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AnneMarble
11-08-2009, 09:28 PM
In her latest blog post, How to Avoid Getting an Agent (http://cba-ramblings.blogspot.com/2009/11/how-to-avoid-getting-agent.html), literay agent Rachelle Gardner writes about a problem she sees with many aspiring writers: negativity. She asks prospective authors to use caution before ranting on-line about frustrations with the publishing industry or anger at seeing so many bad books published.

Is this really a big issue with many literary agents and editors? I really can't imagine an agent saying "I'm never going to publish that AnneMarble because she said something bad about J*mes P*tt*rs*n once on AW." Or does it matter more how the negativity is expressed? To me, there is a difference between discussing a negative topic involving an author or publishing trend and going on in circles about it. Surely there is a line between criticism and discussion and author bashing.

And in case any agents are reading this... ;) I'm usually quite laissez faire about popular authors because I realize not everyone has the same tastes in books. At the same time, I do reserve the right to point fingers now and then and say "Oh my God, look at what that author did!" :D

Lady Ice
11-08-2009, 09:52 PM
Criticism about other authors is fine. It's just that loads of negative threads on why you hate author X does not look good; it makes you look amateurish and bitter to an agent. And if you're bashing the publishing agency's latest darling...not good.

AnneMarble
11-08-2009, 10:13 PM
Criticism about other authors is fine. It's just that loads of negative threads on why you hate author X does not look good; it makes you look amateurish and bitter to an agent.
Yes, there is that. If you keep posting in those threads over and over again, they might wonder 1) don't these people ever write and 2) if they're that much better, why aren't they on the best-seller list? :)


And if you're bashing the publishing agency's latest darling...not good.
If you bashed that author in a blog, it could certainly turn that agent off you, but that might be good in a way as you and that agent might not be a good fit. ;) It would be even more embarrassing if you bashed that writer when approaching the agent. But that would also be unprofessional. That's definitely the wrong time for any bashing. (Also, the agent would think that haven't researched their clientele.)

Still, I don't like the bashing of "negativity" in general, or rather, I don't like to see the word "negativity" used for what is sometimes just a discussion. And I see some of that in many of the comments. Yes, we must be positive, but we can't pretend the negative does not exist. It reminds me too much of the whole "If you can't say anything nice" mentality, which is suited to some situations but simply doesn't belong everyehere. Maybe there should be a definition of what is "bashing." On top of that, many vanity presses will use that blog post to tell their disgrunted authors "See, we told you that you'd be blacklisted if you said anything bad about us." :rolleyes:

I moderate a romance reader discussion group, and I often post questions to the list. Sometimes I ask "Do you like that type of story, and if not, why?" Or "Can you think of elements where this type of plot failed for you?" Some people would reply to the question as a whole but then refuse to reply to the "dislikes" part and say something like "I refuse to contribute to the negativity." Negativity?! Since when did it become "negativity" to say that you simply didn't like a certain story line? Or to say that you usually love Author X, but her marriage of convenience story didn't work for you because the hero was too mean to the heroine or the heroine was too immature. But that's what some people see as "author bashing." :(

scarletpeaches
11-08-2009, 10:19 PM
I wonder if this focus on 'negativity' has anything to do with the fact the agent concerned focuses on Christian fiction? Now I know some will see my drawing attention to the religious aspect as critical but I'm not saying there's anything wrong with such an attitude. Good God (!) no. I have certain beliefs myself.

My point is, it seems even more connected to one's job description that one should avoid negativity when representing Christian fiction, or actively avoiding 'anything that opposes a Christian worldview'.

That's not to say non-Christians can't make good agents but they might be less concerned with how their clients act outwith the sphere of representation/publication.

Of course, you just don't slag off authors randomly. Good manners always make sense. But I'm not sure 'having a negative opinion of a work or an author' is always the same as 'negativity'.

Having read a few other posts on this blog it strikes me as more to do with Gardner's own personal worldview than agenting as a whole, this.

ChaosTitan
11-08-2009, 11:19 PM
I don't think the post has much to do with the fact that she reps Christian fiction, frankly. I've seen other agents post very similar things about the wealth of negativity they see online, toward agents and publishing in general. And there is a lot of it.

I can't remember who, but a well-known agent recently blogged about a query they received that had a line in which the querier mentioned most of what was being published was crap.

