[Submitted to BookAngst 101 by an Anoymous Reader/Writer, via email, with the subject head "AN UNPUBLISHED WRITER'S RANT":]Admit it... you’ve stopped listening already!
You saw “unpublished writer” and your eyes glazed over and you quickly clicked over to Bookslut before defiling yourself with the anxious whining of a new writer.
Therein lies the rub... I can’t get your attention without being published, and I can’t get published without your attention. For the unpublished writers amongst us who are sans MFA, short on contacts, and long on aspirations, the obstacles to a publishing career are daunting. The work's not good enough... so write better... but the only valuable feedback is locked behind those doors marked “only Pros need apply.” I get no feedback from a form letter saying, “this material isn’t right for us.” Sure, it’s easy to write another book, but will it be better? Oh sure, I’ve taken writing classes from nobodies, and I’ve been told I can write. So can a million others, apparently, as well as the Shakespeare-typing-chimpanzees.
How do you pluck that one possible out of a big stack of impossible? Is it possible that you’ve made your mind up before you’ve even resigned yourself to the icky chore of dispensing your slushpile?
I’m just sayin’.
To which Max responds:Sorry, but this is self-pitying crap. Yes, you're right: I did shy away from your subject line--because (even before there was a Mad Max Perkins) I get dozens of unsolicited emails a day from writers wanting me to read their masterpieces. I recognize you're just trying to get through to somebody--but this ain't the way to do it. And it's not because you don't have an MFA or took "classes from nobodies": trust me on this, I delete them all without prejudice. [And--personally?--I'll be much less inclined to give you a open-hearted read if you've got an MFA than if you don't. Not a big fan of the production-line industry responsible for so many More Fucking Artistes...]
If you're not getting published, it sure ain't because you're not part of the "In Crowd." This conspiracy-theory gobblety-gook is a favored excuse for people who haven't got the talent or haven't got the drive, or both. The world is lousy with literary agents; and literary agents only get paid when they make a sale; so they're a competitive and fast-acting group. From my perspective, there are basically two reasons why a writer doesn't have an agent: either the writing's not quite good enough, or the writer hasn't applied himself seriously--doggedly--to finding one.
Whether or not publishers should have a responsibility to read material submitted to "Dear Slushpile," the reality is that most no longer accept unsolicited manuscripts. If you think this reflects the hard-heartedness of today's market place, you're right: publishers are enormously understaffed relative to yesteryear, which means that there are far fewer sets of eyes per submission than used to be the case... Another reason why your initial focus should be on getting your work to agents: they might actually read it.
This week's inspiring story about a writer discovered on the slush pile strikes me as the exception that proves the rule--and my guess is that his/her career began perhaps two decades ago.
“Only Pros need apply”...I get no feedback from a form letter saying, “this material isn’t right for us.”First of all, damn right: pros ONLY, please! The business of writing, and of publishing the work of serious and talented writers, is, indeed, a matter of PROFESSION in the profoundest sense. If you write as a hobby, that's wonderful for you--but I have no place in that experience, and it's naive of you to expect me to be reassuring if your work fails to engage me. My professional responsibility is to find writers and books that I feel have literary and commercial merit (and it's not coincidence that there's often a strong corrolation between the seriousness and professionalism with which writers approach their craft and the extent to which I'm likely to be impressed). I have neither time or motivation to engage in feel-good correspondence for its own sake.
Finally: I accept the charge that this is a low blow, an easy shot--but, to my mind, anybody who says "it's easy to write another book" probably isn't putting nearly enough time and energy--enough professionalism--into the work in the first place.
[Tomorrow: FINE WHINE? OR RANT? YOU BE THE JUDGE]
"Writing is considered a profession, and I don't think it is a profession. I think that everyone who does not need to be a writer, who thinks he can do something else, ought to do something else. Writing is not a profession but a vocation of unhappiness. I don't think an artist can ever be happy."
PRACTICAL MARKETING [Courtesy Zornhau, 2005]
"They should put the 1st couple of pages up in subway adverts. Having read them several times, you'd feel compelled to try the book - if it was any good."
PLATE OF SHRIMP [Courtesy Alex Cox’s REPO MAN, circa 1984]
"A lot of people don't realize what's really going on. They view life as a bunch of unconnected incidences and things. They don't realize that there's this like lattice of coincidence that lays on top of everything. I'll give you an example, show you what I mean. Suppose you're thinking about a plate of shrimp. Suddenly somebody will say like "plate" or "shrimp" or "plate of shrimp" out of the blue, no explanation. No point in looking for one either. It's all part of a cosmic unconsciousness."
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- ▼ May (10)