Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Butter Battle Wars

The Butter Battle Wars - Part One

If one is a writer and wiles away time along the electronic pathways of the Internet sometimes seeking just a way to think without truly thinking there is a great deal to be amused by. No doubt we can read jokes, we can watch porn, we can read up on the News all over the world, or even find a way out place to visit. There is just no end to the great information space that the Internet offers.

However, being somewhat of an individual who kind of likes to see others hang all of it out there, I am fascinated by what I have begun to call the Butter Battle Wars (Dr. Seuss enthusiasts will understand this one) that goes on between certain literary agencies and other powers that be on the Net and in publishing.

On one side we have a slew of literary agencies who have been accused of everything but blowing up the universe. Now while I have never been a "victim" of said agencies, and doubt I would ever have fallen into the trap since I did once over 20 years ago, I find this war interesting. For on the other side the General of the war against has been a well-respected mouthpiece of Literary Agents, one whom I have mentioned time and again, Miss Snark.

But you know it seems funny to me that on one side we have a group of agents who when speaking seem to be the voice of reason and fairness, in that they are saying that anonymous voices on the Net are destroying their reputation. On the other hand the accusations leveled at these agents most of the time seem to bear out, in that they take enormous fees from unsuspecting authors before ever having done a thing for them. This is against the protocol and I fully agree it should be. But in all due fairness to this group of agents - they are in truth being attacked and vilified in a blog by someone who is operating under a an assumed persona carefully preserving the "real" person behind an aura of mystery.

Now where I have nothing against Miss Snark, and have said I truly respect her, I do think it is a bit audacious to take on such a battle, however justified, behind an assumed name. That simply does not allow for a fair playing field. And even though it does seem that many accusations leveled by Miss Snark have borne themselves out, I still think one must give the other side the chance at rebuttal in a REAL world. It certainly is totally unfair and even a bit egocentric to use a made up persona to attack and vilify an opponent when that opponent has no clue who they must refer their answers to.

I am not suggesting that Miss Snark leave her persona, though as I have said in previous postings, I certainly suggest that all other anonymous yo-yos leave their made up persona's in the closet (under lock, key and chastity belt), I think that it is kind of laughable to watch these dumb Butter Battle Wars take place.

Miss Snark will certainly garner the most points here. She will certainly make us laugh (I know I did). She will certainly get zillions of comments. And she does have a point. BUT if you want to attack someone for playing unfair then it is only justifiable to ask that you play fair yourself. So, while she may be right-on with her end points, I think the Butter Battle War between the Snarks and the Worst Literary Agents listed in a now famous/infamous list should be played with open weapons and open names. If you want to play Miss Snark - if you truly want to offer a real service - then don't hide. And if you wish to hide - leave the battlefield to others. Having it both ways makes you the butt of the joke as well as the one who originated it. Kind of like double penetration. The viewers find it hilarious, while the actors probably find it incredibly painful while needing lots of oil and a hell of a pain threshold.

Make no mistake. I totally support and believe the arguments which Miss Snark puts forward and represents. The evidence seems to be a bit overwhelming. BUT if you want to accuse and lay blame - face that person. Do not hide. Do not use snide, cynical comments behind a made-up persona. Just seems to me and indeed many others I have spoken with, a bit too underhanded. If you insist on using a persona and attacking - then you just give the other side all the more ammunition to claim your stance is wrong and incorrect (which IMHO Miss Snark is correct here - just to make that clear once again.)

So perhaps it is only good and fair to leave this battle to those willing to put their names and reputations on the line to fight the charlatans in the literary agency business. After all, if they are wrong or their accusations made in public prove to be libelous and incorrect they will loose their good name and fine reputations. If Miss Snark is wrong well then, despite my affinity for Miss Snark she is a fantasy. Phantasms usually have nothing to loose except some hot air from time to time. Fantasies are great for the porn business but have no place in the arena of serious endeavors. So as for me, in this specific area, Miss Snark should not take sides in the Butter Battle War otherwise she will look almost as foolish as the enemy on the other side of the wall.

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Categories: short stories, writing, on writing series
Getting Wasted - Writing & Editing & Publishing Short Stories

Edited With Qumana


Karen Mary Lynch said...

Ted, your point is an excellent one. You're a brave, brave man for stating it.

Teddy said...

Nothing to do with being brave. First if Miss Snark is truly as intelligent as her writing makes her own self out to be, she will at least admit that there is validity in the argument presented even if she does not agree with it. And second, as I have written again and again, there must be some type of brakes placed somewhere, in intelligent thinking minds, when we are asked to accept the statements and thoughts of anonymous writers (no matter how professional they are and seem).

