Thursday, June 24, 2010

Are you ready to be a slush puppy?

We've been hearing a lot about the so-called "new era of publishing" where agents and editors don't exist and readers decide who will become the next J.K. Rowling.

Sounds awesome in theory, right? No more nasty agents and editors judging your work and telling you that your amazing-sure-to-be-bestselling manuscript sucks ass.

And there are tons of incredible books that started out as self-published and moved on to find success in mainstream publishing. (WE HEAR THE DEAD anyone?) These success stories certainly prove that there are some great books slipping through the cracks in the current system.

But, um, have you guys ever read slush? This Salon.com article tweeted by our uber smart publisher Dominique Raccah provides a really interesting perspective about the reality of the slush pile.

The truth is, we thought our first (doomed) novel was AMAZING. Truly. There was absolutely no doubt in our little heads that THE NORTH SHORE was going to be a huge hit. And you know what?

It sucked.

Bad.

I feel horrible that we subjected so many literary agents to that pathetic manuscript and thank God every single day that it NEVER found its way to readers. I get chills just thinking about it.

So, I guess I'm not sure that I'm ready for this "new era of publishing." As a reader, I don't want to read slush. I want to read really amazing stories that are going to make me laugh and cry and keep me up all night wondering if our work will ever be able to live up to what I just finished reading.

But maybe that's just me.

38 comments:

The Alliterative Allomorph said...

Ditto! I think we just have to accept that we should work hard just like everyone else. Nicely said!

Piedmont Writer said...

Why would you have to read slush when there will still be NY pubs around. You can still read what they produce which as you know, takes a super uber talent to get there. Slush, I think is just going to get on the open market some day through e-readers. Just don't read it. Pick your authors wisely.

Matthew Rush said...

You make a good point. There are no shortcuts and there shouldn't be. Hopefully we won't end up inundated with piles of Twilight fan-fiction.

Jen said...

Yay to hard work paying off!!! Nothing in life comes easy, those are sayings I hate but it might be because they ring all too true!

I agree I want a book that gives me so many emotions I'll want to pass it along to everyone I know and make them buy their own copy to pass along to others. The one that touches hearts, not that eventually touches garbage cans.

Make the road long and hard because it's the only way to know it's been done right.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Thanks for the shout out!

As a reviewer for POD Books and More, I've read some very good self-published books, some that made my eyeballs bleed, and quite a few that just *weren't ready* for publication. Unfortunately, the ease of POD publishing now entices authors to make their work public without the numerous, cut-throat revisions that the work really needs.

Alissa said...

At first I misread this post's title, and answered, "Yes! I do want a Slush Puppy, preferably blue raspberry flavor."

Seriously, though I used to work in a library, and I've see some truly horrible self published books. If that was the future of publishing with here and there an actually decent book, people would probably just give up on reading all together.

Lisa and Laura said...

Piedmont Writer - I think some people envision the future of publishing WITHOUT any big publishing companies. So there wouldn't be any gatekeepers between the reader and the slush. That scares me a little.

Dianne - I've read books published by some of the big publishing houses that have made me wonder if anyone even bothered reading the darn thing before they sent it to print. It's a little scary to think about what the landscape would look like if the floodgates completely burst, you know? But I'm not sold on the current model either because there are tons of good books that slip through the cracks. I don't think I'm smart enough to fix the publishing pickle. Just annoying enough to complain about it. Ha!

April (BooksandWine) said...

This is going to sound mean, but I absolutely refuse to read self-published books. There's thousands of books out there that are legit that I would much rather read, and when you think about it, there's only so many books we can read, to be morbid and all. I'd rather spend my reading life on books vetted by the publishers.

Also, something that bothered me on the article was the insinuation that bloggers have no integreity and are going to promote self-pubbed books by authors they are friends with. Are you kidding me? Has this lady every actually met bloggers? Ever actually read our review policies? The vast majority of us do not accept self-published for review. We promote books because they are legitimately good. Also, there's no accounting for taste, but hey stick with some bloggers long enough and you'll find who matches up with your taste and who doesn't.

Also, I want a blue raspberry slush puppy too, plz!

