Thursday, May 25, 2006

Literary Agency Red Flags

Literary agency web sites are cropping up like crazy these days. How to tell the good from the bad? Well, here's one red flag. When the agency posts misleading statements such as:

From the Desert Rose Literary Agency (member of Writer Beware's "Twenty Worst Agents") web site--

"...most agents avoid unknown writers and only want to work for authors who are already published."

From the Aspirations Literary Agency web site--

"Thousands of writers are turned away each year because they are unable to get past the stigma of being unpublished or self-published."

No and no. There is no stigma to being unpublished. Agents avoid writers who don't write well or whose work the agent doesn't feel strongly about. New writers probably find it hard to get an agent because about 95% of them simply don't write well enough--yet. I know I'm in the "not yet" category.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Barbara Bauer in Action

The Barbara Bauer Literary Agency has been listed as one of Writer Beware's "Twenty Worst Agents." Victoria Strauss and Ann Crispin run Writer Beware and spend many hours tracking scam agents and sometimes even assisting law enforcement in bringing them to justice (Yay!). The list is the culmination of a lot of hard work.

Tha list was posted on the Absolute Write forums back around mid-March. Then, a couple days ago, according to Teresa Nielsen Hayden in a post at Making Light, Barbara Bauer called Absolute Write's hosting ISP and pitched a hissy fit. Said fit resulted in the ISP taking Absolute Write off the air with an hour's notice. The post and the comments following explain it all.

Never fear though, Absolute Write will live on! The database is being uploaded to a new server, and Barbara Bauer is receiving a lot of negative attention.

ETA: Not too long ago, I--just for fun--requested a brochure from the Barbara Bauer Literary Agency. What I got was amusing. I'll blog about it more later when I'm not so caffeine-deprived.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

"The Deep Dark" by Gregg Olsen

I picked up "The Deep Dark" (Three Rivers Press) by Gregg Olsen on my last trip to Costco. The book is a closer look at a deadly fire that started deep in the Sunshine Mine, in Kellogg, Idaho, on May 2, 1972. The Sunshine Mine was a hardrock mine, the richest silver mine in the U.S. They extracted silver and other precious metals. While fires in coal mines were more common--and typically more dangerous (think: lots of fuel for the fire)--fires in hardrock mines were relatively rare. The mines were hot, but often very damp. And the only fuel source, so everyone thought, was the (wet) timbers that formed the bracing for the tunnels and shafts.

On May 2, a fire started near the main exit from the Sunshine Mine, a mile-long tunnel 3700 feet below the ground that led from the surface shaft to the shaft that took miners down to 4700 feet and deeper. Smoke quickly filled the mine. One hundred and seventy four men were in the mine that day. Just under half made it out. Of the ninety-three men trapped in the mine, only two survived--thanks to a small pocket of fresh air from a small, newly-bored shaft. The two survivors were stuck 4800 feet below ground with only a dim light and almost no food for seven days--until rescuers could clear out enough smoke and get the appropriate rescue gear to get into the mine. Carbon monoxide poisoning killed the other men.

I almost didn't buy this book. I love non-fiction stories like this, but I am one heck of a claustrophobic. Or perhaps I should say crush-trophobic. I can stand small spaces like closets or elevators. But try to get me into a cave or a crawlspace of a building? Eeek. I feel the same way about mines. You could not pay me enough money to go 4800 feet underground and then a mile down a horizontal passage away from the WAY OUT.

The book was great. It was a little slow to get going. The author follows a large number of people throughout the event, and it takes a while to get everyone's history. A bit too long, in my opinion. However, after the first 50 pages or so, once all of the main characters are in the mine, the pace of the story picks up. The author does a great job of bringing these people to life, and even though this story is true, it has all of the drama that makes good fiction.

I'll admit that about half way into the book, I just had to know what had caused the fire (which was something that puzzled the mine safety engineer at the time), so I jumped to the end and read the epilogue before finishing the rest of the book. Yes, I can be impatient.

I'd recommend this book to anyone.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Arrogance and Ignorance

So I'm reading the PublishAmerica boards again tonight (yes, I really was that bored!), and what do I find but more arrogance and ignorance from an aspiring writer.

The thread starts out innocently enough. The orginal poster states that when he tried to order a PublishAmerica book at a local Barnes&Noble, he was told it was a POD and was subtly discouraged from buying it. OK, fine. The saleswoman was trying to warn him, even at the cost of a sale. Perhaps not the best business sense, but then PublishAmerica does publish America's slush pile.

It's the second post that prompted this blog entry. Here is what the poster says:

It's also the attitude that they have at B&N in Mishawaka, IN..The people at Borders must have gotten the virus too, because their attitude is the same. My guess is that none of them has ever had a book published, with their name as AUTHOR. Since they can't do what so many PA authors have done, maybe there is a tinge of jealousy hidden away and it only comes out when they have the opportunity to put someone else's efforts down. They seem to enjoy the 'arrogance' of having done nothing.

Say what? The saleswoman wants to be an author, too, and is jealous? He doesn't know that. The poster just assumes that, because he wants to be a published author, the saleswoman has the same goal. I mean that must be the answer, right? Because it's not like PA offers unedited books with limited returnability and bad discounts to bookstores. How outrageously ignorant. How outrageously arrogant (on the poster's part). Or as Miss Snark would say--how outrageously clue free.

Slushpile has a good discussion on a related topic.

(And actually if the saleswoman wanted to be PA author, God forbid, all she would have to do is submit 60,000 words of whatever, and if she got in before the daily quota was reached, she'd be offered a contract. Of course, if she was turned down, she could just keep trying earlier and earlier each day until she hit the jackpot.)