"Oh yes, they're all at it now, you know. It's not enough to be stinking rich, land yourself one of the most powerful jobs in television and have two million readers paying good money every week to find out about the dry rot in your skirting-board: these people want fucking immortality! They want their names in the British Library catalogue, they want their six presentation copies, they want to be able to slot that handsome hardback volume between the Shakespeare and the Tolstoy on their living-room bookshelf. And they're going to get it. They're going to get it because people like me know only too well that even if we decide we've found the new Dostoevsky we're still not going to sell half as many copies as we would of any old crap written by some bloke who reads the weather on fucking television."
His voice rose almost to a shout on the last word. Then he sat back and ran his hands through his hair.
"So what's it like then, her book?" I asked, after he had had time to calm down a bit.
"Oh, it's the usual sort of rubbish. Lots of media people being dynamic and ruthless. Sex every forty pages. Cheap tricks, mechanical plot, lousy dialogue, could have been written by a computer. Empty, hollow, materialistic, meretricious. Enough to make any civilized person heave, really." He stared ruefully into space. "And the worst of it is that they didn't even accept my bid. Somebody tipped me by ten grand. Bastards. I just know it's going to be the hit of the spring season."
From Jonathan Coe's The Winshaw Legacy
Bookslut is doing an Audrey Niffenegger giveaway. Go here for details.
The one-week exclusive for winning agents began yesterday. Next Thursday, I will begin sending out agent requests for the Things They Didn't Win. I will also send out requests from Skulking Agents. (That is, agents who poked around the contest, saw things they liked, and asked me to send requests.)
So even though it SEEMS like it's over, the Baker's Dozen keeps zipping along behind the scenes.
I can't thank everyone enough--truly. Everyone who entered, everyone who critiqued, everyone who cheered. And, of course, I appreciate the bravery of the 60 winners. (Yes, bravery. It's like standing in the grocery store naked. Or something.)
Agents...editors...published authors. Thank you all.
Yes, I'm planning on doing this again next year. Absolutely. Beyond that, though, I can't say. For the last two years, blog hits on the day of the auction have DECREASED. This means that, although I'm getting the same amount of interest in actually entering the contest, the auction itself is losing its audience.
It might be this: "Well, I didn't enter, and I'm not really interested."
It might be this: "Well, I entered, but I didn't get chosen, so I'm outta here. This is too painful."
It might be this: "Well, I entered, but I didn't get chosen, so I'm on to the next exciting online event."
Here's the thing. When I started this blog, there was almost nothing like it out there. Now, five years later, there are all sorts of author contests. So many, in fact, that agents have complained about it. Overkill. Same-entries-everywhere-on-the-web.
I hear that. And I lament it.
I don't lament that there are lots of exciting choices for writers out there. WRITERS NEED THINGS TO HELP THEM CONNECT TO THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY. But I do lament that there's so much hoopla that it's wearying the agents and spreading the writers thin.
There's a certain "high" about being in an online contest (you know it's true). And my concern is that some aspiring authors are jumping from high to high instead of buckling down to the important-but-hated task of querying. YES, people win contests and go on to receive representation--and even book deals. But QUERYING IS STILL THE NUMBER ONE WAY TO GET AN AGENT.
My initial vision for this blog was to create a place where authors could critique each other's work. A place to work on quality of writing. In short order, I conceived the Secret Agent concept, and it took off with great gusto. I kept it simple, though, and still do--one agent, 50 entries, focus on critique. Many of the contests out there are so convoluted that I can't even understand how they work. (Yeah, okay--that might just be me. If I have to read too many instructions, I lose interest. It's the whole divergent brain thing.)
For most writers, though, the "high" remains. And regardless of how great the contests are and how many success stories they ultimately lead to, I fear that, for some writers, it's like eating too much candy.
Not so good for you.
(And think about it: If you're jumping from contest to contest with your novel, then when, exactly, are you sitting down and seriously revising it?)
