• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies Sometimes I think a meteor could strike the earth and wipe out mankind with the exception of my mother’s Bridge club — Roz, Bea, Bette, Rhoda, and Jackie — five Jewish octogenarians who continue to gather for lunch and Bridge on Mondays as they have for over fifty years. When I set out to learn about the women behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, and most of all the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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Scoop The Pearls Up From The Sea

I think I became an agent today. On a cellular level. After a decade of wingeing about being an editor in agent’s clothes, or pining for marketing meetings, or confessing how much I loved sale conference, something in me snapped. I’m on vacation (yes, that’s a euphemism for rehab), when I idiotically checked my blackberry between 12 step meetings. I see that one of my writers who had been promised his check on Monday still hadn’t received it because of a “glitch” at the publishers. Now, it would be another two weeks before they could cut a check. Yes, that was the sound of my head exploding. When I got to make my one phone call, I called my husband (who happens to be a publisher), and I railed against publishers, screaming that the artist is always the last one to get paid. And how there wouldn’t be any publishers without writers, etc. You sound like an agent, he said. So. Be. It.

What pisses you off most about publishers?

61 Responses

  1. I hate that they have power over the talented. That seems so inherently wrong.

  2. I hate that they love my epic fantasy novel but hate that it is 175k words long.

  3. That I don’t have one…

  4. Now that everything is going ahead and I’ve been adopted by my editor, my publisher has become silent and makes me feel like a bug.

  5. All they care about is the money. THEIR money.

  6. No complaints so far.

  7. Dropping a wonderful, memory-provoking earworm to “Free Money” and disturbing the moment with images of Betty Ford. That kills me. You can call it duality, but I find it cruel.

  8. The bottom line. And a bunch of former-employer-specific bullshit that would a) take too long to explain, and b) blow my cover.

  9. Nothing pisses me off about publishers. They are the salt of the earth, God’s little miracles, a gift to writers everywhere, the next best thing to sliced or unsliced bread, giants among men, a breath of fresh air and a delight to behold. Have I covered everything? And, have I sent you dear people my latest manuscript?

  10. I hate that my publisher thinks that prolong silence is a form of communication.

  11. It’s hard to get pissed off at the poor dears. I’ve tried, but I just can’t do it. I could when I was younger, but as we grow older, we either become more understanding and forgiving, or we sink into a pool of obtuse bitterness. I prefer a dash of bitters in my Old Fashioned, but not in my life.

  12. Note to agents. When there is a glitch and there sometimes can be–haven’t you ever had one?–be a grown-up and discuss it with the editor–and don’t scream at the EA. One of my first jobs in publishing made me think that agents were crazy monsters because of those phone calls.

  13. When you’re really an agent you’ll use the one call to call the publsher and find the level — you know it exists — where someone can order a check written, and rip that person open and show her the color of her entrails until she agrees to have the check weritten and messengered today. Your wiiter doesn’t give a flying fuck that you called your husband to express your outrage. What you did was an acceptance of powerlessness. Sounds not as if in your heart and editor or an agent. Sounds like you’re a writer.

  14. You think Binky would have called Ken? Wylie would have called Beelzebub? No ma’am. When you’re really an agent you’ll use the one call to call the publisher at the level — you know it exists — where someone can order a check written, and rip that person open and show her the color of her entrails until she agrees to have the check cut and messenger’d today. Your writer doesn’t give a flying fuck that you called your husband to express your outrage. What you did reflects an instant acceptance that one cannot get a check written for two weeks in a modern corporation: an instant acceptance of a low rank in the bureaucratic pecking order; an instant acceptance, essentially, of powerlessness. Sounds not as if in your heart you are an editor, or an agent. Sounds like you’re a writer.

    • Wow, your outrage overran your hummingbird ass. Poor Betsy is already teetering on the edge. Are you trying to push her over? Having said that, aside from the brutality, I rather liked it.

  15. That I just bought my bazillionth not-so-good, not-so-polished book, one of those books they shove out there too quick because the writer’s name is hot.

    I spent 5 hours on a plane last night with a short novel in need of serious editing. Not to mention the “typo” where the writer obviously changed a main character’s name but missed a few — I’m reading along and suddenly wondering, “Louise? Who’s Louise?” And why was this ready to sell?

    • Out them, so we don’t waste our time or money.

    • That is inexcusable. Jesus. Doesn’t it just make you want to have a tirade? I’m guessing that this was not a debut, right? Please tell me it was not a debut, then at least we can roll our eyes about laziness and track record and all of that.

  16. Promise-filled meetings detailing personalized and vast publicity and marketing campaigns; a couple of galleys stuck in jiffy bags (or attached to emails) and sent to reviewers with no warm-up or follow-up calls.

  17. You mean this publishing house pays NO ONE at all except in two-week increments? And will they be totally blase about it if one of their distributors says, “Oops, we had a glitch and we’re not going to pay you for all those books until the next time we cut a batch of a bazillion checks?”

    Someone has the authority to write that check. They just don’t feel like making the effort to fix their glitch because they’re not the ones with the problem.

    • Try getting a payment from a non-profit. If one is not an employee, just take a number and step to the back of the line. I have unpaid invoices over a year old with one such organization and I’m in constant communication with the Board President. The excuses and promises would fill a sad, thick book.

  18. I don’t udnerstand how come my remarks were posted twice, first time before I’d proofread. My apologies.

    • I like it. It’s a serendipitous writing lesson.

