Proof Negative

Nothing like negative attitudes to make truths you’ve been preaching ring even truer, you know?

Yesterday I read a post on a literary agency blog, and you’ll NEVER guess what it was about.

Go on, guess.

It was about QUERY LETTERS! No lie, I kid you not!

You know what’s funnier? The poster made sure to point out how the blog has been around since 2006, and is repeating the topic. Comedy! Wow! And for free!

But that’s not the part I found funny. The part I thought was funny was the content. The poster wrote:

I was talking to an author recently who told me that she had been rejected by 120 agents on query alone. Not one had requested a partial. How does that happen? Here’s how. Your query isn’t strong enough.

Gosh, how eye-opening. Since 2006, no other literary agencies have blogged THAT bit of earth-shattering news. And you know what? The hits just keep on comin’. It goes on:

To be honest, even the crappiest (apparently word of the day) book should be getting requests because a good query, like a good car salesman, can sell anything. If you aren’t getting any requests on 20 queries (that means at least one request for every 20 queries you send), you need to rewrite your query. It’s not working.

You see here, writers and wannabe authors? Struggle all you’d like to make your manuscript great (you should), it’s not going to matter. In the end, all you need is a great query letter. This is proof positive of what I’ve been saying to anyone who will listen for a couple of years now. I don’t believe vanity publishing is an alternative – never did. I have and always will discourage vanity publishing. But epublishing is completely different, and is, in my not-remotely-humble opinion, the wave of the present wherein the future of great authors is decided by readers, not agents and editors at publishing houses.

Oh, but don’t you dare question the gatekeeper system. One commentator suggested epublishing is superior:

I think this is yet another sign of how antiquated the traditional publishing route is becoming. If a great storyteller can’t get noticed because they’re not a good letter writer, there’s a disconnect. It’s like picking an electrician based on his plumbing skills. This is another example of an advantage of e-publishing. When you put the power into the hands of the writers and readers, the cream will rise to the top on its own, and a great book will be more noticed than a great letter.

They met, of course, with sycophant backlash, but the funniest part of the whole article came from the “agent” herself:

I agree and from now on we’ll stop writing cover copy for books. Instead you can go through the bookstore read the title, author name, look at the pretty cover and then read the first 5-10 pages of the book before making a decision to buy. As a new author, one with no audience, let’s see how many books you sell.

And yes, I couldn’t avoid the snark on this one.

Couldn’t avoid it, huh? Good to know. And the next several authors whose manuscripts are unlucky enough to be under her hand for the next several hours will be REJECTED. Because… well, she’s in a bad mood now.

It all just goes as evidence of what I’ve been saying for a while now. The gatekeeping system doesn’t work like it did before. It’s established so no one thinks anything else will work or even exists, and when it’s suggested to them they get a little freaked out. It’s rejected out of hand. But the ebook isn’t going anywhere, and the future of publishing is going to be different because of it.

I, personally, cannot WAIT to see this ivory tower topple and collapse. It’s not supposed to be about how great a query letter you can write. It’s not. It’s about how great a BOOK you can write. But look at the blogger’s response to that suggestion. She “couldn’t avoid the snark” in addressing it. I like the use of that word – “couldn’t”. No, of course not. If she had, the point might not have been strong enough for the a$$-kissing boot-lickers in the comments section to see how outsiders will be treated.

Until the tower falls. Soon, my pretties, soon. And I hope THIS agent’s the first to go.



14 thoughts on “Proof Negative

  1. I must point out that there’s a difference between self e-publishing (which is what I think you’re talking about here) and publishing through an electronic publishing house. As someone in the comment trail of the post pointed out, you do have to query for an e-pub house.

    You’re right. I’m talking about SELF epublished books here, which I believe to be the way of the future. Good catch, thanks for pointing out the difference.

