A Gent's Outlook

A Literary Agent Divulges the TRUTH about Publishing

Friday, September 15, 2006

Why Children's Editors Suck but Don't Swallow…by Marley

Well, Marley may have been absent for a little while, but she’s back now in full bloom. Marley, love, take it from here….

Jesus fucking Christ, people! You really have no clue about children’s publishing, do you? I do. You know why? Because I am not in it, that’s why. But my kindred spirits in the realm of the Itty Bitties (i.e. itty bitty advances, itty bitty royalties, itty bitty prestige) have to vent to someone. That’s right—I am buddies with a couple of kids’ editors. Have been for a long time. And they tell me things. Naughty things. I went to university with a couple of them, and for some reason—perhaps they are mentally ill—when we decided to go our separate ways into the pub world, they went to Bunnyville and I went to where all the grown-ups go—agenting. HA! I knew some of you would snicker at that. Well, fuck you good and hard. I may be a mother-fucking agent, despised by the creative population in general, but at least I’m not a pathetic, lifeless, mommy-wannabe, daycare lovin’ children’s lit editor. Jesus, and the Christians think Satan is bad!

Look, I know that everyone thinks of these twats as the epitome of literary mommydom, even the guys. They publish books that supposedly guide our children, but have you seen any of these man-hungry wrecks lately (including the guys)? I am almost sisters with one of them, and she’s a fucking idiot. I love her, and I would raise her children if a picture book writer hunted her down and killed her with one of their drool-covered glitter pens, but she’s still an idiot. To make it plainer to the elfadeldos (no, I don’t know how to goddamn spell it) in Bunnyville, not only do you have to deal with editors who never quite made it out of the middle school mentality, you have to deal with editors stealing your spots on lists. Maybe you should think about this before sending your masterpiece off.

I don’t take kiddie lit, even though wannabes send me shit all the time, but I am “in.” For those of you who don’t know what that means, it is the opposite of where you are, which is “out.” Anyway, I know who these people are. When a writer bitches to me about not taking kid lit (which is like bitching to a Chevy salesman that he doesn’t sell Fords), I fire back at them with the ridiculousness of their hero’s quest to be the next Dr. Seuss. Why is it fruitless? Because the children’s editors are writing their own books and getting them published, so they DO NOT NEED YOU. You pathetic morons!

Have you been to a bookstore lately? Just look at the names on the shelves and you will find dozens of editors who work at Random House, Simian & Schuster (yes, that’s how I spell it since that fucking little bastard in lower management bragged that he touched my unmentionables—MY TITTIES!—when the closest he had been was across the hall), HarpyCollins (have you talked with these people lately? Three words: P-M-S), and Penguin Poundyourpudnam (draw your own conclusions). Yeah, I have issues with all of these houses, though I still sell books to some of them, but the fact is the kid’s editors are publishing their own shit and they don’t need yours. So stop idolizing the fluffy version of Attila the Hun, will you?

Oh, I know. In the adult world, we have Jason Pinter, who wrote a book for—snicker, snicker—MIRA. Ooooooh. And there’s others, too. Even bigger oooooohs. Yeah, so it happens in the adult world, too, that editors claim spots on lists that real writers could fill otherwise. But kiddie writers seem to idolize their editors, whereas in my world we just tolerate the slop they churn out, buy them drinks until they are sloppy-ass drunk, and then we set their shoes on fire. God, I love my job!

The adult editors won’t go to the police—they are too ashamed to explain how they ended up with second-degree burns on the soles of their feet. One guy did try to claim he was fire-walking, but the cops didn’t buy it. The kiddie editors, on the other hand, have never gotten past milkshakes and teddy-bear hug parties, and they will run to an authority figure the minute you seductively suck on their olives. Pussies.

My point is this: Quit sending me your children’s lit shit. I don’t take it. Never will. The editors are psycho and they don’t buy that many manuscripts anyway because they are all busy writing their own, which usually suck. Check the names and numbers and you will see. The editor that turns you down because she says your book just didn’t connect with her is basically saying you write better than her and won’t take on anything that might make better sales figures than her loser book about Abraham Lincoln’s mole getting a blowjob.

And to my sister editors who keep trying to lure me over to the dark side—you will never take me alive. I don’t want to have anything to do with passing notes at recess, ‘kay? And by the way, I have the most amazing assortment of glitter pens…

Fuck you,

Monday, September 04, 2006

So Long, Mate...

Being that I am a reprehensible cad, I tend to judge a man by the number of women I have to console after he dies, and this morning I discovered, to my bedmate’s utter horror, that I am going to be a very busy teddy bear this week.