So, yes, I'm cutting down on the number of Secret Agent contests I do next year. I will publish the schedule at the end of this month, so you will know what to expect. I want to continue to offer high quality contests and critique on this blog, and I'm confident that we will continue to have success stories here. But I don't want to be a part of the too-much-noise problem online.
As for the Baker's Dozen? Like I said, I'm planning to do it again next year. But it's disheartening, to say the least, to work so hard on something and then lose the audience to the next promise of candy out there. (And, hey. You can eat as much candy as you want--I'm not your mama! But someone's got to do something about the overkill, right?)
Choose your contests carefully. You don't need to hit them all. Give yourself time to JUST SIT THERE AND WORK YOUR BUTT OFF ON YOUR NOVEL. Because that's what's going to sell it. Not feeling all the sparkles from the every-other-month contests you're entering. Not throwing it out there over and over again without making it better first.
Be SMART about how you get your work out there.
(And, for what it's worth, I didn't land my agent through a contest. I, yanno, queried him. And he is one of the best things that's ever happened to my career. Without a single contest sparkle.)
Love you all! May your weekend be refreshing, and may words tumble effortlessly from your fingers.
In addition, I’ve worked with other SFWAns to oppose the Google Books Settlement, write SFWA’s Orphan Works white papers, and worked on various other copyright and contract related matters. I was married to Ann Crispin, and, while there’s no way I could replace her, with Victoria’s kind encouragement, I’ve decided to officially join Writer Beware.
I’ve already written a few blog posts for WB, mostly about legal copyright matters, but I’ve also helped with the April 1st posts from time to time. The Google Broccoli Kitten Settlement was my idea, for example.
My interests are somewhat more policy-oriented than WB tends to be, but WB has a very broad agenda, and I don’t believe I’ll be changing it much, if at all. My perspective is that of a non-lawyer author who is surrounded by technological and legal changes that call into question many of the ideas about copyright and authors’ rights that seemed to be fixed and immutable just a decade or two ago.
This is a time of tremendous upheaval, but it is only the beginning of a transition to a place we can only dimly perceive. Some of the changes over the last years are very good for authors, but others are eroding the underlying principles of copyright, and, in my opinion, that does not bode well for the future. I remember attending the "Electronic Book '99: The Next Chapter," sponsored the National Institute of Standards and Technology in September 1999. (Interestingly, Harlan Ellison was the keynote speaker, and I don’t remember much of his speech except that it didn’t have much to do with the topic of the conference.) Back then, a majority of the players were most interested in selling their new DRM schemes to publishers, because publishers were extremely fearful of the prospect of books that anyone could copy and “share.” Many publishers still feel that way, but I don’t think anyone at that conference could have predicted what the Internet has become, how the ebook marketplace functions, and the enormous changes created by a single corporation, Amazon. I don’t believe we can accurately predict what these things will look like in another fourteen years. But I think that, as in any chaotic system, a push in the right direction at the right time can affect the outcome in profound ways.
Topics I want to cover in future blog posts include the recent verdict in the Google Books case, why orphan works legislation needs to be tailored to the needs of authors, what to do in case your (small or medium-sized) publisher violates your contract, and some stuff about writers' organization such as SFWA.
I’d like to beef up Writer Beware’s sections that are directed at what is currently being called “hybrid authors” – authors who had some success in the world of traditional publishing, but whose books are now mostly out of print and who have not been able to figure out how to self-publish, or have self-published but gotten nowhere. Since I am an explorer in that realm myself, I hope to bring some specificity to the discussion.
And finally, I hope to act to some degree as one of WB’s faces, appearing at conventions and conferences to help spread the word about literary scammers of all stripes.
I do understand that there are scammers and trolls out there who actively oppose Writer Beware, and I suspect I’m due for my share of the libel and innuendo. While I in no way want to engage in useless public diatribes with these people, I do intend to do something about them.
So, Victoria and Rich, thanks for letting me come aboard, and I hope I can help fulfill the mission of Writer Beware. I look forward to hitting the ground running.
Later in the day on Tuesday, I received the following email from Pam van Hylckama Vlieg, one of our Baker's Dozen all-stars:
Everything has at least a 10 page request and I plan to critique them.