    Self e-publishing has the same pitfalls, quality-wise, as vanity publishing and the same marketing challenges. (One could say publishing yourself is always vanity, even if you don’t pay for physical books. 😉 )

    There’s truth to that, for sure. Heck, there’s arrogance and and vanity in wanting the world to read what you wrote in the first place, right? But I think there’s yet GREATER vanity in the belief one can penetrate the fog of agent hoops and publishing house flights of fancy, and putting so much credibility in the approval of the gatekeepers as validation of one’s talent. But, you know… that’s only me. 😉

    And you’re right, some writers can’t write worth a darn, and aren’t good at all. But I’ve been reading for a long, long time now and the only self-published book I’ve ever read is Bryce’s. All the crappy, badly written, poorly formatted, horribly proofed books I’ve ever mentioned or read came from the traditional publishing market. EVERY ONE! So — being “published” doesn’t mean you won’t get a bad product. And what excuse is there when so many eyes, so many hands, have been laid on the manuscript by those “gatekeepers”? Yet they offer no apologies for their shortfalls.

    The agent should have read that guy’s comment a little more carefully before getting all snarky. Made her sound like a putz. He was right, the query has become this huge animal separate from good storytelling. Including pages without a blurb is something I’ve thought would be a good idea. When she implied her reading experience should be the same as the consumer’s, that was just silly.

    I give a huge “AMEN” to that! I think ALL agents should either provide an electronic form where sample pages can be attached, or just let the author send the whole damned manuscript. The file, in MS Word, is generally pretty small. You can even have your email program put them somewhere offline when they come in so they don’t “fill” your inbox. Read a few random, sampled pages. Writing sucks? Reject. Writing good? Read for the story. Story sucks? Reject. Story’s good, writing’s good? How’s this NOT YOUR JOB? The career YOU CHOSE as a LITERARY AGENT? But all I hear is how critical this is in the letter, how key it is to “hook the agent” with the letter, to “show your voice” in the letter — come ON.

    One more thing–just because a good query will get a bad book requested, that doesn’t mean the bad book will be published. As I’ve learned. :/

    But LOTS of bad books ARE published, and that’s my point. Why should the readers let GATEKEEPERS decide what’s “good” or “bad” when they can do it for themselves? And they will. 🙂

    • “the only self-published book I’ve ever read is Bryce’s. All the crappy, badly written, poorly formatted, horribly proofed books I’ve ever mentioned or read came from the traditional publishing market.”

      Well of course they did, if you’ve only read one self-pub, and a good one at that. I’m a bit surprised by this revelation. I assumed such a vocal supporter of self-pub as yourself would have read multitudes of ebooks. Of course, the good ones probably cost money, so perhaps the ones I read were bad because they were free… Hm.

      Hehehe. Want more shocking news? I’ve only read ONE ebook so far. I don’t even own an ereader. I don’t like to read at my computer, despite how much it helps my eyes. My big thrill for owning a Kindle or some other ereader will be being able to increase the font size so I can read AWAY from my computer. When I’m at my computer I read blogs, comment with friends, and check email. Beyond that, I want to sit in a couch or lay in bed and do my leisure reading.

      Now, let’s be fair. I’ve NEVER been a proponent of self PRINT publishing. I tried to discourage Bryce from doing it. I discouraged everyone and anyone I ever found thinking about it. It’s a money pit. Most will NEVER recover the costs of predatory vanity publication. And while places like CreateSpace and Lulu are cheaper, they still cost for setup and per-book to produce. No thanks. One of the reasons I’m such a loud-mouth about self epublishing is because it’s FREE. All it’s going to cost you is some time and effort to format the book correctly. But anyone trying to traditionally publish is going to have to do that for submissions anyway. If you don’t use the right font, spacing, cover page layout and whatever other hoop the agent makes you jump through, you’re rejected. So what’s the problem with formatting? It’s not that hard. I gave a pretty darn clear tutorial. And that’s the most it will cost — effort and time. The rest is free. And, it’s on Kindle where THOUSANDS of people are going to see it and have the chance to buy it. How wrong can you go? This is the main reason I’m such a huge fan of it. It puts the writer in front of readers with no dirty tricks or hidden costs. Free really means free.

