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Sunnyside
05-01-2008, 05:40 PM
I'm not sure whether this is the best place for this or not, but thought I'd start this here.

Literary agent Jonathan Lyons has a really interesting post -- "Too Many Writers Spoil the Soup" (http://lyonsliterary.blogspot.com/2008/04/too-many-writers-spoil-soup.html) -- on his blog, regarding the number of queries he receives from would-be writers who clearly don't know their craft, haven't done any research on publishing, and just generally can't write. He thinks part of it is due to the fact that the self-publishing phenomenon has made it difficult for non-writers to understand the difference between bring printed and being published, and thus to many non-writers, writing (and publishing) appears to be so easy that anyone can do it -- and so everyone tries.

I'll let you read his post yourselves, but let me quote part of it here:


Iím not a writer, but it really pisses me off that some people think that anyone can write a good book. Why is writing any different from basketball (and my analogy now makes sense, even though it was clearly silly), or any other skilled profession? What is it about publishing that encourages self-delusion?

The conversation that's started in the Responses is also really interesting.

(In the interest of full disclosure, Jonathan is my agent -- but even if he weren't, I'd still think the discussion was fascinating. And it's even more interesting to get the "outside looking in" perspective from a queried agent, as we often wonder what agents are thinking when they read queries.)

mirrorkisses
05-01-2008, 05:55 PM
I have to agree that a lot of people think they can write, but I have also met a lot of people who are genuinely amazed that I can write. I'm not going to be holier-than-thou about it, but it does annoy me a little when I hear about people who have "always wanted to write a book." You know what I'm talking about--someone that has never considered writing before but wants to write a novel. Why would you want to if you don't write in the first place? I ask because writing is an arduous process, as we all know. I love, love to write, but it's painful and you second-guess. It takes a lot of time and work. It's also a very private process for me....

I am always very supportive of new writers, and excited to meet veteran writers (because so few of us expose our love of it, we've become used to people not caring), but I can't understand why there are people who think writing a novel is something you just do in your freetime.

I also work at a small publishing house that accepts queries. My co-worker is assigned to write rejection letters, and usually we giggle over the bad queries. You would not believe how bad some of these things are, and I'm not talking about the stories per se, I'm talking about the structure of the letter. As the lit agent says on his blog, many people don't even edit their letters. In fact, one person used a typewriter, with quite obvious photocopied pages. Their story was weird in the first place, but the typewriter thing creeped both of us out, wondering why exactly he needed to use an antiquated device.

Here's a word of advice from someone who works at a publishing house: USE a computer. It doesn't matter if it is retro to use a typewriter, or if it makes you feel like a real writer. They start to wonder things about you if you don't use the latest media. I mean, seriously, why use a typewriter when it's not needed?

HeronW
05-01-2008, 06:07 PM
You need to know the craft as well as tell a good story. I come across mispelling in ads, or in posted stories. I lose interest because the person is either careless or ignorant. If they are selling something, why should I trust them if they can't get the grammar or spelling right? Yes, it's easy for anyone to show they can write but without training and knowledge of doing it correctly, there's a gap of appreciation, of lost communication.

I learned early on about colors, mixing, etc as an artist. People use Photoshop and wonder why a certain tool uses a standard red/green, blue/orange, yellow/purple for fore/background in pictures. You can blend anything you want but these are the basics because they work. These are complimentary colors.

Or someone mixes black to make yellow darker--news flash, that makes green every time.

If you don't know it'll show.

Phaeal
05-01-2008, 06:10 PM
I've been thinking lately that writer-wannabes must be proliferating, thanks in part to Internet phenomena like NaNoWriMo, easily posted fan/original fiction, access to other writers, and easy access to information on the submission and publication process. Hey, all it takes is a quick Google search to find out some agents or editors, then a quick email to put a query or MS in front of them.

I've also been thinking that agents and editors must be feeling pretty pestered by premature inquiries.

Well, it's as hard to develop objectivity about one's writing as it is to become a good writer in the first place. In fact, the two go hand in hand. Carefully, patiently. Young or new writers really need to take advantage of forums like SYW. If competent and sympathetic reviewers can stop them from sending out raw queries and scripts, those reviewers are the saints of literature, saving the neophytes and the publishing pros alike from disappointment and aggravation and doors unnecessarily shut.

mirrorkisses
05-01-2008, 06:11 PM
heh, interesting.

Photoshop has a lot of people thinking they're artists!

drachin8
05-01-2008, 06:16 PM
When you are not in the middle of actually writing, I think it can be easy to romanticize the entire process. I mean, you see beautiful books everywhere brimming with the souls of their creators (yes, I am being melodramtaic--deal with it)(heh) and oil paintings that pillage your gut and hear master celloists carving sound from air and singers drawing the skies into their voice. How could one not want to be a part of that, not want to bare their soul and create something achingly beautiful?

And so technology has created an opening for every person to put themselves out into the world in hopes that somebody, anybody, will recognize the creator in what they have created and say, "I see you, I understand you, and I love you."

Again, I am feeling particularly melodramatic this morning, so take that into account with the above. Normally, I am quite practical and down-to-earth, I swear!


:)

-Michelle

Calla Lily
05-01-2008, 06:19 PM
Anyone remember when PageMaker debuted? I worked for a typesetting firm back then and many clients pulled their business because "they could do it just as well as we did now." I leave you to imagine the trainwrecks they produced. Sounds like the same situation here. There's no substitute for learning the craft.

That was the Lily's self-evident aphorism of the week. :)

mirrorkisses
05-01-2008, 06:20 PM
You're a writer. You're allowed to be dramatic. :)

drachin8
05-01-2008, 06:28 PM
You're a writer. You're allowed to be dramatic. :)

Dramatic, yes. Melodramatic, shoot me now and free me from my misery!


:)

-Michelle

James81
05-01-2008, 06:29 PM
I don't mean to be an ass, but it sounds like he is complaining about what he is GETTING PAID TO DO.

If he's so tired of reading trash, then get the heck out of the agent business.

I agree that there is a lot of crap out there. And yeah, it miffs me a bit when people think it's "easy" to write a book. But I'm also NOT an agent, nor do I ever WANT to be an agent.

I couldn't help thinking when I read that post that I just wanted to break out a little violin and play him a song. It's one thing to be a little annoyed by the submissions you get, but you know what? That comes with the territory. If it bugs you that much, then get out of the business and do something that doesn't bug you quite as much.

Cranky
05-01-2008, 06:32 PM
Personally, I didn't see anything wrong with the post at all.

Most of us vent about stuff with our work that makes us batty, too. Why should agents be exempt from that? Not to mention, I think that is a question a lot of writers and agents ask themselves every now and then.

Imagine sitting there, hour after hour, hoping to find a good query about a story that actually interests you, and instead you get poorly written queries that don't make much sense about stories that are either trite and cliched, or even incomprehensible.

Day after day after day. I'd get a little frustrated, too. Doesn't mean I'd be hating my job. It means I got frustrated with a certain aspect of it. Simple as that.

JimmyB27
05-01-2008, 06:42 PM
Dramatic, yes. Melodramatic, shoot me now and free me from my misery!


:)

-Michelle
*Pulls back the cocking lever*

;)

Nothing beautiful in my writing, either all blood and guts and people hating, or an immense block of silliness.

James81
05-01-2008, 06:46 PM
I think it was the last line that got me... Can we fix it?

No, you can't fix it. It's one thing to vent, it's another to think that:

1. You can fix something like this to make a very hard job (I'm sure it's hard and frustrating) easy for you. It's part of the reason you make decent money off of other people's talents. Your gift is sifting through this crap so other people don't have to.

2. To assume that your viewpoint on what people are submitting is the be all and end all of what is "good". I mean, that's sort of the assumption that's being made here. What you think is "crap" is another man's "treasure". I'm sure there are a lot of universally bad writers out there, but not all the ones YOU reject are bad...they just aren't your cup of tea.

I get that it was just a venting post on what was probably a bad day, but still I would think that an agent would be more professional than that than to post this kind of thing publicly.

I dunno, that's just my opinion though. Take it for what it's worth (not much lol).

Cranky
05-01-2008, 06:49 PM
From what I understand, a lot of queries and manuscripts hitting agents' desks really are that bad.

