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So a couple days ago Holly Black made a post assuring the world there was no group of writers out to get people, since some bloggers were concerned based on conversations about book bloggers and the effect of bad reviews. I thought it was a very valuable post to make, since I don't want book reviewers to be scared, and I don't think there's any reason that they should be.

Then the conversation, as conversations do, got bigger and more convoluted, and many things were brought up, and I ended up with so many thing to say I thought I'd make a post. About all of them. So without further ado...

Writers Are Coming For You!

It is a myth that writers can do anything to you at all. Most writers are frantically trying to make a living with the made-up people in their head. They really don't have the time, energy, power or desire to do something to you.

If reviewers are feeling intimidated, they absolutely shouldn't be. We couldn't do anything to them if we wanted to.

And I don't want to. I have read reviews that made me mad, made me despair at the world and its inherent grossness, made me wonder what cruel practical joker had slipped an entirely different book into my book cover. But I still think people talking about books in any way is awesome. Because I think engaging with and caring about books is awesome.

Here is a promise: no matter what you say about my books on the internet, I will never do anything to harm you in any way. No matter what you say about me on the internet, I will never do anything to harm you in any way.

Because I am bone idle and incapable of arranging to get wet in a rainstorm. Because if I tried to do so, everyone would be like 'Man, the Irish, they really are drunk all the time, aren't they?' and nothing else would happen. (John Scalzi describes several imaginary conversations along these lines.) And because I believe it to be morally wrong.

Naturally all you need is my word, as I am the soul of honour! But also, I could not possibly do it. None of us could.

Something I've heard brought up is that this is a feminist issue.

Won't Somebody Think of the Ladies?

Okay. Books should be reviewed with close attention to serious issues like feminism, sexism, racism, and classism. Because these issues are important. Absolutely. Nobody agrees more than me: if I did not agree I'd be a huge hypocrite, since I have written crazy scads on fictional ladies and everyone's approach to them, to a point where people have said 'Lord, enough with the endless yapping about ladies' to me. To which I have said: Lo, this is my journal, and I will endlessly yap about what I please.

Feminism is a huge deal for me, and I talk about it all the time. I do not, however, single out specific writers and say they are huge anti-feminists. Just because I think a book is anti-feminist does not necessarily mean the writer is. Also, it would not be an effective way to make my points about feminism in books.

Let's take, for instance, an office workplace. Say there is a real problem with laziness in the filing at the office. Say I work in this office. I do not get me a microphone and walk through the office yelling 'CAROLINE! Your filing is an affront to the eyes of God! CAROLINE! Every day and night I think of your filing and how terrible it is! CAROLINE, CAROLINE! Your filing makes me sure that in your domestic life you are a slattern, which is bound to result in your husband leaving you! Also, CAROLINE, I bet nobody in the office really likes you - how could they with filing like yours? - so please CAROLINE, just own up to the fact you're a bad person.'

This is a bad idea for several reasons. For one thing Sally, Bob and Jeff will all go 'Heh heh heh, it's all on Caroline' and they will keep messing up the filing. For another, everyone in the office will think I am just bullying Caroline and will not pay attention to this speech or other things that I say. For another, Caroline will think 'What a jerk! My filing is totally fine!' Basically, if I were to go around slagging off my colleagues by name, I would literally accomplish nothing but making myself look bad. I will not make people think about the issue I've raised, and that's a shame, because that is my goal.

So: nobody is saying 'don't discuss feminism on the internet.' I am here to say 'please, please discuss feminism on the internet, because it's important and because I want to talk about it.' But I am also saying getting a microphone and saying 'CAROLINE - or someone else specific - is disgusting' while you can totally do it, won't be a productive thing to say.

The Problem Of Being A Person On The Internet

Justine Larbalestier brings up the issue of online disinhibition effect (otherwise known as people are mean on the internet).

I have said stuff on the internet that I wouldn't have said in person (and regretted it). I have had stuff said to me on the internet that I truly believe people would never have said to my face in a million, trillion years.

The fact that book reviews are casual and are on the internet means bad stuff gets said not only about books (which again - I am glad bad book reviews exist. I am glad my bad book reviews exist. I think bad book reviews can be very valuable) but about authors.

When has someone called me a plagiarist to my face? Never.
When has a professional review called me a plagiarist? Never.
When has a blog called me a plagiarist? Several times, notably once this week.

