This has been a long month, and I find myself less patient than usual when people splash stupid all over my screen. Publishing hasn't changed in 150 years? Heck, look how much it's changed in the past 15, or even the past 5. Print on demand, ebooks, Google deciding copyright is more of a guideline than a rule, the decline of independent bookstores, the bankruptcy of a major distributor.... Look, I've got nothing against self-publishing. Goldfish Dreams was put out by a PoD press, and is now essentially self-published over on Fictionwise. (At 30% off today, by the way.) I just get frustrated by ... not ignorance, but the aggressive stupidity.
It's the same sort of stupid that Beth linked to, the kind that leads people to proclaim that agents (or editors, or publishers) are Evil, that they're stifling truly original and genius works and seeking instead third-rate formulaic hacks, that they're destroying literature and crushing the true artists.
Agents and editors want books that people will read and buy. Agents who pick books people won't buy end up going out of business. (Or they become scammers and start ripping off would-be authors, but that's another rant.) Usually the "Agents are mean poodoo-heads" rants come from writers who have themselves been rejected. So let's look at two possible scenarios for why Author Bob gets rejected.
1. Bob's book is truly brilliant and revolutionary. This book would change lives, and would sell millions of copies. It's a powerful book, and readers would love it if only those self-serving agents weren't working so hard to "ensure that quality fiction never hits [the publisher's] desk." Alas, Bob's chances have been crushed by those enemies of literature, the agents (or editors, depending on the rant.)Good books do get rejected, and sometimes agents and editors make mistakes. An agent takes on a book and a client for two reasons: because they love the book(s), and because they think those book(s) will sell. If either of those factors are missing, you're probably going to get rejected. Get over it. I know writers tend to have supersized egos, but if you think getting rejected means the agents and editors of the world are conspiring to crush literature, then we're looking at a whole new level of egomania.
2. Bob's book isn't as good as he thinks it is.
My editor at DAW rocks. She's brilliant when it comes to helping me improve my books. She and the other editor at DAW are good enough at deciding what to buy and what to reject that they've kept a major publisher in business for years. She's also one of the nicest people I've talked to. She's given me steadily increasing advances for my books. She's hooked me up with some great cover artists. She loves Jig the goblin and my princesses.
My agent kicks ass too, and I say that even though he rejected one of my earlier books. I probably could have sold the latest princess book to DAW without his help, but he negotiated a better royalty structure that I never would have considered. He sells the books overseas and probably triples the amount I earn on each book. He contacts publishers to remind them when checks are overdue so that I can do things like keep up on the mortgage payments. Plus he springs for pizza when we're in Chicago.
They're not the enemy. There's no conspiracy. Writing is hard, publishing is a business, and it ain't personal unless and until you try to make it so.
*See here if you want my rant on self-publishing "success" stories.