The Umpires are Human

My chat pinged.

Them: Hey.
Me: Yo.
Them: I would REALLY like it if you weighed in on the thing in the forum.
Me: The what-now?
Them: On the forum. Someone linked an op-ed piece and it turned into a “big five bash” by people who would dance a jig if they got picked up. Your perspective might help.

As a frequent victim of what I now call Rule 386, I was wary. There’s not much use (and a great deal of time lost) in my getting embroiled in some internet debate on the goods and bads of the publishing world.

Still, it was a request from a friend, so in I went.

Luckily, the discussion wasn’t as bad as I’d expected, but I did spot a number of the familiar themes.

So many gatekeepers are wearing “the next Hunger Games” glasses.

That phrase really worked better a few years ago when it was Harry Potter glasses.

Because he wore glasses. Nevermind.

The Enormous Five aren’t just looking for the next best-seller. They decide — before seeing it — what the next best-seller will look like, meaning a narrower and narrower idea of what they they’ll publish. Standard megastar bestseller mindset.

It’s not enough to call them the Big Five, anymore, I guess. They don’t seem monolithic and inhuman enough?

Reversion of rights to the author is a joke in most contracts now.

I’ve actually got a funny/awesome story to tell about that, but I’m going to save it for next week.

Writers should just publish their own work and let people decide.

Which, though the original poster might not have intended it, implies quite strongly the editors and agents within publishing houses or literary agencies are not people.

Really, I think that’s what a lot of those quotes are saying, and that puts me in mind of one final quote:

Mechanistic dehumanization occurs when features of human nature (cognitive flexibility, warmth, agency) are denied to the subject. Targets of mechanistic dehumanization are seen as cold, rigid, lacking agency, and likened to machines or objects. Mechanistic dehumanization is usually employed on an interpersonal basis (e.g. when a person is seen as a means to another’s end).

That’s what I want to talk about.

As a writer, I’m in an unusual situation, and I have been for quite a long time. I’m blessed to know quite a few people (there’s that word again) in traditional publishing — published writers, editors, and of course agents. I have some experience with what it’s like to be on the “creator” side of things, and at the same time I get a fly-on-the wall view of what it’s like for those ‘in the industry’ — I’ve even written about it. Sharing my life with Kate has given me the ability to speak frankly and (often) sanely with my own agent and editor.

Now, I have my own problems with traditional publishing. They are well-documented.

But I don’t have a problem with the people in publishing. I disagree with those who imply that agents and editors are just looking for the next Lemony Hunger Potter, because I’ve seen those editors and agents fight for books they believe in.

Like mine, for one easy example. Hidden Things, for all that it may be beloved by tens of dozens of people, walked a long road to publication. My agent worked with me through a complete edit before we signed a contract, and my HarperCollins editor did the same (again, before we had a contract). That’s significant.

You know what ‘before we had a contract’ means, really?

It means ‘before there was even the slightest chance they would get paid for their time.’

All that work was to get the book to the point where it would pass muster with the other parts of the agency and/or publishing house.

Some might wonder why they do that, but I live with an agent, so I’ve already figured out the answer.


Once upon a time, Kate worked in New York; part of the second largest literary agency in the city (so large and well-recognized that — to this day — they still don’t bother with a web site). She worked her way up, sacrificing so that she could live and work at the heart of publishing.

She for damn sure wasn’t doing it for the money — Manhattan isn’t cheap, and working past six every day, hauling twenty pounds of manuscripts home every weekend (to read on her own time), and pulling down ‘specialist’ wages left her about enough for a rich assortment of ramen noodle flavors.

That went on for over a decade.

Five years ago, this very day, Kate and I got married. Our anniversary is, very nearly, also the anniversary of her own agency. In those five years Kate has (at my conservative estimate) read approximately three hundred twenty thousand pages of queries, partials, and manuscripts. That’s three full-length young adult novels a week for half a decade, and doesn’t include reading work from her signed authors, dealing with contracts, handling perpetually late payments, and all the rest.

