Friday, November 13, 2009

Lit Agents Acting Like Big Sister

They aren't exactly like Big Brother, more like Big Sister.

Those of you who have a big sis, know that as you grew up, getting you into trouble was very easy, guys, wasn't it?

They get you going, then start their tears flowing, and before you know it you were screwed; punished, grounded, for your beastly, retaliatory behavior.

I have been taking shots at some of these lit agents through their blog sites recently because it pleases me to do so. They are not cursing shots, not profane; they are simply shots, for the fact that many of them are simply ruining book publishing in my honest opinion, and I am not particularly happy about it.

Of the sanctimonious people who serve relatively little purpose on this earth, other than we writers, I have to think literary agents are some of the most sanctimonious and self-satisfied, especially in light of an industry that is on the brink of death. Self congratulatory like HMS Titanic Captain Smith; right into the iceberg.

I started with agent Kristin Nelson's blog: Pub Rants. Normally I like her take on things over there, in that she's very informative. But every once in a while she reveals the fact that her blog is really a girl's club for suck ups, in my opinion, and wedge used to goad publishers not to mess with her or her clients, also in my honest opinion. She does this by giving writers information not normally shared with our bottom-feeding ilk.

But she doesn't sign with just any writers, she signs mostly, predominanty with (awwww, pity party for me) female writers. She makes no apologies about it, and like so many agents today who have lopsided stats when it comes to this, she offers scant explanation. She does list one writer of seemingly male extraction on her site, of the 19 who blog anyway, that being Hank Phillipi Ryan.

Great so we go to to see what he's written: and it's Air Time, out this year in fact. And good for him. The product description?

"When savvy TV reporter Charlotte McNally enters the glamorous world of high fashion, she soon discovers that when the purses are fake the danger is real..."

......yeah. Nnnnnnnnnnot really a male-centered subject? Uhm...? Yeah.

And maybe that's because! Hank is a woman! Dolp! And a very good looking one at that.

Most of the books Ms. Nelson advertises on her site, anyway, fall into one of the remaining genres left in fiction these day. That is, the remaindered few types of stories that interest publishers anymore, since in the damnable cirumlocution of the fornicated paradigm, these are the remaining types of stories agents will accept anymore. They are romance, vampire, vampire-romance, men in kilts with good abs romance, and Dan Brown-esque.

By the way, statistically the magic bullet assured to at least get an agent interested, is Dan Brown as a belly crunching, kilt-wearing, sex-addict vampire, who fornicates and slurps his way across, oh, I don't know, Europe of the seventeenth century? Got it? Good. Get busy writing this horrid monstrosity before some lemming bound for a "writer's conference" beats you to a $200 pitch-session.

Not that there's anything wrong with that, but, Ms Nelson is not alone. In fact the more I have hunted and pecked, the more I have found that most literary agents, follow this tired business model. Vampires, and the sub-genre werewolves. Oh and romance. Big studs, lots of abs, lots of belly crunchers out there in the sixteenth-century, apparently, many of whom have no heads if you look at the covers, and in some cases, the men aren't even in the room!

Yay! Like this cover.

Imagine non-reproductive orgasm, delivered by a meat-puppet with good abs, from the 16th century. The gal's perfect friend, beef-and-be-gone. Or maybe it had been one of those egg thingies, powered by, what, rats on a hamster wheel? Who the hell knows. Whatever happened, girlfriend on the cover is satisfied, and a man, might have had very little to do with it, other than strict mechanics of the thing, because he's totally out of the picture.

I suppose I really ticked Kristin off when I suggested a spoof cover on this one, of a man, flat on his back with his hand near his (whoo hoo!). What would that look like? (Sorry, again, for having a sense of humor.)

Yes, one might say unsanitary and a little bit disgusting? A man who may or may not have just gotten his own damned self off - not that there's anything wrong with that - would not look good on the cover of a novel. I think the novel itself might be suspect if this were the case.

Gasp! Don't you dare suggest that! Someone will end up on Oprah's couch in tears, and you, you oppressive male, penis-wagger, will be the damned reason! Ms Nelson has also previously mentioned Lit agent black lists, on her blog site. Nice. How charming and tolerant. Black lists.

Not that there's anything wrong with that (WTF????) but, when I go into B and N thinking that such as thing as blacklists exist, and I am most definitely on one somewhere, and all I see are these books that look alike; smell alike; have similar pictures on the cover; read alike and they are all written by women, I have to think something is wrong with this picture.

Bringing me to the point: how do you alienate half your potential market, then "claim" you don't understand why book publising is going downhill? Are you deaf, dumb, and blind? Or are you willfully ignorant of what's happening? Are you ignoring what's going on because too many men have been run out of publishing - for whatever gigantic international Machiavellian reason - and thus the whole show is now a gal's club -for whatever gigantic international Machiavellian reason - that caters to women and women only, but the checks are still coming so you pretend you're not a part of it?

Dave: what the hell are you saying here? What reason could there possibly be...

When men lose a voice in this country, they get very angry. This leads to civil unrest. Men have this stuff inside them called testosterone. It's emotional dynamite. When you gag them, they tend to get disruptive. Gals if you have even a shred left of sympathy for the males in your life - and the culture is so toxic to men these days, it is highly doubtful - you'll note what forcing your son into submissive silence for no good reason, does to his morale, not to mention his behavior.

It is my belief this is calculated to promote that unrest through the alienation of the American male. It is only one little prong in the giant corporate fork up the ass of the American male that you gals don't feel since you are soo damned busy getting over your hurts from the last four decades, or whatever. And we note that most of the large publishing houses are owned by foreign corporations in Europe so the chances that they give a shit about the American male, run even less than the sympathy of female lit agents and editors.

