Monday, September 29, 2008

Northern Illinois Univ Press to JetReid: Drop Dead

Publishers Weekly carries the announcement today that NIU Press is adding an imprint to focus on literary fiction set in or about the Midwest and written by authors with significant ties to the region. NIU said Switchgrass (the imprint) is “committed to enhancing the cultural landscape of the Midwest”

Well, my thoughts briskly turned to who I've got on my list that's from the Midwest, until my eye reaches this sentence:

According to Alex Schwartz, NIU Press/Switchgrass Books director, agented manuscripts will not be accepted for consideration, in order to provide both emerging and established writers a venue to “have their Midwestern voices heard.”


WTF?? Last time I looked my job IS to get my authors heard so I'm not sure why they think BARRING agented mss from consideration is a good choice. Even if they just opened the incoming query guidelines to include unagented writers, they'd be better off.

Presses that don't like agents make me very very suspicious.

So, if you send stuff to these guys let me know how it goes.

And if you get an offer remember to NEVER sign an agreement with anyone unless you have it reviewed by a person familiar with publishing contracts. That doesn't have to be an agent. Contract review specialists or lawyers work just fine too.

89 comments:

kari d said...

Hmmm. I wonder what they consider 'established'? Cuz' any of the writers I would consider established would most definitely have an agent, unless they'd recently suffered a severe head injury and become detached from reality and common sense. Sounds to me like submissions are open to anyone in the Midwest who is currently enrolled in a writing class at NIU.

Susan Adrian said...

I saw that clause, and had the same reaction as you.

H. L. Dyer said...

Hmmm... That's very interesting. I live very near NIU and my aunt teaches there.

My manuscript might meet their qualifications (it has literary leanings, but I'm marketing as women's fiction.)... I'm kind of curious to see what they'd say, but an offer from them would preclude my finding representation, wouldn't it?

Or do you suppose an author could submit the manuscript unagented and then find representation after the offer?

Tannat Madiran said...

This is like the wine world where the lazy and greedy distributor agrees to take on a new winery only if they do NOT employ a broker. Why? is it because they don't want the additional help on the street, selling their product for them, helping them to put money in their pockets? No, they don't see that, they see the 10-20% they aren't getting, or that they are having to pay for as the fee is folded into the price they are offered from the winery.

There can be no explanation for this type of behaviour other than greed.

Am I wrong?

CNU said...

No offense, but there are plenty of good authors out there who basically can't be heard because publishers are only looking for writer's with agency representation. It appears to be a process by which style is taken over substance. What the University is indicating is that they would like first time authors to be a chance to be heard.
You have PLENTY of presses that 'do not accept manuscripts without an agent' what is the difference? This is similar to the complaint of 'reverse racism' which I suppose you have a valid point in that it seems unfair, however the opportunities for those authors who are 'unsolicited' are pretty nil. Unless you're going for a small press in which case it has to be stylized and even those sometimes are not accepting submissions or would require an agent.
Finding an agent is about as pleasant as American Idol, only you don't sing to the judges you 'describe' your singing to bouncers (agents) who 'may' then take this 'description' to the judges (publishers), who then 'may' allow you to be heard. Get it? (Once again this is from the writer's perspective, as an agent perhaps you've never thought of it this way...

Ironically enough my work is 'published' in the sense that magazines and Universities are writing articles regarding technically 'unpublished' work AKA - POD. How avant-garde eh?

Lastly University presses are the last holy ground where intellectuals actually have a chance to be heard for SUBSTANCE not profit margins, buzz words and marketing 'demographics'. Please don't take this from us.

I do feel your pain, but sadly we the writer's are discriminated against- not agents. In theory you are correct, in context you are not.

Some self published authors: Virginia Wolfe, James Joyce, Kamau Brathwaite. I'm in good company. Good conversation though.

-Christian

Deaf Brown Trash Punk said...

thanks for the head-up, I'm gonna see if I can submit my stuff to them. I'm a brown trash punk living here in Missouri. barf.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

cnu,

You miss the point. This publisher isn't just saying "we take unagented submissions." They're saying, "We don't want to talk to an agent because they will subject our contract to scrutiny we do not want. We don't want to negotiate. We want to take on our terms only."

They are willing to turn away great writing if represented by an agent in favor of absolute control over the author and contract. This is an attempt to dominate the author, to present a take-it-or-leave-it contract.

NO! You can do better with a house that takes unagented submissions but will work with an agent too. This is bad for writers. Forget agents! Okay … so don’t forget them … Pixies and goats like agents … some … sometimes … maybe … except that really rude one … and that that guy on the west coast with the smelly sox and bad grammar … and ….

You see my point. Agents do not deprive you of the ability to submit. A publishing house makes the decision to accept only those manuscripts sent by an agent or to accept both represented and unrepresented submissions. Agents don’t force publishers to make this decision.

Any publisher who refuses to work with an agent has contract and personal issues they wish to hide. Period. This announcement is very similar to wearing a tux in McDonalds … with a tinfoil hat.

M Clement Hall said...

Rather than guess the reason, it would be interesting to obtain their statement on why they made this (apparently self-defeating) decision

JES said...

Egad.

Among other things, thanks for reviving my memories of one of my absolute favorite newspaper headlines evah. But those were more innocent times!

Jeanie W said...

Perhaps the only way Switchgrass can afford to have Midwestern voices heard is by not paying them advances, or paying them only in copies, or at piddly rates with tiny print runs. This is a university press. If they've been printing only academic writing up til now, they can't have much cash to play around with. Yet they probably realize that there are a lot of talented authors out there who are so eager to see their work published that they'll accept the bleak terms of the deal. If this is what they're counting on, the prospect of having to negotiate with agents would scare the hell out of them.

CNU said...

Dear Pixie,


You missed the point of what I was saying the complaint was this- Agents being barred from presenting writers to this University is unfair, when in fact under-represented writers i.e. those 'unagented' writers do not have a chance to go to many institutions to present their materials. Most agents won't even look at your manuscript to begin with because, "well I didn't like the way you dotted your 'I' so nope I won't accept your query' it is a degrading process and dumbs down writing to the point of discussing minutia.

University presses are designed to present intelligent writing, not the next 'paperback' novel which an agent is selling on the metaphoric 'street'.
The GOALS of traditional publishing versus the academic world are vast. Academics don't necessarily care about 'sales' because they survive off of grants- including private or otherwise. So your point of 'the university wanting rights' is inherently flawed.

One could easily have a copyright attorney look over their documents for the agreement if they wish and it'd cost them a couple hundred bucks. Unlike an agent which will cost them 20% until they're dead. I don't even know why an agent would even seek out a university press given that they are not necessarily 'sales' driven and their income is almost completely derived from a percentage. I understand perfectly where the school is coming from and quite frankly I have to respectfully disagree with the argument. I mean no disrespect, but as a writer who has been around 'academia' (NYU, CUNY, ect) I have to tell you it's a different world.

There are hundreds of presses that only accept agent driven work, why spoil one of the last places where writing is judged on merit. The world of publishing discriminates against independent writers.

The publishing industry favors agents. Plain and simple. That's what's unfair. Let the writers go to the publishers and let the publishers hire people to actually oh I don't know 'read' the work sent to them. Otherwise it's like some crazed marketing ploy.

"Mc-Book" anyone???


-C

CNU said...

To all the others,


It's not all about the money sometimes people- It's the prestige and the ideals/dialogue that is contained within the writing. It truly is 'writing for writing's sake.' I know it's trite, but true. Besides that just because they don't want writers with agents doesn't mean you'll get a bad deal, it means you merely need to read the contract AND get an ATTORNEY not an agent. There are attorneys that specialize in this type of contract they're called, "copyright" attorneys. Simple-as-that. One will you will pay ONCE one you will pay forever practically. "Un-agented" writers don't have that many outlets, university presses are one place where the playing field is 'leveled' this is a version of 'writer's affirmative action.' Go fish in with the big boys- the big publishers, like Harpers and such, because they won't listen to anyone save agents.

This is a different sport than traditional publishing.


-C

Tannat Madiran said...

CNU,

Your post makes valid points in so much as how to go about dealing with contracts without an agent. That’s great info for anyone wanting to go it alone.

But what your post doesn’t explain is the rationale behind WHY a University Press would EXCLUSIVELY accept unagented submissions. You are basically implying that they choose not to deal with agented work because they want “intelligent writing, not the next 'paperback' novel which an agent is selling on the metaphoric 'street'.” Please sign me up with the agent who can take unintelligent writing and force it to be published by a Univeristy Press. You assign too much snake-oil power to these agents you fear will spoil the non-commercial(?) world of the University Press. I think that ultimately, the work speaks for itself, no matter who is “pitching” it.

You are upset with agents, I get that. I think they are a necessary evil on my worst days, a blessing on my best. I have posted on here and other lit blogs, ad nauseum, about the similarities between the wine business and the literary one. Wineries need brokers because distributors don’t want to mess with having to sell wine, they just like delivering it, and controlling their inventory in between money counting sessions. Publishers prefer agents because an agent is 1) another pre-filter for crap versus “intelligent writing” before it ever hits their transom 2) shows that an author is not just a good writer, but can be worked with in a professional relationship, and 3) able to, far better than any novelist, understand the down and dirty cold hard facts of the business of publishing.