      Now, here’s another bit of news: On Kindle, independent authors like me CAN’T price ebooks for free. We HAVE to charge at least 99 cents for it. Believe me, I WANTED to set my price to free for a time, just to generate some interest, but no dice. Can’t do it. Smashwords will let me, but not Kindle. So I’m not sure where you got them, but only traditional publishers (who complain about Kindle’s pricing of their books, by the way) are able to set pries to free to promote a book before overpricing it and crying about Amazon trying to be realistic.

      Have you ever thought about reviewing self e-pubs on this blog? That way you’d get to read them for free. And I know how you like reviewing things.

      Eh. I don’t really have time. When I’m not writing non-fic stuff, I’d LOVE to try and get my OWN fiction written and epub’d. But who knows? When I see a really good one, maybe I’ll do just that. 🙂

      • Well, hm, where did I get those freebies… It’s been a while since I did, before the Kindle became all-powerful. The ones I have are all in PDF, made to read on the computer. I found them here and there.

        I know you hate reading on the computer, so I won’t dog you about it. I hate it too. If we had Kindles we could argue this topic with actual experience behind us both. LOL

        And for some goofball reason I keep putting off buying one! Even though I’m publishing there! HAHAHAHA! Yeah, I’m a doof. 🙂

  2. No linky? How am I supposed to go join in the argument?

    Maybe google will help me out.

    PEEVE ALERT: Google is a company name and will always be capitalized, just like Internet. 😉

    No linky because I wasn’t interested in driving traffic to their blog when they’re such a$$es. 🙂

  3. All systems need fixing, but unless they are, they’re the best resort. I am far away from queries, so I won’t comment—but I do not like snark-iness in anyone other than fictional characters 🙂

    Ah, Damyanti, I disagree. I think they’re less than the best resort and we, the reading public, are being denied the ability to read good books or judge for ourselves what’s bad all because the “system” IS broken. But, not everyone agrees with me. Which is why we make both chocolate AND vanilla, right? 🙂

  4. Just like the music industry, it became something different than what it started as. We’ll see where it all goes. Of course, all agents aren’t like that, but some are, and they probably aren’t the one you want pushing your book anyway.

    I know not all agents are jerks like that, but they ARE all like that in their mentality and their “it’s us or you’re nothing” way of thinking. She’s just one prime example of how the gatekeepers react and feel about self-publishing ebooks. They want to ridicule and put down and justify their excuses for making the query letter the end-all be-all, no matter HOW they tell us it’s the story, the writing. And yes, you’re right, it IS remarkably like the music industry, isn’t it? My wife pointed that out to me today too.

  5. It’s funny, I just polled on deviantART whether or not they would traditionally or self publish. All said traditional. Their comments were basically along the lines of, better quality, you won’t be a legit author unless you go traditional, self publishing is expensive, etc. To me, it sounded like they were just believing the lie. I mean, I’ve read plenty of books from publishers that sucks, books that make me shake my head and put the poor thing back, knowing it was accepted because the publisher was trying to sell or catch the coattails of some trend.

    The “writers” on deviantART don’t impress me with their skills or their brain power, to be frank. It’s one of the reasons I left. Let’s face it, a LOT of writers believe you’re not “a legit” author if you’re not published traditionally. Which is bullsh!t, because I’ve seen writers with great skills languishing unpublished in the cyberverse while hacks are mid-listing over and over again. We’ve all seen it. Some dismiss the claim and say we might be seeing something and misinterpreting, but you know what? I know bad writing when I see it. I’ve MADE it often enough. And I’m not backing down. Some of these people turn out crap and good writers will never see the light of day, all because the gatekeeper system can’t find a way to get those good books through and it’s all personal, subjective judgment. Period.

    Don’t even get me started about the whole you’re not a legit author unless you’ve been published traditionally crap. If I start selling as a self-publisher people like that would never know the difference. Why? Because I’m selling. Therefore, I am an author. At least that’s how it seems the logic goes.