Being a bit fuzz-headed from the auction, I wasn't quite sure what she meant. So she clarified:
I usually critique as I read through! So I bid 10 pages on the ones that had no bids and I'll leave notes when I email them about it :).
At this point, I realized I was actually talking to an AUCTION FAIRY, and not a real agent at all. I thanked her profusely and told her how much I hate it when entries don't get any bids. Here is her response:
I hate it, too! It shouldn't be that way. The book I sold for the biggest money was a pitch contest and no one bid on it. I knew it was either going to suck or be amazing. You have to check the writing!
So there you have it. Pam van Hylckama Vlieg is going to read and critique each of those 10-page requests. With an eye to the you-never-know-where-a-hidden-gem-lies.
And she has dubbed it the "No Pitch Left Behind Act". (Hee.)
Pam -- here is your VERY PUBLIC THANK YOU! Thank you for the gift of your time. Thank you for joining me in supporting serious aspiring authors on their journeys. Thank you for allowing me to post a winner list that included all 60 of our brave entrants.
Let the celebrating commence!
An unarmed, emotionally disturbed man shot by the police as he was lurching around traffic near Times Square in September has been charged with assault, on the theory that he was responsible for bullet wounds suffered by two bystanders, according to an indictment unsealed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan on Wednesday.No, really:
Initially Mr. Broadnax was arrested on misdemeanor charges of menacing, drug possession and resisting arrest. But the Manhattan district attorney's office persuaded a grand jury to charge Mr. Broadnax with assault, a felony carrying a maximum sentence of 25 years. Specifically, the nine-count indictment unsealed on Wednesday said Mr. Broadnax "recklessly engaged in conduct which created a grave risk of death."Administrative duty! An internal Police Department inquiry! Well, that's all right, then.
"The defendant is the one that created the situation that injured innocent bystanders," said an assistant district attorney, Shannon Lucey.
The two police officers, who have not been identified, have been placed on administrative duty and their actions are still under investigation by the district attorney's office, law enforcement officials said. They also face an internal Police Department inquiry.
I mean, all the cops did was shoot someone. It's not like they "recklessly engaged in conduct which created a grave risk of death." Definitely, who you want to prosecute is the mentally ill guy who wandered out into traffic. Perish forbid you should prosecute any police.
Really! Hooray for brave prosecutors like ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY SHANNON LUCEY who identify and target the real threat: pathetic losers who make otherwise fine and upstanding police officers lose their shit. Look what you made me do. Excellent moral discernment, ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY SHANNON LUCEY.
Our descendants will marvel at what we put up with.
We've got 23 FULL REQUESTS! And some disgruntled agents, too. (Yanno. The ones who lost the fulls they really wanted.) And TONS of behind-the-scenes and in-the-comment-boxes fun. (Some of these agents could easily moonshine as stand-up comics. Seriously. Scroll through if you haven't had the pleasure yet.)
ANYWAY -- Here's the final list:
Once the week has expired, other agents who placed bids--but didn't win--will have the opportunity to email me to request material from the auction. SO SIT TIGHT. I'll be contacting you if you've got more requests.
(And, yes. There MIGHT be an agent or editor here and there who have been snooping around and drooling into my email box in addition to the winning bids. I will be busy for a few days!)
CONGRATULATIONS, EVERYONE! And to the agents--your participation is, as always, deeply appreciated. May GOOD THINGS HAPPEN!
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
I love this. But it's a tough read in winter. So when an answer started knocking around my head, I scribbled it down.But once the gold is gone,
As daylight follows dawn,
The summer fades to fall,
And autumn's pleasures pall.
Then darkness comes at last,
When all that's bright is past.
But we endure the black,
Because the gold comes back.
Of course, this mostly serves to illustrate Frost's own point: we must inevitably decline from the first blush of perfection. What follows is inferior. Sequelitis comes to us all in the end. But illustration is a form of participation in its own right.
Also, open thread.
Continued from Open thread 190.