As many of you might have heard, Steve Irwin, the guy known as the Crocodile Hunter, died some hours ago after an encounter with a stingray that ended, unfortunately, with the ray’s barb stabbing Irwin in the heart. Since the news broke, my phone has been ringing off the hook (even though phones don’t technically have hooks anymore) with messages from my stable of beauties in near hysterics over this. In a desperate effort to appease some of my ladies (while fending off Violet's wrath) I promised I would write a short tribute to the guy on my blog, even though none of them know where or what it is. Apparently, just knowing that someone is posting in his honor is enough for them. So here goes…

Steve Irwin is the only guy that I ever knew of that--by just being himself and without even ever having talked to her directly that I know of--got Underwear Woman to quit wearing shoes made out of real crocodile hide.

For those of you who don’t know Underwear Woman, and I count you in the lucky sector on that one, she is a shrew of an ex-wife who won’t listen to anybody about anything because she is always right. The only thing that I have been sure she was right about was that I was diddling one of her friends, but I guess she was a regular fan of Irwin’s and decided that if a guy could generate that much enthusiasm for a creature that had a smile almost just like hers, then she would make the gesture. Not an empty one for a woman so vacuous and vain that she puts most show dogs to shame. A feat like that definitely indicates a higher order mammal of the most excellent kind (okay, I am quoting here).

Also, out of ten or so lovelies that I consider my steady girlfriends, eight of them called me needing comfort. Of course, one was fuming beside me because the phone kept waking her up, so on the Sammy Scale of Importance, Irwin ranked roughly eight out of nine, a feat unmatched to this point by any famous dead person. The highest the scale ever went was three out of ten, if that gives you any indication. And Irwin never even bonked any of my girlfriends either, so he earned this adoration just on his charm alone. I literally stand in awe.

I have to admit that I watched his stuff a few times myself, being a snake fan. Yeah, there’s some irony for you. I guess when you get compared to the slithery little guys enough, you get curious, so I tuned in. I can definitely say that, while we would have never gone out scoping women together (he was a dedicated family man), I would have definitely enjoyed hoisting a few with this bloke and listening to his exploits. He seemed genuine in everything that he did, and I don’t get to be around many folks like that in my industry. As one of my darlings sobbed, he was real like the Velveteen Rabbit real (I don't date all of my ladies for their brains alone). There were some people who got all bent out of shape over him holding his kid while feeding a crocodile—I remember this incident—and I remember thinking that they should fuck off. This guy knew what he was doing because he knew his shit, unlike most piss-brained parents nowadays who put helmets on their kids the minute they get out of bed in the morning. He knew what he was doing, and he was confident about it. The world is so filled with pathetic wannabes in every occupation (especially writers, don’t think that just because I am writing a tribute that you dickheads are off the hook) that no one seems to understand this anymore. I don’t meet too many of those folks in this industry either.

Jesus, I am getting more bummed as I write this.

On a bright note, I think that Irwin went the way he would have wanted to go if he knew he had to. I think that the best tribute to Irwin is that the Great Spirit (or Yahweh or God or whatever higher being you believe in) honored him by transitioning him to the next realm in a way that celebrates everything he ever stood for in his life. We should all aspire to such greatness.

Enough said.--SammyK

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Miscellaneous Stuff

This post will contain the words of other people—editors, other agents, writers, a bookseller, etc.—who populate this dying industry. Some are questions I will answer; others are just comments from a frustrated group of people besieged by bullshit.

From an editor…
I hate what this industry has become. I just hate it.

From an independent bookseller…
Hey Sammy, have you heard about the book that we’re expected to order even though the publishing house won’t divulge the author’s name or what it’s about? I say fuck ‘em; my patrons can go to a chain to buy that shit. This is ridiculous. Is it that publishers are trying to show us that they think we are so stupid that we will take anything, even an anonymous book with no description, just because they say it’s going to be a huge bestseller? Remember the Harry Potter disaster? Right!

From an agent…
I really can’t believe how out of hand some of these writers have gotten. I have been an agent for years, and good lord! The e-mails I get are just atrocious. Nasty notes because I send a form rejection and nasty notes if I offer comments. I can get new clients from other venues, so I just stopped taking queries period last year. Things have been a lot better since.

From an agent…
I keep hearing this lament about we agents would have nothing to do if there were no writers. Bullshit! I have skills for at least three other professions, whereas most writers are writing because they want to get out of their miserable existences. Yeah, I need these writers real bad. I can go almost anywhere and find some pudhead to scribble out a yarn, no problem. It’s not like the editors that they’re hiring now would know the difference, and believe me, the really talented writers aren’t the ones sniveling about not getting published.

