Friday, December 31, 2010

Random Cock-Eyed Optimist Encounter

Why, yes, I DO run across truly outre declarations while surfing the Net for things to do with writing and publishing.

As a matter of fact, I would be delighted to share!

Here you go, someone's endeavor to become a writer:
I quit my job to write a novel. If you agree to buy it, I'll find a publisher. If not, I have to sell my soul to an agency.
Okay, cookie--quitting your job to write a novel was your first mistake. Just about every successful writer I know has a day job to support their writing habit, myself included. Writers don't have health insurance, dental plans, or weekly checks to cover those pesky monthly expenses like groceries and bills. One hopes you have an understanding partner willing to support you while you write.
If you agree to buy it, 
You want me to agree to buy something you've not written?  Are you on drugs?  What if you're a stinky writer?  Pull the other one, I'm not having fun yet.  On the other hand, it's not too likely you'll ever finish, much less sell a book, so sure, okay, why not?
I'll find a publisher. 
Um, you do that whether or not anyone ever agrees to buy it.

Another newsflash--just because you have a book to sell, doesn't mean a publisher wants to buy it. I know your teachers might have given you extra credit in school, but the real world doesn't operate like that. Your words have to be worth money to someone before they invest in them.
If not, I have to sell my soul to an agency. 
And how is THAT a bad thing?  My agent has done wonderful, amazing things for my career, what with selling my books to half of Europe, landing one anthology deal after another, and now I have 3 steampunk novels to write in 2011. She translates complicated contracts into something I can understand, snags cool things like audio-book deals, and sometimes buys me lunch. Oh--checks. She sends me checks for REAL MONEY so I can continue doing something I love.

I'm not seeing a down side here.

On the other hand, if you don't put some time into learning your craft, write every day, and--oh--put some TIME into learning your CRAFT, it's not likely any agency will want your writing, never mind your soul.

How about this for 2011?  Start with keeping your day job.
  1. Write a book.
  2. Get it workshopped within an inch of its life and your ego's life.
  3. Shop it to agents and publishers who sell/publish similar books you see in the stores.
  4. While it makes the rounds, write another, even BETTER book.
  5. Repeat steps 2-4 until you have a career.
That's what real writers DO, yanno--whether they sell the books or not.  You might give it a shot. Just a thought.

See you in 2011, gang.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Meet "Arielle" -- the Sex Doll Literary Agent!

Not an agent who represents sex dolls, but a sex doll who is the public face of a literary agency.

I wish this was a joke. I really do. I'm anticipating weird links to show up in my email, but it's too hilarious not to blog about.

Or too creepy. You decide.

You know how some websites will have a little animated person to walk you through things? I don't care for those, finding them annoying, but some people like them.

However, those cost money to make. I suspect the genius behind this epic fail of a sales pitch took a look at his resources--pics of a sex doll  posed against various backgrounds--and a little light went off. "Hey, I can have something like those animated things and it won't cost nearly as much!"

I'm not worried that writers will actually go to this--um--agency. Anyone with working braincells knows that paying an agent a fee to sell one's book is only slightly less productive for one's career than flushing the cash directly down a toilet.

The Mocknick Productions Literary Agency is a fee-charging entity. The fees have gone from 450.00 to represent a writer to a whole 500.00 according to my source.

Fee-charging agencies are no friend to any writer.

For instance, MPLA have no pics up of any books they've actually sold.  But Mr. Mocknick seems to have plenty to say about himself through his "representative," Arielle.

Who is a sex doll.

Okay, nothing wrong in that, lots of people date sex dolls. But you'd think that when it comes to business that Mr. Mocknick would keep his personal life separate. Or at least have a pro in to do Arielle's hair and makeup. Must have been a hell of a weekend!

Instead of displaying books sold to commercial publishers, this single-page website sports a series of slide show videos starring this doll--again, I am NOT kidding! Melodramatic music plays in the background as we're treated to stills of the doll with informational captions.

Now if one has even one working braincell on crack this should scare the living crap out of you because you could die laughing. Seriously, you could. I almost called 911 to get some oxygen in, and the phlegm is still making me cough.

Oh--bonus fail points: you can't watch the vids on the website. When you click play, you have to click again to go to YouTube. Doesn't that just fill one with confidence?

Beverage alert people. I MEAN it.

Hello again! Back from the hilarity? Do you need a spork, eye bleach, or a blanket to hide under? Are you laughing or creeped out? Both?

Are you even remotely tempted to toss your hard-earned money over to this person and his lovely date?

If so, then let me conduct an autopsy on some of the claims made. Gather close, gang, this should be FUN!

Mocknick: We like all potential clients to know we don't charge reading fees, but if we represent them, there's an annual contract fee of 450.00 (now 500.00).

