Thursday, August 30, 2012

Why A Few Can Ruin It For So Many

I am sure we have all heard the expression, "One bad apple can spoil the barrel." I bring this up because I know there are a lot of great authors out there who are frustrated by some of the things that happen out there in publishing that make it seem like getting that book to an editor or an agent is a near-impossible task. Unfortunately, most of those frustrations have come about simply because of those few people out there that have really "spoiled the barrel." Let me explain.

When I first opened up Greyhaus in 2003, editors and agents were very accessible. Authors could send unsolicited projects to nearly all of the editors. Agents were very open to look at nearly every author and their projects all of the time. At conferences, editors and agents would roam freely talking to all of writers. But now...
  • Many publishers are accepting only agented submissions.
  • Agents are closing doors to unsolicited submissions.
  • Editors and agents are attending less conferences
  • At conferences, editors and agents are staying in their rooms or even staying at other hotels.
Why is this? No, it isn't because they aren't willing to look at stories that are out of the box. Publishers found the "slush pile" becoming unbearable with projects that were far from ready to be submitted. As an agent, roughly 1/2 of the submissions I get are for projects I don't even represent, or are stories that simply will never be marketable. Editors and agents stay away and hidden because the once professional discussions at conferences are turning into stalking situations. And again, it is not everyone but a few that really ruin the experience.

In one personal example, I was invited to do a workshop for a writing chapter. Throughout the presentation 2 individuals did nothing but tell me I was wrong. What was interesting is that the information I was providing was pretty much standard information from sites such as Publisher's Marketplace and Publisher's Weekly. How did I feel during the presentation? You can pretty much guess. Will I go back? Probably not.

I know that I heard from a lot of editors, agents and writers who felt this same way after the latest RWA convention in Anaheim. Again, there were a few of those "bad apples" running around creating a negative vibe. And this was right near "The Happiest Place On Earth!" And guess what? This is the reason why there are many who will not be going to the 2013 conference.

Let's talk about rejection letters now, or even feedback from a submission. Why have so many agents started using form letters or even the "no reply means no approach"? The answer again returns to a few of those "bad apples." In an effort to be constructive or nice, we used to give answers as to why the story didn't work for us. But when that letter/email shows up, we were bombarded with comments that included:
  • arguing with the agent
  • sending a new version of the synopsis because we apparently didn't get it
  • harrassing phone calls
  • and yes, the bombardment of hate mail.
Even yesterday, I rejected an author for a project that wasn't something I represented. The answer, "apparently this submission wasn't even read." Really?

And yes, these reasons extend to pitch sessions. Why is it that editors and agents now ask for everything at pitch sessions instead of saying no? They don't want to be yelled at in public. They don't want arguing. They don't want tears. So, we avoid it and reject you from a distance.

Why have agents stopped blogging? Those few bad apples have ruined it as well. In an effort to provide some nuggets of education, or to continue a "professional" discussion, many of us really kept up extensive blogs. Daily we would try to engage in a quality dialogue with authors and other profesionals. But... when those few start:
  • using the blogs as a platform to insert their links to unrelated websites.
  • moving from one blog to the next as "Anonymous" to harrass and slam any opinion
  • to pick on minute details instead of dealing with the big picture
...we simply stop.

Editors and agents know there are A LOT of you out there really doing great things. We know there are A LOT of you really trying hard to get your work out there and to learn. And yes, we know there are A LOT of you equally as frustrated with those bad apples that can do nothing but ruin the experience for everyone.

I know I am one who hopes those few bad apples will simply go away. I liked things the way they were. In all honesty, I can only hope the rest of the "FANTASTIC APPLES" can simply get together and throw those bad apples out of the barrel and we can get on with our lives. Until then, please. Keep working hard, keep pushing and know this... In the end, those bad apples will not get published. Their careers will not take off and through a sort of "Social Darwinism" the good ones will rise to the top!

1 comment:

  1. Thank-you for this very interesting insight. Sorry about all the cranks. But of course they’d be in the writing world. They’re everywhere else. Too sad.

    Now, if I may, I would like to ask a question. (I hope this is the right place to do it. Accept my apologies if it isn't.)

    I posted awhile back saying that I read your blog posts regularly, and that I learned a lot from them. (Again, thank-you for the free education. I value it.)

    At one time, on this blog site, you included a list of blog subjects that were clickable links to older blog posts. Those links have disappeared. I miss them! I enjoyed re-reading the earlier posts, especially those that dealt with writing techniques and story crafting. I found them a great review and especially reinvigorating on those sleepy mornings when my fingers refused to type the right words in any good place.

    Do you have any plans to offer those older posts again?

    Here's hoping.