She shows no sign of slowing down.

Further, as much as I love my wife (and count myself so very, very lucky), I know this: my agent does the same thing. My editor does the same thing. Your agent and editor (even the one you haven’t found yet) does the same thing.

There is only one reason someone would do that, and it’s not to find the next the next commercial hit.

It is, simply, love of a good story, to a degree that would shame most of us.

I hate the phrase “gate keeper” applied to agents and editors. It turns these people — these very human, motivated, story-loving people — into some kind of minor boss you have to fight to get to the next level of a video game.

They aren’t.

They are, in fact, the allies you recruit to ensure victory. Anyone with any sense should count themselves lucky to have them.

Agent, Author, Editor. (You didn’t seriously think I’d finish this post without a gaming screenshot, did you?)

Yes, agents must be particular about what work they represent. Sturgeon’s Law applies.

Yes, editors must be particular about what work they will take on, and must justify that work to marketing, payroll, et cetera, ad nauseum.

Yes, these people (again, people) must judge, and sometimes the judgement doesn’t go your way, and that sucks.

But the Umpires are Human.

Today, remember that. If you have the means or the desire, say thanks. Do it for me.

Call it an anniversary gift.

Equivalent to a 3000 word post. 3000+, even.

<a href=”” title=”Diaspora personal combat by DoyceT, on Flickr”><img src=”” width=”500″ height=”375″ alt=”Diaspora personal combat” /></a>
<a href=”” title=”Green Day by DoyceT, on Flickr”><img src=”” width=”375″ height=”500″ alt=”Green Day” /></a>
<a href=”” title=”Scruff 001 by DoyceT, on Flickr”><img src=”” width=”500″ height=”375″ alt=”Scruff 001″ /></a>I

I find myself with not enough time to do the things I need to do today… all that Farscape to watch and those video games to play.

Oh yeah, and work. That. I’m actually more jealously proprietary about my work time now than I was when I was in an office.

Anyway, some quick things on my mind. This is no Painting With Shotguns, but it’s all I’ve got.

How many spaces can I move, again?
How many spaces can I move, again?

This is a phonecam shot of last week’s Diaspora game. It was our second session, and since we’d done a “social combat” the session before, I aimed to introduce the personal combat mini-game this time. It was both awesome and kind of weird. I overdid it on the map — too many zones, meaning that it took too much time and effort to get around the damned base. Still, lots of interesting stuff happened as part of the fight.

It was a weirdly ‘classic game night’ for me, because (due to the crazy map), the fight took up pretty much the whole session. Echoes of DnD, that. Ahh well.

Tonight, we play again. Lasers. In. Spaaaaaace…

Green Day
Green Day

My blue-eyed, red-haired daughter has decided that St. Patrick’s Day ranks somewhere just below Christmas and Halloween as her favorite holiday. It might or might not beat out Easter — there’s no candy, but there is themed clothing.

I got those crocs for her, by the way, when she was… 2 and a half (bought them a little big, since they have an elastic heel strap), and they remain the only pair of children’s shoes I can justify spending 30 bucks on. I’ve considered retiring them a couple times, but they fall quite firmly within Kaylee’s “from my cold, dead feet” category.

I feel I should also add: I’m a really lucky dad.


Let’s not dignify this with the title ‘beard’. It barely qualifies, and is hardly anything remotely Wendigian in its grandeur, but hey, it’s been all of a week.

Tim calls this “vacation face”. I call it “freelancer face”. Kate, of all people, loves it, and in fact requested it as soon as she realized (with some audible glee) that I was under no current obligation to shave.

I don’t understand girls.

“Loving Father. Devoted Husband. Never really understood girls.”

A fitting epitaph.

What else?

In the past month, I’ve played through Mass Effect 1 once, and Mass Effect 2… four times. Normal paragon mode. Hardcore renegade and middle-of-the-road. Insanity paragon. Everyone lives, though not everyone remains loyal to me. I’m probably going to play it one more time, concurrent with Kate’s play-through.