From a romance editor…
I know you rail against idiot writers, but I bet you don’t have to work with them like I do. Instead of waiting for a really good book to come along, I have to take substandard crap and try to make it sellable because my house publishes so many books a year. The truth? You’ve said it, Sammy. There are millions of wannabes out there, but only a small percentage of them can write. And a smaller percentage can write really good romance. You know what I see? I see every day the stupid trends that romance publishers come up with and the way the RWA tries to legitimize romance by adding women’s fiction and chick-lit and all those other types of “sophisticated” versions of genre romance. There is nothing wrong with romance except that every pathetic, dateless wannabe thinks she can write it. I end up having to sign these people, knowing that I will have to practically re-write the damn books, and the next thing I know, the author has a web site or blog and is giving writing advice. Or she has a glamour shot posted and the site talks all about her and her life and how she came to be such an important literary icon, what with her one book and all. I hate to burst the bubble, and I would never actually say this to the writer, but just because you get a contract doesn’t mean you are a writer, just a convenient list filler. Agents are terrible about romances too. They will try to sell me anything, because they really don’t understand what good romance is. It is so depressing. I used to read romances for fun; now, like many of our readers, I don’t read anything for fun. I surf the Net.

From an agent…
God, I get so tired of hearing how evil agents are. I never realized it until I went to a few conferences, and boy, did I figure it out fast. I have done my best to get fair deals for my clients and mediate negotiations so that it’s a win/win situation for both the publisher and writer, because that’s how good books get to readers. But I’ll be damned if I don’t get on these blogs and forums and hear agents talked about like funeral parlor directors—they’re needed, but you really don’t want to have to ever see them professionally if you don’t have to.

From a writer…
I hate other writers. I can’t even get on the forums and stuff anymore because I always read something stupid from one of the regulars. Then when I respond, they either post around me or, even better, and I know this has happened to other people, they take what I posted, re-word it a little and add a comment, and then everyone praises them for their wonderful insight. Am I insane? No wonder publishers hesitate working with new writers so much. I would, too. I can’t even stand to be around them and I’m one of them. They all bitch about the cliquey-ness of the business, but the first thing they do is form cliques. I thought I graduated high school years ago.

From a small publisher…
This industry has changed so much since I started and writers need to understand that. But I get the crappiest stuff! If people just want to share their souls, fine, but don’t ask me to invest money in your work so that you—and only you—can benefit. I saw on some writer organization’s site the other day tips for writers and what they should allow (allow!?!) publishers to have. I was shocked. When did it become us against them, with the writer being the most important? Fuck that. Writers have written shitty responses to my rejections, stating that they don’t need publishers and can do it all on their own. I say, go ahead motherfucker. All these writers post on the Internet thinking they are getting back at publishers and proving they don’t need us. Good for you. You don’t need us unless you want to get paid for your writing, and as long as writers are doing all the work, which they didn’t used to have to do, we publishers will let you. They are dumbasses, aren’t they?

Questions and Answers:

From Beth…
I have a question. Why go to publishers? If you’re good, won’t they come to you? Every nut-bag has a blog and some of the nut-bags are getting deals!”--Pretty much, Betsy, they will find you if you are good. Publishers are inundated with crap every single day, and I have already given my uncensored opinion on how ridiculous it is that bloggers, most of whom are complete smartasses, are getting book deals. Publishers are getting desperate, and there are ways around them. The problem, my dear, is that you have to understand and know the industry before you can navigate away from the morons, and most wannabes don’t know the first thing about the basics as it is.

From another Beth…
“Has such a loss of professionalism (however chemically-induced) ever happened to you? Or respected agents that you know?”--In regard to a situation this questioner described about a agent who got drunk and fondled someone, no, I haven’t, to this point, suffered a loss of professionalism such as this, inebriated or otherwise. I should note, though, that this is because I am a completely unprofessional person to begin with, so people don’t set the highest standards for me anyway—just for my clients. As for my agent brethren, I know of plenty of incidents that have happened over the years, some of them pretty embarrassing, some almost illegal, and others just funny and/or titillating (Marley, love, I will never tell). However, I won’t post them because A) they will tag my identity B) I don’t share industry stuff with outsiders and C) as long as they know that I know and haven’t told, they stay in line. Blowing the whistle would lessen the iron grip of power I hold over some of these yahoos, so you really wouldn’t want me to post their dalliances, as that’s the only thing keeping them in control at all. Sort of like Saddam Hussein and the terrorists. Sort of.

From George…

“Why do agents suck so bad? Butt-juice sniffers!”--Well, George, it’s like this: Fuck off.

There are so many more, but I have to go enjoy the rest of my weekend with Bella. She’s getting antsy and shouting love words in Italian. If she gets to singing “Volaire,” I won’t make it out alive.--Sammy