To me, it is odd that a press would exclude agented submissions. I bet most of them (not all) would rush to publish a work offered to them by Roth, Danielewski, Clevenger or any “name,” even if it was agented. To me this seems like an exclusionary tactic, and the only need to exclude an agent would be if you wanted to 1) avoid the haggling process, or 2) you had a bad experience.
If you want to get the best that is out there, why exclude half the writers out there, especially the half that have devoted themselves and proven themselves to the point that they secured an agent?

Good writing, intelligent writing, will speak for itself, period.

CNU said...

You would think that intelligent writing would speak for itself, but my point was most publishing houses ONLY accept agent based submissions. FINE. To each their own, but to say then that when the University press wishes to make the field fair for those submitting without an agent so other voices can be heard is more than fair you must admit. The world is agent based and yes part of me must lament the fact that agents 'serve their purpose' kind of like a mortician. (No offense)

My point was three fold:

1) Copyright attorneys can look at the contract too, as the son of an education attorney some people are naturally gifted at looking at contracts to begin with.

2) The publishing industry at large looks at texts promoted by agents who don't have to necessarily look at books for literary or intellectual value- only SALES. This is how they 'pitch'. I beg to differ with regards to saying publishing houses and agents are merely concerned with 'good writing' that's a bit naive.

3) Given that Universities gain revenue via grants both public and private to advance ideas, ect. They are not sales driven, which means why would an agent want to bother submitting to a University press to begin with??? It doesn't make sense.
This also makes the concept of wishing to 'gain rights' from the author ridiculous, because they survive off of grants. Some are non-profit even.

This is why I don't believe it's a big deal if they wish to bar agent submissions.

If you're that bent on sending a submission. Tell a white lie and say, "Yeah I don't have an agent" get your deal with another work that you haven't given to the agent to represent. Meaning another work which isn't under the umbrella of an agent. Then you'd be no different than the others submitting.

Clear enough?

-C

spyscribbler said...

See my jaw drop.

freddie said...

This is just . . . odd.

Hopefully when they get a flood of dreck they'll change their minds about the agent thing.

Jonathan E. Quist said...

The Switchgrass Books web site doesn't offer any clarification. In fact, it doesn't offer much at all:
http://www.switchgrass.niu.edu

It's a single page, with their submission requirements. There is also a downloadable PDF file of submission requirements - the PDF is, basically, the web page, set at a jaunty angle.

It struck me as slightly odd that they only accept complete, hardcopy unsolicited submissions. This is odd to me because the NIU Press web site very explicitly says they don't accept unsolicited submissions. They will not accept electronic submissions, and also request "No queries,calls, or e-mails, please." [sic]

There is no information on expected turnaround time; nothing whatever about terms, size of print runs, distribution. Granted, you don't have all the particulars submitting elsewhere, but this imprint has no track record to review.

I am curious - if (and I don't know this is true) Switchgrass is publicly funded, then is it legal to discriminate against authors who prefer to work with an agent? I can't buy a used car without feeling violated - I'm certainly not going to negotiate sale of a manuscript without help. Yes, I could find an intellectual property attorney, I suppose - but while I live a long spit from the NIU campus, last time I checked, there were not very many literary attorneys nearby...

But then, I'm not sure I know what the Midwestern Experience is they're looking for. Maybe I've lived here too long.

Okay, I'm off my rant and off to sleep.

Kelley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jonathan E. Quist said...

Turns out they have a pedantic web site. I thought I had tested the URL I gave last night; this morning it seems to want only:
http://www.switchgrass.niu.edu/switchgrass/
and the trailing "/" is required.

Steve Ulfelder said...

I doubt this no-agents move has anything to do with ripping off writers. Rather, it carries the tweedy stench of ivory-tower decision-making. Agents? Oh dear, how ... how Janet Evanovich. Next thing you know we'll be selling books from racks at 7-Eleven, right next to the lad magazines.

The funny part, the part that involves a logic twist only an academic could pull off with a straight face, is the statement that only in the absence of an agent can a Midwestern voice be heard.

Jonathan E. Quist said...

Heh. If NIU Press wants to hear a Midwestern voice, all they need do is turn on the network news...

Now, if I were to submit with the condition that my brother must do the cover art, and my cousin get the contract to deliver the books to stores, that would be a true Illinois voice.

Ryan Field said...

Sound be open to everyone.

Ryan Field said...

*Should* be open to everyone

Katie Alender said...

What about intelligent authors who just happen to have gotten an agent? Suddenly their work, regardless of its depth and quality and prestige and integrity, doesn't merit a look?

Or do they just have to throw off the agent who has agreed to team up with them and send the ms in on their own? This effectively punishes the agent who is willing to work with the non-mainstream author. Which in turn will only serve to make them less likely to take on non-mainstream authors in the future. Which is one step further from getting those midwestern voices heard.

And Janet may correct me if I'm wrong, but some agents do a lot of work with small presses, making a lot of allowances for the limitations of the publishers. Small advances are no surprise to anyone these days, especially in a small press situation.

CNU said...

The problem I see with that is this- The University wishes to give "non-agented" writers a chance to submit without having to be up against some silver tongued agent pedaling someone else's work.

It's like having a marathon and arguing, "But what do you mean I can't use a 'segway'???"

Because you're suppose to use your own feet. I believe what the university is stating (and I could be wrong) is that you can't submit with an agent. This doesn't mean if you're pitching something that is not a part of your agency contract i.e. a book in the works, an essay, something else- That you can't submit it all by your lonesome. Not ALL your work should be beholden to the agent, unless your agency contract is screwed up and all your work MUST filter through them, then yes I'd say you're rather 'screwed' to put it lightly.

Fact is most publishers disallow anyone who ISN'T with an agent from contacting them. THAT is discrimination and it's a much larger demographic.

(See above posts for why University presses differ from regular presses and why that's a factor. I've only said this ten times and no one on this board actually acknowledges this 'small' omission. )

Small presses are even getting into this idea of giving independents this "Back of the bus" sort of mentality and that's sad. This is the one time agents are barred and now are complaining when they've got the majority of the publishing pie??

Are you joking???


-C

Katie Alender said...

I understand what you're saying about university presses. They aren't driven by the traditional business model. But clearly agents do deal with these presses, or Janet wouldn't have deemed it an appropriate topic to blog about.

If the university press is being fooled by silver-tongued agents, shame on them, not on the writers who went to the trouble of procuring an agent. They should be examining the quality of the work regardless of the manner in which it's submitted.

The problem, as I see it, is that many regional writers would like a chance to reach readers on a larger scale, eventually. To do this, as you point out, often requires an agent (and I don't happen to think that's a bad thing, so maybe that's one more point on which we differ). But an agent who's effectively shut out of the process by a sizable percentage of a client's potential buyers has less of an incentive to invest time and money in that client--as unfair or elitist as that may sound.

Agents aren't all smooth-talking wheeler-dealers. Most agents become agents because they love books. But it is still a business. And that might not matter to a writer who is happy to publish at the university level indefinitely. But I would assume that most writers would like a chance to reach a larger audience at some point in their careers.

Because of this, my opinion is that the university press is essentially shooting authors in the foot, by making them less attractive to agents.

And the authors who publish through the university will need to hire an outside counsel to examine the contract anyway, so it's not like they get to keep that piece of the pie. The difference might be that an agent has a set percentage as his or her commission, while a freelance lawyer can charge you whatever s/he likes.

I don't think they should close to process to authors who have agents. Just that doing the opposite is potentially harmful to the careers of some of these authors.

I suspect, however, that we're going to have to agree to disagree.

Charles said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charles said...

i think it's a rather bold and courageous choice they're making, really only formalzing an unofficial practice that most university presses have been in favor of since the beginning of publishing time. basically: up editors i know really don't like working with agents. it has nothing to do about having more freedom to screw over their authors. it's just, well . . . i think you know.

CNU said...

I'm not saying having an agent is a bad thing...
Also the fact that this is a regional press is the University's limitation, not the one applying. Given the business model of Universities versus traditional publishing it is counter intuitive for the agent to even wish for their client to be represented there given that they live off of the proceeds from sales and from the advance, which in the case of universities might even be a big fat "0".

What I was stating is it seems insane to argue that this one institution which is barring agents is somehow 'discriminatory' towards them, when in fact writers are discriminated against everyday because they lack agents.

Just because they make one deal with this university, who happens to bar agents- Does not preclude them from working with agents in the future. I doubt that's what they're saying otherwise you'd have a valid point.

Also I've made the argument that you may want to submit one of your works which is not being represented by the agent. Unless there is a provision in your agency contract that forbids this action. But in that case you've handed over WAY too much power to that agent. Wayyyyy too much.

If an agent is 'turned off' that you got a deal on your own with a university, forget them. That'd be screwing themselves anyways, why would the agent want to bar an 'unagented' writer who made it to an actual publisher?

I'm partially annoyed that agents want the WHOLE market. This is one place where it's not necessarily about the $$$. I know agencies are a business. But understand writers- genuine writers, actually want to help spread ideals.

Writers we adore right now are the ones that were considered trash in their own lifetime. Many had to start their own presses because no one had the common sense to actually know that their writing had merit.

Nothing has changed if anything the publishing industry has gotten more jaded and everything focuses on,

"Well who are you selling to?"