Sucks to read, and I don't think it's right to write (unless it was true, in which case someone should take out a full-page ad). But it happens. It'd be nice if people didn't say bad stuff about other people on the internet! But people do and probably always will say bad stuff about other people on the internet, and we all have to learn to deal or stay off the internet.

The Problem of Being A Writer And Also Being A Person (Curse You, Alien Overlord Writers)

Ilona Andrews made a great post here about how people views writers as non-people. It is a thing.

So another point raised about writers is that, well, some writers know each other, as you do get to know your colleagues. Think of the office environment again: some you are very good friends with, some you're friendly acquaintances with, some you secretly hate, some you can't remember their name for the life of you and it's so awkward! Some you are carrying on hot affairs with! (Sometimes. I hear. Not me, and I don't know how that rumour got started.)

A blogger called Cleolinda discussed this using the office environment analogy and Ally Carter discussed this saying 'Well... but I really value my writer friends, as anyone values their friends.'

So writers are sometimes friends. But here's the thing: that's okay, because though writers can help each other with their actual writing, and can help each other stay sane, writers cannot really help each others' careers. An agent or an editor might give you a look because your friend is edited or agented by them, and they trust their judgement. They won't take you on if they think your book sucks, because they want to make money. Publishing's a business: money trumps most every concern.

I have writer friends who are very successful. I have writer friends who are not very successful at all. None of them have been able to affect each other's careers even slightly.

Sometimes the thought that someone could 'make or break' my career, or that a good book would guarantee success, sounds like an alluring one as compared to the terrifying reality that everything is kind of a crapshoot. But the reality is what it is.

Writers can blurb books, you might say! ('I would rock that sickly blond sociopath hero like a neurasthenic hurricane - Sarah Rees Brennan') Well, blurbs are great to have, but sometimes they work and sometimes they don't. I have some great blurbs, all of which I was thrilled to get, but they don't appear to have helped my sales. Stephenie Meyer has blurbed books that didn't sell. Blurbs matter about one thousandth as much as covers, and no writer has any control over your cover. Or indeed their own. That's all down to the cruel cover gods.

Also, almost every writer I have ever met cares deeply about books. They will not recommend books they don't like, because they don't want to have people think poorly of their judgement. Sometimes, you will think poorly of their judgement anyway, because they like a book you don't like. But this happens with everyone. My best friend and I don't agree on all books. Another friend of mine and I had an argument about books that led to me kicking a hole in a wall in frustration. (All hail Queen Sarah of OverInvestedInBooksLandia!)

That's why there should be loads of different reviews for books around: because there are always going to be loads of different opinions about books.

Basically, as I already said in Holly Black's post, the only conclusion that can be reached is that authors and reviewers are people, and dealing with people will always be complicated. Some authors are going to behave badly and some reviewers are going to behave badly - but them's the breaks, and at least nobody's career can be destroyed.

Really. If you take away nothing else from these debates, take away that. Everybody's going to be okay.

Comments

( 76 comments — Leave a comment )
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rj_anderson
Mar. 4th, 2011 10:12 pm (UTC)
This is all true and right and eminently sensible; thank you.

Also, NEURASTHENIC HURRICANE. Hee.
sarahtales
Mar. 4th, 2011 10:14 pm (UTC)
I demand more sickly heroes, and I do not know why the industry is not actively working to meet my needs.
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cobecat
Mar. 4th, 2011 10:17 pm (UTC)
I totally agree with most of this! But I would like to point out that I buy books because of the blurbs all the time. It really is often a determining factor for me, so I think it is one way that authors sometimes do have definitive power. That being said, though, I seriously doubt any blurb is going to make or break a book's success.
sarahtales
Mar. 4th, 2011 10:22 pm (UTC)
Yes, blurbs really can't. But also I am glad to hear someone does pay attention to blurbs, since I do pay attention to where I give them, and so do the writers I've discussed blurbs with! Blurbing and reviewing is the only way we can draw attention to books we think are wonderful and important, which obviously as people crazed about books we wish to do! e.g. I blurbed Leah Cypess's Mistborn because seeing a heroine be unemotional and unapologetic about it is so rare and was so appealing to me.
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brouillions
Mar. 4th, 2011 10:30 pm (UTC)
Yeah, blurbs don't seem to be the selling point of books, although they might help, depending on the reader. However, there's this post by Becca Fitzpatrick that seems to cause a lot of talk on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_posts/973516-be-nice

It just looks like no matter what we do, we can't get over the internet disinhibition effect. Tragically.
sarahtales
Mar. 4th, 2011 10:36 pm (UTC)
Blurbs: definitely not the selling point of books. From my observation they help very, very little.

