Last night I followed a twitter hashtag hosted by editors and agents who were answering writers’ questions.
It was going well — good questions, enthusiastic participation.
Then I saw That Guy slip into the conversation.
The one whose twitter handle is also the name of his series.
The one who couches bad information in a question, with the “GOTCHA” barely concealed behind his back.
The one who can’t resist taking a shot at the industry, while simultaneously trying to garner interest in his work from the very professionals he’s insuting.
The one who repeatedly implies that agents ignored or turned down his work and were clearly wrong to do so because his work is so good and they clearly have no taste.
The one who reveals his true colors towards the end, suggesting editors are only looking for books that will make them scads of money, that publishers only buy books that are carbon-copies of whatever trend sits atop the bestseller list, that anyone who has an agent is desperate, and if they got one, it’s because they were big suck-ups.
Lovelies, dont be That Guy.
The professionals in the chat engaged That Guy in good faith at first, correcting his misinformation (probably for the benefit of other writers following along, so they don’t walk away with bad intel). When the QQing began, they shut him down poitely but firmly.
Here’s what has me still seething:
The trade publishing route isn’t for everyone. That’s okay!
Some people have legitimate reasons not to like trade publishers. That’s okay too!
Barging into a conversation to say, essentially, “YOU’RE ALL MEAN GREEDY JERKS (but here’s what my book’s about in case you’re interested)” is childish and unprofessional. Don’t do that.
And, because I’m feeling feisty, let’s go ahead and address those loaded “questions”:
“You only want to buy books that will make you lots of money.”
First and foremost, NOT TRUE. Editors buy books they’re passionate about. Because they love the characters, the story, the setting, and want to share them with the world.
Second, most books don’t earn out their advances. If editors only bought books that made scads and scads of money, that’d mean most books would earn out.
Third, why would you turn your nose up at earning scads and scads of money? I mean, you’re content to work your ass off writing a book and don’t want good things to happen to it, including putting cash in your bank account? I call bullshit. Read this post by Chuck Wendig. Read this post by John Scalzi.
Writing is a BUSINESS. Artists should get paid for their art. If we don’t get paid, we either write more slowly (because y’know, we need to find another way to pay the bills so we can have electricity and paper and booze) or we don’t write at all. If an editor wants to hand me a big fat check for my writing, you’re damned right I’m going to make grabby hands.
(Editors: it can be a moderate-sized check too!
/makes phone-to-ear gesture
/mouths “call me.”
And while we’re at it, let’s address the tired old, “But but but celebrity tell-alls! Butbutbut Snooki’s book! Butbutbut This Series I Love To Hate!”
Yup. Publishers put out some stuff you’d never read, stuff that has questionable literary chops, stuff that got to someone’s desk because the author’s on TV or Knows a Guy. You can rail against it, but you don’t have to read it. And, thing is, if that book you love to hate makes the publisher scads and scads of money?
That profit lets them give a debut author a chance later on down the line. Maybe that debut author will be you!
If publishers don’t make money, they don’t stay open, which means they stop putting out books. I really don’t see how condemning them for, y’know, turning a profit is helpful.
“You only buy whatever the hot new trend is and all the books are the same.”
If something’s trending, it’s because readers are asking for more of it. And publishers would be fools not to provide that if they’ve got something good in that vein. It doesn’t mean every book is a knockoff of the original hit.
Also, publishing schedules run 1-2 years out. A lot of the dystopian books that were published in the wake of The Hunger Games had already been contracted before it hit big. Did some get bought afterwards to catch the wave? Sure! Does reader-fatigue set in after awhile? Sure! It’s a matter of finding that balance between getting readers what they want and finding something new for them to fall in love with.
If you don’t think editors are perpetually looking for something new, boy howdy are you not listening to all their tweets and blog posts saying just that. What do they gain from lying about it? Do you think they want extra slush filling up inboxes and office space?
“People with agents are desperate.”
Okay. Look. Now you’re slamming your fellow writer, and that’s shitty. I know there are successful writers out there who insist agents are Teh Ebil, and they’ve got lots of people parroting their beliefs, but that phrasing is belittling to other people in your chosen profession. If you can do it without an agent, good for you! Please respect those of us who disagree with that mindset and choose to partner with an agent.
“If you got an agent, you did it by sucking up to them or you knew someone.”
Again with the being shitty towards other writers. Cut it out. People (hi!) get agents by writing good books and professional, attention-grabbing query letters. If you think being polite is sucking up, welp, good luck with that attitude. If you think researching agents is beneath you, and mentioning why you think you’re a good fit for them is sucking up, welp, good luck with that, too. The industry requires writers to be savvy and knowledgeable. To be curious, even, about the people they’ll be working with. Try it out!
And, here’s the thing — That Guy might have a great book. Maybe he had a weak query, or queried the wrong people, or was quite simply too impatient to wait and find the right one. Any number of other factors could have led to his lack of response. That Guy might be totally awesome in person.
But what this all comes off as, quite honestly, is a huge case of sour grapes, with a smattering of Speshul Snowflake syndrome. Add in the thinly-veiled intent to make a conversation aimed at helping new writers to instead be about how the industry has done That Guy wrong, and yuck.
It’s obnoxious. It’s like going to someone else’s dinner party and talking over the other guests, saying the soup is cold and you heard the chef spits in it anyway, and the food you make is so much better.
Seriously, don’t do this. Not only because it’ll make you look unprofessional, but (if you don’t care about that), because it’s unfair to the people who are there to learn and ask questions. Those agents and editors volunteered their time — unpaid! — to help and encourage newcomers. If you can’t respect the industry professionals, at the very least respect your fellow writers.