Sad Truth: Getting Published is Like Trying to Find a Legal Job

Blah.

I considered making that my entire blog post and then leaving it up to interpretation. I thought maybe it would make my blog more literary cuz it forced you to think, you know?   Dig deep.

Jk.

The truth is, “blah” describes my current feelings toward the finding-an-agent process.

I expected to endure rejection, of course.  If I learned anything from blogging it’s that this industry is tough. Tougher if you’re a woman. Still tougher if you’re a black woman. I was told not to quit until I was rejected by 100 agents. I’ve been rejected, but not by 100- yet. So yeah, I anticipated the ego-bruising part.

What I didn’t expect was for the process to be so much like finding a legal job.

I know. Exactly.

I went to this legal panel a few weeks ago called “Broadening Your Legal Exposure.” It was all about how, in order to make it in this town, you need to join organizations, publish articles, and take on speaking engagements. My reaction was “useful stuff.”

The next day, I, unrelatedly, started browsing through writing blogs about how to get an agent, and gleaned this advice: join organizations, publish articles and take on speaking engagements. And attend writing conferences. My reaction was “are you f-ing kidding me.”

It’s not that I ever expected the process of writing a book to be pure. For better or for worse, I never had the delusion that it was all about the art, creativity, etc.

In fact, if I’m being honest, I was probably counting on that fact to some degree. You know, trying to give myself a leg up by blogging, staying on top of the industry, etc. I tried to turn this law firm background into advantage (beyond the freedom to not write in poverty, I mean). Like, I should know something about business or whatever. I figured that would help.

The problem is that some point along the way, I grew to appreciate the art form more and more and to raise the standards for myself creatively. I put in some serious time, effort and cash to make manuscript the best it could possibly be at this moment. So I’ve done that and now I’m faced with this hustling, networking, get your name out there stuff, and it’s just so annoying.

So annoying.

It’s like Blah.

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This Week: Query-Writing Bootcamp

I wonder how much money I’ve spent on this noveling endeavor.  I’ve taken classes, hired a developmental editor, gone on retreats, entered contests, purchased Snowflake Pro. .. I do believe all of these things have made me and my manuscript better, but shite.  It’s adding up.  Maybe that’s why so many professionals have managed to write novels on the side.  They’re the only ones who can afford it!

Anyway, I bring this up because I have spent money again.

This time on an agent one-on-one Bootcamp through Writer’s Digest.  This is how it works:  you gain access to an online tutorial on query letters and other submission materials taught by two literary agents (Tuesday).  Then, over the next two days you revise accordingly.  You also gain access to a 3-hour discussion board on each day where the agents are required to answer everyone’s questions (Wednesday and Thursday).  On the final day, you submit your query letter and the first 10 pages of your manuscript (or the first 9 pages and a 1-page synopsis) for real-life agents to review (today).  They have two weeks to provide comments.

So that’s what I’ve been up to this week.  Learning, chatting, revising.  I bought the course because I’m at the submission stage and I knew my query needed work.  I wrote it 6 months ago and the experience was so tedious, it actually reminded me of the Law Review competition in law school! ::shudder::

For those of you who don’t know, after a year of enduring the most difficult year of law school and finishing all your finals and submitting all your papers- boom!  You’re asked to write another paper  for a chance to participate in a prestigious extracurricular activity- Law Review.  The competition was, literally, my worst experience in law school.  That’s what writing my query letter was like last summer.  I spent a year and a half writing and editing an entire novel, and when I was done, I had to write a letter that pitched and summarized both my story and myself in 3 paragraphs.  It was ridic.  It sucked.

I did the best I could at the time, but that’s not saying much.  So I figured the Bootcamp would provide me with useful feedback and, more importantly, motivate me to take another stab at the letter with fresh eyes.

I know for a fact my query is a lot better now.  For one thing, it’s more accurate.  Originally, I had been pitching this thing as a love story, now I describe it as a coming-of-age novel.  I also learned from the discussion board that first-time novelists should note if they have used a developmental editor in the query- who knew?  I asked the agents if they found it more difficult to pitch diverse characters/writers to editors.  They more or less said no.

Overall, I would say that the tutorial was fine, but I never would have paid for just that.  The value in this Bootcamp is the interactions with the agents and the feedback I will receive from them, as they read and judge these things literally every day. It also doesn’t hurt that my submission essentially doubles as a pitch.  The agents reserved the right to ask for more pages if they like you and it just so happens that the agency, Kimberley Cameron & Associates, was on my list.

So it’s been a productive week.  I should receive comments by Feb. 7th, and after incorporating the feedback, I will be back to pitching!  In case you’re wondering, yes, I do still have some minor revisions, but nothing crazy.  I’ll be done (again) soon!!

I’ll keep you posted!!

 

 

What I Learned from the Sony Hack

I’ve been meaning to talk about the Sony hack.

I think it’s fascinating. As an attorney, I’m confident their lawyers will have a steady workflow for the next year or two. As a person attempting to enter a creative field that is frequently tainted by structural biases and business priorities, I couldn’t help but eagerly grab the popcorn and watch as secrets were spilled.

Before I continue, let me say that I understand that this post, like many of my posts, concerns the movie/television industry and not publishing. That said, I think many of the issues affecting one are relevant to the other (e.g., the overexposure of certain plots/stories/tricks, the lack of diversity at every level, the assumption that consumers are generally stupid and bland, the high risk/high reward of pursuing a career in these fields, etc.).

Ok.  Here’s what I learned from the Sony hack:

1. Everyone is frustrated by the dumb shit that is actually made into movies. I came to this conclusion based on the Adam Sandler comments. Neither employees nor executives seem to like him or his movies. Yet…they still make them.

Do they not realize that they are the ones who actually have power to do something about it? I’m allowed to complain- not them! If they want to make better movies then…make better movies!

2. People are still comfortable being sexist. The gender pay gap that the hack revealed was really messed up. All of the male stars in American Hustle get a higher percentage of profits than Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence? How does that make sense? But what really bothered me was Aaron Sorkin’s comments that it’s easier for a woman to win an Oscar than a man because male performances are just harder to pull off.

O.m.g.

First, again- if you’re mad that women aren’t performing the way you would like, then maybe you should help create better roles (you know since you are a famous screenwriter with lots of power).

Second, I’m not convinced that just because Aaron Sorkin can’t appreciate the performances of women (the way he can those of men) that means they are actually worse. I’ve posted here before that one of the reasons it’s important to have diverse publishers, agents, etc. is that an old white man, for example, may not be able to appreciate all the nuances displayed in a young, black woman. I think something along those lines is happening with Sorkin.

3. People know better than to be blatantly racist, but there is probably still a race problem. Frankly, I thought the Obama comments were like whatever. They were joking, I get it. Buuut, I find it hard to believe that if these blatantly messed up gender issues exist at Sony that there also aren’t some questionable racial disparities and views floating around as well.

My only hope is that as the Sony execs embark on their apology tour (meeting with Al Sharpton, Judy Smith (the real Olivia Pope), etc.) they actually use the opportunity to try to internalize some of the issues and make some changes.

That’s all for now.

Happy new year!