I have a resounding- "I don't know" I'm not a marketer, I'm a writer.

I respect those that have a skill set such as marketing, for that agents ought to be commended, but know that most of the publishing industry places way way too much emphasis on these literary 'bouncers' who have intellectual 'roid rage' when it comes to writers.

It's pretty much a visceral reaction to queries. I don't know I truly believe it'd be easier to just contact the publisher directly and have some bottom feeders in the organization sift through their mail.

I think that's what the university is getting at, I see your points, but once again I'll have to disagree.

Maybe if I was 'agented' I'd have a different opinion of agents- but right now as it stands my opinion of them happens to be negative.

I do respectfully disagree, but you've made the most valid points of anyone on this board.

Again I mean no disrespect to the author nor anyone here, I just happen to have a different view of the situation.

Jonathan E. Quist said...

I think you've taken a huge leap of logic by assuming that Strawgrass' exclusion of agented manuscripts comes through any altruistic motivation. None of us, none of us know what their reason is, because Strawgrass is not saying. And their web site as much as states "don't ask".

I honestly don't know whether this exclusion is typical of university publishing houses (that's small 'u', as I am referring to university presses in general, not NIU Press specifically). It could very well be that they just simply have a romantic yearning for an Olympus-sized slush pile of manuscripts, complete with "beware of falling leaves" signs, so they can wade through and pan for gold as their literary ancestors did before them.

Or, it could be that someone on staff was rejected by a literary agent and has a bone to pick.

Either way, we don't know, because they aren't saying.

They are, of course, within their rights to not explain their policies. Just as I am within my rights to lower my expectations for their product.

There seems to be a misconception that the agent's job is to make a couple of phone calls and cash a check. If that were true, there wouldn't be many agents, nor publishers requiring them.

A good agent is a partner in the creation of the book. Someone who believes in the story, but who isn't too close to see the warts. Someone with a knowledge of the literary marketplace, who can help guide the revision process, and steer the manuscript to a publisher in the right market. (If the writer doesn't have a market in mind, a vanity press will print the book for a small fee and make his Aunt Trudy oh, so proud. It's so much less stressful for the author, and much appreciated by those of us working to make our writing the best it can be prior to submission.)

Writing a novel is a solitary occupation. But writing a good novel is a solitary occupation that requires many participants. If someone tells you otherwise, they are peddling fertilizer. If you believe otherwise, then please, watch for my notice when I list the Brooklyn Bridge on eBay later today.

A good agent also keeps the author's best interests as part of the process. It is said Charles Dickens grew wealthy at tuppence a word. Well, guess what. A new author, publishing a typical 75,000 word novel today, can still makes two cents a word. Only in 2008 cents. A writer will keep writing, no matter what. But wouldn't it be a shame if a good writer stopped publishing, because she didn't want to go through all the bother for too-little compensation? You may counter, "The publisher will pay what the book is worth." True. But the publisher will also pay as little as she can. She's running a business, after all. And honestly, I have lost count of the authors I have met in the past year with books in limbo, because their publishers went out of business. I'd like to be well-paid, but by a publisher with sound business practices. Including trying to squeeze me for a lower price.

Yes, it is wonderful that there are publishers, whether university presses or small commercial imprints, with the expressed mission of finding and publishing quality literature. But if that is truly the mission, then decisions should be based upon the quality of the writing, along with any niche criteria that apply. I'd expect the niche to be something along the lines of "American Indian Authors", "Midwest Fiction", or "Fictional Autobiographies As Seen on Ophrah". For all the times I have browsed book stores, independent or big box, I can't recall a shelf labeled "Unagented Authors".

Besides, the agent's percentage comes from the author's bottom line, not the publishers. All the publisher has to do is set a price. If they don't want the book at a higher price, they don't have to buy it, and it's not costing them a cent.

Now, about that bridge... It has a great history and wonderful views, would be a great place to park your RV over the winter, and has enough room underneath to start a homeless shelter...

Charles said...

"business model" is precisely why up authors and editors have little need for agents.

Katie Alender said...

cnu, maybe I'm biased, because my relationship with my agent is one in which I want him involved in every project I work on. We're a team. I wouldn't think of trying to sell something for myself, because that's one of the many things covered under his half of the team. It's a collaboration. I know it's not the case for all writers, which is too bad.

And yes, my POV is somewhat alarmist. One university press taking this stance isn't going to shut regional writers off from access to traditional publishing outlets. I guess I'm thinking in terms of, if this is embraced, if it becomes a trend--at that point, I do think we will see a much larger divide between university presses and the traditional publishing model.

For better or for worse, I suppose!

Charles said...

as i said, it already is a trend. just because you're only learning about it now doesn't mean it's a new phenomenon. just look at janet's list. how many UP books do you see on it?

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

I heard from J. Alex Schwartz, director of Northern Illinois Press. He says:

1. My tone is bad. (Bad pixie! Bad!)

2. He managed to read Boris Kachka's article in New York magazine bemoaning the stress caused by overly large advances to authors.

3. Agents are the evil force behind this.

4. They wish to be "author driven." Translastion: "You evil Pixie! How could you even ask? We will not pay overly large advances ... maybe none at all. muhahahahaa!"

Sorry, I do not have premission to post his email. I'm expressly forbidden to post it. He wishes to have nothing to do with Miss Reid or her blog. Or me.

Note 1. He did not address directly the issues I raised.

Note 2. My tone is bad. (BAD pixie!) Translation secundum: I don't wanna answer your questions or address your issues. Bad Pixie!

Note 3. His follow up suggests that authors such as myself (female, pixie, undereducated :snort::, incapable of understanding the larger picture) could not possibly understand. He knew that in advance.

Pixie reply 1:

That's a crock and watch your own attitude.

Pixie reply 2:

It's still a crock. My cv is prettier than yours, and you should really just say: "While we are open to submissions from Agents (thus giving you access to some really nice material you will not otherwise see), we usually cannot pay an advance. On those rare occasions where we do pay an advance it is small and fixed by University policy. We cannot negotiate it."

Note 1a: He won’t do this. Just watch! [Warning: Uninformed opinion of female, undereducated, “won’t get it,” Pixie writer.

Aren't you glad you don't have to deal with pixies on a daily basis?

Susan Adrian said...

Johnathan:

Thanks for that post. Your description of what a good agent does is right on.

CNU said...

John,

No offense, but you're wrong. Agents seek market value for writing NOT literary value as you have pointed out. Typically these are "mutually exclusive" I hate to break this to you "Harry Potter" is HORRIBLE literature. I don't care if it gets kids to read, they should read something else. It's not good writing. Not at all. Is it marketable? Hell yes, because it's interesting.

There's a huge difference between what is interesting and what is a piece of work which is making a thesis(ideal) regarding a subject.

No universities typically DON'T offer advances, if they do it's low because many are typically 'non-profit' why in the world would an agent, who is seeking the bread crumbs of sales that an author is making go to the extremes of sending the manuscript to the university press in the first place which perhaps isn't interested in sales, but the IDEAS contained there within.

You're missing the whole point here chum.

BTW did I ever argue that work was never meant to be revised? As you appear to be claiming? (Here's a hint: No.)


How in the world will the agent 'argue' a better price??? Unless like I've asserted, they're rather shady?

In addition university presses will give some royalties for your work, however it may not be as much as if you were to go to a large publishing firm, which if profit margins are your only source of 'inspiration' for your writing (one I feel sad for you) but most importantly this doesn't produce good writing whatsoever.

BTW just because someone doesn't have a 'marketing demographic' in mind doesn't mean they don't edit their work, nor does it mean that it isn't 'polished' I take exception to that remark.

Your sarcasm can't hide an argument with more holes than swiss cheese!

-C

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Well, I've been published by a university press. University presses will ask you on their submission form (different world than commercial publishing, right?) if there is an organization that might subsidize your book.

There is no expectation of an advance. You get published by a U. Press when you have something of academic or social merit. You do not go to them for MONEY. They ain't got none. At least none they share.

The issue with N. Illinois is that they are condescending and seemingly inexperienced. If you're a nice university press and branching out into regional fiction why not simply state the facts. We publish the best stuff we can find. We do it without paying you much. But if you're good, regional and will take our abuse with minimal complaint, send us your stuff.

Typically, a university press deal directly with an author. There is nothing to really negotiate. They usually have a fixed contract that because of the nature of their venture is not open to negotiation. They fill a very useful place in publishing. Some are top notch … give them a cookie … publishing houses. Others are run by clueless academics who imagine themselves the rightful rulers of the world and resent it that no one else sees it that way.

My issue with N. Illinois is that they see us as incapable of understanding the realities of a university press. This shows through clearly in their emails.

Submit to them if you wish. I'd never discourage anyone from that. Just do it with your eyes open. If they accept you, you will get nothing in return except a marginal amount of recognition for being published by a less than top tier university. Hey! University of Lower Turpitude still sounds good on a resume … right? Who reads past the word “university”?

UNI, if it followed a reasonable business model and if it didn’t have an elitist attitude, would plainly state that they cannot and will not pay advances. Most writers will know this anyway, but some won’t. UNI has taken an adversarial stance. Agents are BAD (and so are pixies). This reflects a lack of a well grounded sense of social responsibility. In typical elitist fashion it shoves responsibility away from those who should bare it (the publisher) onto others.