Oh really? The agent rejected them and rightly so. If I was an agent, and a potential client said most of the books out there were crap (which included books I'd, as an agent sold) I'd be put right off.

There is a fine line between opinion/criticism and negativity/nastiness.

And yes, interested agents will Google you.

scarletpeaches
11-08-2009, 11:20 PM
I can't believe people diss other authors and books in their queries. Well, clearly they do, but still...:Wha:?

ChaosTitan
11-08-2009, 11:22 PM
Amazing, isn't it?

Shadow_Ferret
11-08-2009, 11:24 PM
Maybe she's just saying that if you do rant a lot, if you seem overly bitter and negative, that many agents will look at you as possibly being a writer who will be difficult to work with.

Matt Willard
11-08-2009, 11:40 PM
...maybe I should watch myself more in forums :V

Wayne K
11-08-2009, 11:46 PM
I try not to be negative about writing. I'll tell you all this. The editor I met with Tuesday went on and on about the agents I had communications with. "Oh, I know his sister" and "We've been good friends for 20 years"

These people all know each other. I don't care how slighted you feel, I would think twice about firing off an angry response to a rejection.

Karen Junker
11-08-2009, 11:54 PM
Not only do they know each other, they talk to each other, too. :)

ChaosTitan
11-09-2009, 12:00 AM
Maybe she's just saying that if you do rant a lot, if you seem overly bitter and negative, that many agents will look at you as possibly being a writer who will be difficult to work with.

Basically, yeah.

Mr Flibble
11-09-2009, 12:00 AM
Well I think agents can probably tell the difference between, I don't like this book / type of plot / character because it's overdone or whatever and OMG IT'S ALL PANTS!

At least I hope so *whistles innocently*

jclarkdawe
11-09-2009, 12:06 AM
This is going on in most, if not all, industries. The savvy employer is checking to see what you're like to work with.

We just had a young person who came to QLH way too early in her career. We did, because of her age, bring it down a bit, but we were honest with her. She displayed a positive attitude, showed an ability to learn, and just basically impressed us. She's the type of person I'd love to work for, with, or supervise. Even if her qualifications were a bit marginal, she'd be hired by me before someone were more impressive qualifications, but harder to work with.

On the other hand, we see a lot of people here, and on other forums, that I just don't want to deal with. Even with a positive attitude about things, they seem to be constantly in fights, trying to prove they're right. Or they're just plain disagreeable. Whatever their issues are, who wants to deal with them?

You can tell a lot from people over the internet, and everything you write makes a difference. And yes, much as I understand the principals I'm saying here, I don't usually follow them. I believe in what you see is what you get. But if I was twenty, I won't post the way I do now.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Karen Junker
11-09-2009, 12:24 AM
It's probably good that most people post using a user name on AW--I didn't do that. And if you google me, you'll see some of my posts. I haven't tried it, but the authors who put their real names or book covers in their sig lines may come up on a google search, too.

But I do know that if even one other person knows your user name and your real name, there is the possibility that someone in the industry knows it, too.

Ken
11-09-2009, 12:40 AM
... kinda cool that Gardner is sticking up for authors, as a whole, and not tolerating those querying her to insult them. I don't think too much should be made of the insults, though. Aspiring writers who are new to the game often are at a loss as to what to say in queries, though of course they needn't be. So the insults are probably due in large part to the result of inexperience. Some allowance should be made, as such, I think.

ChaosTitan
11-09-2009, 12:59 AM
I haven't tried it, but the authors who put their real names or book covers in their sig lines may come up on a google search, too.

Yep. :)

AnneMarble
11-09-2009, 01:04 AM
I wonder if this focus on 'negativity' has anything to do with the fact the agent concerned focuses on Christian fiction? Now I know some will see my drawing attention to the religious aspect as critical but I'm not saying there's anything wrong with such an attitude. Good God (!) no. I have certain beliefs myself.
I thought about that, but I'm not so sure. FWIW she's often linked to as a source about agenting and writing in general, not just as a source for readers specializing in Christian fiction. I also have to read more of the comments and separate how she reacts/feels from the attitudes of the commenters. :D There's a difference between an agent saying "Don't publicly bash other writers" and a follower of the blog saying "I hate negative people." (Because when some people say "I hate negative people," they mean "I hate people who disagree with me" or "I hate people who say that the book I loved was slow in some spots." ;))



I can't remember who, but a well-known agent recently blogged about a query they received that had a line in which the querier mentioned most of what was being published was crap.