I have seen said post, and I admit I'm confused by the response to it or the idea that one writer's way to deal is every writer's way to deal. But also, I don't think anyone's career will be hurt by someone deciding not to blurb them, so that's okay.

I really wish we could. I try my best to do so personally, and often fail, and try try again. What else can one do!
dolorosa_12
Mar. 4th, 2011 10:38 pm (UTC)
Thank you for posting about this debate. Yours is one of the first author posts that really takes the time to actually understand some of the reviewers' grievances (especially with regard to issues of feminism in YA literature), which most other authors have ignored in favour of giggling at the notion of a 'YA Mafia'.

I'm lucky in that I'm both a newspaper book-reviewer AND a book blogger, but I have absolutely no intention of becoming an author, so I can be a bit less cautious about what I say in my reviews. However, while I feel that there is a difference between criticism and attack, to tell reviewers to 'be nice' and only write positive reviews impedes our ability to do our job - which is to try and inform potential readers whether or not they'd enjoy a particular book.

Ultimately, just as authors don't have the power to affect aspiring writers' careers, individual reviewers don't have the power to make or break an author's career. (Which I realise you were in no way suggesting.) The only thing that will aid an author’s success is that author writing an absolutely fantastic book.



sarahtales
Mar. 4th, 2011 10:53 pm (UTC)
The only thing that will aid an author’s success is that author writing an absolutely fantastic book.

Ah, and if only that was a guarantee. *thinks of books she loves which do not get the attention they have deserved*

I think it's okay people are amused by the idea of a YA mafia, because really, knowing acutely how very, very powerless you are to do anything, hearing a theory like that does seem wild.

But Holly made her post because she saw people were feeling nervous, and absolutely nobody should ever be made to feel intimidated over a review. Which I think is very much worth saying.

And when I saw that the issue of feminism had been specifically raised, as I do talk of feminism a lot and think it's so important, I wanted to address it. I love reading about feminism from the pov of bloggers (like the Book Smugglers) and the pov of writers (Justine Larbalestier's made amazing blogs about feminism). People are talking about feminism: people are making incredibly valuable posts about feminism! So I wanted to say 'nobody is trying to suppress discussion of feminism in YA, in fact I would be furious at any such suppression as I discuss it!' and 'The issue of feminism is super important - discussing anti-feminist aspects in specific books is great, but calling any specific author a dirty woman-hater strikes me as not constructive.'
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elvenjaneite
Mar. 4th, 2011 10:52 pm (UTC)
You know, I think I've read maybe one book because of the blurb. Because reading is so subjective, there are a lot of books which other people have read and enjoyed--people who generally like the kind of books I do--which I don't. Authors seem particularly prone to this somehow--there's one whose books I adore, and whose recommendations have never worked out well for me. In fact, most of my recs come from bloggers I trust. (However, I have The Changeover on reserve!)

This whole thing took me by surprise (as I think I've said about five times now). I'd never encountered any of the behavior described on either side, with the possible exception of the Authors Helping Authors lady, who I assumed (and assume) was not typical.

Personally, I like that so many YA authors are friends--I think it's neat! And I've never had anything but positive reactions from them, either as a reader or a reviewer. My blog's on the small side compared to some, so that might have a lot to do with it. All the same, it seems like a few examples of internet silliness (on both sides) which have gotten blown out of proportion.

And I keep saying things like "on both sides" but really I guess I don't think there are sides. At least, I hope there aren't! I don't know if I go for the 'be nice' maxim so much, just because that can be interpreted as a relentless positivity, but I do think that being thoughtful is a good idea.

Long comment is long and will stop now.
sarahtales
Mar. 4th, 2011 11:02 pm (UTC)
I hope there are not sides! Well, secretly I believe there is Team Booklovers and Team Horrible Illiterates, among which are my gross brothers. And Team Booklovers should all be glad of each others' care for books. I am glad, even for those who have seriously disliked my actual books.

I think subjectivity is why blurbs don't do that much for people. But I think also people have to consider subjectivity when they think 'that writer must have blurbed that book for mysterious cabal-like reasons' rather than just 'that writer must have tastes that differ in some way from mine.'