It’s also an unfounded moral judgment. It assumes that any agent will ask a bazillion dollar advance from them. Some agents are less than stellar. [I have a list] But no legitimate agent is going to be stupid enough to submit to a university press with the expectation that there will be a large advance, unless their client is umm ummm oh heck [insert really famous name here]. And even then, they wouldn’t submit that sort of client to a U press because …. They arin’t the kinda publisher that [insert famous name] would find interesting unless they had grown tired of money and just wanted to be published by a university press.

You ever notice that pixies ramble a lot?

Charles said...

not all UPs have this "submission form." i wasn't asked to find any subsidizing for the book i published.

CNU said...

Dear 'Tinkerbell' pixie

I'd take the opinion of a university professor over an agent ANY day... Yeah it's elitist. I don't care who knows it. It's called- "The Truth."

You also reinforced my point regarding agents- advances and the fact that they ought to stay away in the first place given that it'll hurt their profits.

As an author who is featured by a University press I feel as though it's the last great place for original, socially conscious, ideas which otherwise would not be heard.

I'd actually like more universities to take this stance. Even if I had an agent I'd still believe this.

As far as 'marketing demographics' maybe a university professor may know less than an agent, but 'good writing' hmmmm I'd have to go with the one with the doctorate in English. Sorry.

-C

Charles said...

totally with you, CNU.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Dear CNU,

Firstly, Tinkerbel was a fairy. You evidently watched the Disney movie and neglected to actually read J. M Barrie. Fairies and Pixies are not the same creatures.

[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pixie really a nice article, mostly because it mentions my book more than once.]

Some agents were university professors. I'm well enough acquainted with university professors (you may have attended one of my lectures, you never know.) to tell you that having the word "professor" before your name does not make you wise, understanding, or even allow you to function well in life. It doesn't even guarantee that you have a grasp of your subject matter. It is elitist to presume that a professor knows more, is wiser, or more adept than one who has gravitated to a "real" job.

The mistake NIU makes is in presuming that an agent would send their top clients to a university press. They are less than forthcoming. If they can't state the truth simply and clearly, in what way can one trust them to be fair and open with writes who submit to them?

In my non-pixie persona I write history. I research an area in which there is limited popular interest. A university press is ideal. There are alternatives too. There are non-university academic publishers. Some are small POD presses. My writing partner and I have elected to use one of these for our next book. We retain more rights.

Pixie,

BA, BRE, MA, PhD … “Elitism stifles the thinking ability of those who practice that sin. “ – William E. Goat, III, esq.

Charles said...

i think it's pretty hard to get a phd without a "grasp of your subject matter."

and these are the only pixies i care about:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pixies

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Charles,

Nonsense.

Jonathan E. Quist said...

CNU,

As nobody named "John" has posted to this thread, I'll take it you mean me.

Yes, agents seek market value. Why on earth do you believe that market value and literary value are mutually exclusive? And why the hell would you assume that I or anybody else is writing for an intentionally non-literary market?

I don't know what Harry Potter has to do with anything, as you are the first to mention the series in this discussion. I guess you consider it HORRIBLE literature because it didn't come from a University press, because you offered no other support for that opinion. Or was it because Joan Rowling submitted through an agent?

There's a huge difference between what is interesting and what is a piece of work which is making a thesis(ideal) regarding a subject.

I'd comment, but I haven't a clue what you were trying to say.

Advances? I started to comment, much earlier today, but thought better of it. Not sure who this point was directed at; it wasn't me.

I believe the last time I saw the word "chum" in print, the name on the cover was Franklin W. Dixon. Cool, I always liked his work.

BTW did I ever argue that work was never meant to be revised? As you appear to be claiming? (Here's a hint: No.)

I never argued that point, either. I merely suggested that an agent with broad literary experience, and specific expertise in the genre of interest, makes an excellent partner for rewrites.

How in the world will the agent 'argue' a better price??? Unless like I've asserted, they're rather shady?

If you'll review the comments, you'll notice that, until now, you are the only person to use the term "argue" or "argument" in this discussion.

That's not an argument! An argument is a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition.

Penfold, shush!


In addition university presses will give some royalties for your work, however it may not be as much as if you were to go to a large publishing firm, which if profit margins are your only source of 'inspiration' for your writing (one I feel sad for you) but most importantly this doesn't produce good writing whatsoever.

I'm grateful for your sympathy, but you seem stuck on the notion that "commercial" equals "bad". I just don't get it.

If a person is going to invest considerable time - possibly years of their life - writing a book with the intention of publishing it, why would they deliberately ignore the back end of the process - publication - and then whine about the fact that no publisher will touch their work? Submitting a manuscript for paid publication is, among other things, an act of commerce. If you are engaging in a business related to your art, why would you not apply the same standards of excellence to the business aspects of the work as the creative aspects? That's just silly.

Defining the market is simply an adjustment of the limitations the writer is working within. Structure and defined limits are vital to the creative process. Sometimes, those limits foster new forms of expression. Sometimes, they invite the artist to break the structure and exceed the limits. I strongly believe that any creative effort, be it music, literature, or the visual arts, that is executed within defined boundaries is inherently more creative than that with no imposed structure whatever. The ability to vomit chewed veggies into a pot does not make one a gourmet soup chef. Or a sous chef, either.

Try to imagine Bach, without the structure of Baroque counterpoint, or Van Gogh with out the conventions (against which he rebelled) of Impressionism.

What do you get? Like the writer working completely without structure, you get crap.

Defining a market can actually improve a piece of literature. That market doesn't have to be 5th-grade illiterates. (The Potter series is mostly at that level, according to Lexile analysis.) Nor does the market have to be scholars of 19th century English literature. Your market can be your family, or your neighbor, or your cousin's friend's SCA group.

Or, your market can be one of many demographic groups who purchase books.

And refining your work for that market will improve it, and improve your skill. Even if it degrades it within the context of a different target market. Or, you can refine your work exclusively to your own liking. There's nothing wrong with that. Make it the best you can. But sometimes, such authors find that they have a market of one.

I choose to write for others.

As for taking the word of college proffessors over any other, well... I had a professor once. An utterly brilliant mathematician and electrical engineering professor, whose specialty was digital filtering algorithms. As one colleague put it, "Taking notes in his class is like drinking from a fire hose." After discussing an assignment with the professor, as an aside, I mentioned an article I had read about a new electronic device, about the control systems described to make it work, about the error correction techniques to make it work trouble-free. He shook his head, simply, and said, "No, no. That could not possibly work."

I knew he was wrong. I had already seen a compact disc player in operation.

Even the most brilliant mind isn't correct all the time.

By the way, if you ever are looking for the best way to get kids to read, I know what it is. Read to them.

Regards,

jeq

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Bill E. Goat: [holding pen in mouth and muttering.]

Me: Bill, what ARE you doing?

Bill: [Spitting out pen] Writing a fan letter.

Me: To whom?

Bill: Mr. Quist. I like his style.

Me: Me too, but I don't know if he'd appreciate fan mail from a goat.

Bill: Wouldn't anyone?

Katie Alender said...

The academia vs. mainstream debate is like the breastfeeding vs. formula debate or the working moms vs. stay at home moms debate. All opinions are ironclad and everyone just goes away pissed off.

I had brilliant professors. I had moronic professors. There are brilliants literary agents out there, and no doubt there are a few who fall short. I'd like to think that an intelligent person would consider the source of any criticism, whether it come from a member of a university press or a literary agent.

CNU, at 2:40 you said: "Writers we adore right now are the ones that were considered trash in their own lifetime." And then later you criticized JK Rowling. Certainly her being popular now doesn't mean that she can't still fall into your trash/adoration formula.

One type of publishing isn't automatically worthy any more than another type is automatically bad. Even among the established classics, there are those we love and hate based on personal preference.

If you guys are happy being published by university presses, that's great. I hope they continue to accept unagented submissions. But this policy does serve to handicap agented authors. And there are people who don't think that's a very good idea... and then there are some who do.

I just hate the ivory tower viewpoint where anyone involved in mainstream media is an idiot. Some of us who don't have phDs are working with integrity and pride to create something we're proud of.

Katie Alender said...

"brilliants" "come"... I are gud at grammering.

Charles said...

it's not a this vs. that. they're two philosophically different entities. the issue was whether or not lit agents needed to be involved in the process and the answer is: no.

and i say formula all the way. breastfeeding grosses me out. don't really give a shit about stay home vs. back to work, but i'd say the kids raised by the stay-homes end up a little prissier in the long run (if i may offer myself up as an example).

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Charles,

Are you in your twenties? The male brain doesn't come off the pilot light until sometime near 30 and functions on low power for a while afterwards. Or were you merely trying to be funny?

Katie is right. CNU is wrong. Mr. Quist is really good! And Charles, dear, you're merely naive.

From experience I can tell you it is far more difficult to be published commercially than it is to be published academically. Write well. Entertain. Inform. Play.

Life is no fun if you don't have fun. ... umm or something like that.

Katie Alender said...

Well, just so I can disagree with everyone, Sha'el, while I appreciate your support, I don't think cnu is totally wrong or that Charles is naive. A lot of good material is overlooked by the traditional establishment for one reason or another. Presses who go out of their way to reach out to those people and find good material are performing a service.

