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Saturday, December 30, 2006

Vicious Circle

Since my hook didn’t make it through the Ethernet to Snark central, I’ve been hesitant to comment on the Crapometer (it was my E-mail glitch, not the Snark’s). Having read what most of the pulp fiction type hooks received in the way of comment, I would have probably been lucky to get a ‘yawn’. Many pulp fiction hooks were dismissed out of hand because their theme was too familiar, yet bookstores are filled with formula westerns, romances, thrillers, young adult, and horror novels. They sell. People love ‘em. The problem of writing for the market, or writing what you enjoy, comes up on writing blogs all the time. I think a more immediate problem is literary agents ignoring the market place, and slushing manuscripts because they go against their literary or political tastes. I realize the publishing world employs many of the most leftist kooks on the planet in positions where they can make an enterprising agent’s life miserable, but it’s still unfathomable as to why. Money is an underlying thread, which entices publishers, editors, agents, and writers. We can all write about the art and love of words; but let’s face it, money, or the potential of it, plays a big part in igniting ambition.

When I fix a vehicle, I do it for the money. I can tell you I love working on cars and trucks, and I’m really good at it; but those are just words, whether they’re true or not (they are by the way). The measure of how good I am is that I make a living at it. I love my writing, and it goes beyond passion; because it also works as a cathartic outlet for my everyday frustrations, and even world opinions. Until my writing makes me money like my day job, the measure of how good I am at it is irrelevant. I have similar tendencies to the publishing world, in that I only work on American and Asian vehicles, just as an individual publisher or agent only handles certain genres of literature. The difference between what I do for money, and what publishers and agents do, is I don’t turn away work from customers just because they hold views, political or religious, which are contrary to mine. I believe agents and publishers have begun to allow their personal preferences to interfere with a very real marketplace. Instead of making money with marketable goods, they try to force the market to change by preventing what they believe to be trashy fiction from reaching the book racks. Television is exactly the opposite. If something hits big, they feed the market until the market is no longer there (CSI shows for example).

Another thing I found out beyond anything else in reading the hundreds of entries in the Snark’s Crapometer is I don’t ever want to be a literary agent. :)


Jordan Summers said...

I'm not sure that all agents fall into this category. I know that agents in general have preferences when it comes to the type of work that they want to represent. I'm sure I would too, if that was my job. I also know that some agents prefer their authors to write what's easier to sell. They don't mind if you write something out of the box, but they prefer to start with something that will get your 'commercial' foot in the door. I have never known an agent to ignore the marketplace, but I have known that some agents don't follow it as closely as they should.

BernardL said...

Jordan, you hit my point exactly. You know agents in general have preferences, and you would too. Agents shouldn't have preferences, except for what sells in the genres they represent. That's what makes being an agent so tough, and why the best of them would be able to look past their own preferences. I mentioned Janet Evanovitch to you, and her Stephanie Plum series. Think about the type of agent who saw her query letter about a first person female bounty hunter narrative. It would have taken a very perceptive agent, who saw the money. The agent does not create. The agent therefore should have the marketplace as the foremost driving force in their job. Thanks for your comments, Jordan. Happy New Year to you. :)