The comments column on my post on the new website Bookner coughed up some interesting comments, including this, from Mr. Bookner himself.
-1-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. -2-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 -3-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 -4-help you cut down the review time. It's kind of sad, really.
Comments are keyed to the text above (numbers inserted by me)
1. Well, we all know how much Miss Snark loves being called Ms. And this dovetails so nicely with his later assertion that I didn't read his site very carefully. Perhaps he thinks people don't read his site carefully if they disagree with him. News flash: it's entirely possible to read the website with a reasonable degree of care and still disagree with what is said. This is akin to those patronizing politicos who say "we have to educate the voting public to understand our issues". In fact what they need to do is persuade the voting public of their position. We understand Bookner just fine, we're just not convinced.
2. "Won't be rebutting any of the points you make". My fundamental point was you don't understand the publishing business nor do you understand how agencies work. For a guy who thinks he's going to offer major reforms to that process, the idea that you don't understand it to start with is something I'd want to challenge, were I you.
3. "People in the publishing industry". What's hilarious about this is that WE are his target market! He wants agents and editors and publishers to use the website to find clients. If "people in the publishing industry" think his product is whack, it bodes ill for actually like...using it! And what's more, agents are the folks he thinks are going to PAY for this at some point in the future.
4. "help you cut down on review time". When I need help Mr. Bookner, I'll ask. As far as I can tell, literary agents are not asking for help reviewing their incoming queries. I've never had a single conversation with any agent about what needs to change in the current method of handling queries. The only thing approaching this topic, is discussion of e-queries.
Mr. Bookner has made a classic marketing mistake. He's listened to WRITERS talk about what they perceive as weaknesses in the system, not agents. And my guess is he's listened to writers forums online that are filled with people who can't get representation and can't figure out why.
If Mr. Bookner wants to perform a needed service that really would benefit agents AND writers, and improve the publishing industry in general, he'd run the Crapometer full time.
The online anonymity affords the opportunity to speak more freely. If he ran the system, he could also deal with the fall out: the nasty ass emails that come back from people who think you're full of crap cause you don't like their work.
People who can't get published, or get an offer of representation, and are only getting "sorry not right for us" must be frustrated as hell. Even if they paid a dollar a page for a review from an anonymous (and unpaid) agent, they might get an idea of what is holding them back. He could pay for the site, he could even pay for some lessons from Dale Carnegie. Agents would probably be GLAD to do this for free: the problem we face is not the system, but the lack of quality.
Unasked for advice is about as welcome as three day old fish, but what the hell.