That said, I am extremely pleased the Changeover has wooed you! I love that book and I hope you will too. (But if you don't... that's tooootally okay.)

And yes, I think authors being friends is awesome. For we can make each others' books better! And that benefits everyone. And I'm glad you've had good experiences.
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boothyisawesome
Mar. 4th, 2011 11:33 pm (UTC)
Great post! Honestly, I just don't care what I put out there as long as I explain why I feel that way and without hating on the author, both of which are easy to do. It shouldn't matter if you don't like a certain author's/editor's/publisher's book; it's your thoughts. I also can't imagine any of the authors and publishing people I know to do something like blacklisting an aspiring author because of some post they did. Everyone's awesome (esp. you, Sarah!)!
sarahtales
Mar. 4th, 2011 11:35 pm (UTC)
It shouldn't matter if you don't like a certain author's/editor's/publisher's book; it's your thoughts.

Preach.
firynze
Mar. 4th, 2011 11:43 pm (UTC)
Beautiful, sane, and well-said. Thank you!

Also, as one of the Cruel Cover Gods, BOW TO ME. MUAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

*ahem*

What?

(in other news, that would be the most awesome blurb ever. Can I appropriate that and stick it on, I don't know, my tub of peanut butter or something?)
nutty_moo
Mar. 4th, 2011 11:45 pm (UTC)
Even if I don't like a book I don't think that is always a direct reflection of an Author. There will always be books you love and books you don't like as much. Like Dan Brown. I couldn't finsih Deception Point. Couldn't do it. It was to me like a lame version of Ice Station by Matthew Riley. But I don't think that makes him crap and I liked Davinci Code.

I think people take an instant dislike to others and because we are on an online forum believe that it is okay to go to town on their opinions. But there is a line. Between professional criticism of a book and judging someone who you may not take a personal liking too. And I know the internet is a public forum but if you are going to creare a website created to the review and opinions of books or movies etc then you have to come at it with a level and professional head. If you just want to slag things you hate that is fine too but don't to it under the false assumption that you are reviewing rather than venting your feeling on a mattter. I believe they are different.

Wow this was a lot longer than I meant it to be. Sorry

ceo_badwolfcorp
Mar. 4th, 2011 11:56 pm (UTC)
Just in case it hasn't been mentioned today, you're awesome. Thank you for writing books and writing blogs and generally for being awesome.
robinellen
Mar. 5th, 2011 12:06 am (UTC)
Well said :)
ursulav
Mar. 5th, 2011 12:07 am (UTC)
I am still trying to figure out HOW, even if I wanted to, I could sabotage another writer's career. All this "I'll tell my agent not to represent you!" stuff...how would I know you were querying my agent, unless you told me? My agent sure doesn't send around a newsletter of people she's currently reading.

And even if by some weird chance I did know, how big are these hypothetical brass balls of mine that I would tell my agent or editor who NOT to buy? I don't tell my agent to do ANYTHING. She could send along a severe beating with every royalty check and I would take it, because dude, it came along with the royalty check! (My agent is totally the grown-up in this relationship. I am the sporadically-bright toddler who runs into walls.)

I can only assume that this notion about writers sabotaging other writers derives from a general lack of understanding about the actual power relationships in publishing...or else my experience is completely atypical and other authors are totally on the ball, which could be true, but I suspect every other author secretly believes this too, so y'know.
sarahtales
Mar. 5th, 2011 12:11 am (UTC)
I think it may be part and parcel of the belief writers are the mighty kingpins of publishing: like we choose our covers and cover artists, and which bookshops our books are in. We control the horizontal and the vertical! If it were only so...
wednesdayschild
Mar. 5th, 2011 12:30 am (UTC)
Everyone else is making super clever comments, and I have nothing special to say except that you are awesome, your books are awesome, and this essay is awesome <3

Also my sister is now a literary agent and the thought she would sign or not sign someone based on anything other than their marketability and quality of writing is absurd ;)
nanniclover
Mar. 5th, 2011 12:33 am (UTC)
"They won't take you on if they think your book sucks, because they want to make money. Publishing's a business: money trumps most every concern."

I'm so glad you said it! Oh, honesty!

Finally someone's come right out and said it plainly!

I think that's the biggest hole in the YA Mafia theory.
blamebrampton
Mar. 5th, 2011 12:41 am (UTC)
I sometimes wonder if these panicked moments in net discussion come out of the fact that if we were really worried about real things like oil or the climate, most people would be too horrified to get out of bed most days ...

