Friday, April 29, 2011

What up with that?

A horrible, horrible skit on SNL called What up with that? inspired me to come up with a list of stuff in the publishing world that made me go, “What up with that?”

No email submissions…what up with that?

Come on, are we still stuck in the 90s or something?  It’s 2011 for crying out loud!  We have cars that can parallel park themselves, a robot playing Jeopardy, and I’m pretty sure there are some cyborgs wandering around out there (see Larry King).  And yet you can’t accept email submissions?

Okay, I get it.  You only accept snail-mail queries because you think by doing so that it shows you’re the best of the best—that making authors go through an unnecessary process which involves fees and wasted time is the least us underprivileged peons can do.

Instead, why don’t you just put a digi metal from Special Agent Oso (a cartoon character who gives metals to kids for doing simple tasks) stating, “We’re better than everyone, even you,” right on your homepage. 

And if that’s not enough, along with our email queries, you can demean authors by making us include a cover letter stating why we’ll never be on your level.

Or you could simply keep up with technology and start accepting email queries!

Extremely long query response wait times…what up with that?

Your current wait time is 490. 

490 hours?  Not bad.

Days.  490 days. I shouldn’t query any other publication/agent until 2013?  I mean I’m expected to be kind and courteous and all that good stuff, right?

Yes—it’s the least you can do.

Okay, that sounds fair.

Am I exaggerating just a bit?  No.  One publication actually gave me a 490 day wait estimation.  And I’m finding it more and more common for bigger agencies/publications to tell you beforehand that the wait could be six months or longer.

Let me tell you something—if I worked with that mentality, I wouldn’t have a job.  HIRE SOME MORE PEOPLE!

Ghostwriters…what up with that?

Imagine, you walk into the book store, and right there, front and center, on some huge shelf, are 500 copies of James Patterson’s new book.  You look to the left and there’s another shelf, but this one has 500 copies of Tom Clancy’s new book.  Then you look to the right and see five different cooking books.

Curious because you could’ve sworn you saw both a new Patterson and Clancy book just last month, and the month before, and the month before that, you ask the store clerk, “Are those Patterson and Clancy books new?”

“Nope.”  The clerk bobs a finger over her shoulder at a wall of boxes and says, “Those are.”

Patterson and Clancy and many other “highly marketable” authors do not write their own books.  Ghostwriters do the hard work for them so they can milk readers for every last penny.

What up with that?  Why do people buy ghost-written books?  It’s kind of like gas—people know they’re getting jobbed, but in this case, they don’t have to purchase the product.

If there were a list of commandments for writers, not supporting fake books would probably be in the top two.

By the way, Patterson wants everyone to know that he doesn’t write his own books because of the chaos in Libya.

No response to queries…what up with that?

Look—if I take the time to submit something, the least you can do is shoot me an email saying, “Got it,” or, “Nah.”  Especially if I took the time to snail-mail it.

I’m not kidding when I say I don’t receive any sort of response from at least half of the agents I query.  HALF!

People in the publishing world stress following guidelines and being professional and extending courteousness, yet how can they be taken seriously when they don’t practice what they preach?


This is.  You know, how some novels start out.
What up with that?

Contests which charge fees…what up with that?

What’s that, you say?  You want me to enter a story into your contest?  Oh, as many stories as I want?  Oh?  The more the better?  Sounds awesome!

Okay, so some random people are going to judge it.  What’s that?  They’ll pick the winner based on what they fancy?  So it doesn’t matter if I’ve written the best story ever, because it boils down to opinion?  Well, I guess that’s fine.  As long as my entry is in tip-top shape, I don’t mind entering your lottery.

Whoa, hold on!  You want me to pay a fee for each submission?  Yeah, #$%! that.  I can submit to magazines and anthologies and agents and publishers all for free.  Imagine that.

Erotica covers with barely-clothed lovers/cheaters sensually gazing at each other or sniffing necks…what up with that?

Enough said.

Custom-made book trailers…what up with that?

No.  No.  No.  No. NO!  Maybe my disdain comes from years of experience as a video editor, but regardless, stop making trailers for your novels! 

If you think stock photos with those faint copyright Xs are spreading your work in a positive light, well, I’d hate to break it to you, but it’s probably giving potential customers the message, “I throw crap together.”

And the music I hear in these things… 

Stock photo of a skateboard.  The text, “He was once awesome at skating,” scrolls by.  Cut to splattered blood on the concrete street.  Smash viewer with the text, “Until a bomb inside his liver exploded and he died!”  All the while the jingle from Two and a Half Men is playing at full blast in the background.

And then come the celebrity photos.  Oh, look, it’s Marky Mark starring as Tad Treebranchclawmaster in The Great Outdoor Trip to Vancouver from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Love Tad and His Backpack.  Regardless of the shabby video editing job by the author, I’m confident that their editing of the actual book will be much better.  Besides, Marky Mark is in this novel—he wouldn’t just go from The Fighter to anything…would he?

Look, I’m not saying authors shouldn’t make book trailers—but most shouldn’t.  Especially those who try and do it themselves. 

Let me put it this way—would you sit down at a computer with no prior writing experience and churn out a novel and rush it into pub…oh, waitJ


  1. Well I think you hit them all. It's the new horizon of publishing crap. Right now you can take something totally insightless, grammatically poor of caveman quality and publish it for others to not enjoy. The days of quality are gone and the market is flooded with all kinds of stuff.
    If by chance you should write something of value, you have to know someone or have a one word name (Madonna being a good example) to have anyone interested in it. I am going back to buying lotto tickets. I need a sure thing.

  2. Hey Jeanne, it kills me each time I walk into a book store and see a one-name celeb (it was Snooki the last time) with a new book out. Not only do I know the celeb didn't write it, I know it's horrible, yet it will sell millions:(

    But that's life, huh?

  3. So with you on the snail mail submissions ("we kill trees to read") and the eternity long feedback.

    The killer combo for me is snail mail subs only + 6 months feedback time + no sim subs allowed. :)

  4. "snail mail subs only + 6 months feedback time + no sim subs allowed."

    I've seen this more than once, and for me it's a red flag. Some of them don't even respond!

    I had one agent request the first ten pages of my novel and a two-page synopsis. She sent me all these rules on how to format my pages and what not to do, to which I abided. In return, a few days later, I got an email that simply said, "Thanks but this isnt for us."

    No sig, no apostrophe in "isn't", and she forgot a comma. And this was an agency that didn’t want sim subs:)