Thursday, November 12, 2009

An open letter from Jeff Rivera

Jeff Rivera of Galleycat, who wrote the post that Miriam linked to yesterday and a response to Miriam's response, asked us to post the following open letter. Since our commentary on his post spurred so much interest here, we're happy to oblige:

Dear DGLM Community:

I enjoyed reading your blog posting on November 10, 2009, responding to my post on GalleyCat entitled, Literary Agents, bah! Who Needs Them? I thought your response was valid, respectful and you made excellent points in it. I read your blog fairly regularly and enjoy your other posts as well.

I also read through every one of your readers' comments, including those who referred to me or my post as "stupid", "idiot" or "horrifying".

I was rather taken aback by the stir my post caused on the internet on both sides of the fence as well as its follow-up piece yesterday entitled, Literary Agents React!. I received an equal amount of support letters as well as letters of debate.

I invite those critical of my post to re-read it and they may notice that not once in the post did I ever state my personal opinion was that literary agents were not needed. Rather, I only posed a question that I believe we ought to ask, a question many of my friends, both authors and literary agents have asked. I then asked for an open discussion which I believe is healthy for our community of writers, literary agents and other book publishing professionals to have.

The post provided two professionals who were pro and two professionals that were con. If I wanted to state my personal opinion, the post would have been entitled an op-ed piece.

My personal opinion, for the record, is that of course there will always be a need for literary agents. We need someone with a good eye for what is good and enjoyable literature, and who has keen sense of what readers really want to read.

However, I am open hearing from those who believe the opposite, that there will not be a need for literary agents. And, I would never refer to those who differ from my personal opinion as "stupid" or "idiot."

The title of the blog along with the illustration of Scrooge, and his coin term "bah, humbug", I hoped would clue readers in that the title was done tongue-in-cheek and not to be taken seriously.

My job as a correspondent at GalleyCat is only to provide an open forum to question the way we have done business for over a hundred years and to ask the questions many of our readers have asked themselves but did not have an opportunity to ask in a public way.

I do apologize if some readers found the post offensive but once again, I invite them to re-read it with an open mind. I look forward to hearing all opinions and I thank you for this opportunity to respond to the DGLM readers, of which I am one.


Jeff Rivera

Correspondent at GalleyCat
(This note is a personal open letter, not representative in any way as the official word of Mediabistro or GalleyCat)


  1. I thought Mr. Rivera's post on the need of an agent addressed a lot of the questions I had been asking myself. At one time I had a great chance to have a book published with Ballantine and was screwed out of it by a poor representative of the agent persuasion and have found it hard to get representation again.

    Even though I would love to have a book published and am not above trying on my own, I would veer to the 'yes' side of the road if given the chance to have a reputable agent on my side. As in anything that will make a major impact on life it is always best to let the professionals do their job.

  2. While attacking the writer for failures in content is a trap we all easily fall into, and most out of place in fiction, I believe in journalism a writer is responsible for a story's slant and bias.
    I disagreed with Jeff's post, not because I am an agent and don't like people telling me my profession is on the way out, but because it felt biased and under-researched. While it is clear now Jeff intended the headline and illustration to be a joke, he must remember there's no font or emoticon that indicates sarcasm on the Internet. I was heartened by the cogent, though lukewarm, statements from publishing professionals in the post. But readers were left with the vitriol of a scorned writer, who clearly had a bad experience with an agent. There are, of course, bad agents out there. There are also bad writers, bad editors, bad plumbers, bad sandwich makers. No one's questioning that. But where was the voice of the writer who'd had a good experiece with an agent? That hole in the post sealed Jeff's biasd in my eyes, whether intentional or not.
    This comment is not intended to attack Jeff personally. I do not know him personally. But it is intended to bring to light the need for more attention to both sides of an issue when starting a debate. Starting a debate is more than pointing the microphone, or blog post, at other's for soundbites.

  3. I'm still trying to figure out what the offense was. I think the reaction just proves how many "passionate" commenters are out there surfing the net. And by passionate, I mean ready to rip people a new &%$hole.

  4. Jeff, for what it's worth, I didn't find the original article offensive. I think the source of eye-rolling (and name calling) is that the one author you quote in your article has the sterling credential "published" but is clearly not well published or well represented. ("Meager advance...can't get him on the marketing dollars...") Ask ten financially thriving, artistically healthy writers if they need their agents, and you will get a resounding yes to the tenth power.

    (Sheesh. It's hard out there for a pimp...)

  5. To me, the Scrooge picture made a statement, but not that the post was ment to be taken lightly. However, I presumed that you posted to stir discussion and controversy. I didn't plan to respond until your Literary Agents React! post where you asked, "Do literary agents have the right to defend their place...?" It was the implication that we might not have a right to speak that got my blood pumping. If I have one hot button issue, it's freedom of expression.

    I do, however, generally enjoy GalleyCat and the information and perspectives provided.

    Lucienne Diver, The Knight Agency

  6. Thank you, thevoice, Aimee, Joni Rogers and Lucienne, I really appreciate your response. Feel free to contact me at any time with additional questions or comments.

    As for the Anonymous Agent, if you ever wish to come out of the shadows of anonymity and speak with me directly about any of your concerns one on one, rather than a public forum, I welcome the exchange. You may reach me at: Jeff AT JeffRivera DOT com.

    Jeff Rivera

  7. But where was the voice of the writer who'd had a good experiece with an agent?

    Here's one. I have a novel coming out in 2011 and it just wouldn't have happened without a terrific agent. That's enough, isn't it?

    But she also negotiated a bit larger advance (20% larger -- which sort of covers her cut, doesn't it?) than originally offered, negotiated the full advance to be paid prior to publication, negotiated top royalty scales, got a cash-payment bonus inserted into the original contract should the book sell well in hardcover the first year, encouraged the editor to consider a second book in the series by having me write synopses for books II & III and letting the editor choose the one she liked best, limited the option for book II to 30 days consideration, fought to retain foreign rights [and knows how to sell them], provided a personal introduction to the acquiring editor, has actively solicited other-media interest in the book, and walked me through the process of keeping the editor (who I adore) happy while disagreeing with one element of suggested editorial revision.

    My agent rescued my career. It may only last a year or two that I actually make money at writing book-length fiction. But that's up to me now. Thanks to my agent.

    If eBooks are the future, I'm willing to let (my/the) publisher determine how to do that for me. The only thing I know how to do myself is write. And I want to keep it that way by partnering with a true publishing professional (my agent) and letting them do their do.

  8. Kristen Nelson is the agent who did a terrible job with my project. I was highly dissatisfied and her fees were excessive. I wish I had not believed all this false hype on the iternet