And plagiarism? Really? If I sat down to stretch my mind to come up with something negative to say about your work, that would not even occur as a possibility. The only person whose work I ever see lifted in yours is you with your occasional references or jokey asides to your juvenilia.
(Anonymous)
Mar. 5th, 2011 12:42 am (UTC)
I love when you talk about the ladies! I told a friend a story you put on here, about finding a bodice ripping romance and your reactions to it as a child. I don't know what you titled it, but I called it Young Sarah and the Viscount. Hopefully I didn't mutilate it too bad.

I adore you down to your toes as both an author and the person I've come to know via your blog posts. I can't wait for the Demon's Surrender or the many books you'll write after.
imagined_away
Mar. 5th, 2011 12:53 am (UTC)
So let me just say, that even though I know your Irish it is, for some reason, hard for me to picture you drinking...

Do you think it's okay to call a book out as anti-feminist, but not the author? I personally see a difference, because your right, sometimes people do or write things that are anti-feminist without being anti-feminist themselves. I feel like it's important to call the work out, but not the writer (unless all of their books are like that, at which point I admit I begin to wonder)

What on Earth did they think you were plagiarizing?!

I know you kind of addressed this but I saw a link in a round-up post to someone who was talking about book blurbs. I was wondering how important you thought book blurbs really were. I know there have been times when I actually almost put a book down because of the blurb. For instance I am not a Stephanie Meyer fan and was weary of picking up both The Mortal Instruments trilogy and The Hunger Games because they had quotes form her on them. Of course now I'm very glad I did pick them up. But I was curious as to how important you thought they were.

I think this was a very well thought out post and I'm glad I don't need to worry about meeting a group of angry authors down a dark alley if I don't like their books.
imagined_away
Mar. 5th, 2011 01:11 am (UTC)
Oh my, that's "because you're right"

This is what I get for hitting "comment" without reading it over a few times >>
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radioactivepiss
Mar. 5th, 2011 01:35 am (UTC)
I have always really appreciated your attitude towards interaction with fans/reviewers/etc., I just wanted to say. I've known authors who have handled things with a distinct lack of grace, and I think this post encompasses why I follow you and not them. This is a really excellent post!
dolorosa_12
Mar. 5th, 2011 10:34 am (UTC)
Yes, this.
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dawn_metcalf
Mar. 5th, 2011 02:23 am (UTC)
Brilliant. Absolutely. Huzzah! And Thanks.

I shall point many eyes to this wise post. :-)
indecentfantasy
Mar. 5th, 2011 03:55 am (UTC)
Wait, which sickly blond sociopath hero are you referring to? I would love to get in on some of that neurasthenic hurricane action!
sdskuld
Mar. 5th, 2011 06:27 am (UTC)
"Because I am bone idle and incapable of arranging to get wet in a rainstorm. Because if I tried to do so, everyone would be like 'Man, the Irish, they really are drunk all the time, aren't they?' and nothing else would happen."

After I read this line, and then stopped laughing, I immediately went to Amazon and bought your book. Well done.
sarahtales
Mar. 5th, 2011 09:32 am (UTC)
I knew the drink would be my eventual key to success in children's publishing. ;)
pir8fancier
Mar. 5th, 2011 08:39 am (UTC)
So writers are sometimes friends. But here's the thing: that's okay, because though writers can help each other with their actual writing, and can help each other stay sane, writers cannot really help each others' careers. An agent or an editor might give you a look because your friend is edited or agented by them, and they trust their judgement. They won't take you on if they think your book sucks, because they want to make money. Publishing's a business: money trumps most every concern.

I disagree with this. Sure, if you write a really lousy book it's probably not going to be published just because you know Sarah Rees Brennan. But you're treating access as if it's cavalier thing. As if getting one's manuscript read by an established and well-regarded agent is just a ho hum, happens every week sort of deal. It does NOT happen. I just went to a talk by a well-regarded agent in my neck of the woods and she receives 5000 queries a WEEK. So if you said to your agent, hey, I have a friend and I like her manuscript, would you read it, it's a HUGE leg up for anyone. Getting access to the gatekeepers is becoming more and more difficult. Having these sorts of connections and exposure and being in the right place at the right time has a HELL of a lot of do with getting published.

