Monday, November 21, 2005

Things that make you go hmmm

In addition to being the Problem Child and a Diva-in-Training, I’m also a Snarkling. Snarklings are the devoted followers of Miss Snark, a “dog-totin’, gin-swillin’ literary agent” (her words, not mine) who blogs about the business side of publishing.

But Miss Snark has been under fire recently about her identity. Is she really an agent? Does she know what she’s talking about? Why on earth would she spend her time answering questions, giving advice, explaining how things work? What’s in it for her?

I adore Miss Snark, even if I don’t know her real identity. Is she an agent? I tend to think so, since her comments seem to jive with everything the Mavens and industry people have told me. Do I care? Not really. Not to get too existential on a Monday morning, but does anyone really know who anyone else really is? Do I take her words as Gospel? No, but anybody who takes any information on the Internet as Gospel needs to have her head examined.

So what’s in it for Miss Snark (other than her own personal cult following)? Good karma? A sincere desire to help the unpubbed masses? I don’t know. But then I don’t know why the Mavens give us the time of day either.

Instigator touched on this last week, but I’ll expand the idea a little here. This is the only business I know of where the established openly and willingly guide the newbies, giving their time, experience, and expertise without expecting something in return.

Think about it. Business-wise, what’s in it for the Mavens (or any of the other published authors who go out of their way to mentor and guide)? The truly pessimistic will say “Oh, they only want you to buy their books.” That could be true, but my book-buying habits aren’t going to keep them off the best-seller lists. I don’t think the royalty off my purchase will make the house payment for them either.

I teach (sometimes) in my real life—and although I’m paid for my work, that paycheck isn’t going to make my mortgage. But I do it because I love what I teach, I love sharing what I know, and I love seeing someone else connect with what I love. There’s a powerful attraction and need to share your personal passions with others.

I may be a nobody in this business, but I’d be an ignorant nobody if not for the generosity of spirit of the Somebodies. That same generosity is what keeps many of us going through the rejections, contest losses, and harsh critiques. In a business that seems to be as much about timing, luck, perseverance, and trends as much as it is about talent, having someone in your corner explaining the facts to you can be just as important as the dictionary on your desk.

Maybe someday, when I’m Somebody, I can do the same.

Problem Child


Playground Monitor said...

I've always been amazed (but definitely not ungrateful) for the "pay it forward" attitude in the romance writing community. I count romance writers as some of my dearest friends. What a wonderful community to be involved in.

Maven Linda Winstead Jones said...

I'm always slightly disturbed by people who have the notion that no one does anything nice unless there's something in it for THEM. I won't even go there. It would take too much time, and I have to get back to cleaning my house for 30+ Thanksgiving guests.

But I will say this. We all know that this is a business of ups and downs. Big ups. Big downs. What keeps us riding the roller coaster when we know those downs are coming? For me, the very best aspect of the business is in the friendships I've found along the way. Writers, editors, agents, children and mavens. Together we laugh and we cry, we rail at the injustices and celebrate the successes. We share. It's that simple, at least for me.


Instigator said...

I think that's it exactly Maven LJ. The prize is in the connections we make with other people who appreciate and understand the same things that we do. I'm eternally grateful for those women who've mentored me - taught me, helped me, even chastised me. But I'm most grateful for the sense of kinship - of belonging - that they've given me.

About Miss Snark...I think what she gets out of this is hopefully an easier job. If we as writers understand the process a bit better, understand what an agent looks for in a submission(although we're only getting her specific viewpoint) then her job gets easier as the submissions hopefully get better. I think it's the same mentality with the eharlequin site. Certainly, they probably get some sales off all us people who hang out there - but probably not any more than they would have anyway. They're helping to build their author base - helping to ensure the continuation and growth of their product.


Maven Beverly Barton said...

I’ve been writing all my life. Even before I took pencil to paper at age nine, I was creating stories inside my head. I put my dream of a writing career on hold after I had children because I was determined to be Super-Mom. When I went back to my writing in my mid-thirties, I felt alone and lost, especially after I began submitting my first romance novel and kept getting one rejection after another. Then something wonderful happened to me—I met Linda Howard, a published writer with eight or nine books to her credit. She told me about RWA and provided me with an application. Less than a year later, she and I helped found Alabama’s first RWA chapter, Heart of Dixie. Through my friendship with Linda and other writers, I discovered a writing community world outside my isolated little cubbyhole where I wrote in solitary confinement on my old high school typewriter. I bought and borrowed RWA tapes on writing, entered contests and attended regional conferences. I soaked up knowledge like a dry sponge.

Linda was the first of several established authors who gave me advice and encouragement. These fabulously talented ladies generously shared their knowledge with me, wanting nothing in return except to see me succeed.

I do recall one very bitter, insecure published writer making the statement, “Aren’t we crazy to train our replacements?” When I heard her say this nearly fifteen years ago when I was one of the new kids on the block, I disagreed with her. And now all these years later when I’m one of the mavens, I still disagree with her. Perhaps it’s my strong maternal instincts that make we want to teach the next generation, to nurture, encourage and support them. Perhaps, in an effort to give back some of what I was given, I want to help “young” writers as “older” and wiser authors once helped me.

How lucky we are to be part of a very unique world—the world of writers. No one can truly understand the workings of a writer’s mind, except possibly another writer; and that is why friendship with a kindred spirit is a double blessing. --BB

Miss Snark said...

I'll tell you what I get out of it: it's fun. I like talking about books and publishing with people who are interested in them. I like the nitwit questions people ask cause I get to be really really snarky. And mostly I really like the idea that some of the folks who read this will get some use of it.

There aren't that many ways to be really helpful to writers without investing so much time it's cost ineffective, but blogging is certainly one.

Plus, did I mention it's fun??

Thanks for posting about me!

Snark on!

Problem Child said...

Miss Snark posted to my blog.

How cool is that!