Be that all as it may, I know where I personally stand in this argument. But then again my name is on my blog. There are times to be anonymous... when we want to wage a justifiable battle...then that is NOT one of the times.

Anonymous said...

I am a fan of Miss Snark, as many of us aspiring writers are. I find her posts enjoyable and entertaining. I also find many of them valuable or at the least, they make me pause and think. I've enjoyed the "goings on" between the agents and I find it highly entertaining.

I don't really mind that Miss Snark has her position online under the name of Miss Snark. Her online persona has evolved to be a real character.

I enjoyed reading your post. You have some good points. I agree with some of them and I disagree with others. But, it was interesting all the same.

Thank you for sharing your viewpoint and your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

I don't see any particular problem here. I also don't see any validity in the arguments made by these agents.

The group of agents in question made Writer Beware's list of Twenty Worst Agents because they had the largest number of legitimate complaints lodged against them at the Writer Beware site. That wasn't WB's judgement call. It was a numerical score.

The writers who run the Writer Beware site aren't anonymous. They're Ann Crispin and Victoria Strauss, and for many years now they've done battle with scams aimed at authors. They're both published authors, of good reputation, and they do their work under their own names.

Why, then, do the agents on the list complain that Miss Snark is the one oppressing them? Simple: Miss Snark posts pseudonymously. They can therefore claim that "anonymous voices on the net" are destroying their reputations. This is a load of codswallop. Those agents have more than earned their bad reputations, and their chief accusers are in no way pseudonymous.

If Ann Crispin and Victoria Strauss weren't meticulously telling the truth about these agents, they could be sued up one side and down the other for defamation and other damages. Notice that no one's suing them. There's a reason for that.

On "sounding reasonable":

Of course these agents sound reasonable when they make their complaints. Everyone in this argument is a writer, or has access to writers. This is why flamewars in SFWA tend to go on forever: everyone in them has the ability to sound reasonable and/or passionately convincing, whether or not they have any idea what they're talking about.

Furthermore, these agents are extraordinarily motivated to make their complaints sound good. They're in a line of work where they can make a lot of money while doing little or no work. Struggling newbie writers are desperate to get representation and get published. They're ripe for scamming. You can have a very comfortable life, if you're willing to be a thief and you've learned how to rip them off.

Many of these "agents" haven't done an honest day's work in years. Their only current job skill is scamming writers. If the real nature of their operations become known, their profitable way of life will be at an end.

Of course they're doing everything they can to discredit that list and the people who publish and republish it.

On anonymity:

Here's a fact about editors and real agents: they can comment far more usefully if they're not operating under their own names. For instance, among the regulars who hand out commentary and advice at Absolute Write's Bewares Board are at least one editor and one agent who post there pseudonymously.

Miss Snark is doing the same thing. How do we know she's legit? Simple: by the value of her information and commentary. I've worked in publishing a long time, and while I don't always agree in every particular with Miss Snark's columns, she certainly knows her stuff.

So. On the one hand, we have Miss Snark, who volunteers her own time and work to write a weblog that's enormously helpful to writers. On the other hand, we have a pack of known scammers and thieves whose full-time occupation consists of defrauding authors. I know where my sympathies fall.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden

Victoria Strauss said...

Teddy, thanks for acknowledging that the original warriors in this struggle, the staff of Writer Beware and Preditors & Editors--both of which were around long before Miss Snark and others started up their blogs--have never hidden behind a handle or a pseudonym. Dave Kuzminski, Ann Crispin, and myself have always used our real names and identities to run our websites, give our warnings, and throw down the gauntlet in our blogs.

Those who joined the fray a bit later, such as Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Jenna Glatzer, and Jim Macdonald, also use their real names and identities. As do agents like Kristin Nelson and Nadia Cormier who occasionally speak out about scams. In fact, the majority of people who speak out about questionable agents and publishers do so as...themselves.

Miss Snark is a big target, and that's why questionable agents with a persecution complex take aim at her. But their claim that "anonymous" sources are trashing them doesn't hold water, simply because most of us are not anonymous at all.

Teddy said...


I certainly do acknowledge your efforts in this struggle. I just did not want to post names without permission so a link was the best I could do.

As you know, I may not always agree eye-to-eye with certain things, but there is a great deal of merit in what you do for writers and authors all over the world.

And I know that many do use their real names. That is why I kind of walk a tightrope here. Whereas I do respect Miss Snark and what she does, and have said this over and over and over again, I still think in this type of discourse one must be open and clear.

I personally thank you for the help you have been to me as well.