Oh really? The agent rejected them and rightly so. If I was an agent, and a potential client said most of the books out there were crap (which included books I'd, as an agent sold) I'd be put right off.
Yeah, that's not a professional query. :D

BigWords
11-09-2009, 03:03 AM
This thread is really negative about being negative... Does that negate the argument? :)

AnneMarble
11-09-2009, 05:22 AM
This thread is really negative about being negative... Does that negate the argument? :)
Yes. No. What? Where am I? :)

Phaeal
11-09-2009, 06:05 PM
I wuv everybody.

:heart: :e2arms: :heart: :e2arms: :heart: :e2arms: :heart:

Jamesaritchie
11-09-2009, 09:30 PM
No one likes working with a negative person, just as no one likes working with a prima donna. This doesn't mean they won't work with either, if the right material comes in, but it does mean it's one more roadblock.

Even too much criticism of other writerscan be a bad thing. Most of the writers who get criticized have millions of fans, make millions of dollars, and the criticism often comes across as sour grapes. . .and usually misses the entire point of writing.

You do not have to like a best-selling writer, but this is not the criticism you see most often. What you see is how horrible that writer is, how this writer or that obviously needs a better editor (Yeah, that's going to endear you to an editor you may have to work with!), and how the publishing world doesn't know quality from crap.

The thing is, if the writer really believes all this, he's probably never going to succeed anyway, but it sure isn't a plus on a writer's resume to spend all his time blasting writers, agents, editors, and the publishing industry when that's where he wants to earn his living.

Lady Ice
11-09-2009, 11:17 PM
They want you to be enthused by writing. If you don't show love for any other writing except your own...you look kinda arrogant.

The Lonely One
11-10-2009, 01:17 AM
Very true, Lady Ice.

Though I don't know if agents should be playing psychologist (see the end of her post, which seems a bit of a high-horse tirade), I do see her point. She says honest discussion is okay. It seems more like the blanket-statements about certain authors and industry people are what irks agents.

maestrowork
11-10-2009, 02:18 AM
IMHO:

a) literary criticism is valid, especially from writers. We're here to learn, even from others' mistakes. It's by talking about these aspects of writing, using existing examples, that we can foster healthy discussion and learning, even when we don't agree.

b) it's silly to say "well, if X or Y sells a lot of books, he or she must be really good writers." However, it's equally as silly to say, "the writer is just lucky." Somehow, the writer must have done something right. And story trumps everything, by the way.

c) don't talk TRASH about someone you don't actually know (note the difference between that and literary criticism -- BIG difference). Even if you know the person, it's still impolite.

The Lonely One
11-10-2009, 03:16 AM
IMHO:

a) literary criticism is valid, especially from writers. We're here to learn, even from others' mistakes. It's by talking about these aspects of writing, using existing examples, that we can foster healthy discussion and learning, even when we don't agree.

b) it's silly to say "well, if X or Y sells a lot of books, he or she must be really good writers." However, it's equally as silly to say, "the writer is just lucky." Somehow, the writer must have done something right. And story trumps everything, by the way.

c) don't talk TRASH about someone you don't actually know (note the difference between that and literary criticism -- BIG difference). Even if you know the person, it's still impolite.

I agree. on part c: The trash talking reflects more on the person talking than the person being talked about. You appear immature and that doesn't bode well for someone seeing if they'd like to work professionally with you for a long haul.

The Lonely One
11-10-2009, 03:17 AM
Though crap, for the life of me I'm trying to backtrack to all the Twilight rantings I've done over the past few years, wondering if that's left me agentless forever :)

Matera the Mad
11-10-2009, 10:06 AM
I'm safe, I only bash self-pubbed assholes who irritate me in person.

blacbird
11-10-2009, 10:28 AM
In her latest blog post, How to Avoid Getting an Agent (http://cba-ramblings.blogspot.com/2009/11/how-to-avoid-getting-agent.html), literary agent Rachelle Gardner writes about a problem she sees with many aspiring writers: negativity. She asks prospective authors to use caution before ranting on-line about frustrations with the publishing industry or anger at seeing so many bad books published.