    I’d love to pull a Joe Konrath success story out of my a$$ for those people too. I wish I could. Amanda Hocking doesn’t count for some reason, because the gatekeepers decided to embrace her as a star. They make me sick.

    But I’ll stop there. Suffice to say I’m with you, waiting for this system to fall or at least change for the better.

    I can’t WAIT for this crap to fall on its face and be dead. Doornail, John Lennon dead.

    • Don’t even get me started on dA. I literally had to keep from throwing the computer at the responses to the polls. They would make you rage. Rage! And quite frankly, I’m a legit author when a good amount of readers squeal over a sequel, when someone tells me my story made their day. Idyllic? So what? Rage. Oh, and about those mid-list traditional authors. Hah. You can tell the publisher is either taking advantage of a niche or a trend. Rarely do I see something unique that just grabs out to me in the bookstore (and I do look and books have popped out at me once or twice–one being a very big favorite of mine now). It’s beyond pathetic and obviously not reader or writer-centric. It’s just about what might sell.

      That’s right. Vampires are hot? Then let’s tell agents we want vampire romance books like Twilight and whatnot. Let’s flood the market, saturate it, with that crap. Is some of it well-written? Sure, I guess so. A lot of it isn’t though. Period. A lot of it. Bad writing, bad story, bad characters… and published. Selling because it’s about vampires and they’re right, vampires ARE hot right now. It works. But that’s NOT what you’ll hear from most people who defend traditional publishing. They want to point to “literary” fiction — while most of them don’t know what that even means. “I’ve written a literary book about vampires, so mine’s different.” Gimme a break. Please.

      There’s a reason dA authors are on dA and not on bookstore shelves, too. I’d be careful asking for feedback there.

      I would love it for indies to just become as widely successful as most if not more than the traditionally published writers. Not just because I want to stick it to the man, but because I think a lot of indies are just as good if not better than some of these mid-list guys.

      I guess I love the capitalism of the free market system ebook self-publishing offers on places like Kindle and Nook. Yes, anyone can do it and there’s a lot of garbage. But the good ones WILL bubble to the top if we all let each other know about them, tastes notwithstanding. And I believe readers should have a chance to see what THEY want to see, not what they’re TOLD they’ll see. And that’s what traditional publishing does — dictates to the market instead of the other way around. If vampires are hot, that’s what we’ll get and it’s hard to get around that, because they don’t want “to take a chance” on something NOT hot.

      • It’s funny. Vampires are fading a little, zombies are taking over some shelves. It’s just weird to see the changes. The husband and I have been going to Borders on a regular basis these days, so I’ve been keeping track of things like that. Why? I’m curious as to what happens to a book on a shelf after x amount of time, what disappears and what collects dust. Yes, I’m weird.

        I only use vampires as an example. Three or four years ago, the big buzz-word in horror was “literary horror”. I don’t even know what that means, honestly. I tried to figure it out. I wanted to try my hand at writing it. But I couldn’t find any names to check out and there certainly weren’t any sections in the local Borders labeled “Literary Horror” — or “Literary Fiction” for that matter. So I sort of gave up. It would probably be less than horror I’m used to anyway and probably slow-paced and… well, sucky. Just sayin’. Vampires for a long time — I guess since Meyer’s crap hit. Then Charlaine Harris’s stuff. Now they’re fading a little and zombies are taking over. I saw this coming a while back. It’s a niche right now but it’ll catch on, then fizzle out eventually. And so it goes. Traditional publishers want zombies now because of that Walking Dead series and it’s success, most likely. Zombies are coming out of the little cult-closet and into the fore for their fifteen minutes I guess. Authors like David Wellington will benefit and have their fifteen minutes too. But eventually it will be something else. That’s how it goes. What’s hot is what’s selling and what’s selling becomes hot. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle.

        See, I love the concept of giving the choice to readers. More than once I’ve just given up on bookstores because they always had the same old crap. Sure, if I wanted to read a classic, I knew where to go. But what about a fantasy story that didn’t have a busy partially naked woman with a sword and some sexy guy or mysterious man in the background? Bleh. But nope, that’s what sells in that genre so I’ll hardly see anything different (nothing that I haven’t already read, at least).

