Lying Tweets

Kind of a quiet sunset last night, slowly shading into salmon and violet. Quite lovely.

Something not quite so lovely occurred on Twitter the other day. But it was also kind of quiet. Once of those things where people get into conversations with certain expectations that lead them into assumptions. Let me explain. It might be convoluted because I don’t want to name names.

(Though if you know me and want to email to ask, I’ll tell you who it is.)

So there’s this agent who’s been on Twitter for a while. We’ll call him Tom. He seemed pleasant, said interesting things, didn’t seem to rep what I write. I didn’t follow him all that closely, but we exchanged comments a couple of times. About e-publishing, now that I think of it.

Well, then he turns up the other day – same avatar, which is the little picture that appears next to the words, in this case a headshot – but a different “handle. Where he used to be AgentTom, now he’s eTom. My friend, Kerry, pointed out to me what was going on. He was holding forth on Twitter bashing traditional publishing and even agenting.

He said a lot of stuff. How agents and traditional publishers only want authors with huge platforms – like celebrities and that chick from Jersey Shore. Thousands and thousand of Twitter followers, he says. A couple of writer-friends of ours had engaged him in conversation at this point. What caught Kerry’s attention was when he said:

Don Maass is not going to take anyone on unless he can make a buck from their work. No platform, no Don.

When several people mentioned that Donald Maass, who is a very well respected agent, has recently offered representation to friends, he said:

He might be taking them on but that doesn’t mean they will be published or if they are, it won’t be big time.

followed by

Jen Jackson runs Don Maass Literary. I don’t think Don is that active anymore. Don’t know for sure tho.

So, Kerry mentioned that we have a good friend who is recently represented by the very active Don, she has fewer than 200 followers on Twitter and is doing quite well with her series. This is a warning flag, when someone in the industry is saying things you know aren’t true. Doesn’t matter who he is.

Which he pretty much ignored. Because by this point, after he’d painted this very grim picture, he got to his actual point: the beauty, the glamor, the sheer profitability of E-PUBLISHING.

Now, I have nothing against e-publishing. I’ve published a book with an e-press and I’ve been pleased with the results. (I showed some yesterday.) That’s not the problem.

The issue is that he’s become “eTom” because he’s left agenting and become an acquiring editor for an e-press. You can see this on his profile. If you go to this e-press website, you can see it’s totally new, with lots of references to “us” and that it’s an imprint of another press. Which sounds fairly reputable – okay, new e-imprint of an established press, there’s a lot of that going around these days – until you look at the press and notice it has the same last name as Tom.

This is, in fact, entirely eTom’s business. His new publishing venture and he’s recruiting authors by playing on their fears, saying a traditionally published book takes three years, pays nothing and they’d never take you if you don’t have a huge platform anyway.

This makes me mad because IT IS NOT TRUE.

Allison, for example. She’s told her story in other places, but to recap: it was just over a year ago that the editor who read Allison’s full manuscript for a contest offered her a contract. Allison was able to pick from three agents, one of whom landed her a better contract with another publisher and the book is coming out in January. That is a true story. This is her first book, she has no platform, practically no name recognition and less than a thousand twitter followers.

Maybe most of you reading this are nodding your heads and saying yeah, yeah, yeah – we know. But it alarmed both me and Kerry to see so many earnest authors engaging with eTom and swallowing his lies.

If you want to do e-publishing, great – do it! But don’t sign with just anyone. Don’t let them make you feel desperate. Do your research. Pay attention to their motives.

Never sell yourself short. Especially to the guy who says it’s your only chance.

20 Replies to “Lying Tweets”

  1. It was, Tawna. The whole "oh, even Donald Mass isn't real and you'll never get an agent anyway" approach just left me fuming.

  2. There are lots and lots of kinds of presses out there, and many routes to a success than can be defined many ways, so I hate to see people making these One True Path pronouncements. It's good to be able to take enough time to listen to more than one person, and then consider all the comments rather than just the ones that fit into a particular worldview.

  3. That's a good way to put it, Ann Marie. the "One True Path" preachers nearly always have ulterior motives. You're right – the key is listen to lots of people and make considered decisions.

  4. Those are great points to make, Jeffe. When I had dinner with the family this week to celebrate being published, my 19-year-old nephew asked me if the publisher was legit. I was glad he asked because it is a very valid question. Before I even sent my submission to Siren, I did a lot of research on the various publishers out there and thought they would fit my stories well. You can't just grab whatever's out there because you will be burnt. Trust me, I know. I have orphaned author syndrome and the person I went with was with a very respected agency. Don't take anything at face value. Research, ask questions of people published/represented before making big decisions.

  5. Wow. Interesting. Always be wary of people who speak in absolutes, and profess to know all the answers. Best to look deeper, and see what's in for them.

  6. Thanks for your input, Danica – your story is a good cautionary tale. That's the best part of our community – you *can* find people to ask and people will share with you.

    That's right, Linda – always good advice.

    Thanks, Lisa! I'm already following your blog, missy, though it looks like you haven't posted in a while…

  7. Heh – always happy to be used as a successful example. 🙂 I definitely have no platform (or not much of one), and as far as I know that wasn't a factor as far as the contracts went. I sold on voice (and with a fair amount of luck).

    And I agree one hundred percent on all your points Jeffe. I missed the big bru-ha-ha on Twitter, but I would have chimed in if I'd seen it. I really dislike it when people deal in absolutes, because there aren't any – and everyone's definition of success differs.

  8. Victoria Strauss from Writer Beware here–I'd love to know who "eTom" is (in total confidence). Please contact me at beware@sfwa.org. Thanks! And thanks for making such good points in this post.

  9. That's a good point, Allison – every definition of success differs. Makes it even more important that it's our own definition.

    Interesting to know you're not surprised, Victoria. I'll have to watch Writer Beware to see what you put up. Thanks for your terrific service to the writing community!

  10. Great post, Jeffe. So important to remember that just because somebody is an agent, or an editor, it doesn't mean that they know everything. I would suggest that everybody has an agenda, and some of those agendas are not in the best interest of the writer. I think a lot of writers put publishing peeps on a pedestal, and everything they say becomes gospel truth. In reality, publishing professionals are fallible human beings just like the rest of us. Part of our job as writers is to do the research – and see where those opinions are coming from.

  11. Thanks Kerry! I think that's exactly right – do the research, learn the agendas. If they match, party on. If not…

  12. I don't know if I'll blog–not enough info–but I did post in the appropriate thread at Absolute Write (which I won't link to publicly in order to preserve everyone's anonymity, but anyone who wants a link can email me).

    BTW, that press that the epublisher is an imprint of? It has put out a grand total of 2 books, both with 2005 pub dates. So, not so established after all.

  13. It was actually a pretty laid back, if opinionated on one side, conversation. I was sad that some people took this information as gospel.

    Always research information you get. Even established, reputable agents disagree on some things, but you can find out when it's completely off the mark.

    Tip: Coors Light makes conversing with some people more interesting.

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