Think about it. If simply writing a properly formatted and addressed query with comprehensible sentences automatically jumps you to the front of the line...the vast majority of them must be bad.

drachin8
05-01-2008, 06:51 PM
*Pulls back the cocking lever*

;)

Nothing beautiful in my writing, either all blood and guts and people hating, or an immense block of silliness.

Not every soul aches for beauty then; some just want to play in a pile of intestines and laugh as they reminisce about making Play-doh snakes as a child. I see that now, JimmyB, and I understand you, and...well, two out of three ain't bad!

:tongue


-Michelle

Toothpaste
05-01-2008, 06:51 PM
I'm with Cranky, one isn't allowed to vent about one's job? It's the same response I at times get if I vent about a part of the publishing process - something that is genuinely frustrating and would probably frustrate most anyone - "What do you have to complain about, you're getting published!"

We choose our jobs, but does that mean that means we don't have bad days, have bad things happen, or see trends we'd rather see changed. I'm sorry but if over many years I saw the slush pile get bigger and bigger, and the quality get smaller and smaller, I too might want to say something about it. Especially when your job is being made harder by people who have no clue about the industry, or even what they were doing. Who are in effect disrespecting what you do, by their total obliviousness to how truly difficult a thing writing a book is.

I think what he is writing about is well worth discussing, and is very much an obvious trend. Aside from the fact that everyone learns to read and write, and self publishing makes everyone feel like they are published, blogging definitely has contributed. I think it's a pretty valid discussion to have.

ETA: "2. To assume that your viewpoint on what people are submitting is the be all and end all of what is "good". I mean, that's sort of the assumption that's being made here. What you think is "crap" is another man's "treasure". I'm sure there are a lot of universally bad writers out there, but not all the ones YOU reject are bad...they just aren't your cup of tea."

I thought you were reacting this way. The problem is, if you chat with agents, it isn't the MSs that are not your cup of tea that are the problem. It's the MSs where the author can't string a coherent sentence, can't spell a single word, sends their stuff to you on bright pink paper. Or maybe because they know you are a female agent, send some pubic hair in an envelope knowing you will stumble onto it (I know of an agent to whom this happened). When people like us read these posts, we think what your number 2 was saying. But that isn't what these agents are talking about. They are talking about the 95% of stuff they get that is actually unreadable. Not a MS that has too many POV jumps, or the main character is a Mary Sue. But utter dreck. I highly doubt that Mr. Lyons was saying that everything he rejects is this quality, I'm sure he rejects things that aren't just right for him, but someone else may like too. However in this post, I think he's talking about the proliferation of dreck.

I do think you may be reading a bit much into his post, assigning him a snobbery that really wasn't there.

James81
05-01-2008, 06:52 PM
From what I understand, a lot of queries and manuscripts hitting agents' desks really are that bad.

Think about it. If simply writing a properly formatted and addressed query with comprehensible sentences automatically jumps you to the front of the line...the vast majority of them must be bad.

I don't doubt that. lol

That's why I would NEVER EVER want that job. Not in a million years. I don't have a lot of patience to read bad writing. I love to read, but only if it's something decent (it doesn't have to rock my socks, but still).

But I think to myself...man there are things I hate about my job, and sometimes I'll vent them to a family member or a coworker. Would I get on the company's website (or my own) and publicly blast those things? No, no way no how. It's one thing to vent...but it's another to be professional enough to know WHERE and WHEN to vent.

James81
05-01-2008, 06:54 PM
I think what he is writing about is well worth discussing, and is very much an obvious trend. Aside from the fact that everyone learns to read and write, and self publishing makes everyone feel like they are published, blogging definitely has contributed. I think it's a pretty valid discussion to have.

Yeah, but also what he is writing about is a DISCOURAGEMENT to the truly GOOD writers out there. Those who are fantastic, but don't believe their work is good and are PETRIFIED to make a submission, even though their work would probably hit the bestseller's list given the right platform.

In my experience, the truly GOOD writers don't really think they are all that good, but almost ALL the bad writers I've ever read think they are GREAT.

Cranky
05-01-2008, 06:57 PM
Here's the thing, from my point of view. It wasn't just a vent. This is a trend that a great many people have noticed and have been talking about. He's not the first agent to blog on this subject, either, IIRC.

It's not unprofessional. What would be unprofessional would be for him to post some atrocious query and then laugh at it, and invite others to do the same and dogpile on. Instead, he's describing what he sees as a disturbing trend in the industry, and wondering at the root causes of it. If there is anything that can be done to fix it.

And yeah, a little bit of a vent, too. :)

Toothpaste
05-01-2008, 07:00 PM
Because I edited it probably after you read my original version, I just wanted to post what I added onto my post once more:

ETA: "2. To assume that your viewpoint on what people are submitting is the be all and end all of what is "good". I mean, that's sort of the assumption that's being made here. What you think is "crap" is another man's "treasure". I'm sure there are a lot of universally bad writers out there, but not all the ones YOU reject are bad...they just aren't your cup of tea."

I thought you were reacting this way. The problem is, if you chat with agents, it isn't the MSs that are not your cup of tea that are the problem. It's the MSs where the author can't string a coherent sentence, can't spell a single word, sends their stuff to you on bright pink paper. Or maybe because they know you are a female agent, send some pubic hair in an envelope knowing you will stumble onto it (I know of an agent to whom this happened). When people like us read these posts, we think what your number 2 was saying. But that isn't what these agents are talking about. They are talking about the 95% of stuff they get that is actually unreadable. Not a MS that has too many POV jumps, or the main character is a Mary Sue. But utter dreck. I highly doubt that Mr. Lyons was saying that everything he rejects is this quality, I'm sure he rejects things that aren't just right for him, but someone else may like too. However in this post, I think he's talking about the proliferation of dreck.

I do think you may be reading a bit much into his post, assigning him a snobbery that really wasn't there.

mscelina
05-01-2008, 07:01 PM
It shouldn't be a discouragement to the good writers out there. How many times have we complained about unprepared writers cluttering up the slush piles? It sounds to me like an agent using his blog as a warning to people who are thinking of submitting to him--a completely valid usage, by the way. He wants submissions that are well-written, correctly formatted, and well-thought-out.

*shrug*

There's nothing wrong with that at all. Besides, I vent on my blog all the time. The people who read an agent's blog are writers--he's giving them information they can (and should) use.

Toothpaste
05-01-2008, 07:03 PM
Yeah, but also what he is writing about is a DISCOURAGEMENT to the truly GOOD writers out there. Those who are fantastic, but don't believe their work is good and are PETRIFIED to make a submission, even though their work would probably hit the bestseller's list given the right platform.

In my experience, the truly GOOD writers don't really think they are all that good, but almost ALL the bad writers I've ever read think they are GREAT.

So because some writers are scared of rejection, or don't believe in him/herself, an agent isn't allowed to post a very valid concern on his blog?

I'm sorry, but this is just no excuse. Part of being any sort of artist is getting the nerve to get your stuff out there. It isn't anyone else's responsibility but your own. Trust me. I am the last person on earth who should be an actress (well aside from the fact that, you know, I'm good at acting). Every time I don't get a part, I cry profusely. I can't play games, or try to flirt with casting directors, I suck at networking. But that doesn't mean the casting directors are to blame for my insecurity. I have had to teach myself how to audition, I have taken courses in it. I have had to just "suck it up" when I get rejected.

It's a tough world out there, especially in the arts. An agent is under no obligation to hold back on his thoughts about the industry because it may discourage some writers. Sorry.

James81
05-01-2008, 07:05 PM
Here's the thing, from my point of view. It wasn't just a vent. This is a trend that a great many people have noticed and have been talking about. He's not the first agent to blog on this subject, either, IIRC.

It's not unprofessional. What would be unprofessional would be for him to post some atrocious query and then laugh at it, and invite others to do the same and dogpile on. Instead, he's describing what he sees as a disturbing trend in the industry, and wondering at the root causes of it. If there is anything that can be done to fix it.

And yeah, a little bit of a vent, too. :)

Ok, let me put it another way (and please forgive my analogy lol).

Let's see you work at McDonalds (general you, and purely hypothetical). You take orders for the customers. Now, I used to do this, so I know EXACTLY how frustrating dealing with the customers can be. Some of the people that come in there you just want to punch in the face because they are so stupid, ignorant, or just plain annoying.

