Sunday, November 19, 2006

Think Long And Hard Before...It May Be Your Only Chance

There is an incredibly interesting and vociferous argument going on among writers these days about the wisdom of trashing one's own publisher in public. (I would assume this would go for a literary agent as well.)

It seems that this all started with an interview given by Anne Stuart, a Romance Novelist, which was then printed on the Internet at "All About Romance" in their "Writer's Corner for October, 2006" highlighting Anne Stuart.

Now since I do not read nor am a fan of Romance novels you will have to excuse my ignorance in terms of the people and names and titles involved.

On the face of it what Anne Stuart said seemed to be fairly normative. (I strongly suggest you read it.) She was upset about not being given the proper marketing and PR she felt she deserved. I would not suggest that a writer starting out do this, but we will get to that later. I am leery of quoting too much from Writer's Corner for October, 2006" highlighting Anne Stuart due to the possibility of copyright infringement. But here is a small excerpt to give you the general idea (you should read the piece hyperlinked above to get a full picture). Anne Stuart here is talking about her current publisher:
"...And maybe they do, but they could do more. I know every writer says that, and I hate to be greedy and ungrateful, but they're not so much about the books. They're about slots and numbers, not about passion for what they're putting out there. Or so it seems to me. But then, right now I'm pretty disillusioned about the lack of support from them. I'll get over it. Maybe they're right and I'm wrong and I'm a middle of the road writer.

No, they're wrong. I'm a goddess.

And maybe I've misjudged them. It seems to me that they look at my books like boxes of cereal on a shelf, and they're in the business of selling cereal, not loving it.

Rats. You had to ask me that question! Some day I'll learn to be discreet."
Certainly that seems to be fairly innocuous. Ms. Stuart was speaking from the heart and had a complaint. She aired that complaint in an interview, though second thinking herself, she thought it may have been a bit wiser to be discreet. But then again, she did not say anything bitter or mean. She was just talking about her own current book situation.

I feel it necessary to repeat again, I have absolutely no clue how famous or known Anne Stuart is in the world of Romance Novels.

For some reason this kind of attitude upset Miss Snark. She posted about it, in very cynical and strong terms. In a post entitled: Nitwit of the Day!, Miss Snark in a strongly worded post and obviously nasty title, even for her, among other things says:
"Here's a big hunk of clue cake for everyone at the book buffet: don't diss your publisher in public. Not now, not ever. Not even if you think you're right, especially when I know you're wrong....

Here's why dissing your publisher is stupid. It removes every desire to go the extra mile for you. Every and any."
Now putting aside the cynical attitude for just a moment, Miss Snark also has a point. It is really not a good idea, even if you are 100% right to go around trashing a publisher or agent of yours in public. Small world. And you do kind of destroy all motivation to help you afterwards.

Now as to the cynicism. In quite a few posts here at Cobwebs Of The Mind I have said over and over again, that while I respect Miss Snark for all the help she gives, sometimes she does carry it over the top in being cynical. The original post in regard to this specific point was The "House" Effect. Sometimes it seems things Miss Snark posts about, hit a funny-bone with her. Almost as if they touched on some personal part of the real person that lies behind the Snark persona. I am not offering this as an excuse or a reason, it is actually just a personal observation. Some topics seem to drive Miss Snark into convulsions and I can only assume they do because of some real event that took place to the real person who invented Miss Snark.

Okay one point for Anne Stuart. One Point for Miss Snark. Each has a plus, each a minus, I guess. One believes you should speak up and say what is on your mind, one thinks you should keep your mouth shut.

And I think that would be where it should have ended. You can either say Anne Stuart was venting frustration at not selling what she thought to be enough copies of her books or she had a viable and very plausible reason for being upset with her publisher. But all in all she does have a valid response and certainly had every right to vent if she felt this to be correct.

In all cases the important discussion here - the advice to new and not so new authors - do not go around venting against your publisher in public - is sound advice. Really sound advice.

But the beat goes on....

In Jenny Crusie's Blog, Argh Ink, (she is a published author), in a post entitled: Clue Cake, Anonymity, and Other Unprofessional Behavior Ms. Crusie expressed her extreme distaste and anger at Miss Snark's statements. Now Ms. Crusie makes a point I have made in quite a few posts on this blog about anonymous blogs and posters. Just a smattering of these can be found here in the following posts:
  1. The "House" Effect
  2. Doesn't This Attitude Offend Anyone Else Out There?
  3. Give Me A Break.....
  4. Deep Throat - The Life of Anonymous Authors, Agents & Publishers On The Internet
  5. The Butter Battle Wars
  6. A Climate Of Fear
I have also made this a point at Absolute Write Forums as well. However, I was recently asked to stop by the new owner of AW for whatever reasons which I assume for her are legitimate. Thus I only post these things here in Cobwebs Of The Mind. But Jenny Crusie does have a point. A BIG POINT. A really really really good point. Anonymous blogs from anonymous posters should be incredibly suspect. And yet, there are always exceptions to the rule. Miss Snark does seem to have a handle on the publishing world. I cannot even entertain the thought that someone running that blog is privy to the information she imparts without being intimately involved in the world of literary agents and publishing.