I just don't agree that agented authors should be excluded from the process.

I guess for me, it's like this: if I had a piece of writing that felt better suited for a small press, and I had to submit it while specifically leaving my agent out of the process, I would feel that I hadn't lived up to my part of our partnership. Then again, maybe he wouldn't care and it would be fine. But then how could I go to him to ask him to look over the contract?

At the root of all of it seems to be a slight antagonism, which is a shaky foundation on which to base any system.

And Charles, I was mostly a latchkey kid and I am plenty prissy, thank you very much!

CNU said...

Dear Quist,


I'm convinced there's no helping you.

Agents are not good sounding boards for writing. They merely market work. They'll even admit the following statement- "All our clients are based off of personal tastes" they don't study literature for a living and thus their opinions aren't worth jack.

Gimmie a break if you're talking about marketing to a 'demographic' yes your opinion on writing is going to be painfully skewed to finding the last dollar you can squeeze out of a book.

(Let me guess you can't wait for the next 'Vampire thriller' to just 'blow you away' or the next 'pirates' short story. )

This these arguments you are making and yes they are arguments backing your contention that

"Agents being barred from a major University press ultimately hurts the writers AND that the writing that comes in which is 'unagented' is somehow sub par"

This statement is just plain wrong. There's no evidence to back this up, but there's plenty of evidence to support that idea that agents have hocked books which are 'popular', but not necessarily intelligent.

I can't fathom some of these arguments you are making, you seem to be 'deifying' agents here.
They don't somehow make your writing better-
They assist you in 'making it better' for the enjoyment of a market, which may merely be a bunch of baboons.

Sigh.

-C

Janet Reid said...

Agents don't hock books.

Not even ones with Cartier in the title.

Jonathan E. Quist said...

Hey U.

Sorry, that's the closest I can come to addressing you by your surname.

I'm convinced there's no helping you.

Agreed. There is nothing you can do to help me.

Agents are not good sounding boards for writing. They merely market work. They'll even admit the following statement- "All our clients are based off of personal tastes" they don't study literature for a living and thus their opinions aren't worth jack.

I don't know Jack. Does he study literature?

A good agent, and yes, as someone else pointed out, there are worthless agents, too, does, in fact, study literature for a living. Many write it as well. And yes, they study the market, and understand what the book-buying public wants.

But the book-buying public is not one unwashed, homogeneous mass. You seem stuck on that concept. There are portions of the book-buying public that I will never reach, and portions that I don't care to reach. I get the impression that you truly believe I want to sell my work to nose-running idiots.

Nothing could be further from the truth. I don't care whether you buy my book.

Gimmie a break if you're talking about marketing to a 'demographic' yes your opinion on writing is going to be painfully skewed to finding the last dollar you can squeeze out of a book.


Go find me a college professor who teaches writing, or public speaking, who subscribes to the notion that you should not know your audience. Name one. This has nothing to do with the money. The whole point is understanding who is likely to read the book, and trying to write something they'll enjoy.

Or is writing that entertains inherently bad?

(Let me guess you can't wait for the next 'Vampire thriller' to just 'blow you away' or the next 'pirates' short story. )

I've never read a vampire thriller, aside from Bram Stoker's. And if I wanted baseball stories, I'd look for one about the Cubs.

This these arguments you are making and yes they are arguments backing your contention that

"Agents being barred from a major University press ultimately hurts the writers AND that the writing that comes in which is 'unagented' is somehow sub par"


I'm not sure who you keep quoting and saying it's me. That doesn't appear in any comments by anyone. Why don't you figure out who really said that, and go bother them? Okay?

but there's plenty of evidence to support that idea that agents have hocked books which are 'popular', but not necessarily intelligent.

Da Vinci Code. There. We agree on something! Maybe we're not so far apart, after all.

I can't fathom some of these arguments you are making, you seem to be 'deifying' agents here.

No, that' not my intent. Just stating facts.


They don't somehow make your writing better-


ANY reader who looks at a draft and offers constructive criticism makes the writing better. And the agent, along with the editor, the spouse, and the best friend, among others, has a vested interest in making the book better.

They assist you in 'making it better' for the enjoyment of a market, which may merely be a bunch of baboons.


Or, it may be a bunch of college professors.

And don't professors and baboons deserve a good read now and then?

jeq

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Dear Katie,

Sorry to disappoint you, but we're not really disagreeing. The two forms of publishing have different models. They address different audiences, though there is some overlap.

My issue with NIU isn't that they're an academic press trying to become a regional publisher of literary fiction. It's that they are less than honest in their presentation. They should plainly state the situation.

It is unfair to exclude an agented author, but, truly, most who submit to them will be unrepresented. Following the model they've chosen will draw writers who could not find an agent. This does not mean their writing is poor. It merely means it didn't seem market-worthy to an agent.

It is naive to suggest that every PhD knows his or her subject matter. They don't. If they did, I wouldn't spend so much time writing footnotes saying, "Imtoosmart Foru's statement in The Frogs of Entwhistle Hall is incorrect and not supported by the documentation. The Frogs of Entwhistle Hall descend from the Tadpoles of West Reading. See the entry under Phinias Frog in the 1881 British Census. Compare it with the printed letters found in West Reading Antiquities, London, second edition, 1724, page 10-74."

And believe me, I write similar footnotes on a regular basis.

There is a "snootiness" among writers of academic material that is wrong. Academic credentials do not translate into talent for writing or wisdom. Academic publishers are not superior to commercial houses, run by smarter people, or on a purer business model.

I'd like to see a short list from CNU of those who he believes were under-appreciated by their contemporaries and whom we now see as having produced classics.

Good writing is good writing. Styles change, but good writing remains good writing, even with the change in style.

The plaintive cry, "another generation will appreciate me" translates into a belief that we've written something so great no one can "get it." This is nonsense. It usually means that we’ve written something only marginally marketable (though it might be a great bit of research), of passing academic interest, or that is poor in quality.

CNU said...

Ok, thirty people are talking to me at once.

I'll merely state the following so that all of you can understand this:

1) Agent driven work dominates the market.

2) This is probably not a good thing.(For reasons I've already stated)

3) A university press is dedicated to the writing- NOTHING ELSE. With agencies, that's not the case. No agent can argue with that.

4) The quote I used Quist was stating your central idea- I wasn't quoting you directly merely your assertions.

5) I apologize to Ms. Reid for the use of the word "Hock" I meant to say "sold". It's nothing personal, just a philosophical disagreement which I feel strongly about.

6) I sincerely believe there needs to be a governing body for literary agents so that they have to pass screening similar to real estate agents. They need to know the law and have some experience in the world of writing. Too many people are donning the title and probably giving a bad name to the reputable ones.

7) I believe that the universities are the last place where there appears to be a level playing field. Agents can give a call up to say Harper Collins if they wish- while independents can't. This is a majority of the market.

8) Agents aren't the only ones who understand contracts, attorneys can as well.

9) Success is based off of what you've accomplished as a writer, not how many books you've sold. Which appears to be Quist's contention.

10) No if you're successful this doesn't preclude one from being intelligent, but there's tons of garbage out there that hit the market, because of an angle not its real value.

11) Yes I believe writing to a particular market and thinking about that ahead of time makes the writing contrived. Meaning "hmmm I'm writing for a 6 year old girl who would like to have a pony" seems a little ridiculous.


I don't have enough breath to individually answer all of you but this is where I stand on this and I'm not budging.

-C

Robin Noelle said...

I think it's good that they are only accepted unagented submissions. Anyone with half a brain will have a contract checked out in advance by a lawyer.

As a writer who happens to have a strong background in marketing and PR, I think it's grossly unfair that NO ONE will look at my manuscript unless I have an agent to take 20%. So I went and got an agent. I'm still pretty annoyed because I know I can pitch my book as well if not better than an agent. Do you think an agent will put half the care and effort into selling my book that I will? Doubt it. They have other clients and presumably lives as well whereas this book is MINE and I have a vested interest in selling it. An agent does not. If they do not sell my book, there are other clients to get 20% from. Other than some time, what have they lost?

Yes, agents only care about what's marketable right now. Not what's good or useful or what might be marketable in the future.

Frankly, it's even more annoying because by producing a manuscript and a kick-ass book proposal, I've proven to an agent that I can write and I can market. Other than past sales for other writers, an agent has proven nothing to me. Just because they sold someone else's book doesn't mean they can or will sell mine. Instead, I must sit and wait for updates and twiddle my thumbs because I can't do anything to help the process. Frustrating.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Ok, thirty people are talking to me at once.

I'll merely state the following so that all of you can understand this:

1) Agent driven work dominates the market.

Books are author driven though represented by agents. If you meant to say that most publishers want a submission from an agency, that’s true. Do you know why?

2) This is probably not a good thing. (For reasons I've already stated)

It’s at most inconvenient for those who are not represented. It filters out much that is substandard or simply not marketable. There are publishers, both larger imprints and midlevel regional who take unagented submissions. Many small houses do to. The key to being published is a good story told in great style and in an engaging way. Commercial non-fiction must be financially viable, having an audience sufficient to warrant it’s publication.

3) A university press is dedicated to the writing- NOTHING ELSE. With agencies, that's not the case. No agent can argue with that.

This is wrong. University presses also have a focus, occasionally religious, sometimes political. The focus is not always on the writing. It’s as frequently on the message.