I can remember many a night when I could go back to my coworkers and vent like crazy. I didn't work the counter much (I mostly made sandwiches and stuff), but when I did the little vein in my forehead would pop out and I would turn into Mr. Hyde.

Never ONCE did I ever let ANY of the customers know about it. Nor did I ever write a letter to the editor of my local newspaper or post a bulletin on the counter talking about how a lot of the people who come in are stupid or ignorant. I knew better than to do that and I knew that I wouldn't change it, and that ultimately I would probably just anger the GOOD customers and put THEM in bad moods too.

What he has done here is akin to posting a bulletin out on the counter or writing a letter to the editor of the newspaper. Sure, he has every right to do so, but is it really good for the business he's in? What if one of the truly fantastic writers (say the next Shakespeare or something lol) avoids him because of such a post?

I just don't think it's a wise decision on his part to scare off potentially GOOD writers that he could represent just to vent about all the bad ones.

mscelina
05-01-2008, 07:08 PM
amen, toothpaste. You guys think SUBMITTING is bad? You should try AUDITIONING.

The worst (and best) months of my life happened when I lived in NYC and was doing the audition rounds for Broadway and off-Broadway. *shudders* My least-favorite word in the world is "Next." You go from the absolute limit of an adrenaline high to the depths of the lowest point of depression in about a minute if you're rejected.

Which you are. 999 times out of 1000.

Submitting writing is MUCH easier. MUCH. Trust me.

mscelina
05-01-2008, 07:10 PM
James, you're not getting it. The PURPOSE of an agent's blog is to give guidance to people who HAVEN'T submitted yet. The agent is telling prospective writers to make certain that their submissions are clean, well-written, and ready to submit. Numerous agents have this information on their guidelines, and numerous agents will go back and reinforce this on their blog entries.

It's standard practice. Get over it. It's not some vast conspiracy to keep good writers from submitting. To think such a thing is a disservice to yourself.

soleary
05-01-2008, 07:14 PM
In any situation, there are people who don't know what they're doing. People who don't know how to write don't know how to drive don't know how to chew food with their mouths closed don't know how to put the seat down don't know how to wear spandex, etc etc etc. I feel for the poor literary agent who comes face to face horrendous writing, but isn't that part of his job? As a marketing writer of 20 plus years, I hate dealing with clients who aren't creative and can't think in the creative space. Alas, that doesn't mean I can avoid them. They are simply a hazard of the job. Sometimes you have to smile and deal with it!

P.S. Why is it he's a literary agent? Can't he write?

Art is subjective ...

James81
05-01-2008, 07:14 PM
James, you're not getting it. The PURPOSE of an agent's blog is to give guidance to people who HAVEN'T submitted yet. The agent is telling prospective writers to make certain that their submissions are clean, well-written, and ready to submit. Numerous agents have this information on their guidelines, and numerous agents will go back and reinforce this on their blog entries.

It's standard practice. Get over it. It's not some vast conspiracy to keep good writers from submitting. To think such a thing is a disservice to yourself.

Well, if the purpose is to give us tips, then give us tips. Don't sit and talk about how all you get is trash and how you wish you could stop these bad submissions from coming in. If you have a gripe, then air it specifically and do it in a more professional manner than to say "God, I get tired of bad submissions".

That's all I'm saying. I don't care WHAT vocation you are in, it's not professional to air your general complaints about the public publicly.

If I had done what he did at my old McD's job, I would've been fired.

James81
05-01-2008, 07:15 PM
And I don't mean to single him out specifically if other agents have done this. I'm just talking about this because it's the subject of the thread.

Toothpaste
05-01-2008, 07:18 PM
Ok, let me put it another way (and please forgive my analogy lol).

Let's see you work at McDonalds (general you, and purely hypothetical). You take orders for the customers. Now, I used to do this, so I know EXACTLY how frustrating dealing with the customers can be. Some of the people that come in there you just want to punch in the face because they are so stupid, ignorant, or just plain annoying.

I can remember many a night when I could go back to my coworkers and vent like crazy. I didn't work the counter much (I mostly made sandwiches and stuff), but when I did the little vein in my forehead would pop out and I would turn into Mr. Hyde.

Never ONCE did I ever let ANY of the customers know about it. Nor did I ever write a letter to the editor of my local newspaper or post a bulletin on the counter talking about how a lot of the people who come in are stupid or ignorant. I knew better than to do that and I knew that I wouldn't change it, and that ultimately I would probably just anger the GOOD customers and put THEM in bad moods too.

What he has done here is akin to posting a bulletin out on the counter or writing a letter to the editor of the newspaper. Sure, he has every right to do so, but is it really good for the business he's in? What if one of the truly fantastic writers (say the next Shakespeare or something lol) avoids him because of such a post?

I just don't think it's a wise decision on his part to scare off potentially GOOD writers that he could represent just to vent about all the bad ones.

Your comparison is flawed. As an employee of McDonalds you were serving customers. They came in, you gave them food, they paid for the service (well for the food, but I"m sure some of the money goes towards salaries somehow), and leave.

An agent isn't looking for customers. An agent is looking for a client, a partnership. Yes an agent wouldn't make any money without an author, but in this day and age it's really tough for authors to make money without agents. An agent is allowed to be picky, is under no obligation to read any queries (I mean of course they want to, but they can have as many or as few clients as they want, they are not paid, as you were, to serve anybody and everybody), just as an author should be picky in the type of agent they want.

And as far as the next Shakespeare deciding not to submit to Mr. Lyons because of this post, okay fine, that's the author's decision. But to be honest I can't see all that many authors being intimidated or upset by his post. Most authors find what he is saying so true, are frustrated about the exact same things. His post illustrates what so many authors get frustrated hearing from others, that writing a book is easy, anyone can do it. It's nice that an agent acknowledges that an author is special, that writing a book is difficult. That's the kind of agent I want.

icerose
05-01-2008, 07:20 PM
Ok, let me put it another way (and please forgive my analogy lol).

Let's see you work at McDonalds (general you, and purely hypothetical). You take orders for the customers. Now, I used to do this, so I know EXACTLY how frustrating dealing with the customers can be. Some of the people that come in there you just want to punch in the face because they are so stupid, ignorant, or just plain annoying.

I can remember many a night when I could go back to my coworkers and vent like crazy. I didn't work the counter much (I mostly made sandwiches and stuff), but when I did the little vein in my forehead would pop out and I would turn into Mr. Hyde.

Never ONCE did I ever let ANY of the customers know about it. Nor did I ever write a letter to the editor of my local newspaper or post a bulletin on the counter talking about how a lot of the people who come in are stupid or ignorant. I knew better than to do that and I knew that I wouldn't change it, and that ultimately I would probably just anger the GOOD customers and put THEM in bad moods too.

What he has done here is akin to posting a bulletin out on the counter or writing a letter to the editor of the newspaper. Sure, he has every right to do so, but is it really good for the business he's in? What if one of the truly fantastic writers (say the next Shakespeare or something lol) avoids him because of such a post?

I just don't think it's a wise decision on his part to scare off potentially GOOD writers that he could represent just to vent about all the bad ones.

I'm sorry James, but this is a bad analogy. You were in a service profession and it was your JOB to treat customers, even the total jerks, with politeness, take in their orders and serve them.

That is not the agent's job. It is not their job to coddle, please, or make the people who come to them feel good. In fact they don't have to serve everyone and can't.

You did.

Their job is to weed out the good from the bad, take on clients that are not only good but that they can market.

What this agent is saying is that the bad is getting worse and it's overwhelming the good. He's seeing fewer and fewer good submissions and more and more bad ones.

Say it's your job to find good tomatoes. Most of them are rotten and it's a nasty job to pick through rotten mushy mold covered tomatoes. You used to be able to go through and immediately see good ones. Some might be too big or too small for what you need, so you pass them along.

Instead, now you go to this stand and all you see are moldy disgusting tomatoes and you have to toss out 95% of them because they are that bad rather than 80%. Which is happening in the literary world. It used to be that about 80% were unreadable, now it's 95%.

So once you get to the 5% of tomatoes that are even edible, you are stuck narrowing down to the ones that fit what you're looking for.

I think that's what the agent is talking about and he's asking how to fix it so not so many tomatoes come in rotten and beyond even touchability.