And I *do* know people in the business who have gotten published just because they know the right people. Their books are mediocre and yet I see them proudly displayed at the front of bookstores because they are connected. I strongly doubt that their manuscript would have even received a first glance had they not "known" people. It does matter. Not all the time, of course, but it matters. Just as getting a starred review in PW means less and less (speaking from experience).

You are equating quality with sales. Given what is coming out of NY these days, I honestly don't see the connection. What I see being published is what publishers think they can sell, which has NOTHING to do with quality. Look at the Da Vinci Code. Mediocre book marketed to the goddamn nines for three years. On the NYT best seller list for two years in HARDCOVER. That was a book that was/is mediocre and yet was at the right place at the right time and could be sold. If publishers decide that there is a market, by god they will move heaven and earth to make that book viable. They throw tons of money at a book in the hopes it will take off; quality isn't even an issue, really. Case in point: I know a woman who was poised to get money thrown at her. Huge book tour, lots of advertizing, basically a dream come true. Then Hillary Clinton came out with her autobiography and every single dollar in that publisher's advertizing budget was yanked from everyone else and thrown at Hillary Clinton. Did Hillary Clinton need those marketing dollars? Of course not, but that's the mentality in the publishing world, while the woman whose book was slated to be her "break-out" book languished in obscurity.

Some authors are going to behave badly and some reviewers are going to behave badly - but them's the breaks, and at least nobody's career can be destroyed.

I think that given the vitriol that I've seen on LJ and the fact that we are now at the mercy of our amazon reviews, I don't think I would go that far. Perhaps "destroyed" is too strong a word, but if you are a writer and a reviewer (as I am), then you run the risk of alienating authors whose books you don't laud, and the perfect place to exact revenge is on one's amazon page. Again, speaking from experience.
sarahtales
Mar. 5th, 2011 09:26 am (UTC)
If you write a really lousy book it's probably not going to be published just because you know Sarah Rees Brennan

I don't think any book is published just because they know anyone. Uh, least of all me, since I have no influence on any publisher in the world. ;)

As if getting one's manuscript read by an established and well-regarded agent is just a ho hum, happens every week sort of deal. It does NOT happen. I just went to a talk by a well-regarded agent in my neck of the woods and she receives 5000 queries a WEEK.

Sure, most established agents get a zillionty trillion emails. I know mine does. And she reads them - and she asks for the sample chapters of the queries that sound interesting. Access, easy as that. I was one of god-knows-how-many totally, totally random queries that my agent received once. She asked for more because she liked the query, for the full manuscript because she liked the sample chapters, and took me on after we had a long conversation about revisions. What people need to get access is a manuscript an agent likes.

And if contacts had been that important: I did have a few. I knew a couple writers who had a great agent I could've asked them to refer me to, I knew an editor who might've put in a good word for me, I knew a couple other agents, even. But I thought: well, I really like how this agent is coming across, I think she might be the one for me, I wonder if I can possibly get her with a query she'll take off the slushpile. And I did. This isn't to say 'Look how great I am' - boy, no - just to say that it's doable, and that I didn't and still don't think that getting the full manuscript on someone's desk instead of waiting through query-and-sample-chapters stage was that big a difference. And I'm still glad I did it that way.

If you said to your agent, hey, I have a friend and I like her manuscript, would you read it, it's a HUGE leg up for anyone.

I've done that twice: once my agent rejected the friend, once she offered representation and the friend turned her down for another agent, because if one agent thinks a manuscript is commercial another one will. Not much of a leg up - yes, my agent will read the full manuscript because she has a certain amount of faith in my judgement, but then she'll judge the manuscript on its own merits. And if the merits (of quality, commerciality or both) of the manuscript are strong enough, then the writer of the manuscript didn't need me. It's a little help - it's nice - but it's not that significant.

Having these sorts of connections and exposure and being in the right place at the right time are very, very different things. Like I said, I think connections can speed you on your way a little but are not that significant. Being in the right place at the right time? Is enormous. Having the book that gives the audience what they're just starting to want? So, so important. I know of one writer who happened to have the right type of book when a publisher was like 'oh god, we need this precise type of book' - stars aligned, she's now a bestseller. Sadly, nobody can get, arrange or give anyone the stars aligning.

getting a starred review in PW means less and less (speaking from experience)

