Monday, August 20, 2007

As Blank is to Blank


An anonymous editor posted the following statement on this blog a few days ago:

"Publishing a book or taking on a new client is like entering into a romantic relationship, you have to be really sure of your feelings and feel them deeply before you make that leap. When you meet different people, some you connect with and some you don't, for whatever reason, nothing that anyone can really understand or put into words...."

A blogger took issue with the sentiment, as follows:

"So do I understand you correctly, that editors and agents are like the supermodels of the publishing world, so selective in choosing their mates, as it were, do they have to be? When we submit to a publication, we're doing the writing equivalent of asking (the newly single) Padma Lakshmi out on a date? And does that make the successful asker-outer the Salman Rushdie of the lit world? Oh, wait. Oh, shit. It's like some kind of recursive literary nightmare."

Any thoughts on the matter? Is writer really to agent/editor, as lover is to lover? Or is there a bigger power dynamic about which agent/editor could take more care, so that the equation does not devolve to writer is to agent/editor as lover is to abusive lover? Or perhaps what we are dealing with here is: Writer is to agent/editor as ugly suitor is to comely love object?

How would you fill in the blanks:


Writer is to agent/editor, as __________ is to _____________.

18 comments:

May said...

I have no interest in writing, therefore the category of agents/editors is totally useless to me. In my opinion the unpleasant situation has to do with the fact that the supply of new manuscripts exceeds by far the demand for new publications. The market, that is the big companies, dictate the rules while the agents act according to them.

Anonymous said...

Ideally: ...as student is to mentor.

Realistically? ...as student is to Havard recruiter. (they may begrudgingly accept some people but it will take money for most and outstanding talent (and money) for others)

The Quoibler said...

How about "...as horny nerd is to aloof homecoming queen"?

Kwoibs

Anonymous said...

In my opinion the unpleasant situation has to do with the fact that the supply of new manuscripts exceeds by far the demand for new publications.

Exactly, it's simple supply and demand. As long as there are 10 times the amount of writers seeking publishing than the market could ever support, editors/agents will be able to cherrypick what they consider the best while rejecting the other 99%. It's exactly the same in any facet of the arts - there are plenty of unemployed actors/actresses who are very talented, but for whatever reason just can't catch a break. If you're that concerned about uncertaintity, unfairness, etc, seek a job that's not in an artistic field, such as banking. Pursuing a job in the arts (writing, singing, dancing, etc) always runs the risk of heartbreak and rejection. Most of us understand and are willing to take the risk.

theindividualvoice said...

pauper to prince?
fly to horse?
mosquito to human?
monkey to dignitary?
bird flu to chicken?
tick to dog?
flea to cat?
ebola to population?

Writer, Rejected said...

IV: I love fly to horse? Or maybe horses' ass? Just kidding. And all the others in the list.

Anon: Not sure why student to teacher. What are writers learning, really? Isn't it much more a business relationship?

Other Anonymice: Yeah, yeah. We've all heard the go work in a bank story before. Can't we still be artists and try to make things a little better in our world a the same time?

May said...

It's wonderful to be an artist, it's just hard to count on that to earn one's living. On the other hand, I find it challenging to have a goal in life that is difficult, though not impossible, to reach. Perhaps 'll start sending out manuscripts too.

Anonymous said...

Can't we still be artists and try to make things a little better in our world a the same time?

How can you make it better? Allow every writer who puts fingers to keyboard to be published, read, revered? Sweet, but not realistic. The publishing world is as good as it can be. There are already more books published each year than the market can really support, with publishing houses taking chances on new authors who will probably lose the company a lot of money and never earn back their modest advance. There are already more people employed whose sole purpose is to read manuscripts all day than the market can support. Ever wonder why most lit jobs pay so shitty? Because they hire 2 people to do the job of 1 person, and it's STILL a hard industry to break into because there are 6 people vying for those 2 jobs that could be done by 1 person. So I'd really like to know what you think needs to be done to make it better, besides publishing you specifically. Because, believe me, the cream always rises to the top - if someone goes so long with nothing but rejection, there's always a good reason, a fundamental flaw in their writing. You need tp step back and see what the common thread in all your rejections is - I'd be happy to point it out for you if you can't figure it out yourself, because it's fairly obvious from what you've posted to your blog thus far. But really, you're such a ball of negative energy, nothing short of getting published will appease you. Over on her blog, The Rejecter hit it on the head when she said that no rejection letter will ever be met with anything that isn't whining, no matter how nicely phrased it is. People like you make it such a no-win situation, no wonder most eds are switching to form letters - why bother trying to write a nice, constructive rejection letter when it will be met with the same sour bitterness that a "Fuck you, no way!" would have been. Might as well save your time and energy.