4) The quote I used Quist was stating your central idea- I wasn't quoting you directly merely your assertions.

Mr. Quist and my goat can speak for themselves, though I’m sure Mr. Quist is more adept at communicating.

5) I apologize to Ms. Reid for the use of the word "Hock" I meant to say "sold". It's nothing personal, just a philosophical disagreement which I feel strongly about.

As well you might. Bad bad bad.

6) I sincerely believe there needs to be a governing body for literary agents so that they have to pass screening similar to real estate agents. They need to know the law and have some experience in the world of writing. Too many people are donning the title and probably giving a bad name to the reputable ones.

You’re uninformed. There is an organization similar to the one you suggest.

7) I believe that the universities are the last place where there appears to be a level playing field. Agents can give a call up to say Harper Collins if they wish- while independents can't. This is a majority of the market.

I presume you mean level playing field for writers. This is no more true of universities than it is of commercial houses. The key in both areas is to write well. Universities have personalities. Try submitting a political exposition that at variance with the university’s own, or if a religiously based college at variance with their core beliefs.

8) Agents aren't the only ones who understand contracts, attorneys can as well.

True

9) Success is based off of what you've accomplished as a writer, not how many books you've sold. Which appears to be Quist's contention.

One good measure of accomplishment is being read. It's probably the best measure of accomplishment, too. Sales are a measure of readership.

10) No if you're successful this doesn't preclude one from being intelligent, but there's tons of garbage out there that hit the market, because of an angle not its real value.

Do you know how many books are published in a year world wide? Few are worth reading. This is news?

11) Yes I believe writing to a particular market and thinking about that ahead of time makes the writing contrived. Meaning "hmmm I'm writing for a 6 year old girl who would like to have a pony" seems a little ridiculous.

Good writing is good writing, even if you have a target audience.

I don't have enough breath to individually answer all of you but this is where I stand on this and I'm not budging.

CNU said...

WAIT wait wait...

AAR does NOT count as a governing agency.

It doesn't require a working knowledge of copyright law, nor does it require any standardized test. Nothing like real estate agents- You merely pay a fee and abide by some very vague rules. It doesn't prove anything.

If you screw up in real estate you can be in SERIOUS trouble. (Fines, maybe even jail) Literary agents can get away with murder when it comes to contracts. There's no government regulation of this group, like there ought to be.

As for your other points, I'm not going to bother. You know that you're inherently wrong, but you won't admit that. Unagented writers need a voice which the university presses and smaller presses are providing.

I'm asking that agent driven work not take that from the rest of those dedicated writers from promoting their work.

This has been my point which all on this board have been screaming bloody murder over.

You know this is the truth, you're all in denial.

-C

Tannat Madiran said...

CNU, are you Gerard Jones, of Ginny Good and everyonewhosanyone [dot] com infamy?

Because the two of you sound a lot alike:

Free Press and Academic Press are the best, because they are the venues that will accept me, therefore, they are the best.

I hate all agents (until I get picked up and published with the aid of one - would you turn down an agetn if they could get your work out their to a greater audience? even pay some bills in the process? I think not.)

I applaud a press that proactively excludes agented submissions solely on my simple worldview that:

1) the public is too stupid (or too busy waiting for Dan Brown's next bout of diarrhea)to get "real" literature (Anglican pronunciation, please),

2)agents (no distinction offered or implied, just ALL agents) are out for the bucks,

3) any author who "sells their soul" to an agent is pandering to the market,

4) since I have been rejected by agents, they are all just out for commercial gain.

I'm sane, the rest of the world is crazy - it couldn't possibly be my manuscript...

This is how you are coming across, to me, Tannat, a "pandering sellout" who must surely be drooings in anticipation for the next James Patterson (not).

The only point of contention in this blog post was WHY the proactive exclusion of agented work?

I personally have benefited from an agent's eyes looking over my work, but an editor moreso. I am sure having a career student look it over would be good too. I used to wait tables with a few Phds...

You are making some rather dogmatic statements, all agents this, always take a Phd's opinion over that, the public is this, academic presses are that.

In that zero-tolerance estimation of the literary world, you are wrong, just as a press is wrong by excluding agented submissions under any guise of trying to attain an unadulterated voice.

Just say it, you and UNI, you had bad experiences with agents and are jaded, upset, and looking to "get even."

...but then you already have, essentially.

Catherine Haines said...

"You know that you're inherently wrong, but you won't admit that."

"You know this is the truth, you're all in denial."


Is there a Jurisimprudence Law relating statements like that? I'm only familiar with the basic ones.


Apparently not accepting agented submissions = v. srs bsns.

CNU said...

Yes, my work is being featured in a major university's publication. (and a few magazines) No it is not NIU.

Yes I don't particularly care for agents.

Yes I believe they are money driven. (Pssst. Ask your agent if they'd pull a "Jerry Mcguire" for you... I doubt it...)

No the 'market' doesn't always create good writing.

MOST publishing institutions bar NON-agented submissions. You haven't stated that this is the SAME discrimination which you are decrying.

You still have a majority of the market and you're trying to get even more. That's all I'm saying and you're piling on extemporaneous information here.

Seriously. Also you are painting me as some goon,
this is worse than a bad John McCain ad...
Misleading and uninformed.

Agents aren't bad people- their industry, as it is currently structured is. I would believe this even if I had a great agent.

Sorry to burst your bubble.

-C

Haste yee back ;-) said...

I'm unagented and was raised in the Great Fly-Over.

Upon reading Ms. Reid's post this morning, I've spent my day writing, polishing and now submitting to Northern Illinois University my book... THE BRIDGES OF NORTHERN ILLINOIS COUNTIES.

Haste yee back ;-)

http://www.jacketflap.com/Profile.asp?member=PYXX

Katie Alender said...

CNU, purely out of curiosity... if you don't really like agents, why do you follow so many of their blogs?

No snark in my tone. Just curious.

Jonathan E. Quist said...

Ok, thirty people are talking to me at once.

Yes, we all formed a Yahoo! group and arrived at the consensus that if we spoke in enough different voices, you might be confused and listen.

4) The quote I used Quist was stating your central idea- I wasn't quoting you directly merely your assertions.

Ah - then you were quoting yourself? Or was the quoted material not really a quote?

The only problem with it is that it did not state my position; apparently, you were stating some other position. I'd appreciate if you did not put words in my mouth, friend-o. Your words make me look like a blithering idiot. If I want to effect a blithering countenance, I am quite capable of doing so on my own. That was lesson #17 from the ACME Correspondence School for Famous Writers, for which I received high marks.

9) Success is based off of what you've accomplished as a writer, not how many books you've sold. Which appears to be Quist's contention.

If, by that, you mean that success is measured by what you've accomplished as a writer, then we are in perfect agreement on that point. I have never stated nor believed that book sales are a measure of anything other than, well, book sales.

But my point was and remains (I'm highlighting this so it will be easier to catch, as we've already determined that your inference skills need work) there is nothing wrong with compensation for your creative labors. The whole notion that Literary Truth(TM) is contingent upon monastic poverty is bullshit, cooked up by some schmendrick who was unwilling to exercise enough initiative to achieve publication for hire. And no, before you pull that out of context, there is nothing wrong with writing without pay. You can find plenty of excellent examples in Public Service work. If you wade through the mountains of fan fiction out on the internet, along with some truly bad writing you can find some real gems. But there is no special nobility conferred upon unpaid work.

You state that you have been published in some periodicals. Congratulations, and I mean that sincerely. So have I. Periodicals generally have pretty narrowly defined requirements. If you don't have what they're looking for, you don't get published. In other words, you wrote to that market.

So, does that mean your published periodical articles have inherently less literary value than your other publications? Why is writing to a high paying market pandering, but writing to a low paying market not? By any definitions, a two-bit hooker is just as guilty of prostitution as a two-hundred dollar call girl. The irony is, it's the two-bit hooker who is more likely to face prosecution, conviction, and jail time.

I doubt you'd have any high regard for my goals as a writer. I am working to produce books with which someone can kick back, relax, and maybe enjoy a laugh or a smile. Books that will cause someone to ask, "When is the next one coming out?" in rapt anticipation. And maybe, along the way, shine some light in some of the world's dark corners.

That goal is no less noble than that of documenting semi-professional cricket in Saskatchewan or the mating habits of the blue-tongued mango vole.

It is also no less ignoble.

And yeah, if somebody is selling my work, I expect to get paid for it. Maybe someday you'll have kids to feed, and it'll suddenly click that the world is not the idealized place that you've imagined and wished it to be.

So, good luck with that.

By the way, you should fire your copy editor - he lets through too many punctuation and grammatical errors. I'd be happy to take you on as a client, for fifty bucks an hour.

Jonathan E. Quist said...

Hey, Haste Ye Back!

Good move, and best of luck with your submission. I remember you mentioning your book before, and it sounds like you are ideally positioned for Switchgrass's target market.

Please give a shout if you're accepted. I want a signed copy, so I can say, "I knew Haste Ye Back, back when!", then.

jeq

Tannat Madiran said...

Quist -

Careful cribbing lines from Cormac McCarthy - he's never been published by a prestigious university press, and his agent, Binky, well, we know she could care less about literary integrity... (ha)

...friend-o.

