Sunday, August 21, 2011

It goes without saying [but I'll say it anyway]

I’ve been following the Publish America vs. JK Rowling train wreck this week, and I have to admit it boggles my mind that anyone would fall for the claims made by PA and plunk down money for a chance to have anyone who is not an agent or editor read their work.

Think about it – they’re saying for $49, they will ‘bring your book to the attention’ of a famous person. [Ms. Rowling isn’t the first. They’ve apparently done this with others, including the President]. Now, ask yourself, what does ‘bringing to the attention’ mean?

They could simply jot your title down on a cocktail napkin and slip it under the stall the next time she’s in a public restroom. There. Brought to her attention. They could – and I suppose this is what PA clients were thinking – arrive for lunch at her castle in Scotland with a box of books and discuss each work individually for a moment or two over tea and scones. Yeah, because JK Rowling has time for that. She also has time to read a truck load of books and comment on each one [that’s part of the deal – you write her a short note and she’ll comment back.] Think about it. Please.

What busy celebrity or public figure, whether it’s the President of the United States, a well-known actor or a successful author, really has the time or the inclination to sit down and read dozens or hundreds or, heaven forbid, thousands of books and make personal comments on each one? They have lives and jobs and families, and while I’m sure they read for pleasure, they don’t have time to give individual authors bragging rights. ‘JK Rowling read my book and liked it!’ ZOMG!

And even if they did, [which is beyond unlikely], having an author or well-known person read your book is not the path to literary success. Sure, it’s nice to know someone who might be inclined to provide you with a cover quote, but that’s about all they could do for you. If anyone thinks JK Rowling or Stephen King or any author is going to phone their agent or their publisher and even vaguely recommend you get a publishing contract, or worse, SHOW your book to their publisher, you’re sadly mistaken. This is NOT HOW IT’S DONE. It’s just not. It’s a sad cliché perpetuated by movies and television shows. The hopeful author hounding a famous writer, asking them to read their manuscript in hopes of getting it passed along to someone who can actually write them a check – is a plot device, a trope. Maybe it happened once in the history of the industry, but like the Big Bang, it’s not something you see more than once in a gazillion years.

So, though it shouldn’t need to be said, please don’t fall for anyone promising to show your work, published or unpublished, to a celebrity. It’s useless, even if, on the outside chance, they actually do it, you’ll get nothing valuable out of it. If you’re looking for literary success, send your book to a reputable agent, or the appropriate editor at a well-known publishing house, not to JK Rowling, President Obama or, heaven forbid, Publish America.


B.E. Sanderson said...

Well said. Early on, I almost fell for PA's BS, but I got better. With all of the stuff online now showing exactly who these people really are, I'm surprised anyone still believes anything they say. Thanks for providing another source for people who might still be swayed.

Jennifer Colgan said...

Thanks, B.E. I know when I first started thinking about getting published I had no idea how the industry worked, I don't think most people do at first. It's only trial and error that gets us on the right track. Hopefully the more people who read about PA, the less who'll have to make that error.