April (BooksandWine) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Falen said...

i've seen some terrible, terrible self pubbed books. I do not want that to be the norm. It would be so hard to find great stories if we're inundated with slush...

Summer said...

I've started running into this more since I got my Kindle. I like to troll for free e-books. Sometimes they're okay...sometimes, not. If not, I stop reading a few pages in and delete it. No harm, no foul.

But actually buying books? Hell naw. It's gotta have neons lights around it for me to schuck out a penny.

Maybe when I'm older and have extra money I can take risks, but until then...

salarsenッ said...

I agree. I need guidance and I know it, welcome it. Like you implied, writing is subjective especially when reading our own work. I've only completed two manuscripts. When I finished the first one, I thought it was brilliant. What did I really know until someone in the business took a look at it, said I had potential but this work didn't showcase it.

I needed to hear that. It pushed me to want more, hone my craft. ";-)

Dara said...

Yeah I'm not too thrilled about it either. I know the traditional way will still be around and I'll probably still err on the side of caution and read books that way. I know I might be missing some gems that are self-pubbed but I just don't want to pay for ones that will end up being dreck. Heck, I mostly get my books from the library now since I'm such a picky reader. I don't buy books as much as I used to because the book ended up being far less than I expected--and traditionally published no less.

Hardygirl said...

Yeah--no matter what happens, we still need filters. Book reviewers (who aren't afraid to give honest reviews), publishers who believe in a book and market the heck out of it, agents who get books in front of the right people, editors who EDIT . . .

I, too, have a first book that I thought was AWESOME. I am so glad (now) that it got rejected and that I listened to those rejections instead of letting my ego drive me to self-publish.

And, omg, I'm being driven crazy here. I'm having so much fun telling people about selling my book, and every third person I tell starts talking about some friend of theirs who self-published. Like it's the same thing . . . bug. Okay. End of rant.

sf

storyqueen said...

I really don't want to read the slush for any prolonged period of time....It would be cool to find something awesome in it, though, like an old guy with a metal detector on the beach who stumbles upon a diamond ring....

But really....life it too short....

Shelley

Claire Dawn said...

I think the agent system is less painful. It's bad enough to get rejections from 30 people in NYC. But imagine when the entire world won't buy your book.

OUCH!

JEM said...

Uh, I worked at a publisher reading submissions, and about 98% of them were TERRIBLE. Not just "oh, that's not my genre" or "oh, it needs some line edits." NO. TERRIBLE. I don't envy agents their job. There needs to be some kind of filtration system out there for the bad and just plain crazy stuff that some people come up with.

Heather said...

It worries me, too. How long will people be willing to sort through all that crap on their ereaders before they give up on reading altogether, claiming that there are no good writers? I can't even mention that I'm writing a book without 10 people in the room say that they're writing one, too, or that they've always wanted to write one. I get momentarily excited, thinking I've found a kindred spirit, but way more often than not they're not a "serious" writer. If it's too easy to put the material out there, how will we, as readers, find the good stuff? And how will the quality writers be rewarded?

I think some form of agency/publishing model might still exist, where agents see books that are getting buzz and then represent the authors to help them in the future. But I'm not sure how that will work. It makes me very curious to see how publishing will change.

Marsha Sigman said...

I love Hush Puppies.

But I don't want to be one of those either.

I agree that if a professional does not think my ms is ready...then it isn't.

Amanda said...

Read the Salon article this morning! GREAT article. I tend to think that e-pubbing and POD will not become overly popular. Just think of the work that would have to go in to publicizing yourself and getting books sold. And what if the book is no good? I have a feeling this is a trend that will peak and die out. People truly interested in good books are going to continue to seek out authors put on the shelves by pub houses.

Besides that--think about all of the readers who get their books at libraries. Do you think they're going to stock their shelves with POD books? Probably not. I've known writers who've gone the way of epublishing when their search for an agent failed only to come back disheartened at the results. Going the traditional route to becoming a published author is hard, but I honestly feel its still the most rewarding road.

Krispy said...

