Thursday, November 12, 2009

Who Does This?

***Warning to all reading this: It’s full of sarcasm and nothing but a rant, but I had a really good time writing it.

Not too long ago somebody (I’m not sure if it was a man or woman, or even using her real name, so we’ll go with “she”) thought it would be a good idea to send an angry diatribe of an email to roughly 400 publishing professionals. How do I know 400? Because all of our email addresses were there for the world, or at least 400 publishing professionals, to see.

The email was entitled “confidential memo.” I mean, really, how confidential can anything be when it’s from a stranger and blindly sent to 400 people, many, or most, at generic submission addresses? But if that’s what you think, I’ll respect that. Okay, no I won’t.

The email started by telling us all how much writers disregard the publishing industry and hold us all in contempt. My first thought was that you must not disregard us all that much if you’ve gone to the effort to collect 400+ email addresses and send this email, but I’ll keep reading. Apparently, according to this writer, bestseller lists only promote shallow and marketable books and there’s nothing being published that’s written by anyone with any lasting talent. Interesting, the same was said of William Shakespeare and Jane Austen, but what do I know? Maybe they’re just hacks.

The funny thing about bestseller lists is that publishers don’t actually place the books on the lists themselves. They are there because readers love those books, buy them in mass quantities and, lo and behold, they become bestsellers. I guess it would be better if we only published books readers didn’t want to read or buy? Ah, so many things I’ll have to consider.

And then of course there were the usual complaints about expecting writers to “sell” their books to agents and how writers aren’t salespeople and that the system needs to change. Blah, blah, blah. How do you think we’re going to find authors if you in some way can’t at least tell me about your book in a way that’s enticing? Because if people are getting published daily, new authors, it’s somehow the system’s fault that you’re not?

Okay, so this was my favorite part. The part about how it was a crime that hardworking people spend years writing a manuscript only to get it rejected. Newsflash! I never asked you to write that manuscript. If it’s a crime, it’s a crime you perpetrated on yourself. Don’t blame me, or should I say the 400 of us, because what you wrote isn’t publishable (or at least that’s why I’m assuming I got this email).

And then of course there was a lot of misinformation about how unethical agents are, how writers who are successful are whores, how publishers only want books by actors and politicians and then something about if I liked Vanilla Ice or MC Hammer then I’m nothing but a sheep.

I really only have one thing to say to this person: insult me all you want, but insult my authors and you are a complete fool. Don’t ever assume any of the clients I represent are thieves, whores, or hacks. They are talented writers who have worked hard to get to where they are. I’m not representing them because I’m looking for easy money or to fill bestseller lists (although we’re hoping to do that too), I’m representing them because I like the books they write. No, I love what they write, and this might surprise you, so do thousands of other people.

Don’t worry, it’s people like this who only give other idiots a bad name. Oh, and give me something to rant about. I mean, seriously?!

Jessica

96 comments:

Anonymous said...

WOW. 400 agents and publishers??? I didn't even know there were that many out there!

I'm speechless.

B.E. Sanderson said...

Ugh. I'm so sorry that you and others like you get stuff like that.

Just critiquing those parts of the letter you shared shows why she isn't getting published. First off, the writing seems melodramatic. Crime? Not really. Maybe they should've gone with 'crying shame'. Can I get a 'heartwrenching tragedy'?

And please, Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer?? The references to pop culture are twenty years out of date. Unless she wrote a book set in the late eighties, of course.

GhostFolk.com said...

Yes!

...how writers who are successful are whores.

But what's really important is whether this red lipstick goes with my fishnet thigh-highs and heels.

rachelcapps said...

The ignorance! It must be a comfy shell she lives in, that's all I can say.

Jmosberg said...

Are the 400 surprised to get emails like this? I would assume you would get them everyday. That's the environment that's been created.
It certainly isn't Jessica Faust's fault, or any one publishing pro in particular. No doubt publishing has been eaten by the corporate bug that belittles craftsmanship. But I think there's a more specific problem at work here.
By marketing a distinct process to publication and wealth (through blogs, absurd how-to books (written mostly by agents and publishers), and interviews), the publishing industry has created a ridiculous, ever-expanding inventory of unpublished books. In this inventory, there are two types of pissed-off writers. The terrible writer who has been sold the idea that he or she can become, very easily, a good, wealthy writer, and the writer of true discipline who cannot find their way through the mire of terrible writers to publish even with a tiny house that offers no money.
I'm not saying that mass emails like this are professional. But I think that the publishing industry folk are far from innocent. Until you get that inventory down, your corporate process will be hindered.
People love books. They hate to see corporations destroy what they consider sacred. As I said, mass emails like that aren't "professional." Well, the dude who sent it probably isn't a professional. But ask yourself: for agents, publishers, or others in the industry to make money off potential writers (selling books about publishing, conferences requiring writers to pay fees): how is that different from an agent charging reading fees? It's like a gatekeeper inventing riddles that one must solve to enter the gate. The gatekeeper then charges money for small clues to solve the riddle. When someone trying to enter pays for the clues (or pays in time trying to solve the riddle), but still can't get inside the gate... well, it ain't easy being green.