Mighty generous of you! It's also a certainty that you're motivated (to the tune of 500 bucks a pop) to "represent" anyone who bothers to send a manuscript. While I'm sure you might reject the ingredient list from a cereal box that's been repeated for 300 pages, everything else is a potential income stream and not likely to be rejected.

Mocknick: The covers pitching, submissions, phone calls, contract negotiations (in the event of a sale) and all aspects of representation.

You mean all the stuff that other literary agents do without collecting a fee until AFTER they sell a book.

This motivates them to sell work to publishers, not sit on their thumbs collecting checks from writers. "In the event of a sale?"  Yes, I'm sure a sale IS quite an event for this outfit! There's no evidence you've ever had one.

Mocknick: We inform people of this upfront, so there are no games or surprises.

Other than the slide show itself. Put up a beverage alert, why don't you?

Mocknick: According to certain websites, it is not a "standard practice" for an agency to charge upfront fees. 

Yes, that would be those annoying agencies that actually sell books to publishers.

Mocknick: In reality it is a standard practice.

Indeed yes, for other fee-chargers.  Oh, look--there's YOUR name on that Thumbs Down list from Writer Beware! How did that happen?

Mocknick:  Most agents that don't charge fees are members of organizations that forbid them.

You mean like the Association of Authors' Representatives, a well-respected non-profit group that has standards to uphold and a quite reasonable Canon of Ethics?

Or perhaps you prefer the short-lived IILAA that rose and failed back in 2006? Isn't it funny that all the members of IILAA are also on that Thumbs Down list from Writer Beware? Hysterical.

Mocknick: What they don't mention is that these agents generally will not accept new writers unless they're already bestsellers.

Writers on any given bestseller list usually have a literary agent and are quite happy with that person's work, thank you very much. 

New writers are not likely to be bestsellers, since they're looking for representation to help them sell a first book in the first place. Duh.

Mocknick: The reason?

Moving my drink well out of the way...

Mocknick: The time, effort and expense pitching a known author is minimal, while pitching an unknown in a skiddish industry requires much more.

Much more what? Horse hockey? Is that what you mean by skiddish? Is that a word? Let me look it up. Hmm. Apparently not, according to WordKeeper: Made up words : Skiddish (skittish).  Maybe you meant "Scottish!" No? But I like the idea of guys in the publishing industry running around in kilts. It sure would add fun to those board meetings and long lunches!

If I am any example, even authors who have been in the industry for years can have a hard time selling a new book. My most excellent NON-fee-charging agent Lucienne Diver worked her butt off selling not one, but two different book proposals for me. It took her months, but she came up trumps. Checks are in the mail. She does this every day for all the writers she represents.

Newsflash, bub, it is not unknown for an unknown to land an agent and sell a book. 

Agents are always looking for the Next Big Name lurking in their slush piles. They live in hope.

Of course, if a fee-charging "agent" can get a desperate idiot to pay 500 clams from the get-go, then the fee-charging "agent" hardly needs bother to work. That's 10% of a 5,000.00 advance--though new authors are usually given much lower offers than that.  Yes, indeed, fee-charging agents are highly motivated to collect a check from writers and do nothing at all to earn it.

Mocknick: An agency that doesn't charge some type of fee for new writers will not stay in business long, so they have no choice.

You mean agencies like Spectrum (34 years), Donald Maass (20 years), JABerwocky (16 years), and The Knight Agency (14 years)? Yeah, that's some stack of epic fail, what with all those books they've sold and new authors they've discovered over the years.

Mocknick: If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask.

Why don't YOU have any sales proudly displayed on YOUR site?  Don't you have any? To real publishers, that is, not vanity houses.

Oh--wait--here's the slide show with his girlfriend, I mean dollfriend, I mean--er--uh--oh, never mind.

Arielle: (dramatic music in background) My name is Arielle. I'm just a doll, right?

You nailed that one, you ARE indeed just a doll, and considering today's job market you're lucky to have a place doing slide shows like this instead of working in specialized porn videos! (Unless that's one of Mr. Mocknick's other income streams.)  I must say that you seem to be a fine product from one of the higher end manufacturers. So many others are just full of hot air!

Arielle: (forcefully, in an aggressive pose, hand on hip) Better think again!

Gasp! What DO you mean??

Caption card, supposedly from Arielle, since it's evident the voice actress will charge more for extra lines not copied from another video: I provide information to potential clients of the Mocknick Productions Literary Agency. 

You do? Seriously?

They're in deep trouble then.

Caption: We accept fiction, non-fiction, screenplays, children's books, memoirs, and any works of any genre

 How focused. (Not.)

--except pornography. 

The last one is wonderfully ironic considering their front office face is a sex doll.

The caption goes on to provide details, ending with a picture of the sex doll wearing sunglasses. Just as well, the eyes don't match up.

At least she keeps her clothes on. Not all literary agencies who use a sex doll as their spokesperson--uh--spokesdoll--uh--whatever--are so considerate!