James81
05-01-2008, 07:20 PM
Your comparison is flawed. As an employee of McDonalds you were serving customers. They came in, you gave them food, they paid for the service (well for the food, but I"m sure some of the money goes towards salaries somehow), and leave.

An agent isn't looking for customers. An agent is looking for a client, a partnership. Yes an agent wouldn't make any money without an author, but in this day and age it's really tough for authors to make money without agents. An agent is allowed to be picky, is under no obligation to read any queries (I mean of course they want to, but they can have as many or as few clients as they want, they are not paid, as you were, to serve anybody and everybody), just as an author should be picky in the type of agent they want.

And as far as the next Shakespeare deciding not to submit to Mr. Lyons because of this post, okay fine, that's the author's decision. But to be honest I can't see all that many authors being intimidated or upset by his post. Most authors find what he is saying so true, are frustrated about the exact same things. His post illustrates what so many authors get frustrated hearing from others, that writing a book is easy, anyone can do it. It's nice that an agent acknowledges that an author is special, that writing a book is difficult. That's the kind of agent I want.

Oh I agree with his post one hundred percent. I just didn't find it very professional. Personally, I probably wouldn't submit something to him (or want an agent who airs their gripes like that publicly). Not that I am all that, nor that I am scared off by his post or the rejection that could come. I just wouldn't want to be represented by someone who wasn't professional in their dealings.

eqb
05-01-2008, 07:22 PM
Let's see you work at McDonalds (general you, and purely hypothetical). You take orders for the customers.

Not the same thing, imo.

Writers sending queries are not the agent's customers. They're more like job applicants, and the agent is the hiring manager. And this particular agent/ hiring manager is frustrated by all the slobs who can't be bothered to shower, dress neatly, and fill out the application form correctly.

(It's not an exact analogy, but close enough.)

Toothpaste
05-01-2008, 07:24 PM
In any situation, there are people who don't know what they're doing. People who don't know how to write don't know how to drive don't know how to chew food with their mouths closed don't know how to put the seat down don't know how to wear spandex, etc etc etc. I feel for the poor literary agent who comes face to face horrendous writing, but isn't that part of his job? As a marketing writer of 20 plus years, I hate dealing with clients who aren't creative and can't think in the creative space. Alas, that doesn't mean I can avoid them. They are simply a hazard of the job. Sometimes you have to smile and deal with it!

P.S. Why is it he's a literary agent? Can't he write?

Art is subjective ...


Actually no, it isn't part of his job to come face to face with horrendous writing. His job is to sell MSs to publishers. To negotiate contracts, sell rights, nurture an author's career. The fact that on top of all that he still goes through the dreck to find another gem, the fact that despite his venting in that post, he will continue to seek out new and exciting writers to sign, that's pretty awesome. Must mean he, in the end, actually does like his job.

Exactly what is the problem with him venting anyway? Okay, so some people might not like it and choose not to submit to him. I highly doubt that will affect him much. Like I've already said, many authors are likely to agree with his statements, so he may even get more queries because of it: "See I'm not one of the bad ones!" If you don't want to let the man vent, if you think it's inappropriate, fine. Don't read his blog again.

ETA: I have to add there are agents out there who write little about agenting but stuff about their day to day lives, what they ate, what their pets are doing, that turn me off way more than this post. Others love that stuff. It's all a matter of taste.

James81
05-01-2008, 07:28 PM
Not the same thing, imo.

Writers sending queries are not the agent's customers. They're more like job applicants, and the agent is the hiring manager. And this particular agent/ hiring manager is frustrated by all the slobs who can't be bothered to shower, dress neatly, and fill out the application form correctly.

(It's not an exact analogy, but close enough.)

That's the trouble with using analogies.

The simple fact is, I could use ANY job in ANY place and the principle will still be the same. It doesn't matter the STRUCTURE of the job, it matters that from a purely professional standpoint, it's not professional to air gripes about your job publicly. That goes for mailmen, engineers, lawyers, doctors, dentists, etc. Whatever your job, there's a time and a place to vent.

Toothpaste
05-01-2008, 07:29 PM
But aside from the man's professionalism, should we get back on topic about the content of his post?

ACEnders
05-01-2008, 07:32 PM
I think James has a valid point. At the same time, so does the Agent.

That would really bother me as well. I hate reading things that have a ton of grammatical and spelling errors now, I can't imagine being an agent that has to read that stuff all the time. Some people don't even put any effort into it. Those are the ones that would piss me off.

Then there are the writers that just aren't good yet, but they're making a real effort. I don't have a problem with these people.

But, James makes an interesting point. Perhaps this man shouldn't make his complaints public. What if there's a writer out there who's actually really good but not very confident. He reads the agent's rant and decides not to send him his query.

Now the agent may be missing out on a great book deal because he's just pissed off potential clients.

Toothpaste
05-01-2008, 07:33 PM
That's the trouble with using analogies.

The simple fact is, I could use ANY job in ANY place and the principle will still be the same. It doesn't matter the STRUCTURE of the job, it matters that from a purely professional standpoint, it's not professional to air gripes about your job publicly. That goes for mailmen, engineers, lawyers, doctors, dentists, etc. Whatever your job, there's a time and a place to vent.

I guess I truly do not see it as unprofessional. He wasn't saying: "I hate the bad stuff in my slush pile, it's stupid and so are the authors!" He was saying: "I get some really bad stuff in my slush pile, and I wonder what is contributing to this trend." He may have used a few expletives, but really, he was just analysing a problem.

But anyway, you see it as unprofessional, I do not. Others will be somewhere in the middle.

James81
05-01-2008, 07:33 PM
But aside from the man's professionalism, should we get back on topic about the content of his post?

Well, I thought that was a pretty strong point, but I digress. lol

Anyways, as far as the comment about publishing encouraging self-delusion. I think that's something that's inherent in every art form in which you can gain noteriety, fame, or fortune.

I'm not sure it's "self-delusion" so much as it is "man, I wanna be rich and it looks so easy".

When the reality is, that it's NOT easy at all. I would cite American Idol as an example. Are these people REALLY that unaware that they are bad singers? or do they see an opportunity to gain fame or make money and go try out simply to "give it a shot"?

JimmyB27
05-01-2008, 07:34 PM
Well, if the purpose is to give us tips, then give us tips. Don't sit and talk about how all you get is trash and how you wish you could stop these bad submissions from coming in. If you have a gripe, then air it specifically and do it in a more professional manner than to say "God, I get tired of bad submissions".

That's all I'm saying. I don't care WHAT vocation you are in, it's not professional to air your general complaints about the public publicly.

If I had done what he did at my old McD's job, I would've been fired.
Read between the lines my friend and you will see the tip. "God, I get tired of bad submissions" = "Don't send bad submissions."

Toothpaste
05-01-2008, 07:34 PM
But, James makes an interesting point. Perhaps this man shouldn't make his complaints public. What if there's a writer out there who's actually really good but not very confident. He reads the agent's rant and decides not to send him his query.

Now the agent may be missing out on a great book deal because he's just pissed off potential clients.

If a person didn't want to query Mr. Lyons because they didn't like the blog, then they probably weren't suited to each other as client/agent anyway. It's obvious, through Mr. Lyons's posts, what kind of personality the man has. Getting an agent that's right for you has as much to deal with personalities meshing as an agent liking your book.

Toothpaste
05-01-2008, 07:37 PM
When the reality is, that it's NOT easy at all. I would cite American Idol as an example. Are these people REALLY that unaware that they are bad singers? or do they see an opportunity to gain fame or make money and go try out simply to "give it a shot"?

I wonder a lot about the American Idol thing too. But you know, I really think some of those kids genuinely do think they can sing. I have to add, I really hate how they put through the bad kids so that they can sing in front of the cameras and humiliate themselves (we all know there is a preliminary round of auditions before anyone gets to Randy, Paula and Simon right?). This just gets hopes up, and validates the truly awful and clueless singers.

I have met a lot of truly clueless authors as well. But I think there are just as many looking at it as a get rich quick scheme. Which is just so . . . ironic.

James81
05-01-2008, 07:40 PM
Read between the lines my friend and you will see the tip. "God, I get tired of bad submissions" = "Don't send bad submissions."