Anonymous said...

I know this person! Or at least, I know someone exactly like her. I bet every writer does. She's in your critique group, or at your RWA meeting, or sitting next to you at a writer's conference.

She will give this same screed to anyone who will listen, and usually it's other writers.

She is always self-published or thinking of going that way, deluded into thinking she can be both writer and publisher and failing at both. But she talks out of two sides of her mouth, because she believes her self-published novel will make her famous and (wait for it) get her a contract with the large NY publishing company she "hates."

I am so, so, so sorry that you got this e-mail!

(Remaining cowardly anon because I really do know this person and she reads this blog.)

Ava Quinn said...

Holy Saint Peter on a pogo stick! I wonder if there's a remedy for vitriol. Maybe Pepto or a purple pill? I'm sure the pharmaceutical companies are working on something as we speak. You could send her some with your compliments.

clindsay said...

I have another thing to say to this writer (whose diatribe also reached my inbox):

Sir, have you take your meds today?

Christine Fletcher said...

By marketing a distinct process to publication and wealth (through blogs, absurd how-to books (written mostly by agents and publishers), and interviews), the publishing industry has created a ridiculous, ever-expanding inventory of unpublished books.

I have a different take on this. I don't think it's the availability of how-to books and agent blogs that has created the inventory of unpublished books. I think it's due more to the growing notion that everyone has something important to say and everyone is entitled to an audience. If anything remotely interesting happens to someone, what do they do? Write a book and go on Good Morning America. It's not the publishing industry selling the dream of fame and wealth. It's the media. Yes, there are a lot of how-to books out there. But that's a response to demand: lots and lots of aspiring writers who create a market.

And compared to 15 years ago, when I started to write, there is SO much more free material available to unpublished writers, thanks to the internet. That includes agent blogs like this one. The publishing industry doesn't require a writer to spend money on books and conferences. Critique groups are free. Many how-to books are available at the library. And writers do find their way out of the slush pile. I know, because I did.

Stephen Parrish said...

You got my attention. You should rant more often.

Julie Henry said...

Oh my. I promise never to do this. :)

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I laughed so hard I couldn't stop coughing. Stupid cold.

I recently met a writer at a conference. Soon after, she started emailing me every week, and each time it would end up being an extremely long paragraph complaining about the industry and agents. It was so obvious how clueless she was about everything. I even suggested some agents blogs just she could educate herself. But after another long, boring tirade yesterday, I had to tell her to find someone else to whine to. I couldn't take it anymore. Now I can sympathesize with the agents who keep getting this ridiculous emails. Some writers really don't get it that publishing in a business. And all businesses are created to make money. Plain and simple.

Colette said...

Jessica, what I know for sure is that this industry is not the only one fraught with people who have a sense of entitlement. While this particular brand of lashing out (via written word) may be unique to this industry, I can tell you that there are workers everywhere who believe they deserve more than they have. No matter what work you do -- everyone can't rise to the top. It's a fact of life. It's unfortunate that you have to get letters like that. Think of it as making an otherwise normal day more interesting.

Kristen said...

I'm torn between dismay that someone would do this and amusement that this will probably become a running joke of sorts for years to come for professionals in publishing:

"Hey, remember that time we got that ignorant mass e-mail?"
"Yea, what a loser!"
"Hahahaha"

So the silver lining is you have something new in common with 399 other people, and it's not herpes!

Renee Pinner said...

Crazy people...they're everywhere.

Kim Lionetti said...

JMosberg:

I can assure you that 99% of the queries I reject are from writers who clearly didn't read any publishing blogs or books on how to get published. The rise in aspiring writers is due to this communication age and the ease of sending an e-mail -- no more having to print out pages and pages of manuscript, travel to the post office and pay to mail it to numerous publishing professionals -- not the availability of more information.

I think you're also overlooking the large group of writers that have benefited from those resources and gone on to be published and successful.

Writers conferences are organized by writing groups who charge the fee as a way to pay for the expense of throwing the conference. Most of the time publishing professionals aren't paid to attend those conferences, beyond their transportation and hotel expenses. Blogs are offering free information. And most of the books about getting published are written by authors who have been through the process themselves. Most of the time, the only way agents and publishers are "cashing in" on providing these resources is by receiving better, more publishable projects.

Joanie said...

This is hilarious.

I can't wait for her to send her next manuscript off to someone who got, or saw, that letter. I bet that goes over great...

fatcaster said...

It's not a she. It lives--or says it does--in Mississippi. I think. Sad case. CNU?

maybegenius said...

Woooooow.

Entitlementville, population this person?

O_o

Natasha Fondren said...

Hah! Your reaction is hilarious. So is her email, really. Although a little irritating.

I guess we all pick scapegoats for our anger.

magolla said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matthew said...

Shakespeare wasn't a hack...he was really a chimp high on opium. And don't get me started on Jane Austen.

And I have no problem being called a whore if my work is successful, because at least I'd be a successful whore.

Livia said...

