Friday, May 06, 2005

One Thing Leads to Another

Blog cruising this morning. Mad Max is posting more anonymous horror stories (I'm going to end up the only author who used a real name over there, I think); Alison is stomping on blackballers (isn't she beautiful when she's annoyed?); and M.J.'s asking publishers one of the big whys.

In my experience, publishers don't lie. They make promises that for whatever reason they later choose to break. Not unexpected, given the average one to two year space between signing an author and distributing their novel.

The first time a publisher broke a promise to me, I was shocked. Second time, I got pissed off. Third time, I almost quit the business. Now I get what I can from the publisher in writing and don't put faith in anything else. That's really all you can do.

Organized romance writers have an extremely complicated hierarchal system that runs on who's your buddy and nice-girl censorship, and often takes years of study to simply fathom, unless you apply this simple template: the romance community is high school. Remember all those bitches in high school, and what they did? Exactly.

M.J. asks Are we really that annoying/childish/ineffectual/spoiled that you can't bear to bring us in on the process? I think that sums up every pro writer's ultimate frustration with the industry, but as long as we're infighting, hiding behind anonymous handles and jostling for position, all the publishers really have to do is toss us a few fish now and then, sit back and enjoy the show.

6 comments:

  1. It's really no different from small-town politics, church politics, high school politics. It may be a little crueler because very little of this is done face-to-face, and it's so easy to type a statement that doesn't quite convey the nuances you intend (i.e., an attempt at light-hearted banter could come across as a slam).

    I'm not sure which is more amusing: the poster who knows NYT writers and promises to use her influence with them to blackball the criticizer -- which is a common form of negative networking -- or the writers who are upset that even minor critiques of a colleagues' work would get them in hot water. It's like complaining that you get wet when it's raining.

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  2. Not being a professional, my input here is limited but the entire situation strikes me as the old "Company Store" routine. Writers are forced to play the game according to the publisher's rules with no input or recourse other than to move to another house, wherein the same rules may be applied at whim.

    The answer to that conundrum was the formation of strong unions. Silly as it may sound, is there some reason that is not a viable option here? As I said, I'm still struggling towards that first sale and unfamiliar with the business of writing but I would think a union of some sort could go a long way towards forcing publishers into a more equitable working relationship with their authors.

    Jim C.

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  3. I tend to love your simple insights.

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  4. The game industry has taught me to get absolutely everything in writing. Game publishers are all sharks. Political dynamics are different because games, by necessity, are group endeavors. They're also male-dominated. The only part of high school it reminds me of is P.E. and the subsequent locker room -- oh, let's call them "antics".

    Nice to know my time spent in this field will be applicable elsewhere if I should ever sell a book.

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  5. This is priceless and so very true, and all I have to base it on is being an ex-member of RWA. I can only imagine what it's like in the real writing world!


    the romance community is high school. Remember all those bitches in high school, and what they did? Exactly.

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  6. It was a good thing I wasn't drinking anything when I read your post. But then, I've learned not to do that down through the years. The cats, however, did run at the sudden noises I made.

    Like others here, I know that your insight into the romance hierarchy is also true of a lot of other areas, both in publishing and the outside world. It does show how amazing it is when someone from the outside manages to make it anyway. (Maybe I should wish for more of this in the sf/fantasy world. I know far too many published writers. I'd obviously have all kinds of ins, right? LOL)

    However, I'm beginning to think that you need to be licensed for the use of a dangerous weapon -- the keyboard. (grin)

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