        I like the idea of readers deciding what’s hot and what’s not. I love that concept. I don’t know that I’ll ever write to trends, but readers should be able to step outside the trends if they’d like, or start new ones. I don’t think TV and movies and publishers should be deciding what we get to read. And then things will be as they SHOULD be. Readers, choosing what to read, when to read it and how. Publishers and authors being the same person. Editors being freelance people HELPING authors get the best story out there they can, doing EDITING, not DECIDING. And agents? Well, they go the way of the Dodo and the Dinosaur and the Awk. Buh-bye. NO ONE should be gatekeeping but READERS. Full stop.

        • Trends, trends, trends. Bleh. I’m just happy the genre I write in (fantasy, normally) seems to have a pretty decent-sized chunk of shelf both online and in bookstores.

          Well, every genre has its fans, and that’s how it should be. They know where to go to find what they want.

          I think that would also free up editors to do what they love most, too: editing, not choosing which book will fly or fall. Agents might still be around, but maybe transformed. I mean, if they supposedly help with contracts and stuff, that might just become their main gig. But I’m ignorant in that area and really can’t say. I just know how they run things now is very depressing. I mean, you judge my writing off a query letter? They’re two totally different things! Bleh.

          I’m not completely informed about agents and editors, but editors, in general, have teams to which they delegate the actual EDITING. When you see “editors” posting on the Internet (what’re you doing blogging? don’t you have something to EDIT?), they’re generally not “editors” which edit manuscripts. I’m sure they’ll say they CAN, but most of that goes to the copy editors and such. Many of them will make choices about what can be removed and changes and such, but if they could write, they’d be writers, so if they’re not EDITING, and they’re BUYERS, why don’t we call them that? Because that’s not as literati, not as impressive, not as GATEKEEPER-esque, as EDITOR.

          I could be wrong, but that’s how it looks to me. And I’ve had books EDITED in traditional publishing, too. One of the largest traditional publishers of its kind in the world, matter of fact. And the Editor-in-Chief, or EIC or EC (as we in the “biz” say), doesn’t TOUCH my books. He BUYS them, decides who will write what, and that’s all. Then the REAL editing is handled by someone else entirely. Why is he an Editor? I have no idea. He’s an acquisitions person; a buyer. That’s what they’re called in other industries, why not this one?

          In a new publishing model where readers and writers connect directly, what use is there for an agent? Do you need those “contacts” they supposedly have in publishing to move your book if the public buys them directly? The only thing an agent can become in that model is unemployed. Who needs them? My agent is a GREAT guy, and I love him. And I think we need some sort of gatekeeping system for non-fiction, especially where expertise is required (technical books, text books, etc.). Maybe they can move into that field and help there. Otherwise, who needs them? They can’t be gone fast enough for me.

  6. I agree with Sherri on this one. I understand your rage, Darc — I mean I can feel the rage coming off my screen, but what else should the agents go by other than a letter? I mean, companies don’t hire people without seeing their resumes. I’ve seen as the same thing–a good letter won’t always get you in, but a bad one will keep you out.

    Marta, if you think this is raging, you’d absolutely faint if you ever saw me get angry. 😉

    How about going by the WRITER’S SKILLS or ABILITY? How about reading some of their story to see what they’re like as a writer? WHY judge by a letter? The difference between a resume and a query letter is, the resume is only a summation of work history, background and skill sets. But I’ve been doing technical writing for a while now — TRADITIONALLY PUBLISHED, may I add — and you know what I found? No one would talk to me if I didn’t have a technical writing background. When they found out I did have one, they wanted to — wait for it — SEE SAMPLES OF MY TECHNICAL WRITING! *GASP!* And THEN, they decided whether they wanted to talk to me as a potential candidate for the job or not. Why isn’t this the way it works for agents and publishers?

    If I were an agent, I can’t imagine I would have the time to read 20 pages of every book sent to me. What they look for might need to be different, but having a letter seems reasonable given the number of books people write these days.