I don't understand why people think spending time on a manuscript entitles them to be published. The world doesn't work that way.

Ilana D. said...

On the bright side: If we lived in Iraq, this person would not have sent a raving email. They would have blown up the street of booksellers.

Dawn Hullender said...

Wow, I'm simply speechless. I can't believe anyone in their right mind would so something like this.

I may mentally rant on the rejections I get, but I would NEVER go so far as to humiliate myself like this person has done.

Ms Snarky Pants said...

Awww your snark is delightfully refreshing so early in the morning. :-D

Sounds to me like this person should have put the time that they wasted writing this into researching self publishing. If their manuscript is unpublishable by real world standards and the world is in DESPERATE need of it then go visit lulu.

Of course, I'm not sure what makes them think readers will buy it and thus read it if it's not publishable in the first place...

Laurel said...

Blogging while intoxicated is risky but not usually fatal.

Typing diatribes and sending them to 400 professionals in the industry you aspire to participate in while you're lit up like a Christmas tree, however? Career suicide.

Although a good twelve step and nom de plume could help.

Michelle Marie said...

The truly hilarious part about this is that if an agent did want them they'd be more than happy to become one of the "whores/hacks" that they claim to despise. This is one bad case of sour grapes.

DebraLSchubert said...

"I guess it would be better if we only published books readers didn’t want to read or buy? Ah, so many things I’ll have to consider."

Clearly, you're out of touch, Jessica. Thank goodness this publishing guru took the time to enlighten you and so many misinformed others on the keys to why the publishing industry is such a horrendous mess. WHAT a help he/she is! If you were smart, you'd count this advice amongst your biggest blessings. (Speaking of biggest blessings, congrats!!)

Ulysses said...

I, for one, am pleased by this "brave, new world that has such people in it." Their existence will never stop providing me with reality television, moments of epic fail, Fox News commentators, and politicians.

Er. Wait. None of those things are good.

Valerie Geary said...

Wow. That's it. Just wow.

CKHB said...

Wait, the books on the bestseller lists are only there because they are the marketable ones? WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME BEFORE? This changes my entire view of publishing, and now I hold agents in contempt for perpetuating this horrible travesty of justice.

(Rolling eyes)

Aimless Writer said...

Writers hold agents in contempt? Ha! Most writers I know published and pre-published think a great deal of agents. I was at an RWA (NJ) conference once where you spoke and in the brief time I spent in that room I learned a lot. I think good writers always know they can improve.
That writer evidently doesn't want to improve his craft he/she just wants to b*tch. Pity, thats probably the most read he'll ever be.

Karla said...

That must be the electronic version of "going postal". Thank goodness the letter writer had access to email and not a gun.

WitLiz Today said...

Ms Faust,

So, what's so hard for you to understand here? That there are writer's out there who are compelled to act in ways that defy explanation? You already know that. So what's the point of your rant?

Because a good rant doesn't get personal. It doesn't hold a writer up to ridicule because they have inappropriate boundaries. And it doesn't incite others to do same. (If I don't see the word idiot, or loser, or crazies, in somebody's comments, I'll swoon like a southern belle in Rhett Butler’s bed. EDIT: I swooned, I came, I conquered!)

Frankly, when I read a blog/rant like this, I feel like I'm back on the playground watching a bully come out and beat up on the kid who's different. And we know there’s always a crowd that cheers the bully on.

Believe it or not, there are millions of writers out there who are wounded humans. Some of them have chosen to express their anguish through words—words that hurt, insult, and are most certainly self-defeating. Not unlike a wounded animal who turns vicious on a dime. But a wounded animal is treated far better than a wounded human. When both are deserving of humane treatment, usually consisting of kindness, compassion and understanding.

There are far too many writers and agents who fail to understand this concept. I hope that changes, because society will continue to deteriorate unless people with influence pave the way for that change.

Dara said...

Good grief. It's people like that that make writers look like a bunch of loonies.

Ranting about this is fine. It releases the frustration over people's neverending stupidity.

I don't get WitLiz's statement though...I mean that "writer" just sent a huge rant to all these people, yet agents and editors aren't allowed to because...?

I understand there are many writers who are frustrated and angry and hurt, but they just make that cycle worse by doing things like this and damaging their reputation (even if it's done "anonymously.")

GregC said...

Dear WitLiz,

Why would a wounded animal attack a dime? Did the dime turn down their novel?

Jon said...

I think Witliz and Jmosberg protest a little too much... Perhaps the population of Entitlementville is a tad larger than than just the author of the original e-mail?

bethanyintexas said...

Wow. Can't believe that person actually sent that email. Yikes. Not smart.

P.S. I'm not a whore, but then again I'm not a published novelist, yet, either. I didn't realize that the meaning of whore was a published author. Maybe I need to read a dictonary. Good thing I own 2 and one of them has a Thesaurus.

Watery Tart said...

I don't suppose there's a way for you to forward that list of agents so I don't have to do all that legwork myself? (kidding)

I suppose this person accomplished SOMETHING he hadn't before... he got the grand attention of hundreds... annoyed them nearly simultaneously, but there is the school of thought that negative attention is better than none at all (though the people who choose that route are usually those who failed with the positive version).