Hey, I'm with you. I wish starred reviews meant more: I have those, doesn't mean I have sales. I have the same experience! I just doubt that the books you see would've got past the gatekeepers if they hadn't been considered commercial, too. I think they get the push because people think they'll make money, and sometimes that's hard for anyone to understand - it's hard for me to understand, if I think 'I don't like this book, why on earth is it getting this stuff?' Tastes are subjective: obviously Dan Brown is doing something for a lot of people he isn't doing for me, and he gets pushed so people can make money and because my taste isn't the only bar there is.
(no subject) - sarahtales - Mar. 5th, 2011 09:27 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - pir8fancier - Mar. 5th, 2011 03:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sarahtales - Mar. 5th, 2011 10:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
Speaking of Dan Brown. - lots42 - Mar. 5th, 2011 11:04 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Speaking of Dan Brown. - pir8fancier - Mar. 5th, 2011 03:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
lots42
Mar. 5th, 2011 11:02 am (UTC)
I was just thinking about one of those topics the other day. Someone had stated they didn't like the third Terminator movie because of the disturbing image of a woman getting her head shoved into a toilet.

I thought to myself 'Hmm, maybe there was a scene I somehow missed. Deleted scene on the DVD? Something I didn't see when I went to the can? Did the love interest get attacked by a pervert mugger? Maybe Arnold killed the mugger afterwards.'

Further explanation showed that it was the female Terminator that got headslammed into a toilet during a fight with Arnold. I had seen that but my brain did not process it as anything 'negative', it processed it as 'Good guy robot fights bad female robot'.

As you can well surmise this difference in thought processes has really stuck in my noodle-basin.
dee_seventh
Mar. 5th, 2011 11:37 am (UTC)
Wonderfully sensible and funny post. Personally the little summary-thing on the back is way more important to me than the blurbs when I pick up a book (she says, with a woeful disregard for proper publishing terminology). But if there are blurbs from names I recognise it does reassure me I'm probably not going to be disappointed at the quality of the writing if I buy it.

(P.s. Loved the Alan cookie and v. excited about Surrender. Keep on being awesome!)
wendyzski
Mar. 5th, 2011 04:15 pm (UTC)
When has a blog called me a plagiarist? Several times, notably once this week.

My favorite take on this is from Seanan McGuire. She has 2 LJs - a personal one that she's had for ages (which most of us found through her many metaquotes - which incidentally is how I found you!) and one under her real name that she started once she got published. It's pretty much an open secret - kind of like the fact that she is both Seanan McGuire AND Mira Grant.

But there was a huge kerfuffle a while back with all kinds of accusations on various boards and flailing and skreeching that she was a plagiarist. Because she said the same thing on both journals at various points in much the same words - being, you know, the same person. So she was in effect being accused of plagiarizing from herself.
ravelled_ribbon
Mar. 5th, 2011 09:31 pm (UTC)
I also like that YA writers are friends, because I just generally like it when people are friends and form communities and are generally nice to each other. There isn't enough of that.

But again, seriously, who doesn't choose their books based off the blurb? I just can't understand that. I mean an exciting cover will lead me to picking the book up and reading the blurb but its not why I buy a book, and I don't think I know anyone who does. This is just such an alien concept to me.

Also I think Mae is an awesomely feminist charactor, and people who think she isn't need to read up on slut-shaming, double standards and also feminism in general and how its not about holding women to another set of impossible ideals that differ from what we expect from men.
sarahtales
Mar. 5th, 2011 10:41 pm (UTC)
Mae, fortunately for her and me, has not been raised in this particular debate. A side issue of the bloggers feeling intimidated debate seems to have been people critiquing feminism in popular YA works (awesome) and people calling writers of popular YA books names for not being feminist (not awesome - and distracting). My books aren't popular enough to be under the microscope, but I am very pleased you like Mae, and that she strikes you as feminist - as I do try to be a feminist writer. Though like all writers, sometimes I fail, and internalised sexism is a very very tricky thing that I think we're seeing on all sides.

Communities are awesome! And also it would be a hard thing if my friends who are doctors and engineers and scientists and museum detectives were forced to sit and listen to me going 'I HAVE MADE UP A LOT OF PEOPLE IN MY BRAIN AND THEY HAVE ADVENTURES AND YOU HAVE TO LISTEN TO ME TALK SO IT'S ALL SORTED OUT IN MY... Where are you going?'
(no subject) - ravelled_ribbon - Mar. 5th, 2011 10:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sarahtales - Mar. 7th, 2011 08:44 am (UTC) - Expand
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