The women who have been given the keys to the kingdom of publishing, go blythely along getting the avatar male back for the likes of Fitzgerald and Hemingway, ignoring modern male writers, and male readers, living and breathing, struggling for a break.

I have said this before. I say it again; it is tantamount to racism, Naziism, sexism, treason, in publishing to suggest that editors, agents and so on, should be looking for the next Leon Uris, or the next James Michener. It is almost something one must whisper. The idea of it so foreign, so 'radical' as to border on criminal in this environment. Weak, limp-wristed men will post to Ms. Nelson's blog, selling out their brothers for a chance she might deign to represent at least one male!? Because obviously she is a very effective literary agent who fights hard for her clients!

But men are not totally left out in the cold. Of course, those in control of publishing at this point, direct a feminine digit at either Stephen King, an icon from the 1980s who they have not yet managed to geld or kill (though he did have a rather strange hiking accident), or Dan Brown; who really is more like a robotic book-signing Ken Doll, let's face it. Is he even human? Or is he the result of a focus-group meeting of bored housewives who wanted an unthreatening male of sufficient corporate blandness to read?

To suggest we need find real men, to fill the ranks vacated by real men who struggled, drank, belched, stopped drinking, swore, whored, wrote and died, why, you must have killed a baby Harp seal on the way to your blogging seat. Not that we wish to whore, or even swear anymore, but won't you let us write?

How did it get this way? Intolerance. Agents, the most intolerant of the bunch.

The girls club aspect of Ms. Nelson's blog surfaced when those other than her adoring fans, rose to argue with her about certain aspects of the biz. When they did so too vociferously (this is deemed 'lacking etiquette'); she blocked commentary.

Gordon Jerome was her victim on this day when he dared suggest some romance titles and covers were more reminiscent of porn. (Gasp!) And I think we all knew that. At least those of us who read Penthouse Forum, before it was screeched out of the existence by a tide of zealous harridans, can see the similarities.

I guess I started off in this line of thinking when I quipped wise and sideways that the cover she sported on her page was reminiscent of masturbation, and you can see the article and find my reply here, along with Gordon's more straightforward take on it.

Her answer was to turn on the commentary moderation and her first victim was Gordon, second being me, when I got through again, and offered that it is ironic to watch people calling themselves writers fawning to the headmastress that she was doing the right thing in blocking, i.e. censoring, bullying meany trolls under the bridge. I think somebody actually called me a troll, whatever the hell that is.

Now men are trolls. If they say anything out of line, they are exibiting trollish behavior. Like that? Are we back to junior high in this country when it comes to the dialogue between men and women?

Granted it's her damned blog and she can do as she wishes. But, it brings up an interesting point, which is the intolerant femi-socialisticus attitude, which definitely lives and breathes in the publishing world, although many of this ilk will be quick to point out they don't need "to burn their bra" anymore, to prove they are the liberated women who have been handed the torch of freedom.

Take this exchange here between myself and, Julie Weathers, on Galleycat.

You scroll down and see my first comment, was deleted. I guess I scored a point by asking Dystel Goderich how they can justify saying "serious authors" need agents, when they have represented so many serious authors in the form of celebrity cook bookers, and that literary genius, Judge Judy, much as we like Judy's flair dealing with semi-literate doltsters who find themselves in her court. (It's like watching Mike Tyson beat up on mice, isn't it?)

Anyway, we can't have that, I suppose so down comes my first comment, along with the link directing anyone who might be listening to a funny, black-comedy about a writer who thinks he just might want to murder his literary agent and then by a series of bizare circumstances, he is propelled by fate into maybe actually doing it! The novel currently in construction is called The Dead Agent.

Well Ms. Weathers didn't like that. So she starts in on me. Before long the "bra" comment, comes out, as if this proves anything or I even asked whether or not she owned a bra. Is this a stock, for-publication comment, any time a man ever questions the current male bashing environment?

Galleycat has long been a venue for agents to vent spleen about how necessary they are and for once they offered some balance. I have risen to the bait once or twice. I am the victim of some bad agenting in the past I am affraid. I ripped my book back from this agent, and a dying publisher, got threatened with a lawsuit, but went solo and got my book published pants down anyway, and yes, at times I feel like Forrest Gump talking about his "million dollar wound?" "Gov'ment must keep that money, 'cause I haven't seen any of it."

Point being, I did it without an agent and since they are scarcely getting us an advance anymore? What's the point? The one I had actually wasted more of my time than helped, and in the end, damned near made me insane when her people threatened to sue me for walking away from a dead contract!

You, fire me? How dare you! was the attitude delivered by her second-in-command.

Long and the short is, the entire industry is changing, but the old skirts want to keep things same as it ever was. And don't you dare say anything or you'll end up on a "black list!" Ooooooooo. Hey lady, get in line. The next time you offer a threat, have it mean something anymore. I will be blacklisted by a group of people, who, in less than five years will be obsolete professionally? Oooooohhooooo. Chills, I tell ya!

And men, they definitely don't want you writing, especially novels about literary agents. Big Sis in the house, that's who.

Back to that, is there any situation more rife with comedic potential than the love-hate found in the writer lit-agent conundrum, where need meets paranoia and distrust? Why is this not subject to fiction as any other humorous situation? Does it not make sense in a John Updike kind of way to write about it? Or would they have us pen endless dogshit about vampires and dundering men with good abs?

As I said on one hashtagged Twit page about the notorious Galleycat article Agents, bah, who needs them, that more than one agent was kvetching about, and urging other agents to lambaste, "Karma it is a beach, and the worm is turning girls."

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