9.25.2005

Nitwit phrase of the day: "I'm here to make your job easier".

A Snarkling who is lollygagging about the internet discovers:


I'd like to get your snarky opinion on the newest writer showcase Web site, Bookner


I ankled over to give the site a look. My first question when anyone sets up something like this, is how they intend to make, or at least not lose, money. Blogger is free, and the amount of bandwidth is minimal for each blog, but a site like that with archives of text and lots of traffic is going to get spendy. I am VERY suspicious of altruism as a business model. I notice he says access is free "now" for literary agents which implies it might not always be that way. I guarantee I will never ever pay money to surf a site with writers' work on it. I don't need to. I’ve got manuscripts coming out my ears as it is.

Which brings me to reading his cris de couer:

RESURRECTING THE WRITER


So you'd expect literary agents to be hungry for new manuscripts, right? You'd expect them to sit at their desks, drumming their fingers in anticipation of the mail carrier's arrival.(blah blah in the same vein).

Of course, this is not the way things are. Literary agents are not keen on writers sending them manuscripts. In fact, literary agents do their utmost to dissuade writers from sending them manuscripts. They actually make writers ask for permission to send them stuff! And even then, many will not accept a whole manuscript - perhaps just the first three chapters. Most literary agents, when they go to bed at night, dream of strangling the mail carrier who keeps delivering unsolicited manuscripts.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but this is strange. This is like a record company asking musicians to, please, not send them any demo tapes. And it is like judging a musician's ability by listening only to the first 60 seconds of a song. If literary agents were A+R executives, they'd definitely be out of a job.


Ok Mr. Bookner, you're wrong. So wrong it's actually laugh out loud funny cause that's EXACTLY how A&R guys listen to music!

I'm not sure what planet this well intentioned but severely misinformed guy is on but I've been IN music meetings, and been to Film Music Group panel presentations and listened to music supervisors talk about how they pick music.

In addition, I also sell music books and work with composers and musicians. You're lucky to get 60 seconds of attention.

What this guy is missing is what I've been talking about with this blog. It's not hard to get the attention of a literary agent, or an A&R guy if you've got the goods. MOSTLY the stuff that gets rejected is crap. Agents and A&R guys can look at ten pages, or 60 seconds and know if they want to hear more.

Where Mr. Bookner here is going astray is in thinking that agents give EVERYONE only sixty seconds or ten pages. That's not the case. IF you've got the goods, IF your work is good, A&R guys listen further and agents read more, or ask for more. It's akin to making the second round of the playoffs. If you don't make the second round, it's not cause they didn't have enough arena space or time, it's cause you didn't win the first round.

The literary agent system of gate keeping to publishing isn't broken. Good writers get published all the time. NEW writers get published all the time. The people who are in dire straits right now are the folks with two or three or more books under their belt who haven't sold in big enough numbers to keep a publisher offering contracts.

Agents and editors are actively looking for good work. If you write well, you'll get attention. The problem is people don't know if they're writing publishable stuff. Sending material in for other, unpublished, writers to judge is akin to the blind leading the blind.

Think about it. How many of you sent in postings when we did the Crapometer here and thought you'd written something pretty good and then had me rip it to shreds in a whirlwind of brutality? And...something can be a perfectly fine piece of writing and not be publishable.

I think this guy is one of those well intentioned folks who knows a little bit about a big industry and less about a bigger industry.

The only positive thing is he's not trying to charge you any money. That gets him out of the scum bucket and into the "just trying to be helpful" nitwit zone.

I've always reserved the most scorn for scum buckets trying to separate you from your money, but it occurs to me that this guy is separating you from an even more precious commodity: your time. If you post your work, I think you end up obliged to read other people's manuscripts and critique them. For a writer, time is almost more precious than money. I think you'd want to give careful consideration to where you spend it.

If you want to post stuff here, have at it.

I think it's a total waste of time.

23 comments:

The Gambino Crime Family said...

On the other hand, this approach sometimes does work with screenplays on Zoetrope. Not that I believe at all that you'll sell a book off this site but who knows? You might get some valuable feedback - which saves you the emotional agro of bothering friends and families for their opinions.

la la la I can't hear you said...

You make a great point about the value of a writer's time.

I think one of the big problems with that site is that you'd be getting your manuscript "reviewed" by other writers who also were having the same trouble being published that you were. (Otherwise why would they be there?) So what is the point in getting reviewed by people whose work was also not making it out in the marketplace?

Would agents really care what other rejected writers think of a manuscript?

I do think it is important to get feedback on work, if that is coming from other writers and not editors or agents, then it should come from people whose work is better than your own.

The Gambino Crime Family said...

You're right. With holding down a full-time job and working a couple of hours a day, it would be tough to take the time out to review someone else's manuscript.

Still, if you read regularly - if you love to read - I don't think you have to be a good writer to give feedback on someone else's work. Even if it's simply "this part worked for me, that one didn't," that's valuable. Or - "I wouldn't buy this book after reading the first chapter."

Then again, it really depends on the reviews are set up on Bookner, so who knows?

Miss Snark said...

Lisa asked: Would agents really care what other rejected writers think of a manuscript?

Miss Snark answers: no.

Mr Gambino (I pray to god he's writing crime FICTION) says "I don't think you have to be a good writer to give feedback...".

Miss Snark says: true dat. But the question here is not just "is this good" but "is this publishable". For that question, you really do need someone who knows the market and the industry.

The Gambino Crime Family said...

Sigh. You're right. It's just that the site struck a deep chord with me, especially the part about "not having to be a salesman." I'm the type who'd rather have strangers show up on my doorstep out of the blue one day with a briefcase full of money. Oh well. Dare to dream...

Miss Snark said...