    • Might have something to do with hitting that ‘post comment’ button in your haste. It’s okay though, both comments were pretty much right on.A bit over the top, perhaps even cruel, but clever, just the same. You may not regret what you wrote now, but you’ll regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.

  19. I cannot think of one decent thing to say about the bastards other than they give me money for “My product” in a somewhat timely manner.

  20. I’m despondent that, soon, there will be a press release confirming that a certain acquitted mother will be given a book deal ahead of me.

    (on a different note: hope the ‘vacation’ goes well)

  21. I’m with Teri. It pisses me off that publishers spew out not-so-good, not-so-polished books. And I don’t mind that agents do a lot of editing now, but I wish editors would have the opportunity to do some, too. And it pisses me off that publishers give some of those big shot authors huge advances (even though many of them are mediocre writers), leaving diddly to advance to new (yet potentially fabulous) authors and even less $$ to promote their work.

  22. I’ve gotten used to the 19th century pace of publishing. But I’m still not used to the Victorian-style delicacy of their corporate communications. Meaning, I’m not allowed to use any word, such as “suck”, that is part of the post-industrial argot when explaining what I don’t like about their catalog copy or cover art.

    Who really, really pisses me off is the copy editor who uses that fuckwitted Webster’s Dictionary as an excuse to clip the “s” off of all my “towards” and then starts giving me her opinions on the quality of my illustrations (which she is looking at in a cheap black and white photocopy for god’s sake, so of course she can’t tell what a head of lettuce is when she sees it) and crosses out all my italicizations of French words in a book about France. The copy edited ms looked as if somebody’s two year old used it as a coloring book.

    Copy editors really, really piss me off. I hope that doesn’t make me a bad person.

    • And if one more fucking publishing person says “Lovely” or “Cheers” one more time…I’m gonna…I’m gonna…

    • Copy editors. Who the hell would want that job, anyway? You might as well put “quarrelsome bitch” on a business card. Or “sanctimonious nit-picker.”

      But good copy editors are really, really worth their weight in marzipan. There are some out there, I promise. Too bad you didn’t get one of them Vivian!

      • I would be an excellent copy editor. I definitely missed my calling. And these supplemental descriptions further confirm this, amplifying the case.

  23. The fact they’re owned my multi national media conglomerates that are focused on little but next quarters profits.

  24. Since I’m unpublished, the obvious retort to what pisses me off most is that they haven’t published me. The more reasoned response would be I’ll let you know when I get there. Neither is of much comfort to me at this juncture.

  25. Many, many things. But the tacky cover ‘art’ hurts the most.

    • Seriously. I can’t imagine what it must feel like to finally have something published only to see it wrapped by some ridiculous picture. There’s something terribly wrong with this process. Watching my kids picking out what to read next says it all. They most definitely judge a book by its cover. So now the writer is beholden to an artist who, most likely, didn’t even read the book in the first place. Pshaw!

  26. Are posters who use Anonymous starting to get on anybody else’s nerves? Call yourselves something, for crissakes.

    • And ‘Sally’ is so revealing.

    • The thing about Anonymous is that you could be one person or 10. We don’t know who we’re irritated with. Sally is fine. Sally will do. There’s only one of her. So far as we know.

      • click on the reply beneath the comment of whichever anonymous piques your ire. Then let fly your irritation fly. Seems pretty obvious Anonymous 2.

  27. Not published, so I have no comments that wouldn’t be derived from hearsay on that front, but just wanted to wish you my best.

  28. Is the heat getting to everyone? Fresh juleps in the shade, then, all around. Waiter!

  29. Okay now that the drinks are here let’s talk about Betsy being in rehab.

  30. I have watched my bird attempt to fly with a broken wing, seen my wounded soul try to crawl away without benefit of arms and legs as the purple dragon rose like smoke from the fire. Car horns, sirens and sounds too loud for others to hear have caused me to sweat like I had been doused with the boiling waters of hell. Too many things have scared me and the eyes peering back from my morning mirror have pained me the most.
    The first step is the hardest, but that’s already hindsight. Don’t let anything else matter and best of luck.

  31. In addition to the obvious and most sincere desires for her to return to us healthy and rosy-cheeked, I worry that once she has successfully walked away from her demons, she won’t need this platform every day to vent her spleen and visit us. Say it won’t be so.

  32. They create a royalty statement every six months, but they reserve the right to take two more months to mail the fucking thing. What, do they need to get their stories straight?

    7.5% of retail, less the agent’s cut? Really?

  33. Paying a writer who got three NYT mentions an advance of $750,000 — and selling 900 copies of his memoir. Really? How did y’all manage to do that?

    The rest of us getting not even 10 percent of that sort of money as an advance — while our work easily outsells his. That is annoying.

  34. That they make another delay sound like a gift. And the worst part is that I believe them.

  35. Um, yeah, so no publishing axe to grind for obvious reasons, but just wanted to let you know I hope you’re doing alright, Betsy.
    It could be a joke I missed, but on the off-chance it’s not, hang in there. It can’t be easy.

  36. I’m with Lyra–not sure if I missed something, but whatever it is, hang in there. It’s a tribute to your writing talent and charisma (seriously–no joke) that you could be in rehab or off receiving a Pulitzer or standing on the dock at Southampton trying to get to Holland or France and you’d still be the same Betsy we all love.

    Christ. You know it ain’t easy. (interesting punctuation possibilities after Christ)

  37. I hate that they are human.

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