Why I will never stop imbibing in the drink

February 8, 2012

"Rahhrrrr...I'm an angry beagle"

Jim, our PO guy alerted me that I had a package to pick up. Since I don’t accept mailed queries, I knew it had to be something else. A gift from an admiring author? First class tickets to the Bahamas? Those adorable Toms I’ve been lusting over for the past couple months?


It was a book. Now before you get all soft and chuffle out an “aww, how sweet,” let me just say that it was a query. Of a book. If this had been a bumbly type of thing, I’d possibly conjure up a smidge of sympathy. But no, this person knew exactly what he was doing because in very large font, he wrote, “WAIT! Don’t feed this to the beagle!”…which makes me sorta laugh considering my own beagle was the first photo on “angry beagle” google images. Sounds like it sound be a game, right? Angry Beagle? Ah, I digress.

He goes on to say two pages worth of nothing – no synopsis, just description that tells me nothing about the plot of this book – and ends with a plea that I take the time to READ HIS BOOK. In a word, no. In two words, HELL no.

Does this person believe I sit on my lower forty while the beagle peels me grapes, and my entire raison d’etre is to await his tomes of brilliance? Okay, I exaggerate – I do that when I’m irritated.

Words fail to do justice to my frustration over idiocy of this nature. He knew he shouldn’t send me a published book (from Xlibris with ISBN and all), yet he felt himself above it all and did it anyway, and then expected absolution. No, no, no, a thousand billion times, no. This is worse than being plain clueless. And you know where this book ended up? Straight into the trash right outside the PO, along with his business card and bookmark. I didn’t even crack the cover. It never even made it back to the batcave.

So what this person did was waste good money. He may as well have flushed that money down the toilet. And, okay, I admit that I’m peeved because I wasted my time picking it up. This is normally the beagle’s job, but she has a suspended license for failing to pass a breathalizer test. I really hate to waste my time on dumb things. And this was dumb. Dumber than dumb. It was dumb times a million.

Folks, don’t do this. Just…don’t. I have repeated this plea so many times I’ve lost count. I see the same plea on other editors’ and agents’ blogs all the time. And still, the willfully stupid try it anyway. “I know I’m being bad, but I’m so cute and I write sooo well that you won’t mind that I’m bad. In fact, you’ll thank me because I’ll make you a millionaire.” Makes me want to mainline bad gin.

Submission guidelines aren’t there for the tourists. You ARE the tourist. And yes, I will allow the beagle to rip it up and make dootie on books that wend their way to my mailbox.

“Authorpreneurs” my stinky foot

June 2, 2009

This came to a friend of mine in the media who was attending the Book Expo America this past weekend:

Authorpreneurs Seek Desperate Measures at Javits’ Book Expo this Wkend – testament to the economy
Due to the current economic climate, it’s becoming clear that many authors are having to come up with creative, gimmicky marketing tactics to nab the attention of publishers.

… check out one author’s zany way of getting media attention: Author, Connie Bennett (SUGAR SHOCK!), will be walking around with a sandwich board which appears to be something like that of a personal ad (but in search of a publisher), which asks, “Are You the One?”

But Bennett is not hunting for a husband – rather she’s in search of a publisher for her second book. She even facetiously offers to “put out on the first date” to the publisher of choice. (Meaning she’ll share the scoop about her new book/put out sales from the start).

…Even yesterday… a couple at Publisher’s University at the Roosevelt Hotel wearing crazy outfits which depicted the title and scene from their book.

Economy my Aunt Mabel. Every year the BEA attracts more than its fair share of those unencumbered with dignity and professionalism. I remember seeing the gent who wandered around with a toilet seat on his head in years past. Made me wince every time I passed him. The guy who wore a giant question mark came in a close second. Painful stuff.

These types always collect a variety of opinions ranging from “ooo la la, can she ever promote!” to “please, how do I unsee this travesty?” Yes, the publishing industry is in a time of evolution due to the economy, but good gogly mogly, how ridiculous must it get? Personally, I’m not attracted to these showboaters because I’m never quite sure where they draw the line. Obviously I adore authors who are eager to promote their book, but do I want to read in the front page that one of my darlings paraded outside a courtroom wearing nothing more than a mop on their head and a smile? Not unless I have them already fitted for a designer straight jacket.

To date, I have yet to see where the showboating didn’t exceed the author’s literary attempts. I have no idea if Ms. I’ll Put Out is a good writer or not. She’s well published with her first book, and her theatrics have me asking a couple questions; why didn’t her editor take this book; and why does she need to resort to this in order to attract attention? Is there something wrong with her writing? It’s like Derek Schultz in high school; he was good looking, loud, brash, Mr. It on campus. But we all discovered that his loud mouth made up for the fact that he had no personality and kissed like a marmoset. Someone in need of that kind of attention always has me suspicious that they are lacking where it counts.

This idea of “authorpreneurs” is an interesting notion because fewer marketing dollars are being spent by publishers, and authors are looking for a way to stand out. Attracting an audience is one thing. Attracting a publisher is quite another, and these authorpreneurs need to understand both audiences. Editors aren’t easily swayed by the gee-wizardry of someone willing to wear a toilet seat on their head. Sure, we’ll laugh and call them brave. But will we sign them? Who knows? It comes down to the writing.

