Things writers forget….via matociquala

I blame matociquala for this… (though I suppose if I’d just gone straight to the paperwork after my last post and not decided to take a few minutes to skim LJ entries, it wouldn’t have happened). In any case, she posted a slightly cranky entry (excerpt follows in italics):

It amazes me sometimes, how many writers don’t seem to get that they have to impress the guy with the checkbook, and not the other way around. Editors, on the other hand, seem pretty clever about remembering that they have to impress their customers–the reading public.

My comment:

I think it can be difficult for some writers (espcially those who are earlier on in their careers) to separate the art of writing from the business of writing (which I guess is what franzeska was talking about). As an agent, I get a lot of the same sorts of things you’re talking about – the lack of what basically amounts to professional behavior. And, frankly, that doesn’t tend to encourage one to envision having a business relationship with people who can’t follow submission guidelines or think they only apply to all the other writers (I actually have a Peanuts cartoon on that topic on my filing cabinet). For agent/editors, this *is* their day job.

(While I was re-reading this, it apparently hit a hot-button of mine — so I’m going to take that over to my LJ and post the cranky bit there….)


And here’s the rest….

I think one of the other things that writers tend to forget is that old economic principle of supply vs. demand: there are more writers out there than available publication slots, so given the choice an editor/agent likely feels they have the option to find someone who appreciates writing as both a craft and a job. In any industry, when a person wants a highly sought after position, it’s pretty much assumed they’ll put their best foot forward to get it. They’ll polish their resume. They’ll do their best to look professional. They’ll smile when they talk to you (and not complain about how hard it is to get the job in the first place). Think about it from the other side of the fence…. What kind of person would you want presenting your material to an editor from those corporate megaliths we refer to as publishing companies?

And before I go….one of my pet peeves…. Writers who feel they have the inarguable right to be published. It’s true that as an agent there’s a bit of an odd thing that occurs when you get to choose the writers on your list, but you’re not the employer (they are). But I’ve gotten letters which are confused about that whole choosing bit. I’m sure editors must get them too. I’ve even had entire manuscripts sent to me with a cover letter that indicated I was hired. The first time that happened I was just stymied. And, I have to admit, a bit insulted on behalf of all the writers who were paying their dues, going the route of queries, rejections, and submissions — doing the networking, learning the craft…. Needless to say – trying to jump ahead in line is not a habit that’s considered professional (along with ignoring rejections — that’s always a good one), and not something that encourages one to seek out that particular author who apparently either thinks they’re too good for the rest or just simply hasn’t bothered to take the time to get educated about the business.

Okay….that really got away from me. *laughs at self* And now I really must grab a snack and then get back to my marketing, etc.

18 responses to “Things writers forget….via matociquala

  1. new writers
    Not to sound like a hippie or anything, but in defense of the new writer – we can only be where we are. It’s hard to know how to achieve that delicate balance between making an impression and making a good impression. I try to learn something new every day and I can only pray that the editors/agents take what I send in the spirit of ‘this is my best, from where I stand today’. Sorry, I seem to be having a Ram Dass moment…many times less useful than cranky as a motivator.

    • Re: new writers
      but in defense of the new writer – we can only be where we are.
      Hopefully, where you are is able to prepare rather than dashing blindly in. I still say that the moment you drop a submission in the mailbox, be it virtual or physical, you are a professional and will be judged by those professional standards. Claiming exemptions otherwise marks the writer as someone I would choose not to do business with.
      If nothing else, the fact that writers mostly work in isolation does not exclude them from having to cultivate the manners one wants in co-workers: consideration, tact and courtesy. Patience is also a good one, but very difficult for us, since sitting in isolation waiting for word is far more trying than sitting in the office seeing the process in action and waiting for word.
      Whoops. Think this is one of my hot-buttons, too?

      • Re: new writers
        Heh. The irony of that particular button…. *grin*

        • Re: new writers
          Hey! I’m well-mannered. And patient.
          With editors, anyway. Wise-mouthed agents, on the other hand…

          • Re: new writers

          • Re: new writers
            Is there any such thing as a non-wise-mouthed agent?
            It *is* very true, though. I’m not sure you could pay me enough to be an agent. “What’s your professional description?” “I’m the guy both sides yell at.”
            Legal assistant, crying rag, asskicker, critic, support network. Hell of a job.

            • Re: new writers
              Is there any such thing as a non-wise-mouthed agent?
              Well, I know a couple…. But I hear they’re not as much fun to work with….
              Oh — and you forgot collector of Hugos, etc. when writer can’t make spiffy awards ceremony, reader of the next novel much-anticipated-by-fans at least a year before they get it, and getting to kick butt in contracts and payments departments, among other things.

    • Re: new writers
      I hear what you’re saying . I guess to some degree it’s true in any new endeavor that the ground rules have to get learned. To clarify myself, then — I’m not objecting to naivete or questions asked in all innocence as an effort to improve one’s understanding. You’re right — there are tons of writers out there trying their best who just don’t have the tools yet. My difficulty is with those who have an attitude about the business that just doesn’t work: whether it’s the old I’m-an-artiste thing, or just a refusal to learn and accept. I think it becomes quickly very obvious whether you’re dealing with a new writer (such as yourself) or an obstinate one (and there are far more of those than one would like).

      • Re: new writers
        ::blink, blink:: But, what if I *am* an artiste????

