Wednesday, February 13, 2013

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Desperate

     I've known since last year that Robert Barnett was Sarah Palin's "literary agent". Actually, Barnett's not a fulltime literary agent. He's an attorney by trade at the white shoe firm of Williams & Connolly LLP. When the opportunity presents itself, he'll choose to represent someone who isn't actually a writer and has to depend on a ghost writer to keep from sounding like a complete fucking idiot. Fed up to here with disrespect and ignorance from asshole, self-absorbed literary agents, I decided to pitch my novel The Toy Cop to Barnett yesterday. What follows is my letter, reproduced word-for-word (minus the .jpeg).

Williams & Connolly LLP
725 Twelfth Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20005

Dear Mr. Barnett:

     We’ve both been around long enough to know how the game is played. And I can appreciate that.
     Four and a half years ago, America and its John Birch Society/KKK/Aryan Supremacy demographic fell in love with a sneering cheerleader out of Wasilla, Alaska who tapped into their racist fears and secessionist desires and validated them at a time when they needed validation the most. Then they, inexplicably, stayed in love with her even after her burning blimps of two “bestsellers”, a reality TV series in which Daddy had to load her gun for her and a Fox “News” stint that just ended rather ignominiously.
     In you stepped into the political and personal quagmire that was her previously (and justly) obscure life and career and sold the First North American Rights for her ghost-written Going Vague or whatever it was called. I don’t know if you did the same for her when the long-awaited followup came out just two months in advance of the printing of the “Bargain! $1.99!” stickers that would be slapped on it in WalMart’s and Osco’s bargain bins.
     But, either way, I can appreciate you stepping into the breach between good and common sense and putting Sarah’s puss on two books because you, as with any fulltime literary agent would, struck while the iron was hot. This is, after all, America, the rib-thumping, Good Ole’ Boy capitol of Capitalism.
     So here we are, four and a half years after she stumbled on the American scene like Kramer in a typical Seinfeld episode. You’re no doubt hundreds of thousands of dollars richer, she’s millions richer and Threshold, her first publisher, is many more millions richer. Going Rogue became a bestseller only because her political action committee, SarahPAC, bought up 69,000 copies to give away or sell at Bircher and birther conventions. Individually, it didn’t sell nearly as many copies as you and her publisher would prefer to think. But I’m a political blogger and a novelist of some modest brilliance and I read and write about these things for a living.
     America is now just waking up and rubbing its eyes from this latest slumber and beginning to wonder what in the world they saw in this fantastically insane and hateful woman who’s like a chapter of the DSM V come to life. I’m assuming you’re professional enough to have moved on and don’t care one bit at how much you, Caribou Barbie or Threshold Editions had cattle-prodded our nation’s literacy IQ even further below than the drooling, foaming-at-the-corner-of-the-mouth level in which you’d all found it (as proof of this, look at the new flavors of the day in the person of Grammy-goer Lena Dunham and the self-published author of 50 Shades of Gray, whatever her name is, which are apparently doing what Palin had done three years ago: Perpetuating hateful and self-destructive stereotypes and getting paid well for it.).
     But just in case you’re wondering, as are so many us, if maybe you should’ve taken a pass on Palin and let some other attorney or a real literary agent suffer the pre-emptive stigma of being the one responsible for inflicting Going Rogue on an unsuspecting reading public, in case you’re in even the slightest need of some professional redemption, allow me to offer you THE TOY COP.
     This is a 170,000+ word novel that took me close to 14 years to write and revise. Considering I had an agent back in the mid-late 90’s to rep my first novel (a hideously-executed sci fi adventure about Jack the Ripper, written at a time when I was ignorant about the very rudiments of effective and compelling storytelling), it only stands to reason that now, at age 54, I’ve only gotten better as a novelist as well as infinitely more pragmatic about the realities of modern-day publishing.
     Yet trying to find a literary agent nowadays is like looking for a unicorn in a slaughterhouse. This is why I’m approaching you with this. You’re an attorney by trade who only dabbles in literary representation on the side when opportunity meets opportunism. I’ve had my fill of getting form rejection letters from flunkies of agents whom I’d directly written and getting rude silences even when providing quality material and obeying submission guidelines to the letter. Perhaps you haven’t been around writers and publishers so long that you’ve been jaded as all other agents have. For my part, I’m tired of the disrespect to my talent, time and efforts. There is absolutely no reason why a writer of my talent shouldn’t be put between covers, especially when one considers 90% of published books lose money. Mergers such as the one between Random and Penguin are making it even harder for agents to sell properties, readers to get a varied menu of offerings and authors to find placements. This is why self-publishing is taking off like a Roman candle.
     So that’s why I’m betting on you. THE TOY COP is a high concept, white knuckle thriller that benefited from the wisdom of former MA Governor Paul Cellucci and ex FBI crisis negotiator Fred Lanceley as well as invaluable input from several experts in their respective fields. If my first, horrible, novel could get me an honest literary agent in 1996 (she called my house begging to sign me) when I could barely write a coherent grocery list, consider how brilliant THE TOY COP is, a novel that took me half a generation to write with the wisdom accrued since I first snagged an agent.
     Perhaps a man of your level of accomplishment has his mail screened for him by flunkies of his own and perhaps this will go unread. Still, I have to try something. I have a greater instinct for publicity than a talent for it and my own marketing platform is simply not pushing sales. In fact, I haven’t sold a copy of TTC either on Kindle or Create Space in a couple of months. Trying to sell even well-written books on the internet if you’re not a celebrity or have a professional apparatus working for you is like pouring vials of ambergris into a sand dune or tossing a ball of lint down the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo.
     I’ve had it with agents and I’m tired of publishers telling me I need an agent in order to be even considered. This current business model is thoroughly rotten, corrupt, based on nothing but money and is untenable. The nonsustainability is proven by the mere fact that for the first time in history more books are sold electronically and by independent authors than traditional dead tree publishers.
     Just do yourself a favor. Read even just a chapter or two of TTC. Look at the synopsis I’ve provided below then tell me I’m not the real thing. It’s not a political novel although there are political and legal elements that would relate to your experience as a legislative assistant and federal law clerk. Over the course of 14 years, the writing’s been sanded down to a slick finish and the research impeccable. It’s quite possibly the only novel ever written that actually gets federal-level crisis negotiation correct.
     It’s going for $8 and change on Create Space but I’m sending you a free copy (the Create Space version I used for the galleys) via Word 7 attachment. Just read even a few chapters then, if you wish, keep reading until the harrowing end. And, if you do that and agree with my assessment of its merits, maybe we can do business together.


     Robert Crawford

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