Heh, I wasn't intending to derail the thread with this. I was just making a point.

Imagine if instead of saying things like:


Iím not a writer, but it really pisses me off that some people think that anyone can write a good book. Why is writing any different from basketball (and my analogy now makes sense, even though it was clearly silly), or any other skilled profession? What is it about publishing that encourages self-delusion?

He had INSTEAD put it THIS way:


I'm not a writer, but I see submissions everyday. Not every submission I get is skilled, and the reason, I think, is because people don't spend enough time on the editting process and taking the time to polish their queries before submitting them. So, to anyone out there who is thinking of submitting a piece to an agent, spent the time to make sure your query letters are to industry standards and make sure you have made all the corrections to your manuscript BEFORE submitting.

Both are a way to "vent", but one is way more professional than the other.

And with that I hope that I can get away from that point and move on to bigger and better things. lol

James81
05-01-2008, 08:07 PM
Oh, and I'd like to throw out this comment.

I've been reading some of his other posts on his blog and from what I've read so far it looks like this post is "out of place" with the rest of what he's wrote. So, it looks to me like it was just a vent on a bad day or something because the other stuff I've seen looks like fantastic advice and very informative (and also professionally done).

So, I supposed it's "forgivable". It's not like his whole blog is written in this same tone (at least what I've read so far). Still unprofessional, but we're only human I suppose.

eqb
05-01-2008, 08:13 PM
That's the trouble with using analogies.

So you won't be using analogies again? *g*


The simple fact is, I could use ANY job in ANY place and the principle will still be the same. It doesn't matter the STRUCTURE of the job, it matters that from a purely professional standpoint, it's not professional to air gripes about your job publicly.

Eh. I disagree that his venting was unprofessional. I think it serves as an excellent reality-check to new writers about to query or submit.

Those who are put off by his post are likely the same ones who would not care to have him as their agent.

maestrowork
05-01-2008, 08:21 PM
Anyone can write, thus anyone can be a writer. But are they any good? I think the "basketball" analogy is apt. Everyone can pick up the ball and play, but not everyone is Michael Jordon or even ready for the big league. It doesn't mean you can't get enjoyment from it. But if you want to play for the NBA, you need to practice and sharpen your skills -- not to mention you need to have the talent for it.

Most people know their stuff and can easily assess whether they have it or not. People talk about talent all the time. However, there's something that seems to say, "hey, if you can put two sentences together, you can write" or "hey, if you can sing at Karaoke, you can be the next American Idol" or "hey, if you can put a few chords together and play the guitar, you can be a musician."

Some people can be self-delusional. Mr. Lyon is not being facetious. He's on the frontline every day, fielding drab after drab looking for that occasional piece of gem.

Anyone can write a journal. But if you want to write novels, professionally, you need to work on your craft. There are all kinds of things you need to know and learn and master about storytelling. Any novelist who tells you writing novel is easy is fooling themselves.

Toothpaste is right... it's not about discouragement. It's about who has it and who has the gumption to even go for it. I'm also an actor, and I hardly think I'm good enough, but I go to auditions and get rejections all the time; but I also got booked on jobs, including a national commercial. So who knows? It's about perseverance, not whether someone else tells you if you are good or not.

But the ultimate test is: Will anyone pay you? I guess I'm not as bad an actor as I thought because someone actually paid me. Same as a writer.

So don't blame the guy for speaking the truth. 90% of the stuff out there in slushpiles are crap. But everyone thinks they can write -- so why the discrepancy?

If you don't believe him. Just take a look at all the websites out there with people who think they can sing, write songs, write, or paint. And go to any audition, and you can see a lot of "hopefuls" who think they can act simply because they're cute. Yeah, I used to be one of them... and then I wised up.


"A break wall is only there to determine who really wants it BAD and will do anything (including bettering themselves) to get there." If you want it bad, and if you have what it takes, you will get there.

maestrowork
05-01-2008, 08:30 PM
Oh I agree with his post one hundred percent. I just didn't find it very professional. Personally, I probably wouldn't submit something to him (or want an agent who airs their gripes like that publicly). Not that I am all that, nor that I am scared off by his post or the rejection that could come. I just wouldn't want to be represented by someone who wasn't professional in their dealings.

Why was he unprofessional if he spoke the truth? There's nothing unprofessional about this -- he's not saying bad things about his own clients. He's saying, "please, master your craft or don't send me crap."

I mean, is Simon Cowell unprofessional because he tells the AI contestants they're awful? Sure, everyone wants to hear Paula Abdul saying, "Oh you're so cute, thanks for the song." But that's not helpful. If you're awful, you need to know that so you can decide a) if you want to give up, or b) if you want to do something about it. It's up to you.

Look, no one wants to here that they suck. That they're not any good. That they should keep their day job and forget about their dreams. But if we think everyone is good enough to do whatever (whether it's writing or acting or piloting a plane or building a house), then we are certainly as delusional as those people.


If you can't take the rejection or criticism, then you shouldn't be in art in the first place. Wait until you hear the first negative review, or a reader telling you how awful your book is. In the world of art, entertainment, and publishing, criticism and rejection are just part of the day.

If anything, I would definitely submit to him because I know he's passionate about what he does and that he truly wants to find the best work he can represent, and that he's passionate about the projects he represents. He's not just punching numbers and taking any crap he can get. I respect that in an agent, and wish I would have one like that.

I had a great talent agent. At first I didn't really like him because I thought he was too brutal -- like Simon Cowell. What a jerk, I thought. If I had a bad screen test, he would scold me for not having prepared enough, that I should study my lines, that I shouldn't waste his time, etc. etc. I could have quitted right there. But the fact that he didn't say "I'm dropping you as a client because you suck and you can never act" made me realize I could be better. I needed to work harder. I did another screen test and he thought I was better but still probably wouldn't get the job. I got the job, and he was impressed. In the last year he got me booked six times.

Everyone deserves an honest agent whose ultimate goal is to book his clients jobs. That's what "professional" means.

Jackfishwoman
05-01-2008, 08:32 PM
wow! fascinating topic! Thank you Sunnyside for bringing this to the forum.

SPMiller
05-01-2008, 08:37 PM
I have to come down on James81's side. He made his case well. This agent is unnecessarily unprofessional in his tone, if not his message.

Mind you, I wouldn't be the first to throw stones. I've written plenty of whinefests just like Mr Lyons'.

maestrowork
05-01-2008, 08:47 PM
When the reality is, that it's NOT easy at all. I would cite American Idol as an example. Are these people REALLY that unaware that they are bad singers? or do they see an opportunity to gain fame or make money and go try out simply to "give it a shot"?

I believe some are genuinely convinced that they can sing and can become the next idol. I also believe some wants to get on TV and have their 15 minutes. Who knows? Maybe even become the next William Hung (who really can't sing, but who's stopping him? He makes more money than I do.)

Same with publishing. I think some people really think they're the next great American novelist. And some just want to make a quick buck and become rich and famous like J K Rowling. And writing is such a skill like singing that it seems like anyone can do it.

And then sometimes it's not about how good you really are. You don't have to be Toni Morrison or Michael Chabon to get published. There are many "mediocre" writers who are writing books for a living. They fit a market, and they have products to sell -- they're dependable in their craft. And if that works for them, so what? William Hung's singing makes my ears bleed, but people like him and they're fans and they buy $millions worth of records from him. Good for him.

Self-awareness is good. Self-delusion isn't. But it's up to us to decide what to do with it. I've seen some excellent writers/musicians/artists let their talent go to waste because they're too afraid of rejections. And then on the flipside I've seen talentless people making millions doing what they do...

maestrowork
05-01-2008, 08:58 PM
I'm not a writer, but I see submissions everyday. Not every submission I get is skilled, and the reason, I think, is because people don't spend enough time on the editting process and taking the time to polish their queries before submitting them. So, to anyone out there who is thinking of submitting a piece to an agent, spent the time to make sure your query letters are to industry standards and make sure you have made all the corrections to your manuscript BEFORE submitting.

