Sunday, 15 August 2010

Feeding Agents to Sharks and Other Awesomely Devious Ideas that are only a little bit Insane

Here at Scathach we want to feed a literary agent to a shark. It's a scientific experiment, so that makes it okay, then. Sharks and dogs can smell fear, and right now we reckon agents are some of the most terrified people on the planet. Should drive the sharks wild. Funzies.

Might be easier setting loose a pack of wild dogs.

We just read this post over on kidlit by an idiot of an agent called Mary. Okay, so idiot is perhaps unfair. She is clearly very afraid, for her job, for her way of life. We don't blame her. Changes are a-coming.

In fact, Changes are here. This could not be more obvious now. Six months ago if an agent bashed self-publishing usually one voice would pipe up to defend it (funnily enough, it was always Zoe. We think she has google alerts set up!) On this post, 75% of comments were pro-self-publishing.

Which, in turn, prompted Mary to write this... we'll be polite and just say blog post... in which Mary manages to ignore 80% of the pro-self-publishing comments, and simply focuses on the couple of people who pointed out old self-pubbed authors like Mark Twain. In the comments her view is once more showed up for the ill-thought-out and badly researched piss that it is. Someone lists modern self-pubbed classics like the Shack.

She points out that Christopher Paolini is a self-publishing success (except that he's not. His mother and father published him through their own existing small press).

But the thing that really got to us here at Scathach, the thing that really riled our feathers, was this... here is a woman saying
  • you are all too stupid to know if your work is good or bad
  • and clearly far too stupid to send it to someone impartial to judge it
  • and if you send it to an editor you are paying they'll say its good cos you're paying them so DON'T TRUST THEM
  • and clearly even though I am getting paid too, I'm not getting paid for looking at the m/s and judging its worth, so I keep my integrity, and YOU CAN TRUST ME (told you she was an idiot)
  • and all this, all this utter shit about how she is the only one who can judge the quality of your writing, and yet her blog clearly illustrates one point above any other
  • Mary doesn't know the difference between there, their and they're.
Another reason we're indie. We have to deal with much fewer idiots this way. Just putting it out there, telling it as it is. Like Mary, but honest.


  1. Oooh, controversial. ;)

    I avoided that blog when those were posted. I'm on this new kick ya see, if I don't read it I can't get dragged down with it. I'm really trying to cut down on staying up all night 'cos somebody is wrong on the Internetz. ;D

    Seriously though, people are going to think like this. That's fine. Nobody is required to self publish or even read a self published book.

    But publishing is changing. The majority of self published books I've read in the last few months have been well edited and entertaining reads. Why? Because I've been listening to the new gatekeepers - readers.

    Whether we all fail or succeed, we're doing it on our own terms. The ever increasing number of success stories proves (imho) that we don't have to rip apart our work to fit into one hot, marketable genre at a time. There is an audience out there for almost anything. Supply and demand and all that.

  2. I'm a naturally argumentative person. This is giving me an outlet and keeping my wife and co-workers happy. Besides controversy might bring fame, lol.

    Supply and demand, hell yeah. Just yesterday I was reading about a book where a gang of hemaphrodtic gunslingers in the old west have their last stand in a town where people have TVs for heads. It has a cult following, apparently.

    This was published by a small publisher.

    The more I come across things like this, the more I realise big publishers have become so focused on the money they've forgotten what lies at the heart of their business. Good stories.

    If people don't want to self-publish I recommend small publishers. Not my thing, they can't offer anything I can't do for myself. And being a tight-ass Scot I'm dead set against folk taking a cut of my cash. But at least small publishers seem to have their fingers on the ball.

  3. The net being an outlet for my argumentative side didn't work for me because Ikept taking my rage home with me afterwards. :)

    People want to be entertained, they don't care about whats "in" - and they have the sense to know what they like. They enjoy, they recommend, someone else buys. Word of mouth and value for money are way more important than anything else right now.

    In a way, small publishers have the upper hand on the big houses because they've been forced to change and adapt to survive. With that struggle comes experience and a better sense of trends and also enough flexibility to go with the times. They know they aren't in control, consumers are. And writers to a lesser extent. The balance of power is changing I think.

    It doesn't matter what other people do anyway, I'm going to enjoy this as long as it lasts. :)

  4. This is actually said the 34,973,185th time I've said this now (I'm counting):

    I self-publish for one reason and one reason only, and that reason is control.

    Writing seems to be the only art form where the product as put out by the artist is never good enough. No one tells photographers that they shouldn't sell their photos online because the gates aren't manned by agents/editors/publishers. No one tells potters not to go to the farmer's market and sell their plates. No one tries to police the eBay market in hand-turned wooden pens. But writers are constantly told that no one person ever wrote a book, and that writing a novel is a collaborative effort, and that really, if I just understood how the publishing world works, I would see that the control always lies with the writer, and everyone else is just trying to ensure the book is the absolute best it can be.

    When I point out the blogs and Twitter feeds in which agents and editors say things like "The best way to insult your publisher is to say you have an idea about the cover," or "Call it whatever you like, but remember it is only a working title. The publisher will title the book," or when I quote from the contracts I've been offered, showing the entire clause in which they say basically "Accept our edits or not, but we will publish it our way anyway," then I'm told that I simply don't understand these things.

    I used to trot out all the tired old arguments, asking if "real" publishing has such good gatekeepers, then why are the books they produce so full of typos and errors, etc, but now I simply don't bother.

    Readers don't care about the imprint. Ask that guy over there on the stool what car he drives, he'll say "Toyota." Ask that woman by the bus stop what shoes she's wearing and she'll say "Miss Sixty." Ask them what they're reading, and they don't say "Simon & Schuster" or "HarperCollins." They'll give you a title or an author's name.

    Don't get me wrong. I'll sign the first contract that comes along that gives me what I need. The first contract that recognizes where the control must lie.

    I self-publish for one reason and one reason only, and that reason is control.


  5. Hey, hey, Levi - keep it for Friday, lol. But yes, its crazy how writing is like nothing else. Imagine painting a picture. It sells for $150. So much goes to the shop, the guy who drove it to the shop, the framer, the guy who repainted the colours after the marketing guy decided red would sell quicker than blue. And you end up with about $10 for doing all the work.

  6. Claire, with a publisher or without, I think enjoying what you are doing is the key to the hole thing.