I agree with the commenter who mentioned that EVERYONE thinks they have something to say (and they might... to all 30 of their extended family members) and it makes it very hard to break through for REAL stories, because every last one of us thinks OURS is a real story. I have writer friends in other countries and the obstacles aren't piled nearly so high.

At the same time, I don't know how this person doesn't know he's shooting himself in the foot (I am going with the 'only males use 'whores' as a put down conclusion). We're all in the same boat, and the best we can do is try to improve our approach and keep plugging away.

Alii Silverwing said...

*snerks* That's just... impressive.

Every time someone compares a published writer to a whore, I always think of one of my favorite scenes from Stranger in a Strange Land where Jubal Harshaw says something to the effect that an artist that can't support themselves on their own merit is an 'incompetent whore'

I don't necessarily agree with the sentiment, but it _always_ makes me laugh. If she is going to consider published writers whores, what does that make this person but incompetent at their chosen profession? Logic, this person has it. <3

Poor ranting letter-writer needs a night on the town, a foot massage, and a good kick in the pants.

Marie said...

ah well, I wish this person good look with his/her self-publishing career.

AM said...

It's a perfectly natural thing for those who are rejected to reject their rejecters - but 400 rejections - ouch!

Fatcaster – That was the first person who came to my mind, too.

Witliz – I agree with your wounded animal analogy. It’s sad to see people hurting others and themselves by lashing out, but why would anyone offer a hand when he knows it’s going to be bitten. And I hate to point this out, but there are plenty of times when humans just shoot wounded animals because they are dangerous.

Yes, it’s very sad, but those who wildly lash out at everyone around them, tend to alienate themselves from everyone around them. Pity them from afar – it’s safer.

Anonymous said...

Of course this emailer is taking the publishing game really seriously and it's kind of scary he has your email address. Ick.

I have a different perspective though, that most of the other comments. Some writers do hold agents in contempt. Not necessarily any particular agent, but as a whole.

I've had an A list agent dump me without warning because my first book didn't sell. I later found out that was her standard method of operation. There were a string of dumped writers ahead of me and now, probably behind me. When I was in the early stages of talking with her I stressed my desire to have an agent for a whole career and not just one book. She agreed whole-heartedly. Obviously, she was a liar.

Since June, I've had a requested full with three established agents. It's now freaking November, people. November. All my status queries have gone unanswered, so I've crossed them off my list.

I've had another book with someone since August, she keeps giving me updates of... I love this... this is really interesting... let me know if you get any offers... without her actually making an offer. I think she's waiting to see if anyone else wants it first so her own instincts will be confirmed and she can swoop in and make an offer too. Gag.

So, yeah, I actually don't have a high opinion of most agents, because the business has taught me not to. Doesn't mean I hate them or think they are evil. But do I think they "care" about stringing writers along? No.

Anonymous said...

Witless,
This is an industry...a business, not therapy. We're all wounded. We don't all act crazy.

Susan at Stony River said...

Wow. Well he's 'published' now.

As others have said, thank goodness it was an email and not live ammo. But what a great start to the day *that* must have been.

I've left writers' groups because of people like this. I'm there to learn something and improve my manuscript, not listen to crazy-rants against the very industry we're trying to join.

Thanks for the grins, btw; there were many!

jjdebenedictis said...

There is a website called "Emails from Crazy People".

400 individuals got this and the letter didn't end up on that site? I commend the publishing industry on its decorum and restraint; I wouldn't have been able to resist.

Jmosberg said...

Perhaps I overplayed my point about guide books and conferences, though I will always be uneasy about professionals receiving money from wanna-bes a pure educational system.
To me, one of the biggest problems is that a writer's increased accesibility to agents (via the Internet, blogs, etc) nowadays seems to have actually decreased accessibility. There are just too many people trying to get published. As you say, "everyone's got something to say."
I mean, you hear about agents reading 50 to 100 query letters a day, then complaining about how they don't find anything good. I mean, really, you're reading that many at a time and expecting to be blown away by a summary contrived into a rudimentary form? Query letters are compared to blurbs on the backs of books. When was the last time you went into a bookstore and read the backs of 100 novels? That sounds like a terrible afternoon, and I can't imagine I'd come away excited about a book, even if some of them did describe great novels.
Whenever a writer complains about the industry, it's the same reply: it's a business. And we all scoff at the original culprit because she thinks she'll find fame and fortune through self-publishing. Yet those who scoff are the ones trying to board a sinking ship already beyond capicity.

As far as it goes, I tip my hat to whoever wrote that email to the 400. Not something I would've done, but hey, if you feel better, good for you. This business isn't about professionalism. It's about books. Books, whether pieces of data or yellowing pages, will be around long after all these silly rules about query letter dos and don'ts and damning to deletion properties, what to say, what not to say, when to email, when not to email, how long to wait, how to know, how not to know. It's a lot of bad noise. Doesn't do much for creativity, that's for sure.
So hat's off. Fight the system. Put your book on the internets and make a million bucks. Probably just as good a shot there as anywhere.
And ask yourself: is attacking and making fun of this woman really any better than what she did? Maybe you should ask your good friend Emmanuel Kant. Maybe he has a query letter you could read to make it easier.

