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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Publicity You Don't Want

Sometimes agents are wonderful. The author of Time Travelers Wife ( Audrey Niffenegger) probably thinks her agent Joe Regal earned whatever his 10%. Especially when you see the sales figures for Book #2. Go read the comments on the sale at PubRants.

The problem is Mr. Regal decided to defend the lovely Audrey and jumped in with a letter that's, well, not so well written.

My favorite part?

Arguments that "she could take her time to write her second book because the mortgage was covered" are way off the mark. She didn't sign a two book deal with the first or second novel because she knew how hard it is to write a good book and she didn't want the pressure of a deadline hanging over her. It’s hard to herd cats on a schedule. Maybe if you're a genre writer, OK, it’s possible, perhaps even necessary, but otherwise, keep your day job and write a great book and sell it when it's done.
Foot in mouth.

Genre fiction gets bashed fairly regularly by a low-brow sort of elitist. This isn't a new slur. After all, there are genre authors who do publish every few months and it would very disheartening to the average person to admit that these authors were working hard and over-zealous. Much easier to decide that writing these books takes no effort or skill than realize that someone who publishes once every few years is just lazy, uninspired, or has a real life outside writing 20 pages an hour.

It's human nature.

But this isn't the kind of publicity Audrey wants or needs. The one local book group who reviewed the book had TTW listed as romance (correct or not I don't know- I haven't read the book) ... genre fiction.

And when you insult a genre, you insult the money-spending fans who support the genre. And what author wants to cut off potential customers? I can't think of one, even if they are rich. When you start publishing you are in business. You have to think like someone in business. Which means keeping your customers coming back for more, not scaring them off with ill-planned dismissals or rants.

Out of deference to the fact that Ms. Niffenegger didn't write this lovely little piece, I'll at least pick up her new book and read the inside flap. Who knows, maybe it will catch my attention.

Out of deference for the fact that I don't want this kind of publicity, ever, (and the serious concerns that we could not have an amiable working relationship) I don't think I'll query Mr. Regal.

He did add a polite comment on the Pubrant's comment trail explaining that he did not mean to insult anyone. So perhaps this is just a a very comic warning on why we never, ever, publish our first draft.

One clarification: I'm not dismissing genre writers; I'm saying that the rules are a little different. ...

So all I'm saying is that the rules are different, because the conventions are different. If you're a crime writer, for instance, you're supposed to hand in that next book a year later, maybe 18 months, so the house can publish on a consistent schedule and build the series. That isn't the expectation with literary fiction. No slight intended! Especially from someone who, if he has time to read anything but his own books (he doesn't at the moment), reads genre.

What do you think?


  1. Yikes!!! Thanks for the info. The business side of publishing scares me a little. I am an introvert. Does it help to at least have a pen name?

  2. Pen names... I need to do a post on those little suckers.

    Wow, Liana, that's crazy. I'm actually offended, and I intend to write and sell literary fiction one day.

    Yes, like Litgirl, the business side of publishing also scares me.

  3. Having given it several hours of thought and seeing what others say I'm less offended and a lot more scared.

    The publishing world is very small. And even on a blog you are never talking to a few people, things spread, especially something like this. It doesn't matter if you're an introvert or a raving misanthrope, you still have to put on a good game face when you hit the public. Because you're selling yourself as much as your book.

    I rewrote this post a few times. I had a friend look, took it down, and edited again. I'm still not 100% sure it's nice enough.

    I don't want to insult anyone, even if they don't agree. Differences of opinion are good. If we all thought the same, we'd all write the same. And wouldn't that be boring?

    But this is a good warning... never think a private message is private. And choose your words carefully.

    Litgirl01- Pen names are a whole other topic. They protect the individual, but not the brand or the author, if that makes sense. A pen name can keep your neighbors (or spouses boss) from knowing you erotica how-to books, but it can't keep people from saying, "That A. Nother is such a rude person I'd never buy her books!"

  4. I think I have two strikes against me. I write YA and genre. ;)

    Honestly, there's always going to be someone who's going to look down on everything. Life's too short to worry about them for too long.

    Genre, while looked down on by some, is a healthy place to be. There are readers still willing to plunk down money for all sorts of books. That, in and of itself, makes me happy. :D