That's exactly how con artists operate. They appeal to that sense of how you want things to be; the everlasting and fervent secret hope that in fact someone WILL show up on your doorstep with a bag full of money. They write television shows and country western songs about it.

Miss Snark, purveyor of cold hard pragmatism, may not be fodder for country western songs or sitcoms...but she's ok with that.

E. Dashwood said...

I don't know if you're still looking at this thread, Miss Snark. Isn't there a potential rights issue if a work appears on this site? Doesn't that make it already published?

Miss Snark said...

My understanding is that the work is available only to registered writers in the group. That makes it more a critique group ... not "publication".

As long as you don't surrender your control of rights to this website (AND they'll take your work OFF the site upon demand) you should be ok.

occasional_anonymous said...

Bookner isn't offering feedback or critiques. It's offering a single evaluation: is this ms saleable? Unfortunately, it's offering it from people who don't and can't know.

It's true that anyone can make a personal assessment: would I pay money for this book? If Bookner were able to offer the opinions of a large cross-section of the reading public, that might--might--have some value in terms of market testing. But it's not going to be able to do that. Its self-selected sample of aspiring writers is going to be unrepresentative.

Would I buy a copy of Da Vinci Code? No freaking way! Did it sell like heated socks on an ice floe? Well, y'all know the answer to that...

Miss Snark said...

Has anyone actually signed up for Bookner? I'd love to see what the actual process is.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

I was sent that link by a well-intended friend, but I had second thoughts after reading the whole deal. They are very vague about who is actually involved in the site. I was afraid of having my work stolen, not that I know it's any good....Speaking of that...Miss Snark, purveyor of cold hard pragmatism; is there a way I could get Your Snarkness to give an opinion as to my publishable qualities? I've got a thick skin and I want to learn.

Miss Snark said...

Bonnie, keep your eye peeled for the Return of the Snarkometer, wherein people submit first pages and I offer comments. It's all done on the blog of course so that everyone can see what works and doesn't. If you check the archives, we did 57 of them around the end of August. Needless to say, it's going to be awhile before I do it again.

jay said...

Dear Ms Snark, thank you for mentioning Bookner. Despite the negative slant of your review, I am still grateful because at this juncture, any publicity translates into awareness, and that is fantastically good. In fact, we got 12 new members over the last 24-hour period (which is how I discovered this post) bringing us closer yet to our goal. So I won't be rebutting any of the points you make. I would like to point out, however, that it's kind of interesting how it tends to be the people in the publishing industry who do not bother to do more than casually glance at our website before latching on to one comment and going off on a diatribe. I suppose you become that way, over the years, if you have a never-ending stream of manuscripts to review and no system to help you cut down the review time. It's kind of sad, really.

Miss Snark said...

That funny snorting sound you hear when you tip your head to the side? That's me, laughing.

Deran Ludd said...

Mercy, mercy. Miss Snark, not only are you providing a great service (which you obviously enjoy doing), but you have a wit sharper than the bite on that bathtub gin I've been brewing.

That loud thudding sound you heard, that startled the cat, was me falling out of my chair laughing.

occasional_anonymous said...

Despite being tainted by my association with the fringes of the industry, I read a lot of the site. I found its concept fundamentally flawed.

Still, it's way too much trouble to rebut any, you know, actual arguments.

Shall I join as Miss Snark's devoted spy? I probably have some ramblings I wouldn't miss.

archy said...

From what I've seen so far of Bookner, the biggest issue it faces is an aggressive public face. On more than one site I've seen Mr Gonzales dismiss those critical of his concept, in particular the publishing professionals who will need to be involved if Bookner is to succeed. Even if every writer in the world registers, it won't mean much if all the editors and agents have already been driven away.

Miss Snark said...

Archy, you've hit the nail exactly on the head. More on this in a new post!
Does the m stand for Mehitabel? (if you don't get the joke...it IS a joke...I probably spelled Mehitabel wrong).

archy said...

it sure does
though somehow
that last comment
used the shift key
i must have had help

jay said...

Hey, are you guys insane? Don't complain about an aggressive response if you start the discussion with a patently hostile and viciously critical review. Why would I be nice to someone who starts out by dissing my baby? Sheesh!

Mac said...

As Gambino mentioned, a **similar** approach has been very successful with Zoetrope. The difference is that Zoetrope is very clear on what it is - a critique community and nothing else.

I'm a little curious what Miss Snark thinks about rank amateurs peer reviewing each other.

Personally, at my very low level of competence, I've found it invaluable. It's amazing how often things that are so clear in my own mind never make it to the page.

Bizarrely, I've found that getting a critique of a SHORT section much more useful than a critique of an entire manuscript. Usually because any problem that people find in my first 10 pages get blindly repeated in the next 100...

Mac
(PS: I've never figured out the business model of Zoetrope. It must take a bit of cash to keep running...)

W. S. Cross said...

Good writers DO get published, but that doesn't mean the system isn't in need of improvement. The fact that agents and editors make a living while many of their clients don't is a troubling reality. Whether my novel gets published has no economic impact on my life, and despite Dr. Johnson, I don't write for money.

It's not just the unagented and unpublished who are dissatisfied with the current system. Look at the demographics of the publishing industry and how stagnant much of its sales are. I don't pretend to have the answers, but I find your argument unpersuasive. You are free to make flip comments about that, and how you're a working agent, and what do I know. But even a cat can look at a queen.

Anonymous said...

Snarkey Dear;

While we're waiting with bated breath for the return of the Snarkometer, and checking out Zoetrope, can you suggest any other sites/venues/pervues/prevues/postvues where we can get some professional- or near-professional-quality eyes on our work? I have found local writer's groups to be a waste of time, but would happily trade reads with anyone with SOME kinda creds.

Thanx!
Jonathon