A Gronking to Remember

So ….

I’ve been working with a collaborator on a cover for Pilgrimage.  It’s coming along nicely.  And what’s more, it’s original – as in, it is being created just for the book.  Apparently, that is not always the case.

Okay, so let’s back up.

I’m not big on fan fiction, except as a diversion.  Sometimes it is fun to do just as an exercise but I don’t take it a serious literary output.  This is different that doing an homage, where you pay tribute to the awesomeness of another writer but populate your work  with, you know, you’re own work, not theirs.  I guess there is also a sub-genre of fan-fiction featuring real-life people (mostly celebrities) in, uhm, erotica.  Again, I should not surprised.

Enter A Gronking to Remember, by Lacey Noonan, which is a 68-page tale about a woman with a sexual obsession with New England Patriots tight end Ron Gronkowski.  Now the title makes sense, doesn’t it?

(Muse:  It makes something, all right.)

Yeah.  Anyway, so based on what I have said, you might have already pre-formed an idea of the quality of subject matter before you read the first page.  I did and sadly, expectation matched reality.  (As an aside, here is a clip of Ron Gronkowski reading an excerpt on Jimmy Kimmel Live.  It’s mildly amusing.)

But this is where it gets interesting.  Evidently, the couple originally featured on the cover of the book was unaware that is was used so and ended up suing Noonan, Amazon, and other e-book distributors for unlawful use of their image.  (The legal aspects are covered here.)  The image has since been replaced on Amazon, at least, with another photo.

This all got me rubbing my chin when thinking about my own cover.  This becomes  another stumbling block on the road to self-publishing.  What if your cover designer gets you in hot water over a photo?  Or lifts the artwork from someone else?  Big publishing houses have the machinery to protect against these issues but an author on their own may not – and may not even know where to turn.

Fortunately, I have total trust in my cover designer (my sister) that I won’t run afoul of this trap.  But it was a sobering moment, for sure.

I mean, if campy erotica isn’t safe, are any of us?

But I Wanna Throw a Tantrum!

Chuck Wendig describes here the five ways an author should respond to a bad review of their work.  As always with Wendig, it is a good read and the point is made – but for those with sensitive ears (eyes), you should stay away.

I wonder what authors are thinking when I see things like this.  The instinct to defend oneself from biting words is natural but the reality is this:  if you work in any kind of artistic or entertainment industry, there is going to be someone who does not like your work.  Always. Even the consensus best works of all time have their detractors.  And the way the western world is structured, legally, if they don't like it, those detractors are allowed to say so.  Loudly.  Profanely.  In the most scathing and insulting manner they can.  And there is absolutley nothing you can do about it.

As I see it, an author has three options when they chance on bad reivews of their work:

1) engage with the reviewer and either a) get in a pissing contest, where they will always look like a loser (the saying about wrestling a pig in mud comes to mind) or b) try to respond nicely which – while okay – is probably giving the reviewer exactly what they want:  fuel to keep slinging poo.
2) Let it chew you up and obssess on it until you curl into the fetal position on the floor, mumbling the reviewer's name over and over.
3) Or develop a thick skin and get back to work.

In just the last few months, there have been some big hacking scandals, where dozens of celebrities (mostly actresses) have had nude photos of themselves released.  While I am sure that is upsetting and feels violative to them, I have not heard a single one say they were going to stop acting because of it.  They nut up and soldier on.  If I can't do the same when someone basically says my work sucks and so do I (which has happened) then I need to hand in my author card.

If you read a bad review of your work, my recommendation is:
– Defer the hurt.  Ignore it.
– Look to see if there is any truth in what they wrote.  This is the hardest but most crucial part for a writer – that is, self-honesty.  If someone says only a fat moron would write a plot this trite with all these Oprah-sized holes, ask yourself:  is it trite?  Are there holes?
– Pick up a pen and get back to writing,
– If you still hurt, get a punching bag or go for a hike.

And as Wendig says, the last thing you should do is respond, unless you are absolutely in control of yourself.

Anyway, back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Limbo of Agency

So….

Pilgrimage has been out at agents for a bit now.  As is standard, I put it out to multiple agents – just as queries, mind you, since most of the agents I started with asked for samples vice the full manuscript.  I kicked it out there to see what would happen.  No expectations, just a first attempt.

Results have been mixed.  The first agent responded back with a polite rejection in 48 hours.  Fair enough.  Another responded back a few weeks later, with another declination.  One agent had a policy of “no response in two weeks means you should assume rejection.”  Again, since the standard was stated at the outset, that’s all good.  This means I have had a couple of responses which, if disappointing, were at least expected.

