Insiders Guides to ...extracting cash from your wallet

Dear Miss Snark,

Among the many books on writing that I purchase, I did buy -- get this monster title:

"Author 101: Bestselling Secrets From Top Agents: The Insider's Guide to What Agents and Publishers Look For by Rick Frishman, Robyn Freedman Spizman, Robyn Spizman, With Mark Steisel"

on a whim. It looked like a fluff book but it did have some interesting points inside when I took it off the bookshelf at B.

I found a quote to the effect of the then writer/now agent who submitted her first manuscript via an offer from a Hawaii's writing group. A writer would send a manuscript to this group for a $50 or so fee and supposedly within a few months, they will send you responses from agents. I dropped the book, nearly choking with laughter. This lady highly recommended it but it sounded like a lot of those scams out there.

Have you read about this and have you ever heard of a legit writing group who does this sort of service? Have you ever read any ms from such a service? I was just curious, because the woman sounded completely serious. The only reason I bring it up is because she had a number of credits to her name. (Not sure if that's a big deal or not.)Have you read that book? Do you have a recommended reading list for fiction writers?

Love the blog. Thanks!

Let's start with the obvious point, but one that may not be obvious to the average writer and buyer of this book. Rick Frishman is a nice guy, and I like him a lot, and I've spent some memorable time chatting with him in his office here in NYC but Rick is not an agent, and he's not a publisher, and he's not even a writer. Rick is the head of Planned Television Arts. Rick is a publicist. Robyn Spizman is not an agent. She's a professional speaker. I don't know who Mark Steise is but my guess is he's the hired gun writer.

These guys have an Author 101 series from Adams Media, a very reputable publisher in Massachusetts. I've worked with them for years.

Here's the thing. The book's underlying premise is there are tips and tricks available ONLY IN THIS BOOK that will help you get published. So, the authors (who serve more like editors here, compiling info) look for all the fun, cute, success stories they can find, and collect them. They hope you will think "if it worked for Felix Buttonweazer here, it will work for me." That is a fundamental failure of logic, but no one said sales appeal was about logic.

Paying someone to critique your work isn't stupid. Paying someone you don't know just cause they say they can get your work critiqued by "an agent" is. On the other hand, being smart only works about 80% of the time. The other 20% is blind stupid luck. Somedays it's better to be lucky than smart.

Writing books are like diet books. They promise to make you better faster stronger smarter leaner and hot spit if you buy the book and follow their advice.

They leave out the fact that unlike diets, success is not a given if you follow the directions. Some of you, and most beloved Snarklings I mean YOU, some of you will not ever be published writers. That doesn't mean you shouldn't write. It doesn't mean you should give up. What it means is this is a business, and there are factors at work far beyond your control. No book can tell how you to write the one book that appears in the right editor's or agent's hands at just the right time.

Advice books, like advice blogs, can keep you from fucking up your chance if you get to an agent, and how to avoid being bilked by agents, and how to get out of your own way in the quest for an agent ... but we cannot give you the formula for being published. There isn't one. That's why everyone wants one, and why these books sell. Sales appeal isn't about logic, it's about assuaging fear. These books like you to think that if you just follow the rules, know the hidden secret, listen to what they say, you can be a sucess. That's just not true.

Absent them advising you to forgo an SASE; to send a full manuscript unsolicited; and/or to threaten Miss Snark with those nekkid pics you took from the spy cam on her roof, their advice is probably just as good as the next guy's.

There's nothing I can say that will dissuade you from buying those books. Some of the more unusual suggestions may in fact have worked for the people who tell the stories. Don't think they will work for you cause they worked for someone else.

What those books CAN do for you: they can help you start thinking of more imaginative ways to present your work. They can motivate you to keep going by telling you success stories. They can be fun to read cause they're about people in the industry you want to be part of too.

Think of them less as books of advice, and more like spiffy pep talks, and the money is probably well spent.

And sure, I've heard of a lot of places that will critique your writing for you. There's mention of at least one several posts down on the blog. The comments trail on those posts reference a lot of other places to find critiques. Whether any of those places will help you is absolutely beyond my ability to answer.


M. G. Tarquini said...

I think it's the Maui Writer's Conference that is being mentioned in that book. They have an offer - fifty bucks and they'll show the pages to a bunch of agents, one may be interested, not sure of the details, but they're on the website.

Desperate Writer said...

Hmm, I wonder if this author IS talking to the poster about the Maui Writer's conference, like M.G. says. The submission is more like a huge contest, and that's what the fee would be for, entereing the contest. Maybe, if this is the case, the person who received an offer was read by someone judging the contest, and got lucky. :)


Anonymous said...

She may be referring to Maui's Writers Conference's service called Manuscript Marketplace. For a fee, a partial (perhaps it was just a synopsis) of your manuscript was read by several agents (I believe you could choose from a list), who may or may not ask for the full. I was considering it some time ago but realized it was cheaper to query the old-fashioned way. The website now shows the Marketplace has been discontinued until further notice.

Alphabeter said...

How about pictures of Killer Yapp in the gin pail WITHOUT his tam on?

Oh heck, just send me $50 and I'll be happy to shotgun a proposal to publishers, provided you pay the additional copying and postage and handling fees up front of course!

I'm not bad, I just scam that way!

Justin R. Buchbinder said...

I work with Rick Frishman on a daily basis, he's one of my clients - small world!

bonniers said...

I know a writer who did get several requests for full manuscripts through the Manuscript Marketplace. Although in the end none of the contacts panned out, the responses were from legitimate agents who were seriously interested in her work.