A willingness to wear a giant question mark doesn’t make for a good writer. I have to sell the damn book, remember? My authors don’t accompany every ARC that I send out to reviewers, librarians, and genre buyers, so they can’t perform their shtick. It comes down to what’s resting on the pages, and no amount of “hey look at me” will divert a professional’s attention away from the book.

So authors, if you think donning a giant shoe hat and sandwich board will get your foot in the door with an editor, please rethink the strategy. Maintain your dignity and concentrate on your writing. It would be a shame to whup out all the bells and whistles only to discover you kiss like a marmoset.

Here it is…no, wait, not that one…this one!

May 1, 2009

I’m talking about submissions here. If I ask for pages or a complete proposal, I go on the assumption (yah, yah, I know all about “assuming”) that I’m being sent the FINISHED VERSION. I am not a member of the “oops, I made some edits, so can I send that one instead?” club. I feel those who are members should be drawn and quartered with a rusty exclamation point because one “whoopsie” revision can turn into three or four.

It’s especially irritating when I begin reading the work and the author slaps me with a new one the next day. I make copious notes when I read, and I have no idea if those those notes still apply to the new revision. This means I have to start all over again.

This makes me want to kick authors in the asterisk because it’s unprofessional. If I’m sent a couple “whoopsies,” I lose faith that the author knows what they’re doing. If I begin reading, are they going to send another one tomorrow, making today’s reading efforts Bandini fodder?

Normally I wouldn’t bother. I would just shit-can the whole thing and recommend that the author be dead sure their work was submission ready BEFORE they send it out so as not to waste everyone’s time [translation: my time]. But if I see a story that really grips my kidneys, then I have a choice; stick to my guns and reject it, or read the new revision and be one cranky pants editor that even the beagle’s margaritas can’t soothe.

Indecision doesn’t make authors look good. Or professional. Send no pages out before they are properly aged. Gee, I feel like a wine and cheese commercial. Or is that whine and cheese commercial?

Author tricks that go splat

April 19, 2009

Authors, by the merits of their creativity, go to great lengths to present themselves in a professional manner – and shoot their own feetsies by playing games. I love games. You should see me trying play Pin the G-string on Antonio Banderas after a few of the beagle’s margaritas. Ah, good times.

Saturday’s conversation went something like this:

Me: Behler Publications [I didn’t bother saying my name since it was a Saturday, and who in their right mind works on Saturdays?]

Them: Yes, I’m Agent ABC, and I represent Brilliant Author. I’ve been going over your website and feel my client’s book is perfect for your house.

Me: Whoa, literary agents who make pitch calls on the weekend? [first red flag]

Them: Well, you’re working.

Me: Yes, that’s because I’m an idiot and have no life. None whatsoever. [second red flag]

Them: [obligatory chuckle] May I pitch you my client’s book? [third red flag, and it be smokin’]

Me: Um, what agency did you say you were with?

Them: Ahh, well, heh, heh, I’m not really a literary agent. Yet. But I’m planning on becoming one real soon.

Me: [mildly irritated] Then who are you?

Them: Well I’m calling for a friend of mine who wrote this really fabulous book. But I really am planning on being an agent.

Me: [Yes, and I’m planning on crowning myself Queen Pricey, the Great and Mighty] What’s the story about?

Them: blah, blah, blah, bippity, blah, blah [none of this is flipping up my Vicki Secrets]

The conversation took a rapid boat to Blunder Island. The man, who I think may actually be a co-author, was quite lovely and took my critiques very well considering I shot a canon through his heart. But I have to say this was a a painful and uncomfortable experience for me, and there will be no redemption for this individual, no matter how well he pulls himself up by the quill feathers. He committed my personal cardinal sin; he tried to put one over on me. If he’ll try it now, what’s to say he won’t try it again? What else is he lying about?

If you don’t have an agent, then don’t pretend to be the agent because we’ll ask. I’ve seen any number of flavors of this; a friend, or the author himself, makes up some literary agency name and fake-0-addy at the bottom of their signature line thinking this will make a difference with me.

The problem is that their insufficient query letter gives them away. Authors who play tricks that go splat don’t know enough about the industry to pull the wool over an editor’s eyes. Only the experienced can appreciate the author’s transparency, and we’ll sell tickets to watch these good folks stick in goo up to their necks.

Other author tricks that splat are:
Fluffing the bio.
If you tell me you’re sporting a Pulitzer on your mantle [yes, this actually happened a few years back], then you’re a bonafide clod-hopping, disease-riddled bovine if you don’t think we won’t check.

Fluffing the promo plan. Now this is harder to ferret out because it’s based on what you’re gonna do, not what you’ve already done. I’ve had my knickers pulled down enough in this arena to pay close attention to the author’s platform. If an author tells me Stephen King and J.K. have agreed to write a foreword, yet the author sells tractors for a living, I’m going to be a tad suspicious. Yes, this really happened as well.

Edited to add:
Making up fake literary awards. That just came in with a query this morning. Don’t. Just. Don’t. We check these things.

Authors who reduce themselves to tricksies are shouting out “I SUCK!” They don’t know anything about the publishing industry and are trying to find the key to a nonexistent back door.

Take a breath. It’s ok if you don’t have an agent. Your best bet is to simply go on the strengths of your story and not try to gee-whiz me with fakery. After knocking around these here parts for a while, I’m relatively gee-whiz proof.

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