We Want No Part of Your Death Culture

By Neal Comment

We weren’t the only ones who felt zero sympathy after reading yesterday’s iteration of the constant wallowing in publishing doom-and-gloom from an industry veteran—and our rejection of her pessimistic mindset turned out to be rather subdued, compared to what some of the rest of you thought. Literary agent Janet Reid had the most forceful reaction, writing on her blog that this person should “just shut the fuck up already.” Reid took issue of the characterization of the publishing industry as a place where everybody’s out to put one over on everybody else, and said, “If you’ve worked for ten years in an industry you don’t value or respect, with people you find distasteful, that says more about you than it does about the industry. So take a piece of advice from me: quit your job.”

A senior editor at one of the big publishers was more polite in her response, even willing to stipulate the assertion that, if Borders fails, author advances will quickly slide downward: “She says it like it’s a BAD thing, but it’s not,” this editor told us. “Unearned advances are bleeding publishers dry and they can kill an author’s career too, when the author becomes the literary equivalent of box-office poison. Everyone loses their livelihoods in this scenario, and it’s been going on for far too long.” This editor saw another positive aspect to the predicted upheaveals:

“Frankly, if these recent seismic shifts mean fewer agents and less business for them, so be it. Agents have helped created a climate where huge, unearnable advances are the cost of doing business for publishers. If those huge advances kill or cripple publishers then yes, agents will suffer too. But they’re not innocent bystanders, by any means—they’re suffering for their own bad business practices, just as publishers are.”


And it should surprise nobody to learn there’s very little pity for someone who still has a publishng job after all the latest layoffs declaring “I am so frustrated right now that I think flipping burgers would be more rewarding.” As one GalleyCat reader put it, “I flip burgers. I also write, and I’m caught in the quagmire of attempting to get published… Guess which one I’d rather get kicked around by?”