Anonymous said...

I don't get WitLiz's statement though...I mean that "writer" just sent a huge rant to all these people, yet agents and editors aren't allowed to because...?

So you're saying that agents and editors are on the same level as the writer of that email?

I agree with WitLiz. This person just seems too much of an easy target. They're crazy. So what? We all get to pat ourselves on the back because of that?

I don't mind it when people rant about something. That's fine. It's just when 48 other people start jumping in on the action it kind of leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Maybe next time you could disable comments for these kind of posts? If only to avoid the naysayers like me :)

Anonymous said...

Hey can you post the 400 email addresses?
Thanks.

Anonymous said...

"When I was in the early stages of talking with her I stressed my desire to have an agent for a whole career and not just one book. She agreed whole-heartedly. Obviously, she was a liar."

She wasn't a liar, she just meant, "[If you continue to sell] I'd like to rep you for your entire career."

Keepin mind thaat the very importance of agents is diminishing for new authors. For established agents, I think you need an agent more than ever. But if you are unpublished, it's almost a waste of time to wait a year seeking an agent. You don't need an agent if you haven't sold anything yet. There are more avenues than ever to get books in all their various forms to potential readers. Show that you have a fan base and the agents will come to you. And if you can't build a fan base? Then you've answered your own question without waiting for someone else to tell you that they can't make $$ off what you've written.

Anonymous said...

Yup. Ask yourself this question:

Does what I've written come with a built-in fan base? If not, then you're not ready for an agent. You need to get a fan base first.

In other words, "Book's okay, but it's got no fan base. Pass."

That's how it is now. There's no reason to take a chance on an unknown writer anymore because web 2.0 has made being unknown unnecessary.

Anonymous said...

Well now, anon 2:49, that's depressing! Some of us would rather spend their time actually writing than self-promoting future works or unrepped works.

Anonymous said...

Okay, then, anon 2:49, try the following experiment:

Submit your unpublished ms. to agents. Try to get it sold that way. If after a year you are not even repped yet, then begin promoting the book yourself--fan pages, websites, maybe sample audio book chapters, free .pdf, that kind of thing. Give yourself a year to build up tens of thousands of fans. THEN, try to get an agent for the same book. Methinks the results will be different that time around.

Anonymous said...

But anon 2:55, the advantage of going the agent appraoch is that while you're waiting for the agents to respond, you can be working on another book. With the self-promotion/non-traditional pub methods you described, all your time will be spent promoting, and not so much writing, which will stunt your devleopment as a writer. At least after waiting for agents to respond for a year, you could have a new book written in that time.

anonnumberone said...

A "built-in fan base" for FICTION, are you kidding me?

New writers get sold all the time, and yes, they have agents. Jessica reps romance, do you think a romance author, or YA author, or lit fiction author needs a fan base now, well... wouldn't their fan base be readers of romance or YA or lit fiction?

Pre-established fan bases/platforms are for when you write non-fiction or are trying to get a book deal from your blog like Petite Anglaise or the I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell guy.

JDuncan said...

I suppose this person has decided they don't every want to get an agent or publish through a traditonal publishing house, but that's their choice. That's a lot of effort to put into expressing frustration. Likely it'd be better spent on becoming a better writer.

I believe there are a fair number of writers out there, more so than in years past, who just don't understand the inherent difficulties in getting published. It's more than just writing a good story, though you certainly have to start with that. Some writers complain that their writing isn't given a fair shot, that if someone would just read it that they'd see how good it is. Thing is, thousands of other other writers are in exactly the same boat. Many of them have likely written great books. The problem of course, is that there is only so much room on the store shelves. Even tossing out all of the submitted novels that really aren't very good, you're likely looking at ratio that gives you less than a ten percent chance of getting picked up by an agent and probably it's more like 1%. I'd call this built-in frustration. Thing is, writers just have to suck it up and deal with it.

For one, complaining does no good other than making you look like a whiner that nobody would want to represent anyway. Your odds of success in publishing are minimal at best. You can't go into this crazy business thinking otherwise. There are countless stories out there of authors who wrote for years before getting published. Don't get into this if you aren't willing to do that. Seriously. There is no inherent right to publication if you take the time to writer a novel, any more than a painter has a right to get exhibited in a gallery just because they took the time to create a painting. Writing is after all, is something of an art. Anyone can write, but not everyone can create a story that others will want to read and be willing to pay money for.

The digital age has not done wonders for the art of writing. It's been both a boon and a bane. Yes it has made it easier for anyone to write and submit. This exact process has also devalued the art of writing. It's also made things more difficult for publishers. It is far more challenging to find the good stuff. Not only is there far more bad writing to wade through, there is also more good writing to have to decide between. These shifting times are very hard on writers. Writing a great story is no guarantee for getting published. It never has been, and it is even less so now. This isn't really publishing's fault. They have no choice but to turn away good writers. There isn't the money, the shelf space or the readers to handle them all.