You're talking about different things -- it's not just a tone change, but a content change. He's not saying "learn to edit and following submission guidelines." If that's what he was griping about then you have a point. But that's not what he's saying. He's saying even if someone follows the guidelines to a T and have impeccable grammar and the manuscript is clean, it can still be a total dreck because the writer has no novel-writing skills. Perhaps the mss. are full of overwrought purple prose. Perhaps they're full of unrealistic characters, implausible plot, stilted dialogue, poor structure, confused POVs, etc. etc. And how can you fix that? And if he has to read mss. like those every day, he's within his right to say, "learn your craft! and not everyone can play professional basketball!"

And the craft goes beyond good grammar. We all know that. There's so much going into telling a good story. There are writers who say, "I don't know all that stuff. I just write what I want." To those writers, I'd also say, "learn your craft."

James81
05-01-2008, 09:01 PM
You're talking about different things -- it's not just a tone change, but a content change. He's not saying "learn to edit and following submission guidelines." If that's what he was griping about then you have a point. But that's not what he's saying. He's saying even if someone follows the guidelines to a T and have impeccable grammar and the manuscript is clean, it can still be a total dreck because the writer has no novel-writing skills. Perhaps the mss. are full of overwrought purple prose. Perhaps they're full of unrealistic characters, implausible plot, stilted dialogue, poor structure, confused POVs, etc. etc. And how can you fix that? And if he has to read mss. like those every day, he's within his right to say, "learn your craft! and not everyone can play professional basketball!"

And the craft goes beyond good grammar. We all know that. There's so much going into telling a good story. There are writers who say, "I don't know all that stuff. I just write what I want." To those writers, I'd also say, "learn your craft."

Even "learn your craft" is more professional than saying "boy this really pisses me off".

maestrowork
05-01-2008, 09:04 PM
It's his blog. He can vent if he wants to. That's what blogs are about. It's not on his official website, is it?

I mean, do we fault Ms. Snark as being nasty and unprofessional because she has a blog to dole out, well, snarks?

James81
05-01-2008, 09:07 PM
It's his blog. He can vent if he wants to. That's what blogs are about. It's not on his official website, is it?

I mean, do we fault Ms. Snark as being nasty and unprofessional because she has a blog to dole out, well, snarks?

Like I said before, he is every bit within his right to make a post like that on his personal blog if he wants to.

Although, and I say this after reading his other posts, it looks to me like his audience is specifically towards the people who are making submissions with ALL his posts. It may not be his official website, but it's a website that he is using in a semi-official manner.

And again, it doesn't change the fact that it's unprofessional. I think that's the point that a lot of you aren't getting. Personal website or not, it's not professional and yet he has a lot of "professional" stuff ON his blog.

James81
05-01-2008, 09:08 PM
And I also ask you to look at the top of his page at the TITLE of his blog.

Lyons Literary Agency LLC?

Doesn't sound like a PERSONAL blog to me.

maestrowork
05-01-2008, 09:09 PM
I think you think he's unprofessional. Many of us don't. He's not saying "you fucking morons and stupid people stop sending me shit." He's saying, "some people are self-delusional." That's the truth. And why is the truth "unprofessional"? Perhaps it's not something you want to hear?

Phaeal
05-01-2008, 09:17 PM
You know what this endless argument made me do? I went to Agent Query and looked Jonathan Lyons up, and, woooohoooo, he reps SF and fantasy!

When I get my current WIP through its final draft, I'll send him a very, very shiny query letter and hope it makes his day.

If some of you think he's too unprofessional for you, great. Fewer queries he has to wade through to get to mine. :hooray:

James81
05-01-2008, 09:24 PM
I think you think he's unprofessional. Many of us don't. He's not saying "you fucking morons and stupid people stop sending me shit." He's saying, "some people are self-delusional." That's the truth. And why is the truth "unprofessional"? Perhaps it's not something you want to hear?

I was going to outline the parts that were unprofessional, but his link has crapped out on me. lol (Maybe he deleted that post? lol)

Anyways, the two parts I can think of off hand that were VERY unprofessional were along the lines of:

Does this piss anybody else off? (Could I walk up to the head of my organization and be like "Boy, this really pisses me off, boss"? Sure I COULD, but wouldn't it be more effective if I was like "I have some concerns that I'd like to share with you that have a negative effect on me" (or something like that))

Can something be done about this? (This is unprofessional because he acts like he just walked into the business yesterday. He knows damn well that there is nothing he can EVER do about crap submissions. It also assumes that you can "broadstroke" something to take care of this, and there is no way to do that. A more professional tone would have been to engage the reader to take responsibility for themselves and to make sure their query letters are in proper form and to focus on the editting process more. I know that's not saying the same thing, but he doesn't NEED to ask this question in a "professional" post--i.e. a post on a blog where he uses his Agency's name as the title and offers "tips" to writers)

And yes, I view the "people are delusional" part as unprofessional because, even though it's the TRUTH, it's not written with any tact whatsoever. Perhaps a better phrase would've been "Some people may not recognize that they don't have what it takes to make it in this industry".

Granted, I HATE being politically correct and using "tact" (lol), but in terms of PROFESSIONAL dealings? You kill more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.

As for it being something I don't want to hear? I can handle the truth. I embrace the truth. If someone doesn't like what I write, I can handle that kind of rejection. Sure, it stings a little, but I'd rather someone be honest with me than to beat around the bush. But it's much more constructive for me when people don't come from an "angry" viewpoint and don't use brash generalizations to criticize my work. It's ok to be honest, but sometimes you should do so with tact...like...when...you...are...say...using a blog with your agency's name at the top maybe?

If he had made this post on a blog titled "Johnny-boy's big bad blog about life", it would fit in perfectly there. On a blog titled "Lyon's Literary Agency"? Unprofessional. I don't think any of you are going to convince me otherwise. :D

Phaeal
05-01-2008, 09:25 PM
Though, to tell the truth, when I read the title of this thread, I thought that it was about how hiring screenwriter after screenwriter after screenwriter to doctor a script leads inevitably to a truly crappy script, and movie.

Maybe the title of the blog post is a bit unfortunate, since the original is "Too many cooks spoil the broth," and that does not mean what Lyons means. A better title might be "There are too damn many brothmakers trying to sell me their broths, and most of them are RANK." :D

rugcat
05-01-2008, 09:31 PM
I thought the blog was mild, and absolutely true. I've read stuff by aspiring writers that is so bad, so hopeless in every way -- everything from having no idea of grammar, of really bad dialogue, of no idea how to idea how to even format dialogue, etc. -- that it amazed me.

These people are actively submitting to agents and publishers. To extend the basketball analogy, it's like trying out for an NBA team when you not only lack the skills, you don't even understand the rules of the game. It's a waste of everybody's time.

Computers and the internet have been a tremendous boon to writers, but not so much, think, to agents and publishers. Pre computer, you had to be serious to even complete a ms. You had to be serious just to be able to find out how to go about getting published -- it took a lot of work.

And if you had a particular field of expertise, it was a great advantage. Now, in fiction at least, google tells you all you need to know.

But when I was submitting, I loved the idea of hundreds of nearly illiterate writers competing for attention. The ability to compose a coherent, sharp query letter was enough, all on its own, to catch the eye of a prospective agent, and to give me a chance.

I'd hate to be an agent, though.

James81
05-01-2008, 09:31 PM
Oh, and to get a better idea about BEING professional, I point you to another blog post that outlines it very nicely.

http://holistic-economy.blogspot.com/2006/08/being-professional.html

Again, though, this is sort of offtopic to what was originally wanting to be discussed, so I hope to just leave it at that. Nobody is going to convince me otherwise and I doubt I'll convince any of you. lol

Wrathman
05-01-2008, 09:46 PM
What I think Mr. Lyons is bemoaning in his blog was the fact that there is no screening process before he looks at a query. He's suggesting (as I read it) that no query should come to his desk if the author has not participated in writing classes, workshops, conferences and/or lectures to get approval from these groups that this work has value and should be pushed deeper along the path to publication.

To follow his analogy, he's suggesting that he should only be dealing with authors that are "ready for the pros" and he should not have to deal with those who never even tried out for their high school team. By using the tools mentioned above, he hopes authors will police themselves and prevent stories that are not ready to be published from being sent to him.

I think his point has a lot of value and getting an opinion from someone besides ourselves can be a very good thing. I also think his point could have been presented in a more professional manner and he risks never seeing the manuscript of someone who may not be as polished who nonetheless is on the verge of greatness.

