The Stew

I don’t often know what’s going to be cooking in the pot.  While I’m pitching my queries to literary agents, I’m not working on what ‘s finished, written, shaped, reviewed endlessly, edited, honed, polished and  parked in toto on my desktop next to the ditto-ed proposal.

A new and unpublished writer knows almost nothing about the scams, scum, the doggers in the shadows who love little Red Riding Hood, she with the tender parts, and no defenses because she is essentially stupid about the dark forest she’s into. There be wolves in here! But yesterday I was protected by that idiocy. The phone call came before I was hardly awake and/or alert, and immediately I was into the quagmire with an agent from a self publishing organization saying she had the query I sent her. Um, I don’t query such an organization because I only know of one, and that one so persistent that I had to threaten them with a harassment charge and my husband before they stopped calling. I query literary agents exclusively, from established agencies My phone number is unlisted anywhere but on agent queries, so I had to think this publishing agent had a query but not from me. So where did that come from? What helpful (not) person passed that along?

We had a very long conversation in which it was well established that I am so green that virtually all of the conversation underscored that she was speaking some unknown language and there was no intention to enlighten me. Finally it occurred to me to ask if her services came with a fee should I want to sign the contract she was describing, followed by my putting her on notice that I barely breathe without my editor.  Ever.  Why? Because I. Am. Green!

Well. It does come with a fee. Sorry. Now I’m up to speed. No thank you. Perhaps there will come a day when I want to be in print so badly that I’ll pay for the privilege, but certainly not after just a month of querying.

The responses to my sends were rejections, except one. That one asked to read the mss. After reading, said it was more than they could adequately service, regretful that they are too small for such a book. But to find a home for it and tell them when it’s published. The rejections were ALL encouraging. Kind. Thoughtful. Requesting that if I wrote anything else to please keep them in mind. True, some agents ignored my queries, leaving me to understand that they passed with no interest. That is, I think, patently discourteous, me-oriented, and unprofessional. Their excuse? Too busy. Hey. We’re all too busy.

Here’s the bottom line, she said. Since I am not branded, and since I am virtually unpublished, without a following, and since no one wants memoir, I’ll never get there. Without her. Does she not know that self-publishing today is mostly already prepared for you? Again, currently, that’s not the route I want to pursue. Way too soon to toss in the towel with the traditional route. Even knowing the odds are against me for all the above reasons, I owe it to myself to persevere. Chuck Sambuchino encourages me to do that. So does Stephen King, notoriously rejected 200 times before his first thriller was accepted by an agent. Go ahead. You try to makes sense of this business.

I felt a bit stalked, that the person on the other end of the line had all the cards and I had none. And she was not sharing what game we were playing. So I didn’t tell her I’m a crone who has been around many, many blocks. Just not this one.Well. I don’t live in a cave. I read things. I study up. I pay attention. It’s the legal/tech stuff I know nothing about. But hey. I know a couple of lawyers who can interpret a contract.

Making that statement, I suspect that this is why my inbox does not produce what she said she’d send. I’m hoping it never arrives. Way too much mystery surrounds this episode. A google of this company reveals what she never described, until I asked about a fee.  This organization might be a cut above the usual publisher of this type, but comments pro and con nail them for the similarities to the groups they insist they are better than. A major problem is that the fee quoted appears to be an entry fee, with add-ons not mentioned until after you are contracted and invested with your time and money. It’s a hand in your pocket. It can be hard to remove that hand. She was not really happy to know that my work has been professionally edited, both for copy and for development of story, since I said I’d already paid for those services and would not pay yet another editor for needless editing. Guess I was scoring high on her noncooperation meter. I’m still stupid, but not even close to idiocy. Stay tuned.

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5 thoughts on “The Stew

    1. You were, and are always so encouraging. I am amazed and stunned by who the sharks are. Rejections are easy. Heh. A child growing up so practiced at that is not easily bitten. It is the blocking to even get in with a simple query, all the while encouraged to query, is the stumper. But I believe, in the end, my book would be handled badly by those.

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      1. Because I’ve always pretty much been an indie publisher, I don’t have much personal experience with these waters you’ve entered. But I think those who beckon you with one hand and slap with the other are themselves struggling to stay afloat in the ever-changing market–they have to cast a very wide net and squeeze anybody who comes close enough to grab. Those people had something to sell you–well, not you, but another less savvy writer.

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  1. Oh, I sense that truth. These are really desperate people. Risk is their ball game and they can hardly keep their game afloat. Hunkering down and hoping to survive is the cave they are in, so the very risk they have managed well in the past is unaffordable. Taking on a new and unknown writer, a risk that brought with it the hope and possibility of future gains, is way far out on the limb now, and I must tell you, this business, which has played the shut-out game way too long, now are stuck with it,, along with new writers, The economy is brutal for everyone, it affects everything and agents and publishers are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. By the numbers, they have laid the groundwork for this bad result, so we get hurt right along with them. The general gist of the basically kind rejections is that they really need a slam dunk, gold lined guaranteed author to bring them back to financial salvation. These are the questions: who do you know? What have you written? Have you been on Oprah? Do you know important people? That is pretty pathetic but also rings my sympathy bell loudly. A business that for so long held themselves quite exclusive, now have to compete with Amazon, where authors can place their book into the ether, without them. Bummer! My answer to them? Keep digging. It ain’t pretty!

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