at a flight school, or that there was an FBI informant living with a group of the hijackers, and yet none of this information was coordinated to stop the hijackers.

    We knew terrorists were planning to attack us-they already had in 1993-and we had fragmentery knowledge of their identity and plans, and yet they weren't stopped.

    Knowing that, a person can conclude that there was a reasonably forseeable risk that the attacks that took place would occur.

  • At 11:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It's easy to look backwards with 20/20 vision. Even with Bin Laden being determined to strike within the U.S. is vague. It's a huge country and with millions of targets, points of access. Even with the flight school thing... who cares? To many people, not enough resources.

    There are two things that could be true: 1) If the government actually had enough information and resources to prevent the attack, don't you think they would have? or 2) The government let it happen as an excuse to invade Iraq. It certainly has happened before.

    And why in the world did the Oklahoma bombing victim's familys only get a 2 year income tax reprieve? I would venture to guess that it's because it wasn't as large of a scale of attack.

    It is a dangerous precedent to suggest that the Government must shell out money because people get killed.

    This will lead to ridiculous things. Why not sue the government for keeping tobacco and alcohol legal? Several hundred thousand people die of that. Why not sue the Army for negligence in soldier's deaths?


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