Moral: don't waste your time and money by sending unsolicited books to big-time publishers. You have to find some other way to gain their attention. Preferably, you need to get into the position where they approach you, rather than vice versa.
If the above doesn't put you off sending in mss to unsuspecting and uninterested publishers, here's a story that just might. It was passed to me by translator Viktor Janis, and it comes from another translator, Anna Feruglio Dal Dan.
Good, eh? Anna, by the way, has a blog. She also has some Daily Observances in the form of podcasts.
Once I was called upon by the fiction editor of the publisher I worked at to write a vitriolic rejection letter for a particularly egregiously offensive manuscript.
I duly went and composed six dense pages of shattering deconstruction of the manuscript, starting with its poor spelling and uncertain grammar and ending by taking issues with its theory of homosexuality.
Then I presented it to the fiction editor who frowned and said: “You know, I appreciate this, but I gotta tell you, it’s not cruel enough.”
I said. “Oh, come on, have some heart. One of those poor girls is a depressive, says so in the cover letter. What if she gets the letter and kills herself?”
The fiction editor hesitated a little, then she said firmly: “No. Some people have got to be stopped.”
(We didn’t do this to everybody: this manuscript really managed to offend my fiction editor deeply. Mostly she wrote kind encouragement critique letters - which usually earned her the emailed wrath and never-ending hatred of the people she responded to, such being the ego of your average would-be writer.)
Frank Beddor's second book in the Looking Glass Wars trilogy is out soon: 21 August to be precise. Intended for younger readers, age 12 and up, and based on Alice in Wonderland, part 1 of the trilogy attracted quite a lot of attention. More on the trilogy's own web site.
I kind of like odd addresses. I just noticed that the UK small press Tindal Street is located not in Tindal Street but in 217 Custard Factory. And Duckworth, once upon a time, used to be in The Old Piano Factory.
Oh I say. Bit much this. One of my most faithful correspondents, Jibby Collins (whom the goddesses preserve) tells me that Mitzi Szereto is at it again. Or still, probably. She is compiling material for The New Black Lace Book of Women's Sexual Fantasies. So you are invited to submit. But they gotta be genuine, OK? And no, sir, you can't send one in. Not even if you do wear a dress while you're writing it. Go to the Black Lace web site and click on the shoe. No, I don't know why it has to be the shoe. I expect somebody has a kink for those things.
If you live in London, or within reasonable reach, take note that Martin Wagner's play The Agent will be staged at the Trafalgar Studios (Whitehall) from 25 July to 18 August. This play was well received at earlier performances. It's a two-hander, the two characters being a writer and an agent. Here's the blurb:
It’s just another day at the office for high-flying literary agent Alexander; manuscripts to read, deals to be done, celebrity clients to be taken out to lunch… and just one quick meeting to get through with an author whose latest book the agent thinks is, frankly, not up to scratch. This gripping and often bitingly funny two-hander about a writer’s struggle for proper representation perfectly reveals the subtle shifts in power in the relationship between artist and agent. The only thing we can be sure of is that there can only be one winner.This might be a bit too much like real life for some, but for those who have never had an awkward discussion with an agent it could be a lot of fun. Details here.
Miss Bellasis -- you remember her, surely? If not, see the end of my post of 6 June 2007 -- tells me that she has been frightfully busy recently (the nipple tassel business being absolutely hectic, my dears), but she has acquired a new friend; one who makes gorgeous knickers.
The knicker firm goes by the name of Buttress and Snatch, and the garments in question are made in Hackney by honest, hard-working girls who never fail to attend church on Sunday.
No, I know that doesn't have much to do with books, but this bit does. Miss Bellasis herself is threatening to write her memoirs. These, if completed and published, will doubtless cause many a heart to beat faster.
If you're interested in satirical/humorous writing plus some hard-edged criticism of our saintly politicians and leaders (mostly in a UK context, but with some excursions into the US), then do remember that the author of the Not Born Yesterday site turns out some good stuff at alarmingly frequent intervals. The site takes a bit of exploring, but you could try Life in the Wrong Lane for topical material. And for UK readers I recommend this bit.
The Daily Telegraph, a week or so ago, published a brief obituary of the American romantic novelist Kathleen Woodiwiss. Her novels, they say, were 'absurdly overdramatic, overwritten, overlong, and filled with ludicrous sex scenes'. And then a paragraph or two later we get this: 'Altogether Kathleen Woodiwiss's 13 novels sold 36 million copies.'
Let me see if I've got this straight. Romantic novelist, writes 13 novels, and does the job well enough to get 36 million people to pay hard cash for them, not to mention the millions of other readers who borrowed the books from a library or a friend -- and these books are absurd, too long, too dramatic, ludicrous?
I hardly think so. Wouldn't it be more accurate, not to mention more gracious, to say that Kathleen Woodiwiss was an immensely talented novelist with an unusual ability to generate emotion in many millions of grateful readers.