        Seriously, I didn’t know my work wasn’t ready until someone told me. Then, it was another six months before I understood why. I read the guidelines, but I didn’t understand the meaning of ssome of the words in the guidelines and didn’t know I didn’t understand. It’s a process – It’s not just writing, it’s becoming part of the culture of writing.
        Anyhow, I really appreciate the chance to hear what ya’ll have to say – I’m very glad to have found your LJ, it seems like a good place to gather more information, sit at the feet of the masters, so to speak. Thanks for letting me stop by!

        • Re: new writers
          I’m pleased you’re getting so much out of your visits. And I love the ::blink, blink:: — *grin* For the record, I wasn’t talking about people who still need to improve craft (especially because, imo, one can always improve craft – no matter how much one has mastered it). Is that what you meant by I didn’t know my work wasn’t ready? I don’t think you fall into the category of writers I’m talking about — those obstinate ones, I mean. You seem very willing to accept feedback (they *so* aren’t like that) and open to discussion (they’re not generally like that either).
          I really like what you said: It’s not just writing, it’s becoming part of the culture of writing. An interesting thought…

          • Re: new writers
            it’s becoming part of the culture of writing.
            If so, then what we’re talking about specifically is the portion that’s gone off and greenish, not the raw stuff that hasn’t fermented yet.
            And yeah, yeah, I know, I’m going back to work now…

        • Re: new writers
          Ah, but one can be an artiste and a businessperson. *g*
          As for being new: we have all been new.
          Some of us still are. (cough, floorscuff, glance down)
          So much of writing well is just admitting how much you have to learn, and how wrong it maybe came out the first time.

          • Re: new writers
            I’ve amazed myself at how many times in the past year I’ve looked back at something written, cringed, and said: Nope, that wasn’t it.

        • Re: new writers
          Channelling ONLY myself as editor:
          Newbie writers should be encouraged because – as you say – it IS a process.
          Unfortunately, what I deal with are *experienced* writers who are professionals in the field of medicine…and they still get it wrong sometimes. In their case, I am far more likely to chalk it up to simply not caring or assuming that the editor will ‘take care of it.’
          As I’ve said over in , one of the reasons I started that community was to dispel the myth of editor as Wizard of Oz. I encourage writers to learn from editors – and vice versa sometimes.
          It is those writers who refuse to learn that earn my ire.

          • Re: new writers
            It is those writers who refuse to learn that earn my ire.
            Hoo boy. And yeah.
            Also the ones who, although new, are convinced that the world must change to how they want things done, because of the sheer force of Their Talent.
            Expect to see me over at CrankEd more often than not… *grin*

  2. ((surfing on over from matociquala, pardon the intrusion…. ))
    Writers who feel they have the inarguable right to be published.
    When I meet these people, I’m terribly tempted to say something like, “Have you heard of the Internet? Because for next to nothing you can get a fair amount of webspace, and put everything you’ve ever written up on it, and have a worldwide audience.” And you can even get quite good feedback, if you ask nicely, and find some really good stories out there too. No, it is not A Book. But I think there’s a difference between wanting to be a writer and wanting to be published — trying not to put down either desire, here, or putting something out on the Net either — and the Internet provides a really good forum if you want to just get something out there.
    I sometimes wonder if the many books like Writer’s Market haven’t harmed more than they’ve helped — I remember (creak creak) back before they got really big, and it seemed like markets were more open to unsolicited submissions when editors didn’t have to worry about being flooded with, say, handwritten submissions, submissions without SASEs, SASEs without complete addresses — stuff that just gums up the works of a publishing operation technically. I’ve seen a number of midline journals once open to unsolicited submissions metaphorically close the door because they just couldn’t physically deal with, say, getting reams of fictional stories in the romance genre rather than nonfiction articles about trout fishing in North Dakota, which was their stated specialty. But I digress, and I’m probably just talking too much about a topic I know too little about.

  3. writer’s digest
    I’ve found WD useful only to the extent that it gives a publisher’s phone number so I can call them and find out if they’re still at the same mailing address. They’re often out of date when it comes to things like who is accepting submissions at which company. It would be so helpful if the publishing industry had their own TV show, like Entertainment Tonight or something, so we could feel a little less uncool.
    I’m completely in favor of posting one’s work on a website, if all you want to do is get it out there. For myself, I not only want to get it out there, I also want it to be worth copying in rapturous hand-bound volumes or having its images tatooed somewhere on the reader’s body, or sitting through twelve and a half hours of the film version. Getting paid for it would be good, too.

  4. But I’ve gotten letters which are confused about that whole choosing bit. I’m sure editors must get them too. I’ve even had entire manuscripts sent to me with a cover letter that indicated I was hired.
    That’s why it helps to join a workshop. No, really. A writing community does wonders for teaching the rules of the road. Because no matter how many self-help how-to-prepare-your-manuscript sites one browses, when your friend the published author kindly advises you against using purple ink on orange paper, you will listen. 😉 It does sink in. Unless, of course, you’re completely hopeless.
    Writing is draining and difficult, and finishing a novel or a short story feels like an accomplishment in itself. There, I think, is where some of the entitlement may come from – “Well, how many people could finish a 150K novel? I must be good! I must be the Real Thing! I will print it out and send it to every publisher on the list. Okay, why did this come back unread? They only accept solicited subs? What’s solicited mean?”
    The best advice I ever got, which I don’t always follow, was to take off my writer’s hat and put on my secretary hat, transforming from an “artiste” (lol) to a professional whose job it is to represent me as a writer. Nothing is personal, and rejections are the prelude to the next envelope stuffing. That said, when I got my latest “This was the best thing ever and we loved it, but it didn’t quite make the cut,” I almost quit.

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