You may be aware that Brenda Novak is running a charity auction on her website that’ll allow a lot of money to come in for Juvenile Diabetes research. She has a number of auctions of interest to writers. Originally I thought I might bid on a lunch date with a couple of authors and their agent at the Dallas RWA National that’s coming up, but the price went out of reach. I’m talking prices in the $300-500 range for minor stuff like that and over $1000 for editors to look at your work and critique it. (A caveat, which means a warning for those who hate Latinate terms, about that in a moment.)
The ONE item that still tempts me is this one: Evil Editor Edits Your Whole Book. EvilEditor runs a popular blog where he mocks/helps writers with their query letters. If this guy really IS for real and works in publishing as an acquiring editor, this might be worth “buying” if you have this much “disposable”* cash that isn’t committed to living expenses, the way all of ours always is as soon as it comes in. Money talks, but all mine says is, “Goodbye, sucker!”
* Enough with the scare quotes.
CAVEAT: I’ve won these kinds of critiques in charity auctions in the past. These weren’t for a research cause, but fund-raisers for individuals in the writing/publishing community who had fallen on hard times–once for a woman whose house burned down, another time for one whose medical bills had added up unpaid.
I had SUCH high hopes for these “critiques.” I thought that perhaps if the editor/agent/Famous Author liked the work or felt it had promise, I’d get useful advice and maybe even some direction on where to market the work.
Ha! Ha!! Ha!!!
For the most part, these “critiques” (again with the scare quotes! Ai-yi!) did not live up to the word. They weren’t nearly as thoughtful or well done, in general, as the comments I get from LJ readers. Much of the time it was very apparent that the critiquer had not trusted the author to have any idea what she’s doing nor taken the work seriously at all. Most of the time, it was obvious that the more powerful types had simply skimmed the chapter(s) trying to find things they could go, “Whoo-hoo, how bad that is,” about, and hadn’t paid much attention. It was really very little more than a basic rejection letter with one of the stock phrases that they use, such as “I didn’t fall in love with it,” or “I couldn’t like the main character,” or something similar. It wasn’t an analysis such as I imagine might come from an editor who was actually interested in your book. My fantasy didn’t match reality.
And why should it? They just wanted to raise money. They did the minimum necessary. I’d probably pull much the same stunt. It’s all for a good cause, yadda yadda, and why would this author take this so seriously? I was the one being the idiot. I shouldn’t have had Great Expectations. What the Dickens was I thinking?
What I forgot was . . . these people weren’t getting the $300. They were donating their time to the charity. I was donating my money to the charity and getting this lagniappe. I couldn’t very well complain that the lagniappe wasn’t chocolate/strawberry, but anthrax ripple. After all, if it weren’t crunchy, it wouldn’t be Crunchy Frog!
What bugged me the most was that the comments I got came from the world of Total Authority. They KNEW that No One Would Ever Read This Past Page One. They’d actually say, “You never told us X,” when X is clearly stated on the first or second page. I’d gently point it out, and they’d act as if I had spat in their Oobleck by “responding to the critique,” but they’d usually acknowledge that they’d missed it. They didn’t see it because they were skimming. Their assumption was that this was a piece of dreck that they had to do as an obligation to the charity, and that they’d just put this little idiot in her place ASAP and get it over with. Did they offer useful suggestions, even such suggestions as “Start with chapter three” or “Kill off the main character and use Werner Klemperer instead”? No. That would have been nice–as would a disclaimer of, “This is all so subjective and just my opinion.” I suppose I was supposed to append that by default. Moses supposes his toeses are roses.
Even the two by-telephone “critiques”/consultations that I got were full of putdowns and non-useful criticisms. You may recall that one editor called me, and after listening to her tirade about how nobody would buy this and how it was NO GOOD because it was JUST LIKE the film _Desk Set_** (even though it’s not about a computer replacing a group of librarians at all, and it opens with a guardian angel and the heroine spraining her ankle, which is more like a steal out of _Forever Darling_ with Lucille Ball, I’d say), I asked, “Well, if you HAD bought it–say one of your authors turned this in as the second book of a two-book contract and it had to be fixed–what steps would you have the author take?” Immediately she countered with, “I would NEVER have bought something like this. My authors know better, yadda yadda yadda.”
IN other WORDS, baby, kiss me. Er, I mean, in other words, these “critiques” were not critiques at all and were not exceedingly helpful, especially when they cost $300 and $250 and such prices. I could have gotten the same kind of feedback by posting my work on the nearest telephone pole. Hey–you know–that might work. . . .
**[And you’d think that because the film _Desk Set_ is STILL watched today and is seen as a minor classic, this would be a plus instead of a “no way.” So many classic films are being remade and have been remade recently that I’d think this could be a selling point. However, my book is NOT “just like” _Desk Set_. More’s the pity.]
The exceptions to the disappointment I experienced with these critiques were two “read-throughs of the first three chapters” that I got from published authors. Those were thoughtful analyses that still didn’t offer any hope, for I had sent them _Little Rituals_ and no one reads that kind of book any more. However, I felt that these authors really TRIED and weren’t just Phoning It In the way Melissa Joan Hart started phoning in her performances in the last couple of seasons of “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.” (Sad but true–I really admired her and wanted to BE her back in the “Clarissa” days despite the over-the-top campiness, and still loved the early “Sabrina” episodes, but she got to where she talked too fast, ran her words together, and wasn’t even TRYING. Hubby fell out of love with her and wouldn’t even WATCH it once Say-Say went to college. There’s a moral in there somewhere, but only an analytical wonk would want to search for it.)
So I just wanted to warn you not to have high expectations for anything that they offer you. You might get a really good one, but then again, you might not. The royalty may be offering a brief Audience to you, one of the Untouchables, but it’s not as if they’re going to actually let you TOUCH them or kiss their rings or anything. Let’s face it–if you were worthy, you’d already be one of THEM, wouldn’t you? *pblttt*
*ahem* But anyway, it’s a noble cause that Brenda Novak is supporting. And it might be that Evil Editor will take this seriously and actually do some sort of “edit” of your novel that would prove useful. I don’t know, as he’s pretty flippant and cavalier with the stuff that people submit to him, and I have no idea whether he is who he says he is (a current employee at a NYC publishing house) or is just a bored professor of literature at Slippery Rock University and Lava Lamp Factory. If he’s for real, maybe he’ll take your book and send you a contract. Stranger things have happened. (The image of the Virgin Mary appeared on a tortilla and on a grilled cheese sandwich, for instance.)
But I’ll bet my bottom dollar (which is sitting right over here in my piggy bank) that you don’t have over $1200 to spare on such a luxury. If you DO, then go bid on this and perhaps get your novel into shape so it can sell–that’d be worth ANY price to many writers.
If you don’t, then don’t be too jealous of the people who do get to go to lunch with the agents at RWA and so forth. I’ve heard that pitching ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. What is cracked up–or is cracking up right now–is the author who keeps believing in the face of all the turndowns. However, it seems to be our fate. Goose who fly upside down eventually quack up.
Why couldn’t we have had a more glamorous fate? Search me. But wear gloves.