Monday, February 05, 2007

Love/Hate relationships

When I got my first PC back in 1996, I fell in love. We'd had computers before, since around 1987 or 88, but they were monsters with big floppy drives and the only thing you could do with one was play simple games or get on Prodigy. The PC opened up a whole new world. There were people out there! Through the Internet, I discovered RWA, eHarlequin, other writers! I found out I could write stories without having to painstakingly type them out, then retype the whole thing if I decided to change something or found an error. I discovered Free Cell. I found Email!

Then I learned to hate computers as well. They freeze. They crash. They die. They eat important stuff. They enslave you, making you sit in front of them 16-18 hours a day. (I work my day job from home at the computer, as well as write and hang out with friends online). When you try to upload your work, you get error messages and lose what you'd worked so hard on if you forgot to save it first.

Then they send you ugly emails, saying "I'm sorry. I loved your writing, your characters are wonderful, and it's a great story, but..."

And sometimes they send you great emails, like "I want to buy this, once it's finished." Uh-huh. Like the computer is ever going to turn me loose from the day (and now late into the night) job long enough to write something besides website copy.

So my computer and I have a love/hate relationship.

And I'm beginning to feel the same about the whole publishing business. I watch friends get slammed by rude and inconsiderate editors and agents. Some agents will swear up and down to your face that they work for you. But then they get their hands on my friends' work and sit on it. One friend's agent submitted one manuscript to 8 editors--in the course of 3 years! Another one never got around to sending even one thing out in the year before my friend fired her.

Then there are agents like Miss Snark and Kristin Nelson and Jessica Faust who not only work hard for their clients, they blog about the business to help us get a better grasp on how things are supposed to work.

An editor requested a full from a friend, all excited after reading the partial. My friend got the manuscript back in the mail with the form rejection slapped on top, her cover letter still in the pile. Did the editor even read it? She'll never know, because the editor didn't say one single solitary word.

Where would the publishing industry be without writers? Are we so unimportant that we don't deserve respect? We don't deserve a word of explanation, of encouragement?
Yes, I know editors and agents are busy. But you know what? So are we. We have full-time jobs and families and houses to take care of, meals to cook, errands to run, groceries to buy. We steal time from sleep to put our hearts on paper. We take time away from our families. We miss out on parties and vacations and fun.

How do they know that author isn't the next Stephen King or Nora Roberts? Who knows where that author will be ten years from now when that agent is dying to get them on their client list, not realizing this was an author they brushed off with a form rejection? And I'm not talking about baby-faced writers who haven't even finished a book. These friends are award-winning writers. They know how to write. I've read some of their work and it's better than a lot of what I've bought off the shelf. A lot of books I buy I end up throwing at the wall. But my friends' work keeps me rooted to my computer chair way past my bedtime or way past time I should be earning my living.

So, I have a love/hate relationship with publishing, too. I love the Woman's World editor who loved my story enough to buy it. I love the editor who loved my books enough to try to talk her boss into buying it. I don't love her boss, who turned it down. I love the editor who is waiting for me to finish this book that I don't have time to touch right now.

I'm not real happy with the editor who's had my partial for 18 months without so much as an email. I'm not too thrilled with the agent who had a partial for 14 months and never got around to reading it, despite several promises to get to it. But I do learn my lessons. I won't submit to them again. My time is worth as much as theirs, and so is my pride. I hope my friends have learned their lessons as well.
And like agents and editors, writers also talk amongst themselves about who did what, and to whom.


Kiki, aka Esri said...

Right on, sister.

Anonymous said...

High-five to you, because all what you said is so damned true!

Anonymous said...

I understand your frustration, and I'm so sorry ou feel that way. Like every business, there are bad seeds. They give a bad name to other agents or editors. But the truth is there are some unbelievable agents and editors out there that work unbelievably long hours for very little money, for their authors. Those people are the heart and souls of this industry, and they do exist. You and your friends may have the bad luck of continuing to have bad experiences, but if you love to write and you love this business, then don't let it be ruined by a few bad seeds. I've seen both sides, and I believe if you keeep your mind and heart open, then the good people will find you.

Tori Scott said...

OH absolutely. There are great editors and agents out there. But there is such an elitist mentality that permeates the industry that it's just damned frustrating. Beyond the examples in my post, I have friends who have been sought out after a public read of a few pages, begged to send the book, then they're ignored. Totally. Or their agent never answers their phone calls or emails. Excuse me, if you work for a company and the boss calls or emails, you'd better respond or you'll lose your job. Same goes for agents if they truly "work for" the writers. And I've seen an awful lot of agent firings lately.

A lazy agent can stall a writer's career for years. So can a lazy or snowed-under editor. I think we need to get the word out about agents who treat their clients poorly, who don't submit books like they're supposed to, who send rude and snarky emails. Just as we should let people know about the really good guys in publishing.

I truly admire the agents I listed. I think they stand out as exemplary examples of what an agent should be. (Well, since I have no idea who Miss Snark is, I really can't speak to her actual effectiveness as an agent, but she goes above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to helping writers via her blog.)

I have friends who love their agents. I'd love to have one myself. But I'm much more selective about who I query now. I ask a lot of questions of authors who work with someone before I send a query off.

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