I totally agree. I like knowing that when I pick up a book at the store, that book has gotten the approval of more than a few discerning eyes. I used to read a lot of fanfiction, and yes, there was some great stuff out there, but I hated having to sift through all the bad to get to the good. It took too much time and energy.

Patti said...

Totally agree, especially with everyone's time constraints, it's nice to pick up a book that has at least had a few nods of approval.

Steena Holmes said...

There's nothing more satisfying to me as a writer than to send out that query and have an agent request either a partial or a full. It's then that I know my writing isn't as bad as I dreaded, that it is worth reading and yes - I CAN DO THIS!

There's a reason for slush piles. We might not like being in them, but when we're taken out ... there's a reason ;) If the slush pile was gone - OMG - no thanks.

Liza said...

Okay, I have to think how to word this correctly. Compare self-publishing to the blogosphere, where, technically, we are all self-published. There are so many blogs I love to read (including this one)...but also there are plenty out there that I stumble over and never want to read again. Probably lots of people find mine and after a quick read say "This isn't for me!" Sure, talented people get "published" via blogs, but there is no well known "clearing house" that sets standards or directs readers to the highest quality product. In self publishing, I see a similar conundrum. Everyone can publish...so how's a reader to find the good stuff?

Shannon Whitney Messenger said...

Couldn't agree more. I mean, as much as I'd love to believe that every single book anyone writes is amazing, the reality is, my own MS had to go through 16 drafts--and I'm sure an editor (once I have one of those) will put it through more. So yeah, as much as I hate to think that the 'gatekeepers' sometimes keep a great project out. They also save us from having to read a lot of horrible stuff.

Katie said...

Amen!!!!! As hard as it is to "make it" in this biz, I like it just the way it is.

Think of how many first drafts would suddenly find their way into the world. Yuck. And I include myself in the idiots that would no doubt assume their book was ready before it actually was.

I am cool with the gatekeepers. We need those guys!

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I'm with the great Nate B. (as Tahereh calls him! LOL) in that I think bad books will die an early death and great books will live on, just as they do today - through word of mouth.

Just my 2 cents.

Carolyn V. said...

My first ms was awful! I'm so glad I didn't query that one (very long)! =)

Jamie Grey said...

I'm really glad you posted this. I've been feeling the same way so it's nice to know I'm not alone. I actually kind of like how the process works now. At least there's some sort of quality check. My poor first novel was SO not query worthy!

deb said...

Boy howdy do I hear you on this....see, I have this rhyming picture book...hang my head in shame.

Melissa said...

I agree with you. I dont want publishing to change because a lot of the stuff.. just isnt good and I really dont want to read slush...

Jemi Fraser said...

It's most definitely not just you!

I wrote something a few years back that never even earned a name - or an ending. Thankfully. Really terrible stuff! I think the idea could work, but the writing? Really not very good!

Julie Musil said...

I think you raise a great point. Agents and editors are experienced and know what works! There's a lot to be said for that.

Elana Johnson said...

Amen! I'm reading just such a book right now, and I'm half-crying because I don't think I'll ever measure up and half-excited that I get to try. You know?

Dominique said...

I hear you. As someone whose been in the slush, I can guarantee that not all things in that pile should be publish. The winnowing process definitely ensures a better quality selection of books in the store, in my opinion.

By the by, there's an award for you on my blog. :)
http://mavieenviolet.blogspot.com/2010/06/thanks.html

emery said...

I totally agree- and that is someone who currently in the throes of querying!

Every once in awhile, I'm sure the industry misses a real gem. But mostly, they know what people love to read, and they know great writing! There are agents and editors who I would like to hug for recognizing the merit in some of my favorite childhood books.

The publishing industry is difficult and frustrating because you have to want it! There's a difference between being a writer and an author...and if you want the latter, you have to be willing to do the legwork. It's worth it!

Christina Farley said...

I see both sides of the picture. And I agree my first book totally shouldn't have seen the light of day!

But I have another book that is for a more specific reading group and maybe not something a big publishing house would take on. But I think it's still a good read and it's a story that should be told.

So yeah, we don't want the slush and at the same time you don't want the big houses to decide what's good for the norm.

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