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December 2013–January 2014, no. 357


December 2013–January 2014, no. 357

There’s a hashtag used among the publishing Twitterati to denote the laughable efforts of would-be authors whose approach to agents and/or publishers is not up to snuff. #Queryfail appears regularly in the tweets of one Major Publishing Player in particular, signalling the sins of yet another supplicant who failed to contact her in the preferred manner, didn’t read her submission guidelines, or asked her to be friends on Facebook and then sent her a publishing pitch. The nerve.

Comments (6)

  • Mary,

    DAMNED good article! And DAMNED well written!

    Our Yank publishers would do well to remember that without the fodder (manuscripts), their cannons fire only blanks.

    I -- and, no doubt, many others -- thank you for your sentiments.

    There is indeed -- as you so graciously and generously suggested -- gold "in them there hills." But it takes a miner(ess) to mine it -- and a mind to find it.

    Posted by Russell Bittner
    12 December 2013
  • The publishers' vanity and disdain outed here so vividly by Mary Cunnane, is an attitude that pervades all the creative industries, and includes curators and theatre owners, so many of whom do not have the means to recognise talent; simple, fresh curiosity. To be a successful 'creative' one requires either a pathological ego of proportions and aggressiveness to match that of the 'gatekeepers', or to adopt the posture of an echidna; neither being desirable character attributes. To read that there are still those in the industry, like Ms Cunnane, who still value the writer and their writing aside from status or CV, is heartening. How do we recognise good writing except by reading as much as we can, both good, bad and indifferent, and in that way more deeply understanding our culture?
    Posted by James McArdle
    12 December 2013
  • Thank you for taking the words out of my mouth. I loved this blog. Snark like what you've described seems to be heavy duty these days and reminds me of high school antics. Thanks for telling it like it is.
    Posted by Denise A. Agnew
    05 December 2013
  • I was so naïve when my first novel was picked up by a big publishing house some years ago. I couldn't get a grip on the culture, the instructions were clear - edit this, do that - but the stand-offish demeanour of the publishing people, the underlying contempt for writers, the patronising rationing of information, the strict demarcation lines, basically the lord and serf relationship really surprised me. Coming from another industry where most people accepted you at face value bumping into this wall of disdain messed with my mind at first. I wondered if I'd said or done the wrong thing, failed a deadline or whatever. Like someone caught up in a relationship with a narcissist I started to blame myself. But then I slowly realised it wasn't me. It couldn't be. I delivered in every sense and was unfailingly polite and professional. It was them. From top to bottom, the disdain for authors was pervasive. As a writer I like to think I'm perceptive, but when you're in the thick of something it's sometimes too hard. If I'd paid attention to my own observations I would have realised very early on when I was invited to a party at a writers festival being thrown by my publishers. I saw the older men, the money guys, chatting and networking, the next tier down was the middle aged women, the creative and editorial engine, dragging authors around and shoving them at booksellers, then the publicists, beautiful girls in red lipstick flitting about, and then there were the authors , on the other side of the room, talking to each other, looking a bit shabby and eating most of the food. Why aren't they mixing? I wondered. Well, I know now. It's not just at the query phase, I expect it continues on and on and on, until you start bringing in serious money, and even then it probably wouldn't be enough for respect and a sense of equal collaboration to replace the tribal barriers. As a culture, publishing is rather unattractive, really. A disappointing discover to have made.
    Posted by anon
    04 December 2013
  • Thank you for this. It's one thing to post something funny and it's another to post with the bitterness I've witnessed myself on Twitter. I understand that the job of agents is difficult, but isn't everyone's job difficult nowdays? Seems to me that anyone overusing the hashtag needs to consider a new profession.
    Posted by Leslie
    04 December 2013
  • Ah yes, I remember being at a dinner party one night trying to explain to a group of normal people (non-writers, editors publishers) that writers are expected to grovel to publishers, editors and agents. Twelve heads went down as they considered all that I told them before they concluded in unison, "But they're dependent on YOU for their business."

    #Acumen fail.
    Posted by Buttercup
    02 December 2013

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