Yesterday’s post netted me quite a few comments.
A few of those were from reviewers and aspiring writers who disagreed with me, to which I say, hey, do whatever you like. I’m not repeating an iron-clad rule of publishing; I’m giving advice based on my experience and the experiences of my friends/people I know. You can take it or not. Frankly, I don’t give a shit if you do. Your career isn’t my problem. And yes, you may very well find a writer who didn’t see your negative review or whatever. It’s a chance you’re perfectly welcome to take. I just think you have to be either a writer or a reviewer, and not both.
A few wondered if agents/editors would really turn down a good book because the author put down one of their other books. I have no idea. I am neither an agent nor an editor. What I am is someone who watched two agents and an agency intern say it would have a definite effect on their decision to request more, or whatever. Many others may very well disagree. Not all agents are tuned into the internet or give a fuck what happens on it. Again, it’s a risk you’re perfectly welcome to take. I have no dog in that fight; I’m just the messenger when it comes to agents/editors.
And yes, it is different outside of genre fiction. Literary fiction writers don’t have the same issues, because they don’t–I believe–have the same sort of community (although I still think saying something bad about someone’s book pretty much erases your chances of getting help from that person later). And as I said, established writers are more free to talk about the work of others. What’s good for the goose may well not be good for you, though. I just wanted people to think about it, and to be aware of what they might give up, because it’s something that’s been on my mind lately.
But that brings me to another point. Much to my chagrin, at least one person yesterday took my comments to mean it’s wrong to say things about publishers. That’s not the case, or at least not really, or rather, it depends. Publishers are not writers, and the dynamic is a bit different.
No, you don’t want to run around yelling “Random House are a bunch of sleazy-ass motherfuckers!!!!” at the top of your lungs (and I used RH because they’re my current publisher and I think everyone knows I love working with them a huge big amount and have loved everyone I met there). There is such a thing as discretion, and it is important. I know things about some editors or publishers that would give you serious pause; the odds of me repeating those things–especially to anyone not a close friend/not a writer–are pretty much zero. That’s why people tell me things, see, is because they know I won’t blab them all over the place.
But there’s discretion and there’s discretion, and there are publishers and there are publishers. And, frankly, there are careers and careers. Let’s be honest here; without sounding like Miss Braggy McBraggerton, I can speak my mind about certain things more freely than an aspiring writer can, or one just barely starting a career. For instance, I often ask questions of those who decide, after self-publishing a couple of their own books, that they are totes qualified to start a publisher because all you need is some software. I do this because I know a lot of newbie writers can’t ask those questions, or don’t feel comfortable doing so.
That has not always made me popular with those hey-hang-let’s-start-a-publisher people. I don’t give a fuck. They threaten me with “She better watch herself if she wants to make it in this business,” or whatever, to which I pee myself laughing because frankly, the odds of me needing to work with a brand-new epublisher with no experience or knowledge are, well, nonexistent. Sure, I’m totally going to decide I’m done with Random House and Pocket and all those other NY houses, oh, or any of the big ehouses where I’m friends with editors who I know would love to work with me, and rush out to Amateur Love epress begging them to publish my book. I don’t even write romance anymore (although like I said, I do have that one dark erotic I’m going to do, but it isn’t my focus at all). I’ve been moving away from romance for years, because it just doesn’t suit my voice/the stories I want to tell.
If they’re so unprofessional as to get upset about a few questions, why in the world would I want to work with them anyway?
Let’s look at an example. I was emailed a month or so ago by Celia Kyle. Celia sought me out because she knows I try to help new writers as much as I can (and indeed have been doing so for years). Celia is starting a new epublisher; well, it is and it isn’t a publisher. I think it’s actually a very clever idea, actually. It’s making covers and providing a marketplace and some distribution for authors who wish to self-publish. The house is called Summerhouse Publishing.
