Friday, February 7, 2014

When an Agent Sticks the Cow Hoof into His Mouth

Wednesday was a train wreck writers just couldn't look away from.

Agent Donald Maass wrote a post over at Writer Unboxed. It was controversial. It was contradictory. It was derogatory. And at times, the Donald was out-and-out lying or woefully misinformed.

Initially, the Donald said indie stories weren't worth the electrons, much less the paper, they were written on.

One sentence started the cow bells clanging over at The Passive Voice, particularly, this phrase: "...print publishers have the luxury of culling the prize cattle from the herd." The Donald is referring to indie writers doing all the work, then folks like him swooping in to...

Do y'all have any idea what "culling" is? That's when the farmer/rancher separates the animals not needed for breeding or sale purposes and takes them to the slaughterhouse.

In other words, writers need to be culled for slaughter to keep the publishers fed. *facepalm*

The Donald's diatribe about the worthlessness of writers went downhill from there. Comments from opposing views were often blocked at Writer Unboxed. As writer Marc Cabot, who in his day job is an IP attorney, said, "It’s a rare glimpse of complete honesty as to how authors are usually viewed with a bonus Voltaire moment. Be grateful for it."

Yep, we writers are cattle to be culled for slaughter.

The fabulous commenters at TPV started having fun with it. The cow jokes flew.

The Donald also said, "...print publishers instead are now gratefully relieved of the money-losing burden of the mid-list."

Wait a minute. Publishers are glad to get rid of us, but they still plan to cull us?

Now, I could go over the entire list, but Joe Konrath and Barry Eisler stepped in and royally fisked the Don. I needed a box of tissues when I was done reading because of the proverbial tears from laughing so hard.

One of the few opposing comments that got through at Writer Unboxed mentioned Dean Wesley Smith and Kris Rusch and their support and entrance to the indie world. The Donald claimed in the Writer Unboxed comments that he's buds with them, and that he'd have to talk to them. DWS had an interesting response. Make sure you read his comments as well. Later on Thursday, DWS made a point of updating one of his posts on agents.

Here's the kicker: if someone asked me for a recommendation on the basic elements of storytelling, I would, and have, recommended the Donald's book, Writing the Break-Out Novel. I've changed my mind about the re-writing until your fingers bleed section though. I don't think that really helps a writer to learn and grow. YMMV.

As for the rest, I think the Donald's statement is endemic of the state of traditional publishers. In other words, they are starting to panic. I'm hearing from more and more writers with the micro-press and smaller publishers that submissions are down, and what the editors are seeing is of lesser quality than before. These people are talking to me because they are looking to switch to indie publishing.

If this is the case (and I have no reason to doubt the veracity of the people I spoken with), then agents and the Big 5 are going to have the same problem soon, if not already.

When people start flinging insults and use fear-based marketing for their services, it is usually coming from their own internal fear. And that's what I'm hearing from the Donald.

No route to publishing is easy. Success isn't guaranteed on any path. But I'll be damned if I'll be a cow led to slaughter.

Because I'm an Angry Sheep.


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