Our culture is all about going from zero to hero seemingly without having to work for it. This profession is one that allows that dream to exist because it does happen sometimes and because there is no rigid path to follow to arrive at the top.

I can understand the frustration, but it seems to me that it is part of the job in the end. I don't begrudge Mr. Lyons the right to express his frustration at the process, but he does so at his own peril.

James81
05-01-2008, 09:48 PM
What I think Mr. Lyons is bemoaning in his blog was the fact that there is no screening process before he looks at a query.

That's what an agent is for, though, isn't it? lol

eqb
05-01-2008, 10:29 PM
That's what an agent is for, though, isn't it? lol

No. The agent's job is to sell their clients' projects. Huge difference.

James81
05-01-2008, 10:31 PM
No. The agent's job is to sell their clients' projects. Huge difference.

I always thought that an agent existed because editors were getting tired of sifting through crap and needed people who did that for them (as at least PART of their job description).

If that's not the case, then maybe there SHOULD be another "layer" between the writers and the agents.

icerose
05-01-2008, 10:40 PM
I always thought that an agent existed because editors were getting tired of sifting through crap and needed people who did that for them (as at least PART of their job description).

If that's not the case, then maybe there SHOULD be another "layer" between the writers and the agents.

Geeze, don't complicate the process! And some agents do. Some only take sold or referred writers.

Anyway, their job is to find talent and make the connections. The publishers USE them as a filter that saves them a lot of time.

But their job isn't really a filter per say. Their job is to make connections between author and publisher. To do that they have to be passionate about the work and really get behind it. To get the work for the most part requires them to filter through the countless submissions.

ChaosTitan
05-01-2008, 10:42 PM
I always thought that an agent existed because editors were getting tired of sifting through crap and needed people who did that for them (as at least PART of their job description).

That's why publishing houses have slush readers, and another reason why so many of the big houses don't accept submissions without an agent.


If that's not the case, then maybe there SHOULD be another "layer" between the writers and the agents.

'Round these parts, it's called Share Your Work. :D

eqb
05-01-2008, 10:42 PM
I always thought that an agent existed because editors were getting tired of sifting through crap and needed people who did that for them (as at least PART of their job description).

That's only one part of what agents do.

I think my agent's main job is to sell my work to publisher, to negotiate the best deal she can for me, vet the contract, and to advise me on which projects are good for my career. Also, she keeps track of my royalties and handles foreign rights, among other things.

That way I can concentrate on writing, and she can concentrate on selling.

Jackfishwoman
05-01-2008, 11:26 PM
The agent's rant was a tad on the unprofessional side.... but it was entertaining to read and I did agree with what he was getting at.
It's an interesting phenomenon in our modern age: everyone wants to be a writer. And hence, there are too many cooks in the kitchen.
So here's what we should do:
we should get the word out there about how rotten the writer's life really is! I think the Rejection/Dejection thread is a pretty good indicator of what you will experience in the writer's life. Somewhere along the line, some fantasy/fairy-tale got perpetuated about what it is like to be a writer - and folks buy into it!

JJ Cooper
05-02-2008, 02:27 AM
I read Mr Lyons post before it started to be discussed here. I had no problems with it - still don't. Why just single him out. Plenty of other agents have raised this point plenty of times on their blogs/websites. Sure, phrased differently but the same message.

To the subject. I'm actually glad the agents get heaps of 'crappy' submissions. Because, when those who research and work hard on their work submit - their work stands out.

JJ

maestrowork
05-02-2008, 04:53 AM
If I were an agent, I would be even more blunt.

mscelina
05-02-2008, 04:58 AM
*sigh*

You know, ranting about an agent's professionalism on a public forum is kind of like suing a company that you want to work for someday. It takes shooting yourself in the foot to a whole new level--like taking a bazooka to your whole leg.

If you ask me (and you didn't) it displays a level of unprofessionalism beyond what you're complaining about.

Just sayin'...

Matera the Mad
05-02-2008, 05:31 AM
Going back to the McBurger analogy for a moment -- as I see it, the agent is in the position of the customer who expects a product that is up to a certain standard of quality. He has a right to complain if every time he orders food it comes half-@55 prepared, squashed, dribbling, missing things, in a torn bag. He also has a right to bletch if the slobs on the other side of the counter are picking their noses while they prepare his food.

And in case anyone thinks I wot not of such things, I did eight years in Taco Hell -- and made very nice burritos, and smiled, thank you.

Strikes me as funny to complain about someone's lack of professionalism because he complains about a lack of professionalism.

Ennyhoo, that's what we're here for, to learn and pass on the skills of professional writing. Carry on, chaps.

Tburger
05-02-2008, 05:37 AM
I read Jonathan's blog and then the subsequent comments in this thread and it occurred to me: I'm one of those people who has wasted the time of agents - not Jonathan's, but others. I travel a lot to Wasington DC and tend to buy a new book every trip, so I read A LOT. And I like to pick books at random - like playing the lottery. After reading a whole lot of crap, what did I do? I says to myself, I says, self: you can write a book that's better than this crap, you're a smart guy.

So I did. I wrote a book. I edited it a couple of times, and then I queried. What did I not do? I didn't have it Beta read, workshopped, etc.

I'm not new to writing. I put it aside for a long time to pursue another career, and only just came back but I have to say: there's no way in hell I should have been querying for that book. Nevertheless it wasn't a total loss. The process taught me a lot about (a) the business and (b) the craft.

But it was a tough - and stupid - way to learn.

ishtar'sgate
05-02-2008, 06:44 AM
I
What did I not do? I didn't have it Beta read, workshopped, etc.

I keep reading this all the time - that a writer cannot polish their own manuscript without a beta reader. It's not true. You can.
Linnea

Namatu
05-02-2008, 05:08 PM
I keep reading this all the time - that a writer cannot polish their own manuscript without a beta reader. It's not true. You can.
You can, but it's also nice to get more objective opinions. I've never workshopped a manuscript and have no plans to in the near future, despite my plans to query. The things Mr. Lyons mentions are examples, not requirements for every author wanting to query. We can learn a lot through interacting with other authors, AW being case in point.

maestrowork
05-02-2008, 05:32 PM
I keep reading this all the time - that a writer cannot polish their own manuscript without a beta reader. It's not true. You can.
Linnea

Sure you can. But is it the best way? Two brains are better than one sometimes. While too many cooks do spoil the broth, having a second pair of eyes can be a good thing. I'm a firm believer of betas, even if it's just one person I can really trust. You do need to stick to your vision, but workshopping/brainstorming is actually a good way to improve your writing. Walt Disney workshopped all his stories. Pixar does as well.


Ray, who tries to see how many idioms/cliches he can fit into this post.

Phaeal
05-02-2008, 05:49 PM
A good beta reader is a pearl beyond price. "Good" means:

-- He understands and likes your genre, and your work.
-- He has a sound understanding of technique, grammar, and style.
-- He is at ease with your style, even if it differs from his.
-- He give a comprehensive critique, noting the high points, asking questions about what confuses him, pointing out things that don't work for him, suggesting possible solutions.
-- He has the courage to be honest, and since he has earned your trust, you can take that honesty.
-- He doesn't grind personal axes on your work.
-- Ideally, you can be as good a beta for him as he is for you.

After much searching, I've found two such betas, and I do treasure them.

And yes, I think new writers should have other writers read their work before they shop it. We all benefit from that community effort.

mscelina
05-02-2008, 05:53 PM
Putting on my editor's hat, I have to pop in here and say that most writers would be surprised at how many oopsies make it past three or four drafts and a flock of betas. To assume that a writer, ANY writer, can produce a 'perfect' manuscript without the benefit of outside eyes just looking at their sentence constructions--not to mention plot continuity lines--is patently absurd.

Writers are human; they make mistakes. If nothing else, those extra sets of eyes are essential technically for the manuscript.

ishtar'sgate
05-02-2008, 08:59 PM
Putting on my editor's hat, I have to pop in here and say that most writers would be surprised at how many oopsies make it past three or four drafts and a flock of betas. To assume that a writer, ANY writer, can produce a 'perfect' manuscript without the benefit of outside eyes just looking at their sentence constructions--not to mention plot continuity lines--is patently absurd.