Kate finished Mass Effect 1 last night, and spent the last two hours of play shouting “whoa!” and “wow!” and “Holy. Crap. Mind. Blown.” and “I’m so AWESOME.” and “This is the best. Game. Ever.”

Afterward, she bought the super-deluxe-digital-download version of ME2 (so she could watch the behind the scenes videos), investigated the purchase of Mass Effect-related novels, and (I daresay) will no longer mock my purchase of an N7 t-shirt. I’m very much looking forward to discussing the possibility of a Quarian/Geth peace accord with her, next month.  It’s good to share obsessions. We’re watching Season Four of Farscape together during lunch breaks.

Currently, I’m playing Dragon Age, just because I don’t want to admit to running through ME2 again, then I’m going to do the original BioShock (never finished it before my old machine crashed), finish Braid, and redo Mirror’s Edge and Portal, just because all my save games were lost when my old machine died. (And because I like them.)

But not today. Today I have a training script to write and a game to prep.

Happy Anniversary, My Love

You are the best part of me.


Year one is the paper anniversary (also, apparently, clocks). I tossed around a number of ideas, but getting books for one another is more of a year-round thing in this household (and she steals my watch all the time anyway), so I decided to make something.



The individual post-its read:

There are some people who begin the Zoo at the beginning, and walk quickly as they can past every cage until they get to the way out, but the nicest people go straight to the animal they love the most, and stay there.

Winnie the Pooh is wise.

A shut in weekend != a lazy weekend

So, while the weather has been, if not as blizzard-swathed and snowbound as originally predicted, not exactly outdoor-activity-friendly, which fact was used to justify a weekend spent (almost) entirely at home, rather than biking around the area or doing HOA penance on the yard.

I think I'll stay inside, thanks.
I think I'll stay inside, thanks.

Unfortunately, being stuck inside didn’t really mean any time off from laborious efforts – if I were totally honest, I’d say I’ve worked more solid hours in the last two days than I have in any given week since February.  Most of that work had to do with moving kt literary from Movable Type over to WordPress and coming up with a swanky new design.  I fully expect the other literary agents out there will be green with envy. (They certainly won’t be purple, as I’m fairly certain we used up all of that color currently available on the free market.)

Kate's usually contract company couldn't be reached, which left only me to pick up the slack.
Kate's usual contract company couldn't be reached, which left only me to pick up the slack.

I really like the design, and so far the feedback from Kate’s readership has been very very positive, which indicates we went the right direction as far as her target audience in concerned.  Kate did a great job on her portions of the redesign (which involved providing almost all of the text copy for the site, a truly gargantuan effort of layout on her Clients page, and retagging every single one of her (daily!) posts for almost a year, since MT to WP migrations don’t capture tags), but I think my favorite bit is the header image, which Kate shot herself, using only a chest in the living room and copies of her clients books.

And I completely redid the layout on this site, when I wasn’t doing anything else.  (This was me. Also, it rocks.)

We are DIY cowboys. *flex*
We are DIY cowboys. *flex*

On top of all that, we even got caught up on Bones and Castle and Dollhouse when our fingers became too heavy to type.

But that’s not all! I’m doing an interview with Joanna from The Creative Penn this afternoon.  We’re doing the whole thing over Skype, with something like a nine-hour time difference (she’s in Brisbane), and I’ll be talking about Adrift, writing stuff in weird mediums in general, books, video games, roleplaying games, books based on games, games based on books, social networking, blogging tools for the technically unsure… and… I dunno, maybe I’ll explain how wikis work, just for fun.

As you know, I do ramble on a bit.

Once that’s done, I believe I might indulge in a bit of ‘it’s the weekend, dammit’, have a couple corndogs (the most American of foods), and play a little Lord of the Rings.

I'd like a refill and a slice of pie...
I'd like a refill and a slice of pie...

How’d YOUR weekend go?