I also have two queries languishing.  Both had targeted response times (i.e., “we respond to queries within xx weeks”).  In both cases, I have exceeded the response times by at least 2 weeks and heard nothing.  This leads to uncertainty.  Did they receive my query?  Did they laugh and not bother to respond?  Did an intern forget to send the rejection?  Did they respond, mistype my email and assume I had received it?  Maybe they just haven’t gotten to it.  I understand that agents are busy, and that like anyone else, they don’t always meet response times.  Still, it is frustrating on the author’s end.

So I sent it out to another round of agents a week ago.  At one site, I kept getting my email kicked back, with a message stating that the agent’s server classified my submission as spam.  Even when I stripped out all attachments and went text only, same result.  I sent a very brief email to the agent (which got through), stating that I was having problems and that perhaps they were having some trouble on their end.  They responded, saying the message head been passed to their server administrator.  No further response, or invitation to re-submit my project.  Again, I get that they are busy.  Still felt like a unceremonious brush-off.

(Muse:  Are you not being oversensitive here?  You are the one trying to impress them, right?)

I dunno, I think that works both ways.  Aren’t agents supposed to put their best feet forward as well?  A good first impression should be everyone’s goal.  Perhaps I am mountain-izing my molehills and I am being over-sensitive.  I guess I just prefer the quick, terse, “No thanks,” so I can keep moving forward, instead of wondering what might be.

I read this entry on the blog Thoughts from a Literary Agent.  To sum up, it is another example of some ass-monkey making a fool of himself and torching the crap out of his career.  Ehh, as amusing as these things are, they aren’t really represenative.  But even this guy got a response.  I can’t seem to get that from all my queries and well, hell, I even followed their guidelines.

Yeah, I do scratch my head over these things.  A lot.

Ah well.

Warning, Temper Tantrums Incoming

So….

This entry of authors throwing a fit on Amazon reviews is a little dated (last entry on the blog is from eight months ago) but the lessons are still pertinent.  I, thankfully, don't know any authors that act like this but I think we all know people in other venues who do.  We see them in restaurants when they get their steak rare instead of medium-rare, we see them on American Idol when they are told they have no future in the singing industry.  First reaction is to act implode, scream, and start sucking their thumb.

I just don't see how you can be in this industry and be thin-skinned.  Good God, even things with near-universal appeal (The Godfather, ice cream, and puppies) have their detractors.  You do this long enough, and you WILL have someone tell you that you suck at it.  It happens to me about once a week.

Shake it up and drive on.  Or hit the heavy bag in your garage.  But when you seek out negative reviews and spew bile over them, you are – in those reviewers minds – just making their point for them.

Object lessons for us all.

Theft and Blameshifting

So, in the course my random ramblings, I stumbled across this annoying story.  Basically, an author lifted work wholesale from other writers, incorporated it into her own book, and pushed it out for sale via Amazon's self-publishing software.  That's not the worst of it; right after it happened, the author claimed that she had – get this – a ghostwriter because she couldn't write, and the ghostwriter had been the one to steal the material.

Pretty pathetic.

Bribery? Really?

So as I have been trying to get myself back in a good writing rhythm (pretty hard when working 12-14 hours a day, seven days a week), I have also been getting caught up on reading.  I found this at SFWA and all I can say is that some people have balls … giant brass balls … to go with the lead between their ears.

A reminder:  it is easier to hate people in advance.  It saves time.

I don’t like you! Boycott!

Now this kinda stuff just pisses me off.

The folks over at Writer Beware (an off-shoot of SFWA) are a pretty good group of people.  I don't necessarily carry water for SFWA as an organization; I'm not a member and given the difference between my writing style and most of theirs, I may never be one, regardless of future success level.  I do, however, believe they are well-intentioned, not evil, and generally interested in promoting the best speculative fiction possible.  Writer Beware is, as their mission statement puts it, "the public face of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America’s Committee on Writing Scams."

Well, much as Bizarro rose to oppose Superman, a group named "The Write Agenda" has come online, to contest Writer Beware.  I trolled around their site for a while and I have to say, it was bizarre in the extreme.  Disjointed ramblings, pictures on their Facebook that suggested members of Writer Beware should die, and a list of boycotted authors.

Really?  Who the fuck does that – boycotts books and authors?  Grow up.  Go out to their website, if you like.  But hopefully, you have a strong stomach.  I think The Write Agenda is in over their head.  Worse, they are going in diametric opposition to a group that has credibility while they, to date, have none.  I don't care that they waste their time.  But I do care if some innocent writer gets scammed, which is what Writer Beware works to prevent.

I won't ascribe specific motives to the members of The Write Agenda but at best, their diatribes read to me as though someone has a personal axe to grind against members of Writer Beware.  Not persuasive.

You can read much more about it from the Writer Beware people here (with comments) or here.