Writers are human; they make mistakes. If nothing else, those extra sets of eyes are essential technically for the manuscript.
True, but I like those eyes to be the eyes of my editor. He works on behalf of my publisher and knows what they want. Of course my work won't be 'perfect', I'm well aware of that, but I'm also aware that too many eyes can 'suggest' changes to my manuscript that warp my own vision for the piece by injecting their vision. When it comes time to work with the publisher's editor I'd flounder a bit because the vision is blurred. Outside eyes do not come unattached to the mind and it is the mind of the other readers that can cause problems. They don't think like me, they don't have my voice, they aren't intimately acquainted with my project. It may well be that the complaint from numerous readers on this board and on others that there is too much 'sameness' in books stems from the idea that you need betas to complete your project before you let an agent or editor see the manuscript. By that time it has lost its unique quality, its individual voice. Just my opinion but I've watched it happen to writers and cringed as I saw how they mangled their own work to conform to someone else's idea of what it should be.
Linnea

Wrathman
05-02-2008, 09:02 PM
Putting on my editor's hat, I have to pop in here and say that most writers would be surprised at how many oopsies make it past three or four drafts and a flock of betas. To assume that a writer, ANY writer, can produce a 'perfect' manuscript without the benefit of outside eyes just looking at their sentence constructions--not to mention plot continuity lines--is patently absurd.

Writers are human; they make mistakes. If nothing else, those extra sets of eyes are essential technically for the manuscript.

Agreed. After a while, you are reading what you intended to write rather than what you did write because you too close to the work.

maestrowork
05-02-2008, 09:19 PM
but I'm also aware that too many eyes can 'suggest' changes to my manuscript that warp my own vision for the piece by injecting their vision.


That's when you have bad betas. I always go into the beta phase with a CLEAR vision, and my betas understand that it is my book. They simply suggest what doesn't work for them. They may not even tell me why. And it's up to me, the author, to figure out if there are indeed shortcomings in the book.

It's another reason why I tend to not let writers be my betas. Writers do tend to say, "If I were to write it..." and inject their own visions. Sometimes they get carried away and don't realize it is not their book, but mine.

I also look for betas who may not like the genres I write (in addition to betas who do). Why? Because I can get a fresh perspective. And if they like my book despite they "don't usually read that kind of books" then I know I really have something good. Genre readers sometimes miss things because they're so used to the conventions. For example, a SF/F reader may not tell me "this science sounds implausible" or "this plot development doesn't make sense" but someone who doesn't usually read SF/F may. Genre readers may be able to pick out what doesn't fit the genre, but non-genre readers may also pick out what is absurd to them.



By that time it has lost its unique quality, its individual voice. Just my opinion but I've watched it happen to writers and cringed as I saw how they mangled their own work to conform to someone else's idea of what it should be.
Linnea

A good editor or beta will never try to change your voice or vision. If an editor ever says, "change this because that's how I would write it," I'll ask for someone else to work on the edit.

Perhaps you need to find better betas and editors.

mscelina
05-02-2008, 09:26 PM
True, but I like those eyes to be the eyes of my editor. He works on behalf of my publisher and knows what they want. Of course my work won't be 'perfect', I'm well aware of that, but I'm also aware that too many eyes can 'suggest' changes to my manuscript that warp my own vision for the piece by injecting their vision. When it comes time to work with the publisher's editor I'd flounder a bit because the vision is blurred. Outside eyes do not come unattached to the mind and it is the mind of the other readers that can cause problems. They don't think like me, they don't have my voice, they aren't intimately acquainted with my project. It may well be that the complaint from numerous readers on this board and on others that there is too much 'sameness' in books stems from the idea that you need betas to complete your project before you let an agent or editor see the manuscript. By that time it has lost its unique quality, its individual voice. Just my opinion but I've watched it happen to writers and cringed as I saw how they mangled their own work to conform to someone else's idea of what it should be.
Linnea

I'm talking about basic mistakes--things that make you LOOK unprofessional--the typos, the 'your' and 'you're' mess-ups (and you'd be surprised at how many people do that!), the plotlines that lose their timing ("I'll be there in 3 days" and the character shows up two weeks later) -- the BASIC horrors that, when our betas point them out we cringe. A good beta won't suggest 'changes' to your story; a good beta will tell you what works and what doesn't.

a writer should know better (and if you DON'T know better, listen up!) than to make changes based on EVERY SINGLE COMMENT made about your manuscript. In my work, for example, things show up in Book One that have no impact on that particular plot, but have to be brought up now because it will be important in Book 3. When I get comments back from betas, I take into consideration that I am the ultimate expert on my world, characters, and story. I'm the only one who knows what happens next. If you find a typo, I may send you a box of chocolates; if you tell me that the resolution of a conflict is too pat for you, I'll definitely take a look at it and ponder. If you tell me I need to change my plot, I'll think you're insane. You learn, through experience, what to take with you from a beta read--or, conversely, what to give. But, you definitely don't want your manuscript to go unchecked to the editor. Imagine your horror when you get an email that reads, "You've dropped an entire subplot. Where did it go?" or "Don't they teach people how to spell judgment any more?"

You definitely want that part worked out BEFORE it gets to your editor.

ishtar'sgate
05-02-2008, 09:34 PM
Perhaps you need to find better betas and editors.
I worked with a great publisher-assigned editor and I thoroughly enjoyed our working relationship. I felt very confident in accepting his suggestions because I knew he was a professional editor, writer and screenwriter. I'm afraid I simply don't feel as confident in enlisting the assistance of nonprofessionals. I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree.:D
Linnea

maestrowork
05-02-2008, 09:43 PM
To me, editors are different than betas. I need a professional editor, but I don't need professionals as betas. Most of my readers are not professional writers or editors. So why would I want my beta "readers" to be?

RLB
05-02-2008, 09:50 PM
This thread makes me miss Miss Snark.

mscelina
05-02-2008, 09:52 PM
Indeed. Alas, we shall never know her like again...

*sniff*

ishtar'sgate
05-02-2008, 11:27 PM
To me, editors are different than betas. I need a professional editor, but I don't need professionals as betas. Most of my readers are not professional writers or editors. So why would I want my beta "readers" to be?
I understand where you're coming from but it's just not for me. You only have to receive a few book reviews to understand the subjectivity of readers. I get gushing and embarrassing positive reviews from SOME readers. I get 'this is crap I don't know why I had to read it' from others. Readers can steer you wrong. An agent (if you've done your homework well) will have done a lot of reading in your genre, will have a pretty good idea of what publishers want and will have sold work in your genre. An editor has an even more precise understanding of your genre and their publisher's requirements. To my mind they are better equipped as readers but that's just my opinion. Using betas isn't for everyone just as going solo isn't for everyone. But then I'm also one of those writers who, unlike many, obsesses over every line from the get-go. I don't think it's okay to write a so-so first draft. I do the best I can and keep revising and revising as I go along. Maybe I'm nuts. Who can say. Well, maybe my husband:D
Linnea

JeanneTGC
05-03-2008, 12:02 PM
Indeed. Alas, we shall never know her like again...

*sniff*
Sure we will.

http://queryshark.blogspot.com/

RLB
05-03-2008, 12:37 PM
Sure we will.

http://queryshark.blogspot.com/

Wait a second. Hold the phone. Can it really be?

*reads frantically*

Wow. I miss the Killer Yap and gin jokes though.

JeanneTGC
05-04-2008, 01:41 AM
Wait a second. Hold the phone. Can it really be?

*reads frantically*

Wow. I miss the Killer Yap and gin jokes though.
Yeah, but the writing style and "voice" come through loud and clear. ;)

JJ Cooper
05-07-2008, 04:12 PM
Jonathan Lyons has added to his original post. This is a snippet that should add more fuel to the fire.


I do not believe that reading queries and providing feedback is part of my job description (and since I'm my own boss, I'm the final arbitrator of this). I've provided query guidance in the past on this blog, but only as a means so that I get better queries, and I read queries for a single purpose- to get clients in order to sell the rights to their works.

http://lyonsliterary.blogspot.com/

Jennifer Jackson also blogged regarding Jonathan's posts with her own interesting comments.

http://arcaedia.livejournal.com/

JJ

James81
05-07-2008, 04:36 PM
2) in the hope that writers will treat me with the same professionalism that I treat them;

:roll:

Let's hope he treats the people who submit to him more professionally than the way he worded his post last week, eh?