Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Agent Rachelle Gardner Rants & Raves Here

We've got another live one, folks. A responding agent, who was sorry that I found one of her comments annoying. Here's what she said: "For the record... not that anybody cares...I don't want blockbuster bestsellers. I want good books. I love great books and great writing more than (almost) anything else in life. If only you could see my inbox everyday, you would know I'm telling the absolute truth that most queries get rejected because the writer isn't ready. A few people are brilliant right out of the box. Many more are brilliant on their fourth or fifth novel...or on the tenth or eleventh draft of their first novel. It takes work, practice, and persistence to get it right. But all too often, what shows up in my inbox is a first draft that no other human being on the planet has read. I'm telling the truth when I say the person just isn't ready. Sorry folks, but if you've never had a critique, never shared your work and gotten feedback, never even taken the time to go back and edit and correct obvious spelling errors and typos... well, whether or not you want to admit it, you're just not ready. And if that's not you, if you happen to be a writer who is submitting good work, then there's no reason to get your pants in a wad about what I said... because you're one of the ones who ARE ready. Seriously, I wish I understood this vitriol aimed at me. (Someboy explain it to me?) I write blog posts every single day with the sole intent of helping writers -- my favorite people in the world, by the way. Sorry if you find it annoying. I'm simply reflecting the truth of what I see." (Sadly my pants are always in a wad.)

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

I still object to her use of the phrase "not ready." I think she really means -- and what she really ought to mean -- is that the book she's rejecting is NOT GOOD or NOT HER THING. "Ready" implies the writer just has to put in some time and then will magically be "publish ready." Er, no.

It's just another slippery phrase that lets her not take responsibility for her value judgements. Why can't she just say, "I think this sucks"? Because she's nervous that person will be the next Nabokov or Nicholas Sparks or something, and that judgement will come back to haunt her. By calling it "not ready" she can just say, "Well, when I rejected them, they WEREN'T ready."

Anonymous said...

No one wants to put their reputation on the line. That's why literary magazines won't give you personal comments or even have check boxes on their forms that tell you maybe you should rethink your desired career. They don't want to be accountable, especially if you persist and become a big shot writer. They would NEVER reject something with a "sir, I'm afraid this is terrible writing and should never be published" ...

I think I'm READY to puke ...

Anonymous said...

We ARE ready.....but no one will publish us. Hence our beef. Frankly, I didn't think anyone was being all that vitriolic either.

Anonymous said...

I brought up the word that SHE used: "blockbuster." I'd be proud if I played a part in getting her pants in a wad.
I agree with the previous post.
Why is it always the writer's problem/lack/fault? In my experience, agents (and editors) often come across as dolts. When they venture to make a comment, it is frequently clear what poor readers they are. They don't have a clue! Yet they pontificate and pass judgements, and they also expect the writer to come to them with a subservient attitude.
What are their qualifications anyway?
A good editor (or agent) is harder to find than a good writer. And there are getting to be fewer of both (is there a connection?).

Anonymous said...

Sour sour grapes.

Can't get with the times.

Maybe nobody wants to read your writings.

Maybe you are ranting too much. We want punch, action, excitement, not the endless typings of someone with a bad attitude (and no MFA, from the sound of it).

Jimbo said...

Let me explain it, lady. The "not ready" comment implies a criticism of the writer, not the writer's work.

If you said the work isn't ready, I'd like that better.

Why is it annoying to feel as though you have been personally criticized when what you offered up was your work? Well, if you can't figure that one out...I'm not sure anyone here can help.

Better in your rejections just to be cold and say this isn't for me. Keep it a business. Avoid philanthropy. And if you expect writers to have a thick skin, perhaps you could show us how it's done by having a thick skin about this blog. Or are you just not ready?

And damn it, lady, isn't it awfully goddamned convenient to be in a position of power and say things like: "I'm simply reflecting the truth of what I see." Will you extend that same privilege to the snarky community of rejected writers?

Anonymous said...

Jimbo, if an unpublished writer is submitting work that is not ready ... THAT WRITER IS NOT READY.

Keep at it, though. Once you're ready, you'll get published. It's a matter of practice, persistence, schooling, networking, and knowing when to give up (or not). Good luck.

Jimbo said...

You want to speak to any of my points or simply repeat yourself?

Anonymous said...

Neo-nazis also express "the truth as they see it." Doesn't make them right.

Anonymous said...

Nazis!
The acrimony on display gave rise to this idea for your Happy Book and Story Corner. Something that I believe people would read and debate.
Run a writer's oft-rejected story along with snippets of editors' comments.
Readers can decide who is right.
The story would have to be good (or better than good) to justify the idea that unfairness exists in the world of publishing.
If the story is bad -- if it should be rejected -- that will serve to validate the opinions of editors.
Yeas or nays?

Writer, Rejected said...

It's a good idea, but I fear it would be a feeding frenzy on some poor writer, which I wouldn't feel right about....of course, unless it was my own work....hmmmmmm.....maybe.

Anonymous said...

Great idea. But the other mouse is right, you'd have to make sure that it's great-writing-rejected-by-the -industry, and not work from a writer who is not-ready.

(You could publish really great work on a blog, by any famous writer of the past, and if it was presented as unpublished new work people would pick it apart. But if it's accepted and published the view changes that the stuff is writ in stone. So think about this, but be careful.)

Anonymous said...

My last post got lost in the cosmos.
I asked:
Why a feeding frenzy? And who are the sharks?
Why would you allow your work to be on display if it would be the victim of a feeding frenzy?
Anyway, feeding frenzies are fun to watch.
(By the way, I agree with the previous mouse's comments.)

pr said...

