Anthony Flowers ( 1792-1875)
The Windsor House Collection, N.B.
This week the ladies at BookEnds opened a "vent post," wherein writers - sensibly anonymous for the most part - could post horror stories about their treatment by agents and editors.
The number one writerly complaint tallied seems to be "we'll respond only if we're interested" attitude toward queries as advertised by some houses, followed by irritation with a form reject after an agent had requested a partial or full.
One of the persistent rumours that pervade the industry is the existence of a Black List, a rumour which -- despite vigorous denials along the lines of who-the-hell-has-the-time? -- is given life each time some agent makes the omnious announcement that " publishing is a small society and people talk."
I think it's fair to assume that while there is no industry-wide master list, some people in it do keep one. And from the occasional nut-case samples posted on blogs, with good and sufficient reason.
After reading various tales of authors, agents and publishers Behaving Badly on such sites as Dear Author and Karen Knows Best, Absolute Write, etc., I wonder if a writer might be wise to compose his/her own list of places and people to avoid. Some remarkable scandals come to light from time to time.
We usually approach due dilligence research of an agent or house in a "good fit" positive light.
I'm too lazy to create one, but a negative list also might have value. People move. Houses and agencies combine, change names.
As a minor example, I recently read a blog comment by an agent to the effect that "most first person stories are not well-written." The reason given for this opinion was relatively sound -- that often other characters in the story suffer from lack of development.
Since my WIP is in first, that agent should go on a do-not-query list, for the simple reason that the comment implies a prejudice against first person POV. Since agents already approach query slush with a general bias about quality, I'd be down two strikes, automatically.
Another clip from my X-files:
Agence France-Presse reported (1999) that "a total of 143 garden gnomes were discovered lined up in from of the city hall in Sarrebourg in eastern France, apparently the work of the mysterious Garden Gnome Liberation Front."
I loved that scene in the Beasley garden in the second Harry Potter book.