So, for those writers out there who can sympathize with this writer's frustrations (though most would thankfully not go to this extreme), quit laying the blame on agents and publishers. It's an insanely difficult business. They are trying their damnedest to find good stories for people to read. Nearly all are in it because they love great books. Sadly, they can't publish them all. You can only keep writing and hope for the best.

Barbra Annino said...

I think when stuff like this happens, it's enough to send any hard working writer over the edge.

http://archives.chicagotribune.com/2009/jun/22/entertainment/chi-tc-ft-conrad-0621-0622jun22

Here's an excerpt from The Hills star Lauren Conrad's interview on her 3 book deal. 3 books she had yet to write, BTW.

"I wanted to write a book – I met with Harper Collins but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write about. I was going to do a dating book, a fashion book. They actually threw out the idea of a novel for teens."

Q.) How did you write it?

"I started a year ago. We outlined all three books. I started developing characters – very roughly. I did that during a trip to Italy. I went with my family for two weeks and I had a lot of time.

And Harper Collins was amazing and very patient with me. They helped along the process – because, you know, without experience, you have no idea how to write a book."

INDEED.

Anonymous said...

Not anymore, annonnumnerone!

Pre-built fan bases are for new ficiton writers, now. Don't have one? Why not? because either 1) you aren't willing to put in the effort or 2) because readers don't want what you're offering

Either way, you're not marketable to the bigs.

Anonymous said...

Where does this "build a fanbase first" fantasy come from? I see it pop up in blog comment sections whenever this type of topic comes up. So who are the shiny examples of success?

Now, I read all the time, all the time I'm buying new books-- a lot of them by new authors-- and every single one of them, that I own, went the traditional route, first sale, unpublished nobody. They didn't come with an attached fanbase or anything.

Racking my brain, I've heard of MAYBE three books that went this fabled website/self-promotion/vanity press route and were THEN picked up by a publisher and honestly, I'm probably making up the third one... so two, maybe. I'll freely admit there are probably more that I don't know of, but hundreds? Thousands? With books that made big sale numbers?

Come on.

And do the two I know even count, since they all ended up at big publishers with agents anyway?

So, who is this "fan base first" example that has got such a vocal minority so riled up? Or is it just wishful thinking? Because, while I certainly don't know of all books out there, I definitely buy alot and I'm always looking for new, so who are these multitudes that are bypassing the system to fortune and glory?

Who?

Seriously.... let's see some names, because it seems to me that for every single person who "made it" by going that way, there are millions who have crashed and burned and now have a garage full of unsold copies of their books.

As far as I can tell, this "fan-base first" self-promotion/website/vanity press idea is just a pipe dream born of frustration due to the cold and callous nature of the submission system.

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:57

The above fan-base advocate is more right than wrong. Not that I'm in favor of it, but I do fear he/she/it is showing us a glimpse of the not-too-distant future.

See this article "Moving the Neelde" today from Nathan B:

http://blog.nathanbransford.com/

Megoblocks said...

Well MC Hammer did become a pastor. Maybe s/he thought you were part of the flock he was tending

Anonymous said...

"Seriously.... let's see some names, because it seems to me that for every single person who "made it" by going that way, there are millions who have crashed and burned and now have a garage full of unsold copies of their books. "

The garage full of unsold books" is also a misconception. these days with POD you don't print the book until someone buys it, so there's no physical inventory (just like Dell Computer's business model).

JC Hutchins, Scott Sigler, Seth Harwood, Daniel Suarez are 4 names who started non-traditionally, and believe me there are many more. Admittedly these are all thrillers/horror, because there seems to be a blind spot in the agent-pub track for these type of books (or maaybe it's just thaat these types of people are more driven, the subject matter is correspondingly more intense). i don't pretend to know why, but that's what's happening.

Steph Damore said...

What's that saying?

Oh yeah.

If you don't like the rules, don't play the game.

anonnumberone said...

AMEN to Anon 3:57!!!

Yes, show us some names!

Anonymous said...

"JC Hutchins, Scott Sigler, Seth Harwood, Daniel Suarez"

Who?

Anonymous said...

"From the Moving the Needle article:

...the traditional tools at publishers' disposal aren't as effective as they used to be: Review space has all but completely disappeared, bookstores are closing and taking with them the precious hit-making front-store real estate (which publishers pay dearly for), advertising is costly and sporadically effective, and some (but not all) publishers have been slow to adapt to the potential of the Internet and especially social networking. In other words: their ability to move the needle has flown out the digital door."

and:

"Unless the industry finds a better way to minimize their massive risk-taking or find new tools to move the needle, publishing will continue to bow before the increasingly fickle whims of the zeitgeist and the Internet hive."

Does this sound like a system an unknown writer should by dying to get into? No way. Build yourself up and then when you're proven they will know how to support you. Until then, there's readers to attract, books to write.

Anonymous said...

