Monday, March 17, 2014

Carr Driven Off Cliff, Film at 11.

     It never ceases to amaze me how stupid literary agents are. Never.
     Here are people who fail literally 90-95% of the time to find a home for the adult fiction they choose to represent and literally 90% of the shit that acquisitions editors buy from these idiots lose money. Yet, despite the fact that the publishing industry is in such a highly volatile state, with technological and market trends turning on a dime, the traditional business model remains stagnant, with editors insisting on buying unsalable work from agents who by and large display the most horrible judgment in the business world.
      I fault both agents and editors. I fault agents because they represent only the properties that subjectively tickle their fancy, people who are so arch and arrogant they think that whatever titillates them will titillate the rest of the book-buying public. There are agents that refuse to even read much less rep books that feature children in peril, which is literally every book written by Andrew Vachss and Jonathan Kellerman and about every other book written by Stephen King or John Grisham.
     Yeah, I can see those birds getting a form letter from a struggling agency.
     Dear Mr. King:
     While your novel, The Shining, has its merits, we feel your book is not a good fit for our agency in account of our longstanding policy not to represent novels where children are endangered. We also feel the subject matter is too controversial for an adaptation into a movie, say one directed by Stanley Kubrick. But we wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors, blah blah blah...
     Such a morbidly high failure rate in the actual business world would demand, at least, a major paradigm shift and a retooling of business models. At worst, heads would literally roll in the cubicle farms.
     I fault editors on a variety of fronts, not the least of which is the collusive agreement they'd struck with literary agencies a generation ago because they decided one by one they didn't feel like doing their jobs, anymore. They'd decided that wading through the slush pile and personally dealing with icky authors was beneath them so they farmed that job out to literary agencies. These parasites, in turn, were only too happy to assume that burden in return for assurances that no one would get published anymore without an agent.
     Then something sinister began happening about ten years or more ago.
     Forgetting that collusive agreement struck by them or their predecessors, literary agencies began slamming their doors to the unpublished and unrepresented one by one. The only semblance of sanity in the collusive agreement struck behind our backs was that there was to remain an outlet for our work, that we would still have a place to go to while shopping around our properties.
     And their attitude is, If you don't have a connection or someone who's willing to refer you, fuck off and die. Try another agency.
     The trouble is, the agencies that are still taking unsolicited submissions are shrinking faster than male genitalia during a dip in the Bering Strait. But that's not their problem, they all think.
     I also fault acquisitions editors for continuing this dysfunctional business model despite the fact it plainly isn't working. As publishing is a $24 billion a year business and certain fat cat executives at literary agencies and publishing houses still make tons of pelf, who cares that 90% of our products are losers?
     Anxiously circling the moats are guys like me, people who aren't connected and don't have the financial wherewithall to fly to one annual book fair or another to meet the agents who could personally extend that invitation.
     What you see in the lead image is the professionally done cover I'd commissioned for the epic thriller I'd been writing all last year, Tatterdemalion. The cover cost me $115 but I think it was money well-spent. It was more or less what I'd originally envisioned and I'd worked very closely with the artist to ensure what was in my head would translate to paper and film.
     If anyone were to go to Amazon or Goodreads and parse the reviews for Caleb Carr's The Alienist or The Angel of Darkness, one will note a theme of exasperation running throughout: A frustration on the part of readers who love period mysteries over Carr beginning, but never finishing, a third Alienist book. Understandably, these frustrated readers seek out the next best thing in other authors of historical thrillers whether it be Lyndsay Faye, Alex Grecian, Troy Soos, Stephen Saylor or Anne Perry.
     But, while they are all excellent novelists who do their job very well, none of them are Caleb Carr and none of them have written an epic of the quality and length of Carr's Alienist duology.
     And if literary agents would put aside their solipsistic parameters and egos long enough to read these frustrated reviewers looking for the next Alienist, they'd see there's a ready-made demand for an epic mystery taking place in the 19th century featuring vivid characters in an ensemble environment that's somewhat reminiscent of Carr's classics.
     But they don't. Because literary agents are among the stupidest carbon-based life forms on the planet earth, if not the galaxy. And editors are not too far behind by insisting you need one of these self-centered parasites before getting a publishing contract.
     All day yesterday, I'd begun sending out in earnest over two dozen queries to over two dozen literary agencies. Using the limited database at Poets and Writers, I'd more closely targeted literary agents than ever before, concentrating on those that prefer and focus on historical novels. At one point last night, I'd gotten a form rejection from a flunky of one agent who had the nerve to start his boilerplate with, "After much consideration..."
     "Much consideration"? How much consideration could anyone have given it considering I'd sent the fucking query off not six hours ago?
     It ought to be mentioned that in keeping with agents' insistence on having their egos stroked, I personalized each and every query, even quoting them off their websites when applicable, had long ago ensured my spelling, grammar and punctuation were perfect, mentioned specific numbers regarding my online presence, provided a good synopsis and sent along high quality sample chapters, obeying submission guidelines to the letter. And, as is SOP when sending out queries, I'd even told these idiots what books similar to mine had been successfully published, mentioning Caleb Carr's duology.
     Because, you know, everyone wants to be the first to do something second.
     Earlier this morning, I'd read an article linked to on Twitter about the changing role of literary agents in the publishing marketplace. The owner of the blog, an agented author, barely gave lip service to the fact that sometimes, every once in a while, believe it or not (hold your hats), literary agents make mistakes. The author of the article and the agent who was interviewed, seemed all too tickled pink that there's some irrational insistence on, as with war profiteers and banksters, keeping agents on the playing field no matter what changes may take place in the business and no matter how consistently morbidly high their failure rate.
     The idea should be to get away from using agents and making them the unnecessary evils they are, to start up a viable business model that doesn't start with an agent. If the last business model, that of publishers buying properties from literary agencies was sustainable, then, while self-publishing technology would still have appeared, it wouldn't be the powerhouse it is today. As the article I'd mentioned stated, some people think self publishing will account for up to 75% of all books in the next six years.
     Personally and professionally, I wish that all literary agents would go the way of Harriet Wasserman. But that won't happen until more talented indie writers like me stop kowtowing to these morons, grow a set and start raging against the machine that includes arch, arrogant and incompetent boobs like literary agents who were largely unnecessary and who sold not one classic book until the mid 20th century.
     Virtually every turkey bought from these people since then (and we're talking literally tens of millions of them), were, however, sold by agents.


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