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Beyond the Blurb: On Critics and Criticism. Published by Cow Eye Press
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THE LITERARY SPHERE: TAKING CRITICISM ONLINE

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LET'S REVIEW: BOOK REVIEWING AS LITERARY CRITICISM

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08/15/2005

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Richard Nash

To be fair, though: authors look at the industry and focus, naturally, on the agent and publisher. But we're also at the mercy of the media and the book retail market. (And let me say, the situation in the book publisher and book retail side of things in the UK is worse than over here, even if the audience (Posh Beckham notwithstanding) is larger, and the print media better. Look at Federman's sales figures for his book sover the last five years, and his present publisher, FC2, is proably selling 100-200 a year at most (though that number would exclude academic adoptions, which are significant probably only for Double or Nothing).

That all said, I'll be getting in touch wihth Federman, asking about the FC2 situation, and then asking him for a copy of the MS.

David Milofsky

Always easy to rage at the messenger, but this agent, whoever he is, didn't create the market and of course it's up to Federman to write whatever he wants--marketable or not. I'm just a little tired of hearing self-serving writers claim their work is too good for this degraded world. Where is it written that publishers (or agents) are obliged to lose money on books they publish. I say this as a writer who presently has two works circulating, both of which are naturally too good for this world.

Dan Green

If this agent didn't help to create this market as it currently exists in its fucked-up shape,who did? Did it just descend upon us from on high?

David Milofsky

A complex question, but agents don't make the market--they respond to it. A good number of agents who've handled so-called literary fiction in the past don't want to do it anymore because (like the one above) they know they can't sell the books and they're business people. If you want to blame something or someone, better to blame what I call the conglomeratization of publishing, which has engendered a passion for the bottom line that wasn't there in days gone by. No more family publishers anymore (like Scribner's, or fatherly editors, like Perkins, looking after wayward souls like Fitzgerald and Wolfe. In fact, editors are an endangered species these days, with sales departments making most of the big decisions in publishing. Anyway, it's not agents, at least not for the most part, though some are happy to play ball. One could also blame the public with their taste for Grisham and Harry Potter and other bland pabulum. I agree, of course, that the situation is fucked-up, just don't think agents are to blame. I'm more concerned that in twenty-five years or so reading of the kind we value will be considered a relic of the past.

Birnbaum

What ho lads?

Now questions and concerns about the (ir)rationality of the marketplace are creating frowns and wrinkles on the brows of our two friends— ay ya ya!

The only thing (or one of the only things) that keeps Federman's account of his plight from being jejune is that no matter how many times one hears them (and the point here is we here them all the time, most recentlly regarding Sam Lypsite [ keep in mind Tibor Fischer seems to hold the record for a sucessful rejected novel with 57]) there is always a fresh and original idiocy mouthed by some book industry supernumerary.

Unlike many ( I suppose) businesses, the movie and music and book businesses—where art and commerce intersect are rife with stories of overlooked genius and mediocrity's fantastic successes. Maybe we should all agree on one or two days a month to rail and ululate on these crass cruelties—but let us not be shocked or in despair by the numerous signs of book industry failures and and infelicities. Except for David who with two books out there may be excused for any excesses of sensitivity.

Chris

I sympathize with Federman, but this agent is being pilloried for having agreed to look at the manuscript. Many don't even respond to queries. As to the lozenge-like sentiments and inept language of the letter--well, of course Federman's mad, but to rail about these things is sophomoric. Writers don't value agents for their ability to write. I know how Dan feels about agents, but I must repeat what I've said here before, which is that they're very helpful to those authors they do take on. I find their current "gatekeeper" status to be regrettable, but the elimination of the slush pile was the publishers' decision. It doesn't benefit agents in any way, because now the slush piles are in their mailrooms.

Scott

Of the reasons offered for the rejection of Double or Nothing, at least 7 of them make me want to read the book.

David Milofsky

Gee, Robert, I didn't think I was being overly sensitive, just establishing my bona fides. And, for the record, I think my agent is great: patient, smart, always watching my back. She's a true friend in the trenches, which is what real friends should always be.

james crofton

Rejections I get often state that "your material has merit but isn't for me but please don't despair as preferences are so individual that another agent may find differently." How to square this with the usual agency's instruction (and plea) on their web site to "query only one agent per agency?" If the statement quoted isn't a lie then individual agent's narrow likes could be rectified by the agents' passing submissions around within the agency, sort of a round robin of submissions, as it isn't the novel that falls short but the individual agent whose inbox it landed in being unable to appreciate it.

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