Okay, wait... some of you are sounding like you're talking telling people not to submit to an agent and build a fanbase AND it sounds like you don't have the book written yet, or that you are assuming the book isn't written yet.

Are you people talking about the various ins and outs of querying or not querying WITHOUT having your book done yet?!?!?!

Anonymous said...

The book should always come first. After you've writtena book, though, instead of leaving it to languish on your hard drive whilst waiting for some "agent" somewhere to respond to you, you might as well get it out there on your own while you work on the next book. I guess you could query agent also, nothing to lose really, but I wouldn't sit around and wait for them--they come on board when they come on board; meanwhile, you do your thing, which is to build a fan base and continue to write. Eventually, when the time is right, you will land aan agent--out of pure necessity, because you simply cannot manage and negotiate all of the contracts put in front of you. If people like your books, that is. By and distribution/publishing system, that's always the catch, isn't it? You may be able to get it in fromt of them, but they still have to like it.

Crystal said...

Jessica,

I love this rant. You should do more of these :)

Anonymous said...

"I guess you could query agent also, nothing to lose really, but I wouldn't sit around and wait for them--they come on board when they come on board;"

Now THAT does make some sense to me.

Anonymous said...

"Now THAT does make some sense to me."

But it doesn't to me.

Go out there with your book and do what? To what end? Do you want to sell books for real and have a real career? Or do you want to pitch it on some half-baked website in some dark corner of the internet with other like-minded never-will-bes?

Sure, maybe you'll move a few glossily bound versions of your manuscript, but so what? What for?

Why not, instead of expelling all that time and energy on half-efforts, you put your manuscript in a drawer, put together an excel tracking sheet and start sending out queries and in the meantime, INSTEAD of pimping a low-rent version of your pride and joy to a few scraggily followers who happen to wander by your little geo-cities site, why not IMPROVE YOUR CRAFT by getting back to work on your next (and maybe sellable this time) book?

Or is it easier to just blame the system and too scary to admit that you might not have the chops for number two?

Jess said...

The audacity of some people! No respect, whatsoever. I'll bet you'll agree when I say whatever slim chance he/she may have had at getting an agent/publisher was just shot to hell with this little stint, episode, bullsh*t he/she pulled.
It's taken me half a year to get a full ms request, but I never once blamed anyone other than myself.
Whoever sent you that email clearly has not done any research regarding the biz. If so they would have known how hard they were going to have to work just to get part of their pinky toe in the door.
I wonder how many of you who received the email wrote back.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm...it seems that some actual people do not get how to promote, it's not only the major publishers! Geocities?! LOL I thought it was 1997 for a second their.

You need a real website with your author name or book title as URL. I guess you could link to it from any free site you want, but you need your own site. And you need social netowrk fans/followers/friends.

And you need to keep writing. You don't stop writing. Just as you would with a major house--you'll be writing #2 while promoting #1.

Anonymous said...

How do you know? Have you suceeded at this?

Anonymous said...

I love how every post eventually degenerates into an anon-fest!

Anonymous said...

There is some evidence to suggest that authors stay where theey are throught their careers according to where they broke out at. So if you bust out huge, you tend to stay huge. If you Start out midlisted, you'll stay midlisted. If you start out small press, you'll stay small press. If you start out self-pubbed, you'll always be self-pubbed. Sure, there are exceptions, but some people win the lottery, too, right?

So the take-home msg is that you want to make every effort, as a new writer, to make your debut in as lofty a position as you can get. Because it's tough to break out of the mold your debut sets for yourself.

For some writers, self-pubbing (via POD these days) may be the only chance they will get, and for them, they may as well take it. But you should be darn sure you have no other recourse before taking htat step with your debut. Other writers may be able to get small press deals sans agent, and this, while it certainly seems better than no deal at atll, esp. with an advance and some B&M distribution, is not always the best route, although it can work. It just depends on your tolerance for risk as a writer and how high you think you can go with your debut--how far you're willing to go before saying, OK, this is as far as I can take it--I'm going to publish now (either POD, small/indie press/ or agent-Big 6).

For many writers, especially younger ones whose talent may still be developing, it's often wise just to shelve a project and write a new one before making any decisions.

Anonymous said...

The biggest problem right now for POD books, if you ask me, is the consumer price. You can always tell the POD books on Amazon when it says, Paperback, $14.95 or osme other ridiculous price. Who's gonna want to pay that much for a paperback?! to me, that's a deal killer for POD.

If you can get a small press that will put you out in paperback for $7.95 (and as a debut author, coming out in paperback is not a bad idea in this economy), that can work. But the POD prices are just not viable IMO.

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget about Kindle and the other e-book formats!

And yes, the $15 paperback POD book is prohibitive, but, as with all technologies, you know it will be faster-better-cheaper in the next few years. what happens when people can get a POD paperback direct to Amazon, B&Nonline selling for $5?

Catherine Bybee said...

Oh... wow... Really? Part of me simply wants to laugh at this one. Or toss rotted fruit at someone.

JamieKate said...

That's, uh....special. I'm so sorry. I hope they know they're never getting published now unless they pay fo rit themselves.