Celia contacted me because she’d been working on answering all of the questions asked on Writer Beware and wanted to know what other questions I might think of to ask; in other words, she wanted to make sure she had everything covered, and actively sought input on that. When a thread started about her publisher on Absolute Write, as they usually do, Celia popped in to answer questions in a calm, professional manner. Celia expected questions and wanted to answer them. Celia was glad we asked questions because she wanted to present her business in the best possible way. In doing so, Celia made her house look impressive and under control, a good choice for someone interested in what she’s doing.
Contrast that to a new house that gets pissy when asked questions and starts flinging insults and threats. Which do you think is more professional? Which do you think has a better chance at lasting?
And more importantly, which would you rather work with?
See, any house I would want to work with is going to respond to questions the way Celia did, because they know it’s just a part of doing business. They know, as the famous line goes, it’s not personal. It’s business.
Just like the author who responds calmly to reviews or doesn’t respond at all is the one you’d rather read or work with, because that’s the one who’s able to keep a professional distance (and understand that really, the number of readers involved in the online community is a tiny portion of readers overall), so it goes with publishers.
All of this is a long-winded way of saying that if they’re going to have witch-hunt hissy fits because I asked a few questions, I wouldn’t be caught dead working with them anyway.
And neither should you.
Yes, I have a few more options on the table, because I’ve been writing for a few years now and am lucky enough to have made some friends. That still doesn’t mean you’re forced to go with Amateur Love if you want to “get your foot in the door.” Please don’t, actually. If your work is good enough it will sell.
It also doesn’t mean that if you ask the owner of Amateur Love what her experience is, and her response is to get nasty and threaten you with the old “blacklist” canard, you should take it seriously. Because all those pros at other houses? They know Amateur Love’s owner is Amateur Hour, too. They don’t talk to her. If she does somehow contact them they shrug because they know she’s not a professional, too. Nobody cares what Amateur Hour’s owner says or thinks, so you don’t need to either. A house who’ll get grumpy over legitimate questions isn’t a house anybody wants to work with. Repeat it after me, and keep repeating until it sinks in.
If you’re treated badly at some amateur publisher, especially if it’s because you asked a few questions or whatever, for fuck’s sake speak up. Tell somebody, at least, somebody you trust. Register at AW under a pseudonym and tell your story there. Let people know, because you don’t deserve that. And don’t be scared of these people, either. They have no power over you. You will move on. (And if you don’t, well, maybe the trouble is you, to be honest.)
Questions are not critiques. Questions are not negatives; they are not criticisms. Yes, you need to watch what you say; what I’ve said above is not license to scream from the rooftops that your editor is a moron because she wants you to change a line of dialogue or whatever. Discretion is and always will be important. But that doesn’t mean you have to eat shit from some publishing bottom-feeder because you think if you don’t they’re going to call up very other publisher in the world and tell them to strike your name off their lists FOREVA.
There is nothing unprofessional about asking questions. Professionals know that. There’s a difference between asking legitimate questions and being truly unpleasant; learn it.
Any publisher worth working with? They already know. Be careful, yes. But don’t be scared.
A few other things: I’m very, very happy to let you all know that my editor has read Downside 4 and loves it! I have a few edits to do here and there-some her suggestions, some things I’ve come up with, as is usually the case–so I’m going to be working away on that, and hopefully I’ll have a release date soon. And a title!
On that subject, I’ve done a guest blog with a contest for signed copies of the three Downside books over at Book Lovers Inc. It’s about how hard it is for writers to wait for releases, too, so go check it out and enter the contest, which lasts until Feb 4th.
I’m about to start Downside 5, and another project, so busy busy busy.
Last night on Twitter the subject of a UF convention came up. I would love to go to one. I think someone should do one. Someone who, say, doesn’t have a bunch of books to write. Hint hint. I can’t believe nobody out there would want to get together with some pals and do this.
So to summarize:
*Feel free to ignore my advice if you don’t like it
*Discretion is the better part of valor, unless you’re being treated badly by someone totally unprofessional
*You could win books
*I’m very busy
*Someone needs to do a UF con