I almost snarfed my glass of wine when I saw that line. awesome.

Jonathan E. Quist said...

I'm claiming exemption under the fair use convention.

That's after the convention.

During the convention, I found myself wandering the halls with three guys wearing fezzes, insisting that they needed a tenor. They were relentless, so I relented. You might say I relent them a tenor. But then we went back to their suite and found tenor twelve of them, and they had no basses, in fact.

Well, that suited me like a cut-rate tailor, so I cut out of that suite. They had just dug out their toy trumpets. You might say I got out of the toot suite, toute de suite.

And that, my dear friends, is how I battled Cormack McCarthyism.

Steve Ulfelder said...

CNU, are you going to take this insolent backsass from a bunch of know-nothings? I advise you to write a lengthy rebuttal. And for God's sake, man, don't be dovish about it - be good and hockish!

(Sorry, gang. It's just too entertaining; I can't stand to let it die.)

CNU said...

In honor of this conversation I've placed a
tin foil hat on my head and declared myself
a literary agent! Now I know more than people
who study literature all their lives and I'm whining because I can't drain another place for profits over substance. In the words of Chris Fradella- "Don't get a case of the 'wahwahs' here"

You KNOW you're arguing on quicksand here- I've never met someone who could actually talk so much about nothing- Are you Jerry Sinfeld? Comm'on... your secret's safe clark kent.

Anyways. I'm scared he's quoting "No Country for Old me. " with 'friend-o' he's come to give me a bad haircut. (Overrated movie. Big Lebowski was wayyyy better)

Now... about everyone's nonsense...

Katie- I didn't say I wouldn't 'accept' an agent, I just don't like them. They serve their purpose. (Kind of like a lesbian going to a sperm bank to get pregnant...that's about the same analogy)
What I'm arguing is that this is one place where agents can't submit when they can submit everywhere else in the universe. University presses shouldn't be concerned with the same 'market place' mentality.
I would believe this even if I obtained an agent, but in all honesty I'd rather secure a small press or a university. Agents are like letting the jock in the class pick the reading list for your professor. (You know the one that cheated off the guy in front and STILL failed. That one)

Sigh. Quist,

Are you a disgruntled sports agent who happened to find this post or what? You defend this idea of the market and marketing as if it were the end all of writing. I'll admit I'm not the best at marketing. (I'm too busy writing I suppose)

BTW no I happen to obtain my place in publication because I was chosen by Kamau Brathwaite (Personal friend and literary legend. Google if you don't know) to speak at NYU, which lead the author from CUNY to interview me regarding my work. I did not write specifically for this market, however this market happened to fit my work. So do you seeeee the difference??? (Here's another hint, the inverse of a statement is NOT the same as the original statement)

Wow...the rest of that was just a train wreck of craziness. Have fun selling something that illiterates will love. You a copy editor? If I wanted someone to edit work I'd ask someone who actually studied English OR worked as an editor. Agents are neither. This is a blog, I'm writing on the fly, not a revised work.

Your point is pointless. Kind of like this conversation which has gone in circles.

You still haven't refuted any of these points

1) Agents have a majority of the market.

2) Agents are not regulated (AAR does not count, you pay a fee you get in...) Unlike say real estate, trust me on this one...

3) Agents training can be as sparse as the diet of one of the Olsen twins. (What too soon?)

4) University presses being non profit grants them the ability to decipher work for its VALUE, not market. My point is if money is your sole goal then go to the big publishing houses like all the other agents.

No steve I don't think Quist is a know-nothing.
Just wrong.

Midnight? I made you all stay up until midnight?

(Wow...He goes to his door...peaks out the peep hole...slowly locks the door... Hides under covers.)


-C

Haste yee back ;-) said...

Jonathan... actually I had two books I wanted to submit to NIU.

My second was a treatise on my personal existential outlook on modern adulthood, but I'm hesitant 'cause of subject/voice n' all.
Title is...

IT WAS BIGGER THAN ME, SO I WET MY PANTS AND SCARED IT OFF!

Haste yee back ;-)

Bill Cameron said...

I never thought I'd say this, but in response to CNU:

TLDR

I just reverted to my former status as a WOW fanboi. Oh Lord.

Jonathan E. Quist said...

Are you a disgruntled sports agent who happened to find this post or what?

That's what I love about you. You not only defy logic, you defeat it.

You defend this idea of the market and marketing as if it were the end all of writing. I'll admit I'm not the best at marketing. (I'm too busy writing I suppose)

Obviously, I have been laboring under false assumptions. I had this notion that university presses preferred open minds. You don't seem to grasp that you can direct your writing without corrupting it.

BTW no I happen to obtain my place in publication because I was chosen by Kamau Brathwaite (Personal friend and literary legend. Google if you don't know) to speak at NYU, which lead the author from CUNY to interview me regarding my work. I did not write specifically for this market, however this market happened to fit my work. So do you seeeee the difference??? (Here's another hint, the inverse of a statement is NOT the same as the original statement)

Yes, I do see the difference. You had something on the shelf, and a market opportunity came along. It's a wonderful thing when that happens, and I congratulate you.

I also see that you just told us you got the gig from a personal friend. Of course, that doesn't necessarily imply that your work was not submitted to the same scrutiny as anyone else's work.

Incidentally, no, I don't know Brathwaite's work. My reading of contemporary literature is pretty narrowly focused in several areas, and none of them are Carribean literature or poetry.

Wow...the rest of that was just a train wreck of craziness. Have fun selling something that illiterates will love. You a copy editor? If I wanted someone to edit work I'd ask someone who actually studied English OR worked as an editor. Agents are neither.

I sympathize. It sounds as though you feel like you're taking crazy pills.

Actually, I'm not writing for illiterates. The market is too small. The Ferengi Guild would not approve of such an unprofitable venture.

And no, I'm not a copy editor, that's my standard consulting rate for anything. Cheap, I know, but it's only a sideline. I just wanted to offer help where it seemed needed.

This is a blog, I'm writing on the fly, not a revised work.

Oh. So you don't feel that quality isn't important in your writing to people you don't know, who have no context in which to set your words.

I see. Well.

How 'bout those Cubbies, anyone?

CNU said...

Uh... chief? (Quist)


Apparently you are speaking ferengi, because I can't understand a word of what you're talking about, I had about four valid points, which you missed completely.

Gee using a personal contact to get published? Hmmm
Like I don't know using an agent to pass along your work??? The CUNY connection was based upon the book and my presentation, not merely the personal connection with Kamau. But thanks for playing we have some lovely parting gifts.

Sports agents care about money, not about skill level but about contracts, marketing etc. They're pretty similar to literary agents. That was the point I was making.

No I don't care if strangers think my grammatical errors are a reflection of my writing skills. This is a debate, whether you wish to admit it or not. If they're that anal, for lack of a better word, then that's their personal problem.

I've made several valid arguments regarding agents which you haven't been able to refute because you believe that agented authors somehow are 'superior' to unagented authors, which is closed minded of you, not I. I am defending independent authors who have something of interest to share.

I'm not saying agents don't serve their purpose in the universe, it's just relegated to marketing and contracts.

Yes I do feel like this conversation is crazy because you're taking this way off track here by attacking my grammar, my contacts and me personally. You haven't defended your own values, which you appear to be extolling. Make ONE valid argument as to why agents should be considered within the academic sphere. ONE. I know you can't because it would begin like this:

I believe they'd get a better deal, more money, more rights ect. Which everyone on this board has argued.

First universities don't have the money for large advances, which agents need to stay solvent and they aren't necessarily sales driven, (NOTE: This doesn't mean successful books are all bad, it means that it's not so over marketed that the substance is lost.)

I like entertaining books, but I know that when I pick up say Piers Anthony, I'm not reading for the value of the writing, rather I'm reading for entertainment.

When I pick up Milan Kundera, I'm reading for its literary value. If you want a book that will make you ponder your very existence, his work is excellent.

Sorry about the illiterate swipe- I'm sure there's some readers out there who read for literary value, but sadly not enough.

BTW the reason why I'm so involved in Caribbean literature is I'm Puerto Rican. Shocker I know, because I'm casper white.

Yes I personally believe marketing work ahead of time dilutes the writing. I believe agents need to be aware of this fact.

I'm not stating ALL agents are this evil. Just most.

(Also if you read Charles' quote wayyyy up there, apparently universities have been frowning on agents for a long time, they've just never directly stated, "Don't bother applying." But you know who does? The whole publishing establishment with regards to unagented work... Hmmm which is unfair, barring 2% or 98%...

Think quickly young grasshopper.

I'm an orioles fan-


-C

Jonathan E. Quist said...

Gee using a personal contact to get published? Hmmm Like I don't know using an agent to pass along your work???

Ah, you did get my point. Your friend acted in part as your agent. Why is it okay if you have an inside friend, but evil if you have an agent approaching from the outside?

No I don't care if strangers think my grammatical errors are a reflection of my writing skills. This is a debate, whether you wish to admit it or not. If they're that anal, for lack of a better word, then that's their personal problem.

No, that's your problem, if you choose to debate inarticulately.

I've made several valid arguments regarding agents which you haven't been able to refute because you believe that agented authors somehow are 'superior' to unagented authors, which is closed minded of you, not I. I am defending independent authors who have something of interest to share.

Okay. I'm flinging my gauntlet. And yes, I do own one.

