Tuesday, 10 March 2009

They're at it again...

I don't know what Twitter is (other than a vague sense of something electronic) and I don't much care. I have enough trouble keeping up with new-fangled stuff like pigeon post.

However, it appears that a number of literary agents have been using Twitter to play a 'game'. They have been publishing (anonymously) the worst of the pitches they have had for books. Apparently the intention is to educate, not to humiliate. Yeah, right.

Well. Seems to me the agents who took part in this tacky display of unprofessional behaviour need to keep a few things in mind.

There is a thing called copyright. By publishing extracts from letters sent to you without the permission of the person who wrote them, you have stolen that person's work. And it is no good saying it was a quote for the purpose of education, because it is accepted practice to cite the source of any quote. What you have done is broken a fundamental trust that needs to exist in the world of publishing; namely that work submitted to an agent or publisher isn't going to get published without a contract expressing right and remuneration.

There is also a thing called professionalism. Agents and publishers constantly bang on about how people who submit to them need to be professional. This extends well beyond decent layout and the inclusion of return postage. If you want to be an author, you have to treat it seriously in all respects. Agents and publishers have made a lot of money writing books about this sort of thing (although a lot of them clearly don't take their own advice). Well, people, it is a two way street. If we authors have to be professional, so do you. You probably do get a lot of submissions that simply haven't a hope in hell of ever being a commercial success. Learn to live with it. It's the profession you chose (I doubt anyone was ever forced to become a literary agent). Don't make fun of these people. They might not be much good, but they have put heart and soul into their work and to turn round and mock them is reprehensible in the extreme.

It is no wonder that writers are looking for alternatives to the current publishing model. Print-on-demand; social networking; direct access to distribution networks; and other recent developments mean that authors can become independent, keeping a great deal more of their hard earned cash. It won't be long, dear agents, before authors are able to turn round and say to you: "We like your work, but in the current climate..."

6 comments:

Pom said...

I don't know what to say. Appalling is all that comes to mind. I wish I had something more...

Leatherdykeuk said...

*rant redacted*

I disagree :)

Ali said...

I'm on Twitter. When I first signed up, I used it as a challenge to write "byte-poems" restrained to only 140 characters. It was an interesting exercise.

But I definitely agree with what you said--total lack of professionalism. Not just among publishers, but I'm sure you've heard about the congressmen "tweeting" during important meetings and such. When people underestimate or undervalue the power of medium (in this case, abbreviated "sound-byte" like writing), the restrictions only serve to infantalize and dumb-down communication.

Papoosue said...

Is morality a dirty word these days? Reprehensible.

Un Peu Loufoque said...

Well said .

Anne Brooke said...

Hear hear - I entirely agree. This sort of thing really really pisses me off - and now some small independents are doing the same, which doubly makes me see red.

Somebody sue the buggers.

Axxx