I'd let the sharks have a go at me (or are they piranhas?).
I have a story I believe is worthy (and I'll say no more about it), but it has been rejected 34 times.
Mostly by tier two magazines, though I submitted it to a few tier ones -- Southern Review, Shenandoah, Epoch. Finally I resorted to sending it to internet publications.
I no longer send it out.
The vast majority of rejections were form ones, but four editors made comments as to why they declined. So I can provide the relevant "snippets" that Anonymous mentioned. (Though I would keep the editors' names a secret -- at least they bothered to comment, though I don't think they "got it.")
It's around 6000 words. It's a full-fledged story, not flash fiction. I don't know the logistics of how you would make it available to readers.
I truly believe it provides a valid test case for the looming question: Does worthy work go unpublished?
Personal: I've taken a grand total of two semesters in creative writing (at dinky universities, and one was a night class), and they were about ten years apart -- that's the extent of my education as a writer. But I've read the best since I was 12 years old (does that teach you something?). I made a living in work far removed from anything literary. I don't know anybody of importance in the literary world, and I live in Sheep's Crotch, Arkansas (far from the bright lights of Manhattan). I'm in my sixties, I've lost my once-startling good looks, and I'm no go-getter.

Writer, Rejected said...

PR:

You'll always be startlingly good looking to us.

Send me your story at writerrejected at aol dot com and I will put it up and we will let the piranhas, sharks, and sweethearts at it.

Let's see if Southern Review, Shenandoah, Epoch, et al. are as foolish as we think.

I'd admire your chutzpah.

Writer, Rejected said...

PR:

You'll always be startlingly good looking to us.

Send me your story at writerrejected at aol dot com and I will put it up and we will let the piranhas, sharks, and sweethearts at it.

Let's see if Southern Review, Shenandoah, Epoch, et al. are as foolish as we think.

I'd admire your chutzpah.

pr said...

Chutzpa? Not really. What can they do to me? I haven't written any fiction in over two years, and have no desire to. I haven't submitted anything for almost as long.
Two novels now reside in boxes, where, I hope, Jeanette and Robert and Paul and Nancy and Angelo and Morgan and Debbie and Josie still carry on with their lives.
I will send you an e-mail early this week with excerpts from the four comments I received (actually, there's a fifth, for lagniappe). Five out of 34 submissions; some magazines never responded at all (thanks, Cimarron Review, for also ignoring my query letter). I will include only the parts that touch on what the editors found to be fatal flaws in the story; there were some positive remarks thrown in, but so what? A rejection is a rejection.
Besides the three magazines I already mentioned, here's three more: Hudson Review, Idaho Review, Story Quarterly. All six sent form rejections.
I will send the story as an attachment in Rich Text (is this OK, or would you prefer it pasted in the body of the e-mail?).
I will withhold my name until the reactions (if any) are in. But, I promise, I will reveal who I am (as if it mattered).
This is the story of an unwanted story.
Thanks.

Writer, Rejected said...

Rich text!

Writer, Rejected said...

Rich text.

Anonymous said...

Southern Review, Shenandoah, Epoch are tier 1 magazines? Last time I checked, they don't pay enough for a decent dinner for two.

I don't know about you, but it takes me a lot longer than dinner hour to write a good story. It takes a lot of work. If tier 1 pays so little, why bother? The only solution then is to get an MLA and be a teacher. Then your friends will print your stories in their journals (that is if you are average enough, and fit in with the rest of the MLAs who teach and are not some kind of outcast or freak who does not do well among college profs).

pr said...

Rich it is, then, as an attachment. Probably Wednesday (I'm in the middle of moving).
What you say is true, Anon. What magazines are in tier one? Is it based on the money they pay you, or the quality of the work found in their pages? Or the prestige of saying, I was published in Epoch -- ie., a credential.
It would be foolish of me to submit to The New Yorker. I'm an outcast (though I hope not a freak).
Outcasts of the world, unite!

JohnFox said...

They are Tier 1 not on the basis of money, but on the basis of reputation.

Anonymous said...

Academic reputation?

(I.e., not for poor or working or unschooled writers but just a Good Star for the Degreed to stick on their CV?)

Anonymous said...

I liked the angst and energy of the pants-wadding thread in your first few chapters here, but you seemed to lose the point halfway through the story as it unraveled into an existential quest for writerly significance and a review of academic journals. I also found the repetition distracting.

As much as I liked the general idea (tying an agent to the stake and firing flaming arrows at her? brilliant!) ... well, how should I put this ... I just don't think you're ready.

Also - shouldn't it be "panties in a wad"? Or is "pants in a wad" the new, PC version of "panties in a wad"? Just wondering if I missed a memo somewhere.

Timothy Fish said...

I think I would agree with the statement that the author isn’t ready. Aren’t looking for a good manuscript as much as they are looking for people who can consistently produce good manuscripts. Unless the manuscript does happen to be a blockbuster, an agent isn’t likely to make much money from a one hit wonder. I have heard of publishers accepting novels that they didn’t expect to sell very well because they wanted the author’s next book. In that situation, the first manuscript wasn’t ready, but they thought the author was.

Anonymous said...

I see this thread is old but if you wander over here and are considering sending her a query, I wouldn't bother. She's requested a full manuscript from me three different times (same book) over the last three years and she still hasn't found the time to read any of it beyond the sample that caused her to request the full in the first place.