Why? Because complaining will affect them negatively?

Okay. The publishing business is awash with sweet-smelling flowers and pretty birds and butteflies. Does that help?

caw

Mara
11-10-2009, 11:01 AM
A query is supposed to represent you at your most professional level, right? If insulting other authors is the height of your professionalism, who wants to see the depths?

AnneMarble
11-10-2009, 11:26 PM
Why? Because complaining will affect them negatively?

Okay. The publishing business is awash with sweet-smelling flowers and pretty birds and butteflies. Does that help?

caw
Yes it does. Tweet tweet. :D And of course...:e2bouncey

AnneMarble
11-11-2009, 01:07 AM
A query is supposed to represent you at your most professional level, right? If insulting other authors is the height of your professionalism, who wants to see the depths?
Good point. Comparing yourself to other authors in a query letter is tricky and often comes across as amateurish (unless you are just pointing out that you are aware they represent similar authors -- a sign that you have been doing your homework).

But criticizing other authors? ("My book is better than that Twilight crap. Stephanie Meyers can eat my shorts.") Ewwww. That comes across about as professional as writing "My mother says this book is great, so I'm sending it to you" and printing the manuscript on violet, scented paper.

I now await posts that reply "Whoops, you mean I wasn't supposed to print it on violet, scented paper?..." ;)

Richard White
11-11-2009, 01:30 AM
I thought it was supposed to be lavender?

*sigh*

Now I'll never get an agent.

Phaeal
11-11-2009, 02:58 AM
I now await posts that reply "Whoops, you mean I wasn't supposed to print it on violet, scented paper?..." ;)

Nope, you're supposed to print on violet, scented underpants. Or chocolate thongs. Problem is, it takes an awful lot of chocolate thongs to print out the average novel. I save 'em for poetry.

maestrowork
11-11-2009, 03:39 AM
Problem is, it takes an awful lot of chocolate thongs to print out the average novel. I save 'em for poetry.

There's no shortage of supplies here.

Phaeal
11-12-2009, 07:14 PM
Milk or dark? And if dark, what percent cacao? Hersheys or Ghiradelli or Callebaut? Agents are picky about these things.

JeanneTGC
11-12-2009, 10:46 PM
I can speak to this from personal experience.

I was just at a big conference with my agent. Authors were pitching her right and left. And 90% of them had something negative to say -- either about their own writing (which floored me beyond belief), about the industry, or about other, published authors.

My agent spent a lot of time saying, "If you don't like <whatever>, then why are you writing/trying to get published/reading said author?" She was polite to all of these folks, but the ones she was INTERESTED in hearing more from were the ones who were positive, or who said nothing negative.

As JAR said, no one wants to work with someone who's only spouting negative. And when you're being seriously considered by an agent or editor, believe me, they can use Google search just like we can. So, why limit your chances by sharing your negative views of things, when by being positive, or even silent, you have a better chance of making a good impression?

The old adage remains true -- if you can't say something nice, better to say nothing at all.

JeanneTGC
11-12-2009, 10:51 PM
Good point. Comparing yourself to other authors in a query letter is tricky and often comes across as amateurish (unless you are just pointing out that you are aware they represent similar authors -- a sign that you have been doing your homework).

But criticizing other authors? ("My book is better than that Twilight crap. Stephanie Meyers can eat my shorts.") Ewwww. That comes across about as professional as writing "My mother says this book is great, so I'm sending it to you" and printing the manuscript on violet, scented paper.

I now await posts that reply "Whoops, you mean I wasn't supposed to print it on violet, scented paper?..." ;)
I was taught to never compare yourself to other authors in queries or in person. Instead, to say something like, "Readers who enjoy Stephanie Meyers' "Twilight" series will also enjoy "Young Vampires In Love"." Or "My novel, "Young Vampires in Love", is a cross between "Twilight" and "Harry Potter"." And so on. But never to say that you or your writing are as good as or better than anyone else on the shelves.

You also never know who is friends with whom. The author you're insulting could be that agent's close friend, who they don't happen to represent.

Lady Ice
11-12-2009, 10:57 PM
If you say a book/writer is rubbish then it turns out that said book/writer is the agent's favourite, it looks like you're criticising their taste.