    I respectfully disagree. You’re not being honest with either the writer OR yourself if you say an agent doesn’t have time to read. That’s ALL they should be doing! They’re looking for the next Great American Novel, for the love of Pete! Why AREN’T you reading, why ARE you demanding perfection in the query (and what does THAT word mean, may I ask?) letter? If you can’t keep up with your slush pile then CLOSE YOURSELF TO SUBMISSIONS until you ARE caught up. It’s NOT that hard. It’s not like they get paid by how many queries they receive. No time to read? Get out of the business. If they’ve got time to blog about what they want in a query letter, they have time to read some of their slush pile. If the agent needs to work for their existing clients, that’s fine, maybe you reduce your reading time to half a day for a few days, but reading is what the job entails.

    And I hesitate to get on the “plenty of published books suck” bandwagon. And plenty don’t after all. Thousands of books are published every year–of course some are not great. And I know their are books I LOVE. LOVE!! And I can find you several smart, great people who will tell you it sucks. If I had been an agent and accepted it, you’d be saying I accepted crap. But I wouldn’t have. I would have accepted a book I like. Suckitude, as it were, is in the eye of the beholder.

    All right, the field is subjective. Fair enough. But here’s the fact of the matter — these agents and editors have established themselves as GUARDIANS of what’s good and what’s not. The arbiters of what we should and shouldn’t read. This one’s good, that one’s not. We publish good, we don’t publish bad. But that’s NOT TRUE. I don’t NEED anyone to tell me what I like or don’t. You may not want to “get on the bandwagon” about how plenty of books suck, but saying “plenty don’t” is a bit like resorting to “I know you are but what am I?” as a retort, isn’t it? We’re all grown ups here. I may not like all the books you like and vice versa. Fine. But I bet we could find PLENTY of books BOTH of us think suck. Books which weren’t self-published and came through an agent, an editor, a copy editing team, a typesetter, a final proofing stage and then a hardback and finally a paperback issuance. And they SUCK, Marta. But we’re told quality isn’t a problem in traditional publishing. Not mentioning how many lousy books are put out by traditional publishing every year won’t make it any less true though. Full stop. It IS true.

    Suckitude IS in the eye of the beholder, and I should be the EYE beholding it. Not YOU, as an agent, beholding it FOR me and telling me it’s NOT suckitude.

    Sure some agents are terrible and ridiculous. It isn’t like we’ve got any gatekeepers for being agents. ANYONE can be an agent. The agent then has to sell to a publisher–a other weeding/murdering process.

    I guess I demand we DO have gatekeepers for being agents and editors. It makes more sense than having gatekeepers for books, that’s for danged sure. 🙂

    I see two different issues here really. The fact that some agents appear impossible to please or nitpicky isn’t the same thing as agents buying bad books. The method and the quality are not the same. And what you buy off the bookshelf, is not necessarily the book the agent bought. Publishing houses change things. There are agents who get into the business because they love books — then they find it is a business — but I don’t seriously think any agent gets up in the morning wondering how they can screw the unpublished author.

    Maybe not, but they get up in the morning thinking about what it is they want to see from their queries. “I want it worded in THAT way, and with THESE nuances, and with THOSE particular emphases…” C’mon, it’s as arbitrary and capricious a field as exists. Ridiculously so. And while they don’t CONSCIOUSLY seek to screw the unpublished writer, I do believe they UN- or SUBconsciously want to reject them.

    This is not to say I don’t think the system is great. I don’t. And all the alternatives out there are awesome. You should absolutely pursue your goal the way you want to.

    Well, I think you’re right here with no argument possible. We should each pursue our dreams as we choose to do so. All I want is the same chance everyone else has to put my work in front of people who want to read it. And yet, I don’t have that chance because the system’s all about how to catch the right agent on the right day in the right mood with the right query letter mojo, and that’s… well, that’s BS, in my opinion.