Writer, Rejected said...

Angry Lady Anonymous! Hello, there! I hope you don't work in publishing, but somehow I suspect you do, since you are willing to tell me what's wrong with my novel without ever having read it. :-)

"The publishing world is as good as it can be." = You depress me.

"So I'd really like to know what you think needs to be done to make it better, besides publishing you specifically." = Re-read this blog.

"Because, believe me, the cream always rises to the top - if someone goes so long with nothing but rejection, there's always a good reason, a fundamental flaw in their writing." = Specifically re-read the blog entry entitled "More Publishing Crimes" or "Excuses, Excuses" for a refresher.

"But really, you're such a ball of negative energy, nothing short of getting published will appease you." = You misunderstand me.

"Fuck you, no way!" = At least that's honest.

Anyway, listen. Don't take this site so seriously. I hate to see you getting all worked up. I just wanted to air some of my dirty little secret rejections. And in a way you're right, I'm just another jerk-off wasting some time while I rewrite my novel (taking fully into account the common-threads offered up to me by these rejections....I hope I came up with the same answer you did about what was wrong with my novel.)

good copy said...

Wow, lots of negative energy floating around. I do have to say that I can understand some of what Angry Anon. is saying about constructive rejections and whining responses. I let you post what I thought was a respectful, constructive rejection and commentors on your blog didn't see it as a "nice" rejection letter at all. But I had an author receive what I considered to be an amazingly respectful, constructive and promising rejection letter from an editor-in-chief from a major house and she was still heartbroken and could not see why it was so good. The editor offered to read her next book and also asked me to let her know if we find a publisher for it etc... aside from writing specific comments about the plot etc. that I thought were valid.
But a rejection is still a rejection no matter what, so it does sting. I don't think this is a negative blog though, or that Writer is a negative ball of energy. If you were so negative, you wouldn't still be plugging away at your novel and submitting stories to various magazines. You have hope that you will get your work out there, and that kind of confidence is needed to keep writing.
Writing is an art and publishing is a business. On occasion the two meet and something really great happens.

May said...

[The Anonymous is probably realistic in her analysis of the publishing market but I think that she's wrong on two points: a) rejection is not necessarily associated with lack of talent (or have the economic motivations by magic disappeared?); b) the owner of this blog is an ironic and original person who hasn't lost hope to see her/his work published. Her/his unsuccessful trials make us all smile at our own failures and that is much more enjoyable than to read the blog of a pompous aspiring writer]

Writer, Rejected said...

Yes, we writers can be soft peaches, easily bruised, though I hope what makes us difficult to handle as clients is what makes us great as writers.

After pouring our hearts into a book, any rejection (no matter how kind) can necessarily initially feel like a slap in the face. It often takes years and years before a rejection can be read objectively.

Bruisingly is how I think art and business usually collide, though I agree with you, Good Copy, that there is the potential for a great lucrative marriage between the two, if you'll pardon an overused metaphor.

good copy said...

Yes, the marriage metaphor is getting icky! And May is right about a rjection not always being a clear indication of a writer's talent. Remember, these people have things like aquisition boards and marketing departments who can and will ultimately say NO to an editor who loves a book simply based on the fact that it will not be profitable. Publishers sometimes do a Profits and Loss report on an author who has submitted a book or even a proposal for a book. This is a an entire spread sheet with guesswork and estimations based on other books out there on a similar subject. They come up with a total amount they would expect to make or in most cases lose on the publication of that particular book. It is amazing to judge a work in that way when you may tell a similar story better than the other writer they are basing all this guesswork on. This is mainly done by the huge houses--but still, it explains a lot about the difficulty of today's publishing market.

gc said...

sorry--it is called a Profit and Loss--not profits...
I do not edit myself, obviously.

gc said...

Another important thing, and I know someone has mentioned this, is that different editors and publishers are known for taking on certain type of projects. Sometimes a great piece of writing is submitted to the wrong editor. You may not want to send a quirky literary novel set on a farm in Idaho to Dan Brown's editor.

rmellis said...

Writer is to editor/agent as partygoer is to bouncer. The editor/agent says who gets into the glorious world of the published, and whose hiney gets kicked to the curb.

Is my dress not tight enough? Is my hairdo oudated? Is my boyfriend too fat? Why, why, WHY won't they let me into the club????

polish me said...

I like theinvividualvoice's choices, especially the monkey to dignitary and ebola to population ones. There's nothing like grotesque juxtapositions and extreme hyperbole to drive a point satirically home.

But here is my humble offering:

simply... ho to pimp

Alexandra Erin said...

Writer is to agent/editor as FISH is to BICYCLE.