Midnight Show: The Boom Lowered…Again
[Warning: there are about 1,700 words in this post. Roughly 450 of them are probably f-bombs.]
So yesterday I got my full rejected with this comment:
Sorry to have taken so long to get back to you. In the long run, I’m afraid I’m going to have to pass on A Hero’s Journey. You are a wonderful writer, but the story just went a bit too far out for me. This is a very subjective business and you need an agent who falls in love with your characters. I wish you the very best in finding a home for this.
I wasn’t all that angry yet. Mostly still numb about it. Plus I naively thought, well if it’s just some “far out” stuff that’s the problem, then maybe I could change it. A few ideas did occur to me later that afternoon on how to do it. So I asked if I changed that stuff if I could resubmit the piece. And I got this response:
Probably not, but you write so beautifully that if you ever write something in a different genre that doesn’t go quite so far over the edge, I’d be happy to see it.
OK, now the anger is kicking in. So I need to rant about it. Better to get it out of the way now than in the car while driving across the state on Monday. That way I’m not so enraged and wind up with a speeding ticket or running someone off the road from road rage. Plus maybe if I do it now I can get my head around doing some more writing on Saturday.
Anyway, I bolded the “falling in love” part because that’s one of those excuses that always bugs me. I always think, “I’m not asking you to marry the fucking character. Just make a few phone calls to some fucking editors.” But what Mr. Vogler said in his comment on Thursday made sense too:
But agents are different: ultimately they have to be able to defend every decision you’ve made about these characters, because mainstream publishers want to make your book accessible to the widest possible audience, and are therefore looking for any tiny excuse to pass on your work.
I get that it’s a business. When the agent goes to her bosses and to the editors and stuff it can’t be, “Hey, here’s a neat story.” No, especially today when all the major publishers are owned by international conglomerates, there’s probably all sorts of numbers and gobbledygook about how this will play with young women or old women or young men or old men or whatever other demographics.
So I’m not even sure “love” is the right word for it. If they were being honest they would probably say, “Your character doesn’t appeal to our marketing demographics.” Which is a bunch of bullshit.
Look, agents, editors and all them want to act like they know what’s going on, but the famous Hollywood saying of “Nobody knows nothing” is still true. Take a gander at this blog entry by Steven LaBree, which lists a few books rejected over 15 times, including Gone With the Wind and Carrie. Probably some marketing experts thought those wouldn’t play with audiences either, only to feel as stupid as the record companies who turned down the Beatles.
As the agents themselves are so quick to point out, it is a subjective business. You can’t say with authority that this won’t work because the character isn’t a vampire or because the character isn’t blond or isn’t Christian or whatever fucking idiotic reasons they come up with. YOU DON’T FUCKING KNOW! Hell, I don’t fucking know either. The public doesn’t even know what they want. Really, go out and ask people what they want to read and those who don’t say I ain’t readin no books! probably wouldn’t have one fucking clue what they want. They only know after they see it–or more likely after someone tells them to like something. All your pseudoscience, all your mental alchemy, all your gut feelings, all your women’s intuition don’t mean a hill of beans because you don’t fucking KNOW anything!
To echo my response to Mr. Vogler’s comment, it’s hard not to be frustrated with that “fall in love” business. I really do want to scream at her, “What part do you object to? That she’s 19? That she has red hair? That she has blue eyes? That she’s smart? That she has a PhD in Geology? That she works at a museum? That she’s tall? That she’s skinny? That her feet are too big? That her parents didn’t take her to church? That she’s nice? That she’s shy? That she doesn’t drink or smoke or eat fatty foods? That she exercises daily? That she likes opera?” I could go on for hours here and at the end I would scream, “Whichever it is, you tell me and I’ll fucking change it!”
But no, you can’t tell me. It’s just some vague notion. Shrug your shoulders and wave your hand around and say it just one of those things, you know? Which is always a lot of shit. When a girlfriend (or boyfriend) dumps you, they know why they’re doing it. When a company fires you, they know why they’re doing it. They just want to spare your feelings so that you won’t go psychotic on their asses.
But the stupid cliches don’t help! At least not in my case. The cliches frustrate me even more because I want concrete problems. I want things I can fix! I can’t fix a vague fucking notion! So, no, please tell me which fucking characteristics I can plug in there to match up to your market demographics and I’ll be real fucking happy to make the changes and get it back to you. Except you’ve got 100 more email queries in your Inbox, so who has time to fix my problems? Well, I have all the fucking time in the world but I’m not a fucking literary agent. Now if I were fucking a literary agent, then it might go better for me…
Now then, part two. The part that bothered me about the second email was the idea that if I write something in another genre. Now wait a fucking minute here! Why the fuck did you ask me to go to the trouble of sending in a full and writing a two-page fucking synopsis if that’s not even the fucking genre you wanted? What, it was all a fucking lark? Gee, maybe I’ll request a sci-fi story (or would you call it urban fantasy? Whatever.) and see what that’s like!
This isn’t like picking a fucking restaurant. You don’t just decide, “I think I’ll try romance today.” Then the next day, “Some mystery really sounds good.” How long have you been in this fucking business? You should have known from the fucking query letter that it wasn’t a genre you wanted to read, you bloody twit. Why the hell did you make me waste hours trying to write a fucking synopsis and then get my hopes up for eight fucking weeks waiting to get a fucking response to it? Was this some kind of fucking game? Was it all a fucking joke to you? A little late for a fucking April Fool’s joke, don’t you think?
That’s one of those times I read the email and think, “What. The. Fuck?!!!”
You know what would be more helpful there would be to say, “The whole superhero thing is played out. Write something about sparkly vampires and get back to me.” Then I would (eventually) shrug my shoulders and say, “OK, you want sparkly vampires, I’ll give you sparkly fucking vampires fucking whiny chicks.”
If I weren’t so lazy I’d go to YouTube and search for the “Family Guy” clip of Peter’s “Grind My Gears” commentary where he says to Lindsey Lohan, “You’re up there jumping around in your little outfits and I’m down here thinking, What am I supposed to do? WHAT DO YOU WANT?” OK, that’s a little rough, but maybe you get the idea. Just tell me what the fuck you do want and maybe I can provide it. Why don’t you motherfuckers put that right in your submission guidelines on your website and on QueryTracker and just be up front in saying, “We only want ‘Twilight’ ripoffs right now.” Or “Hunger Games” ripoffs or whatever the in thing is among people who usually don’t read anything. Don’t make me waste another fucking year writing a fucking story you aren’t going to buy into because it’s not really your thing.
But again, they probably don’t know what the fuck they want anymore than Jane Blow on the street. All they know is what they DON’T want. Which makes it this absurd fucking guessing game. Guessing games fucking suck. I’m not an old man by any means (not even a middle-aged man yet) but it feels like I’ve been on this fucking carousel forever. I think I need to get off and go throw up for a while.
Anyway, to sum it up, I wish they could just be honest and open with us. All these bullshit cliches only get me more annoyed instead of softening the blow. Mean what you say and say what you mean. And don’t fuck with me by requesting a full of a story when you aren’t interested in that genre. Maybe that was just a lark to you but it was my fucking life and I do not appreciate it.
So, in summary: Dear agent, Fuck You.
I don’t know at what point this post went from an actually angry rant to a semi-comic exercise in trying to use the f-word as much as possible. Venting does feel good. Who needs a shrink when you can rant on your blog, right Laura Diamond?
So that’s it. I’ll be off on vacation then. Enjoy three short stories in my absence. Though since I won’t be around to comment on people’s blogs I doubt anyone will stop by to read them. Still, it beats virtual tumbleweeds.