Historical and Contemporary Romance Author

WTF Wednesday: Ten Things I Hate About You

My maudlin little post yesterday about knowing when to throw in the towel (I still don’t know when that is, lol) garnered this response from an author who’d like to remain anonymous (for reasons I’m sure you’ll understand when you read it).

Being a writer is a little like being a crack addict—or like being in love with an abusive spouse that you just can’t find the balls to walk away from. Over the last few months I’ve received more than a few rejections. Matter of fact, I haven’t sold for quite some time, and not for a lack of trying. I realize that the market is tighter than ever and selling is harder than ever; I am far from naive about the publishing business—and maybe that’s the real problem. But after a spate of recent rejections I found myself wondering if, to be blunt, I was just writing too smart, putting too much thought and care into the proposals I was crafting.

“Too smart” is probably not the right phrase. Maybe the word I’m looking for is complex, as in “too complex” or simpler as in “simpler, more basic storylines” or even trope as in “writing more to trope and trying less to be unique and truly creative”. Because you see, even when I did “the same but different”, as in the same as what everyone else is writing but different, apparently my different was too different.

And when one sees people selling and selling… and selling and publishing and one knows they can write rings around those who not only continue to sell, but end up with six, seven, even eight books out in a year, it does make one wonder. Especially when you receive rejections from an editor who just doesn’t like your voice or your writing and you’ve read some of the books this editor has published and to be frank, they suck. They’re mediocre—at best—and either this writer can’t write or this editor can’t edit. If the authors of those books had been your critique partners, you would have kicked the manuscript back to them and told them to start again because holy fucking hell, that was some nasty vile shit. Not that I would ever say that to any of my critique partners because they’re all damned fine writers.

And when your critique partner tells you that you write better than a well-known NYT bestselling author, it makes you stop and ask, “What am I doing wrong then that I can’t sell another book?”

To be frank, it’s demoralizing.

Time and time again, I find myself wondering why I don’t quit and sadly, the only answer I can come up with is this one: sticking with it might be demoralizing but quitting would be humiliating.

I hate myself for not having the guts to quit, for not having the balls to yank down my pants and show you the moons of my ass while lifting both my middle fingers and then walk away—forever;

I hate myself for loving what I do so much that I’m willing to take beating after beating after beating.

I hate myself for the bitter taste of pride in my mouth.

I hate this business that can get away with paying authors advances that are no higher than when writers like Nora Roberts started out 25 plus years ago. Yeah, there are houses out there paying 2000.00/book advances, 3000.00/book advances, 4000.00/book advances and writers saying yes. We should all be ashamed for saying yes. We should all be ashamed for bending over and saying, “stick it to me and don’t bother with the lube!”

I hate this business because the amount of money you’re paid per book directly ties into the amount of promotional love you get from your publisher. If you took that $2000.00 a book deal, you’re fucked. All the promo is on you and that measly-ass two grand they paid you…there is nothing and I mean not a fucking thing you can do with that two grand that will get you noticed. Instead, what you should do with that two grand is take your kids to Disney World. For real. The Magic Kingdom makes everything better.

I hate this business because there are only two major book chains left in the U. S. and publishers have to pay booksellers for premium space in their stores.

I hate this business because one of the most powerful people in publishing is the head buyer for a major book chain.

I hate this business because retailers…OMFG RETAILERS have the power to change a cover or a title. People I am not making this shit up! And it is not right! Not right at all!

I hate this business because, more often than not, it’s not about what’s good or even what’s great, it’s about what’s marketable and what we can sell the most of. RIP CHICK LIT.

I hate this business because publishers pay booksellers to promote books that sell instead of letting booksellers promote books they love or books that they feel need or deserve a little pimpage. Am I the only one who sees the irony in that? Sure it’s a bookseller’s job and a publisher’s job to make a profit but books that sell are going to sell regardless. What about the books that don’t sell? What about the books that get no attention? I mean, what’s the point of pimping Danielle Steele when she’s got a built-in following? Yes I’m thinking of a recent book-pimpage video I watched)

And honestly, when’s the last time you bought Danielle Steele? Right. You’re not her target audience; your grandmother is.