    I assume that if I do get accepted anywhere by an agent, and if that agent sells my book, and if that book should get into a bookstore (assuming they exist by then), someone on the Internet is going to blog about how much I suck and my book sucks and how stupid my agent must be and so on. When you put yourself out there–no matter how you put yourself out there–someone is going to scream that you don’t deserve it.

    True enough. And like-minded people to the person accusing you of sucking may just skip over your book altogether. On the other hand, I’m not screaming about who doesn’t deserve what. I’m screaming, if you’re listening, about how we ALL deserve. Deserve a chance to let readers see our work, to decide on our work, to choose us if they like us. You can’t win ’em all, but those I don’t win just won’t buy, and the others? Well, they’re the ones I write for anyway.

    With any luck, will have friends who support us either way!

    I’m sure we will. 🙂

  7. Bought your books by the way. FINALLY! Now, you know it will take me forever to read them–and I’m afraid to read them because I don’t like scary stories! But you have my support anyway.

    Aw! Thank you so much! What a sweet gesture. I hope I get to return the favor soon! 🙂

  8. There’s so much to respond to here that I hardly know where to start. This usually means I’m about to ramble at length. Sorry about that.

    Your ramble’s not that long; I welcome it. 🙂

    On agents:

    In fact, on all ‘slush’ readers, because at the moment I have more experience with the gatekeepers for fiction mags.

    I’m glad you mentioned this, because the same gatekeeper system applies to all print media, and I sort of overlooked this one in everything. Thank you.

    Lately I began to form a tentative sort of theory: that the goal of slush readers is not, in fact, to find something to accept, but to find reasons to reject. It probably didn’t start that way for most of them, but after X number of months or years the idealism fades away. They stop looking for the ‘gems’ because the pressing problem is NOT ‘finding fiction to print’ but instead ‘getting this mountain of submissions OFF MY DESK’. Then, as you say, any tiny little thing is a reason to bounce a story. Hell, I’ve had a story bounced over a quibble with the very first WORD.

    In my single submission to an online magazine, I received a prompt (just a few days, maybe a week) and reasonably personal reply telling me while they read the entire story, they didn’t feel they had a place for it in their magazine. I was, and remain, fairly confused. If you had no place for it, why did you read it?

    Why, then, do we do this to ourselves? Why do we keep submitting to these people? After months of these kinds of rejections I lost faith in my own ability… until I started to get angry. Who are these people to tell me my work is worthless? I might hand my work to a range of audiences and receive sincerely positive responses, but a small group of slush-readers can tell me it’s a waste of time and that’s it. Finished.

    This is my point, Charlotte, and thank you for so succinctly stating it. Beautifully put, and I agree. Why do a tiny fraction of people who are NOT our audiences decide whether our audiences will see our work or not? and why is that decision lynch-pinned on a query letter rather than the work?

    So I wrote a long rant on my blog. And I nearly didn’t publish it. Why? Because I got the self-doubt disease, AGAIN. I began to think, is this just a fit of pique on my part? Is it really that I’m just incapable of accepting ‘criticism’? It sounded horribly believable until I realised this is the same old trite that goes around and around the publishing world, and it’s infected my thinking even more deeply than I realised.

    It’s horrible how some writers — very good ones — spiral through self-doubt and anguish because of this gatekeeper system and it’s failures. It’s heartbreaking to me.

    So I published the rant on my blog, and in a few more months I’ll publish my book myself, digitally. And the great thing? Already I find a lot of people feel the same frustration and anger. When I find posts like this, it helps to keep me steady on this new road I’ve decided to follow. I hope more people will find the courage to try it too.

    Bravo, Charlotte! Bravo! It’s nice to meet another writer so fed up with the way this broken down old beast is ruining writers and keeping them away from their audiences, and who has the courage and conviction and belief in self to do it this way. I would NEVER recommend print self-publishing, but digital self-publishing is the future for writers and readers. And to their demise, of publishers too. Requiescat in pace.

    Thanks for writing this post. I’ll be back for the next one!

    Welcome, and thank you! I’m so glad we met as like-minded individuals on our journey into the digital world. 🙂

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