But let's see what the CEO has to say about himself. Why he bothers with YouTube slide shows when it's less time-consuming to just put info on the website is beyond me. I suppose he's in love with Arielle or something.

The slide show claims Dave Mocknick has been writing since the age of six, and is a produced and published author.

A "produced" author? What the hell does that mean? And how much did you pay to get published, Dave?  Why aren't your vast credits and many sales listed on the website? Come on, show us your writer's resume!

He "has contact with" many large publishing and production companies. 

So do I. 

It's called Google.

He claims he's made the process as simple as possible; I can believe that, as instruction captions are displayed across pics of a (still fully clothed) sex doll.

If he sees potential in your work (and I'm sure a credit check is involved at some point) he sends a contract--which you return.  With your fee. 

Giddy galloping grannys, what did you say?  A fee??

Hauling ass out of here, bub. 

Violating Yog's Law is not the done thing for any writer.

Mocknick: Once you return your contract with the annual contract fee....we'll take it from there.

THAT I can believe! Straight to the bank while the check is still good--though I understand he also takes plastic for those writers in a hurry to get to the literary poor house.

I DO have other things to do today, but when on a riff, I tend to check things until my eyes bleed. I was not disappointed.

I clicked on another video featuring "Arielle" -- who is really a 4-foot tall terrorist fighter.

Um, yeah. Who works for a fee-charging literary agent.

So I'm 11 seconds into this slide show vid and there's Arielle posed cross-legged in a chair, wearing ruffled kiddie panties, a kid-sized shirt, her hair in pigtails, cutie socks on her feet, holding a stuffed dog.

A 4-foot tall sex doll dressed like a kid tripped my "DANGER, PAT ELROD" trigger, so I hit the stop button before I reached the gagging point and vomited.

Since no real child is involved in this creepy display, reporting it to the FBI is not a likely to be a productive option. I'm sure others have tried.

I will offer the opinion that this Mocknick person--if he's "beetleboy2007" --should probably not be your first choice to have as an agent in charge of your literary career. Worse things may be going on here than just charging fees.

If you're that desperate, write me, I'll help. It won't cost you a dime.

Or your self-respect.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Use It or Lose It: Support Your Local Bookstore!

For those keeping up with this sort of thing, you'll already know that like every other business, bookstores are suffering under a tight economy.

If you've not been in your local store lately, you'll immediately notice they're selling a lot more things than mere books. I was annoyed to see my favorite store had created new aisles for educational toys, converted their bestseller and new release section to selling e-readers, and the "employee's recommended" tables were altogether gone to make room for overpriced  e-reader accessories. Some stuff has been there for ages and become part of the background I ignore, but this year, it's really in-the-face.

I get irritated, but the stores have to diversify to stay in business.  Books are no longer enough.

Online ordering has cut into profits. Why buy a new book when you can get a used one for a lot less elsewhere? I can't argue against that; I have to do it myself when my poor battered bank account is screaming in pain.

Sales of e-books are also taking a bite from their profits. Why go to a store when you can download it more cheaply from your computer? Save some gas and a tree!

I'll likely do that too, though I won't get an e-reader for some considerable time. I have 300 hard copy books I need to read first. Plowing through them will allow time for those reader prices to drop.

But bookstores have other things to offer--especially to me. I use mine as part of my writing routine. When I get stuck, I go to my favorite and just hang out. All those millions of words can't help but have a positive effect on me, whether it's inspiration from a much-loved writer or another internal declaration "I can write better than THAT!" when glaring at hack work that somehow made it to the bestseller list.

I love my local store, though it is part of a mega-chain. They have good people working hard there, most know who I am, and they keep my books in stock. Certainly I don't want that to go the way of the dodo just yet! I browse, letting my mind soak in images and titles at random, not something I can do on a computer. I bring a notebook and jot stuff down for later, hoping it will develop into a new story.

Which has happened!

My glimpse for a half a second of a book cover in the mystery section sparked the idea for the new steampunk series I'm now writing. That couldn't have happened had I been at home staring at a screen.  I need that store. There are few in my area, and the indie-stores I used to go to have vanished, unable to compete.

Now the mega-stores are in danger. The warning signs are as clear as those brightly packaged toys that are filling shelves that once held books.

Let's not wholly give up buying books in stores in favor of convenience. Get out this week and visit a bookstore. Check the bargain bins for Christmas presents. Meet a friend there, have some overpriced coffee, cruise the aisles.


Buy something

Use it -- or we ALL lose.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Dark and Stormy Cover Art Awards!

This is almost too cool!

The cover for DARK AND STORMY KNIGHTS  by CHRIS MCGRATH has been included in the ALL THINGS URBAN FANTASY 2010 Cover Awards.

I hope everyone will go vote and that the votes will be for my book in its category, but please---do filter out the text and names of your favorite writers and focus on the ART.

In this venue, it's all about the ART, not the words, so vote for your favorite image!