Using direct quotes from my postings to this blog, support your assertion. If you cannot, or will not, then the debate is concluded. Feel free to analyze the crap out of my verbage, because if I have miscommunicated, I would love to learn from my errors.

Yes I do feel like this conversation is crazy because you're taking this way off track here by attacking my grammar, my contacts and me personally.

I believe I was replying in kind. Again, if I am mistaken, please enlighten me.

You haven't defended your own values, which you appear to be extolling.

You have not once stated my values. You persist in incorrectly restating what I have said, and then arguing against that point. Such an argument is indefensible.

Again, if I am miscommunicating, I welcome your tutelage.

Make ONE valid argument as to why agents should be considered within the academic sphere.

Academic sphere? We're talking about a fiction imprint, not a publisher specializing in socioeconomic analysis of ancient Mayan civilization.

ONE. I know you can't because it would begin like this:

I believe they'd get a better deal, more money, more rights ect. Which everyone on this board has argued.


Even if that was my opening argument (it would not be), why on earth have you declared it invalid? Christian, this is precisely why this is not a debate.

Argument is an intellectual process. Contradiction is just the automatic gainsaying of any statement the other person makes.

No, it isn't.

Stop that!


It might be of some use for you to know that most midlist authors do not receive large advances. And while an agent (and author) would benefit from a big advance to pay yesterdays bills, both benefit more from the long-term success of the work.

I like entertaining books, but I know that when I pick up say Piers Anthony, I'm not reading for the value of the writing, rather I'm reading for entertainment.

I like books that are entertaining and literate. I don't know Anthony's work well; are you familiar with Niven's "Protector"? Some of the language is utterly brilliant, and his self-imposed limitations were the physical laws of the universe. Perhaps the only realistic interstellar dogfight in print. William Kent Krueger's crime fiction is crafted in beautiful prose. And yes, in between the laughs, Janet Evanovich occasionally tosses out some real plums.

I'll give Kundera a try. It sounds promising.

My brother seeks out the film and literature produced by oppressed societies. Yesterday, he gave me a strong recommendation for the Iranian film, "Baran".

This is literature produced to meet the very specific requirements of a market. In this case, the market is not the consuming public, but the oppressive regime that decides whether it will see the light of day. I am told the filmmaker succeeded brilliantly.

Writing to a market is not selling out. Sometimes, it's a way of building yourself a taller soap box in the town square. Which is what freedom of speech is all about - the ability to share your dearest beliefs with a listening audience.

I'm an orioles fan-

Ahh...

I'm a lifelong Cubs fan.

Which may explain a lot.

Thanks for the Milan Kundera recommendation.

Regards,

jeq

CNU said...

Mr. Quist,


You're hysterical. Misguided, but hysterical.
I can't use direct quotes from your entries because you haven't refuted the points I've made regarding this subject, which seems to have been lost in the most mindless of chatter. THAT is a debate. Point- Counter point- Point- Counter point. Not Point- Mindlessly going off topic. Point- Insane answer from left field. (Which in turn gets ME off topic.)

I have stated the values you and your comrades have stated. Re-read alllll those posts which apparently are more 'articulate' (YOUR word not mine) than mine. Re-read so you know what you and the author of the blog are stating.

I have

1) Stated the reasons why the policy should stick-

2) Stated the difference between the academic and commercial publishing world.

3) Stated why agent's opinions aren't as valid in that particular setting. Although in the commercial world of publishing have more clout.

4) Stated that most publishers bar non-ageneted works. (which you can't deny)

Also this is an inherent contradiction. Either you think that publishers should let EVERYONE apply- In which case major publishers should be hearing from 100% of people OR you believe that there ought to be an exclusionary clause which separates agented authors from non-agented authors.

If you believe this THEN ---- Drum roll please.

This exclusion of agented authors is perfectly legitimate AND I am correct in my assertion that it should be as such.

Are we both speaking English or is there a new dialect I'm not aware of??

;)

-C

Jonathan E. Quist said...

I have stated
[...]

You have stated everything but which deity died and bequeathed your credentials to proclaim that Opinion A is valid, and Opinion B is not.

You are supporting all your arguments with your personal opinions, and when they are questioned, they are apparently too fragile to withstand scrutiny, so you answer a different question entirely.

We are both speaking English, but are apparently doing so from two radically different frames of reference, with incompatible logic systems. Aristotle is rolling in his tomb, if he's still there.

But I can't argue against a supernatural being. You win. Everything you said is correct, and no one on Earth could possibly refute your sound reasoning.

By the way, the Brooklyn Bridge is still for sale. It would be a fitting fashion accessory for a god of your stature. Where was that eBay link...

CNU said...

Quist,

I'm a busy deity so you may leave your mortal query at my feet. Oh wait that's what an agent would say. Sorry.

Sigh. You haven't refuted any of my points whatsoever. You can't because it follows simple logic such as IF A then B. This isn't brain surgery here, it's a simple logic problem. Especially the last point, which totally destroys the major theme of this blog.

This is conjecture based on sound reasoning, which I've been able to bolster. We may be arguing different points, but I'm at least refuting your points.

(Granted not all of them as most of these things are long winded. )

A debate is something in which one states- One opinion is valid, the other is not. Here's a better definition:

Debate: "a discussion, as of a public question in an assembly, involving opposing viewpoints: a debate in the Senate on farm price supports.
2. a formal contest in which the affirmative and negative sides of a proposition are advocated by opposing speakers.
3. deliberation; consideration"- (Source dictionary.com)

You know something like that. ;)

Yes I know I can be a jerk, but I sincerely believe there are underrepresented voices and this is one way in which some of those voices are heard.

(The fourth bullet point is a material fact- Not opinion, hence the use of the words, "You can't deny this")

All the other points are more or less up for debate.

Dazzle me with that oh so clever wit.


-C

Jonathan E. Quist said...

Juste judex ultionis
donum fac remissionis
ante diem rationis.

CNU said...

And I absolve you in the name of... etc. etc. etc.

Signed,

Me.

I win. Go me. :) Where's my statue now?

-C

Jonathan E. Quist said...

Uh, ahem well, right.

You see, it's just that Moses, yeah, it was him, Moses said you didn't want one.

CNU said...

Wellll "Moe" went up to the mountain lit a bush on fire, inhaled the vapors and carved some notes on a rock. I'm not judging, I'm just saying...

I had nothing to do with it...

Now you'll want to use marble and perhaps make me a few feet taller...


-C

Robin Noelle said...

Isn't there comment moderation on this site?

/made mistake of subscribing to comments thinking there would be intelligent discourse.

CNU said...

Sorry this is tongue and cheek obviously, it was an intelligent conversation that just ended. You can scan above if you don't believe me. It probably should die at this point.

-C

Jonathan E. Quist said...

Now you'll want to use marble and perhaps make me a few feet taller...

Marble? I haven't got any. Didn't you bring any?

Looking into camera
Folks, he's lost his marble!

As for the size, I think I have one of those mirrors that says "Objects are larger than they appear"...

Good night, folks, you've been a great audience.

CNU said...

This is boring now. I bid you farewell. Please let this ridiculous thread die.

Please? Thank you. I'm off probably to go find a beat nick cafe with good music.


-C

Darby said...

It's not excluding agented authors, only agented manuscripts. If an agent wants to submit a manuscript, all they have to do is suggest to their author to submit it. Then the agent can review any contract that may result. What's the big deal?

Jamie Hall said...

Darby @ 6:40

The point is that it does exclude agented authors by:

1) Explicitly stating so

and...

2) Making it so agented authors who want to submit by themselves will likely run into trouble.

How so?

Okay, imagine a scenario where an author asks their agent permission to submit a work on their own. Right there, that request can harm the author/agent relationship in some cases.

But, let's presume the agent is fine with it. Now the author receives a contract and they want their agent to look it over secretly and give advice. Not good. An author is asking for unpaid work, and what'll the author tell the publisher if the agent says not to do it?

The original point (which seemed to get completely lost in a wild frenzy of "agents are evil" and "academic writing is the only writing that doesn't stink" being tossed around and refuted endlessly) was that the press wasn't being very forthcoming about what it would offer.

An academic publisher that won't ever work with agents doesn't really help writers as much as it harms. Who does it help? It helps unpublished writers who need maybe a book or two published to help them further their career, or perhaps established writers who have "trunk novels" that are too literary for the commercial houses. However, it doesn't help such people very much, and there are plenty of similar presses that could have done the same thing without explicitly excluding agents. Those other presses are the true "level playing fields," not the ones which exclude agented authors.

Who does it harm? It harms writers who have agents but need to do weird stuff to submit. It also harms unagented writers who would have done better if they'd known "no agents" is probably shorthand for "no advance" but end up too emotionally invested in their book's publication before they learn so, and then don't have the heart to back out.

Kathleen said...

Moving on to new dish about Switchgrass, what's also funny is their request for a CV along with the full novel mss, as if, they want to know about the real Midwestern you. And don't forget a note in your letter authenticating the authenticity of your "Midwestern" voice. And what is the voice of the Midwest? For Switchgrass, it's definitely male. The first three books out are by men, but at least the third one has one third spoken in a woman's voice. That's hopeful -- as is the fact Switchgrass "made a lot of great suggestions for revision" for this book. That's great.