But Jenny Crusie is also talking from friendship when she defends her friend, Anne Stuart's reaction. And she further says (extrapolated from her long post at: Clue Cake, Anonymity, and Other Unprofessional Behavior)
That was when I thought, “Who is this person and why isn’t she taking her meds?” The day my agent told me “Don’t diss your publisher in public” and then followed it up with “even if you think you’re right, especially when I know you’re wrong” would be the day I’d be announcing on the net that Jenny Crusie was looking for a new agent. Talk about unprofessional behavior; this is not the way a good agent speaks to a client or writes on the internet. (I know, ironic, isn’t it?) She’s telling authors in general and Anne Stuart in particular, “Do not say disrespectful things about your publisher on the internet because I know it’s wrong. Do what I say, because I know all.” Which is when I say to her clients, “Run, Forrest, run.” Or whatever the hell your names are, which you don’t know, either, because she’s anonymous. But if you’re an author and your agent has ever said to you, “Don’t argue with me, just do what I say because I know this is right,” run. Delusion of omnipotence is a bad sign in an agent.
Seems like a really smart and fair look at the game doesn't it? There is absolutely nothing untoward or illogical about the above. Jenny Crusie is giving sound advice as well. She is also of course, taking on Miss Snark and why she feels that Miss Snark had absolutely no right to say what she did. Again I strongly suggest you read the whole post: Clue Cake, Anonymity, and Other Unprofessional Behavior)

Also she must get some points there, additionally so because she came to the defense of her friend, Anne Stuart. (I have a soft spot for people with gumption who will defend their friends. Friends like Jenny Crusie are not easy to find and even more difficult to keep. She gets five stars for what she did on that basis alone.)

No, an agent will usually not tell a client that they are wrong when the client is right. An agent though will tell a client to keep their big yap shut, even if they are right, especially if that client is fairly new and wants to see a publishing contract.

And I say this from personal experience. And you know what? No matter how much I wanted to scream and yell and froth from the mouth, my agent was right. Do not go and bad mouth that publisher in public. Because editors move around. The publishing world is real small. And that kind of reputation you simply do not need.

(Read the user comments on both Miss Snark's blog and on Jenny Crusie's blog. They also will tell you a great deal.)

So what is the difference here? What is going on? Why did this subject even get some strong reactions over at Absolute Write in the thread: Should You Ever Speak Out Against Your Publisher?.

Jenny Crusie and Anne Stuart are published authors with more than a few books under their belts. They have long, established careers in writing. They can afford to, if they wish, to say what they like in interviews. And they should. They should say what they want and how they feel. But keep in mind they are making money for their publishers.

However, I would not be so quick to apply that logic to the new, starting off writer or even most seasoned ones. If such a thing happened I would beg them to think a 1000 times before trashing their publisher on the Net or in a newspaper or in a public forum. This game when dealing with publishers and agents - no matter what you heard - is also a power game of sorts. With pretentious people who have power. Editors who are vindictive. People who are professional rumor mongers. All of it. Unless you are a someone they cannot afford to ignore, which simply means - you are making them money - keep your mouth shut. Swallow it as much as it hurts. Don't blow off steam before you think about the consequences.

When you get as many books as Anne Stuart and Jenny Crusie in your resume, say whatever the hell you want to say. Just know there are and will always be consequences. And maybe you can afford those consequences by then.

Right now for new authors? Swallow it whole. No matter how much it sticks in your throat. And any sane agent will say that to any new client - whether this is one of the biggest problems in publishing or it is just a small problem.

And by the way - it is a huge problem in publishing. Just go meet a marketing department and you will know exactly what is being talked about here in these blogs.

So Anne Stuart is right.
Miss Snark is right.
Jenny Crusie is right and gets points in admiration for sticking up for a friend.

(And yes .. both Miss Snark and Jenny Crusie could have been more effective if they had just toned down the cynical tone a notch.)

They are all right. So you be the judge of your own career.
My Humble Advice:
Walk real softly and have a real long, delayed fuse.
Think Long And Hard Before Opening Your Mouth In Public.
It May Be Your Only Chance.
Goes for everyone.

Don't Be Cheap! Leave A Comment Below. I Promise Not To Bite!

1 comment:

Sharon said...

Amen to all that, Teddy!