I hate this business because for many writers, it’s about quantity not quality.

I hate this business because even after you make the New York Times, publishers still aren’t satisfied. They want more and more and more. Congratulations, your last book sold a million copies and you made the NYT. Next time you need to sell 1.25 million and you need to hit higher on the list—and oh yeah, stay on the list longer.

You want to know who the true vampires are? The motherfuckers who look at profit and loss and bottom lines and then turn around and fire damned fine editors because…they can get two, or maybe even three, for the price of one. The assholes who have turned publishing into…Hollywood. You know…that place where imagination used to reign supreme and classics like ET and Star Wars were made. That place where they’re now so desperate for movie ideas, they’re pillaging all the really bad horror movies of the 70’s and 80’s.

A final word of caution: To all you aspiring writers out there who are just dying to break into New York publishing, who think you’d sell your soul for a book deal, or even an agent, who scoff at people who try to tell you it’s no better on the other side of the fence. I know you think you’re smarter and more clever and more educated about publishing that many of those who went before you, and that when you sell, it will be different, better somehow, but the cold hard mother fucking truth is, it won’t. You’ll be as fucked as the rest of us. No wonder Hemingway was an alcoholic.

‘Scuse me while I go shoot up.


  • Likari September 9, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    sigh. And on the day QP imploded.

  • Moriah Jovan September 9, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    This is not where you give up writing.

    This is where you give up the vanity of “getting” published instead of publishing.

    Note passive voice versus active voice.

  • Christina September 9, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    ow. my heart. 🙁

  • Melissa Blue September 9, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    This year has just been… a clusterf**k. It’s only September. But some of the things you’ve mentioned has been going on for a while.

    And, I don’t get it either. There is no rhyme or reason to who gets signed, why certain authors sell, or even why certain books sell better than others.

    I don’t know you, but I wish you the absolute best. Don’t let publishing win this round, you seem to have the fire to kick it’s a@@ anyway.

  • Lainey Bancroft September 9, 2009 at 8:18 pm


    …yeah. That’s all I got.

    ((except for a few hugs for Jacq on the previous post. Right there with ya))

    (ps I’d bet my entire ‘writer income’ *cough*cough* that I know who anon is and if I’m right, her stuff is full of kick-ass-awesome.)

  • Amie Stuart September 10, 2009 at 9:26 am

    Wow…..I have no words but I totally feel for you.

  • Jody W. September 10, 2009 at 11:00 am

    Jeez! I think I’ll take up crocheting.

  • Evangeline September 10, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    I can say nothing but Co-sign!

  • Kate Pearce September 11, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    I can understand that you feel bad-I think most of us have been in that horrible place and getting published at whatever level brings a whole new range of paranoia along with it.

    After I got my first NY contract I almost quit because of all the additional stress, negativity, cattiness, pressure etc etc etc but I realized a couple of things. I can only control the writing of the book, not the state of the market, and I have to protect myself from all the negativity or I will crack up.

    I can also understand you raging at the gatekeepers, but suggesting that everyone who does get published is crap, just because it isn’t you at this moment in time, seems a little unfair. Most of those writers, myself included, will probably be back on the crazy merry-go-round of publishing soon enough and all our talent and productivity will end up with us on our butts in the dust.
    It’s a hard business and we’re all nuts to get involved in it.

  • Anon Author September 13, 2009 at 5:52 pm

    Kate thanks for popping in. I wasn’t suggesting that ALL authors who get published are crap. I’ve read some damn fine books, but obviously, I’m very frustrated at the moment. I’ve had two NY contracts so I’m not naive about publishing but I still think there’s a grain of truth in what I said about those gatekeepers and what/why they buy.

  • Anon Author September 13, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    Melissa I guess if there WAS some rhyme or reason to it, I wouldn’t feel so pissy about it all!

  • Ericka Scott September 29, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    Yep…it’s a tough world in the publishing industry and here we all are, clamoring to get in.

    I think you summed it all up succinctly and passionately…


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