Jemi Fraser said...

Yikes! Wow. Kind of funny, in a sad, deluded, really annoying kind of way.

bigwords88 said...

Has the content of the e-mail been made available anywhere? C'mon, four hundred people, and not one of them will post it? I don't believe that it will remain hidden for long, so someone might as well let me read it. Pleeease... I need a good laugh.

Anonymous said...

Tell ya what, that wacko would make more moolah in the publishing biz selling his 400-name agent-pub e-mail lists than s/he's ever likely to with a book!

I'd buy it for $5, and probably another 1,000 writers would, too.

BCNeal said...

WOW, does this random insane-o hail from Crazytown, USA? This kind of negative Nancy attitude is what keeps your Karma bad and book unpublished. At least you got a good rant out of it. I loves me a good rant. :)

The Pineapple Tart said...

The writer is mentally ill

Anonymous said...

Isn't that called a psychotic break?

And that person sounds like the poster that brought moderation back in over at Pub Rants.

Like I said, psychotic break.

Frankly, I feel sorry for the person. I mean, to hang every hope in your life on being publihsed to the point of hating hundreds of people? That is very, very sad.


Eva

Anonymous said...

The letter is simply from a writer who has wigged out. It happens in every business. Best to just give it the file 13 treatment. No point in wasting time with such trash.

Nicole said...

Ice, ice, baby.

LOL

Honestly, that's all I can really say about that letter. Too ridiculous.

And just made even more hilarious due to the fact that my word verification word is "tragic."

Robert Michael said...

I think we as writers can glean some valuable information from this. Our egos are tied to our words, and our words to our egos. When one or the other is oversized, out of proportion or diseased, then it is likely that they share the same malady.

And to Jmosberg:
The proliferation of publishing/writing self-help books is directly proportionate to the number of people who seek out their guidance. The supply is there to meet the demand. And that, my friend, is the cosmic answer to ALL of publishing--fiction and nonfiction, alike. The common denominator is the audience.
When we as writers sit down at our desktop/laptop/journal/ancient typewriter, we are either writing to ourselves only or to an unknown, esoteric "Dear Reader." The more the content of your writing--its plot, characters, setting, conflict, and themes--resonate on a common heartstring among what may be perceived as the greatest number of folks equals a published work. The formula is much more mathematically complicated, to be sure, but the essence is still that you are not the best judge of the impact of your own writing unless you are the only one that is going to read it. The educated judgment of one to four hundred publishing professionals or agents cannot be diminished by the vehement disagreement of the author.

Donna Hole said...

This person needs psycho-therapy.

........dhole

word verif: blebbee. How apt to bleep out so much of this angry stalkers diatribe.

Two Flights Down said...

Really, what is it that this person suggests everyone to do? Publish everything? Or shall we go back to the old days where you sought out rich families to get your novel published, and in return you'd dedicate a page to flattering that person/family (and heaven forbid you wrote anything that family found the least bit offensive).

But if trying to sell something you feel passionate about and believe in (well, hopefully you believe in your own work) is whoring yourself, then what would you call the old system?

I mean, you no longer have to be in some elite circle in order to get your work out there published--if you want something to be heard, there is a way to get it out there, and there are so many helpful guides freely available to aide you in doing so.

I'd say that's a step forward. Publishing has always been frustrating to break into--any sort of creative work, or work in general, is. The greats we know of from the past had their shares of frustrations with publishing--it wasn't as romantic as some would like to think.

Shakespeare had very strict rules to follow. If he didn't know theatre enough to know those rules, his plays would have never saw the light of day--no matter how much of a genius he was. What's more, without those rules, his plays wouldn't be what they are today.

The fact of the matter is, in order to break into anything, you have to know the business. There's really no way around it. If you have no interest in learning about the business, then maybe professional writer isn't the ideal job for you.

Tara said...

I do love the crazies, but I love the people who are right even more. I'm sorry you have to deal with his, but at least when you deal with it, you DEAL with it, eh?

Annu said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lisa Lane said...

Wow ... a little disgruntled, maybe? Perhaps if that person spent as much time revising his/her manuscript as he/she spent accruing the contact info to 400 agents and editors, he/she might actually get somewhere....

It's a tough business; rejection is all a part of the game. Tenacity, tact, and backbone make the difference between the talented booksellers and the talented losers.

d said...

Well, I think she must of heard all that balarky from my family. I was recently told the same thing. It not how good you are it's who you know and sleep with. Shallow I thought. I write because I don't see the golden rainbow, big houses, etc. I write because my brain is geared for it. When a child smiles at one of my poems, raindrops sprinkle my eyes. Truly an intresting letter if I heard it right. Did it say 400!
I have tried to quit writing for the road is so long, but never the less one word is said and I find myself writing all over again. Paper bags, itty bitty pieces of paper or even on my leg, really.
It is a gift from God, I may die before anyone realizes how good I am, but I pray that is not the case. Never, I mean never, let a disability ever stop you either, we are all worth a space on this earth and to live our hearts true.