Monday, May 21, 2012

Let's Save Our Fictions For Our Novels--a reprint

In the last seven days my son graduated from high school, I entertained numerous out of town family and friends (including the inimitable Terri Bischoff,) my sons competed in state diving and I had deadlines to make for both Midnight Ink and Tyrus Books. Suffice it to say, composing a blog on top of everything else would have been akin to eating a thin mint, Monty Python style. Luckily, my esteemed editor, Ben LeRoy, over at the above mentioned Tyrus Books, did manage to write what I considered to be a fascinating post this past week for Hey There's A Dead Guy in the Living Room and has graciously given his permission for me to share it here.

Let's Save Our Fictions For Our Novels

This week the online writing/publishing community has been abuzz with the plight of Mandy DeGeit, the writer whose confounding story about her experiences working with Anthony Giangregorio and Undead Press went public.
Briefly outlined, Ms. Degeit submitted a short story, “She Makes Me Smile,” to Undead Press hoping to be included in the company’s anthology, Cavalcade of Terror. As it turned out, according to Ms. Degeit, the story was accepted by Mr. Giangregorio and all appeared to be going well.
When a finished copy of the book showed up at her house, she noted that the title had been changed to “She Make’s Me Smile.” Disappointed with the added apostrophe, but still excited to be included in the anthology, she found more changes had taken place during editing though nobody from Undead Press ever discussed them with her. Those changes included the following:
(From Ms. DeGeit’s blog) “Let’s see: They turned a non-gendered character into a boy, they named the best friend, they created a memory for the main character about animal abuse. They added a suggestion of rape at the end…”
Significant changes by Ms. DeGeit’s account—one would be hard pressed to disagree—and changes that were never run by Ms. DeGeit during the editorial process. She submitted one story and received approval, but the final product didn’t really match.
Confused and disheartened she reached out to Mr. Giangregorio and asked what had happened. The surprisingly vitriolic exchange, included this from the publisher “as for the story. the editor had a hard time with it, it was very rough and he did alot to make it readable. despite what you think, your writing has a long way to go before its worthy of being printed professionally. we did what we had to do to make the story printable. you should be thankful, not complaining. ah, the ungrateful writer, gotta love it.”
And…we’ve got enough red flags at this point to start a parade.
(1)    If a story isn’t very good, I fail to see why a publisher would acquire it.
(2)    Publishers/editors don’t rewrite major parts of a work. They especially don’t do this without consulting the author.
(3)    A little respect goes a long way in our interpersonal dealings. I’ve never had a discussion with any author I’ve worked with that sounded anything like the above exchange.

I don’t know Mandy. Neither do I know Anthony Giangregorio, but I’ve found the resulting online discussion fascinating. Like these kinds of dustups do, this brought out a bunch of Internet Lawyers suggesting that Ms. DeGeit sue the publisher. And, even more curiously to me, more than one person stepped up to share a similar story and said the only reason he/she didn’t come forward before was for fear of being blackballed in the publishing industry. Blackballed by the guy running Undead Press?
For serious, Internet?
Let’s be clear about something—Some guy publishing books from his garage doesn’t have the power to blackball anybody in the publishing industry. I know a lot of people in publishing, even the people who are whispered about as the biggest people in the industry, and there isn’t one of them who I believe could or would, in this day and age, blackball an author. If a guy like James Frey can still make cash in this factory even after his troubles with Oprah, what are the odds that somebody who stood up to a guy who runs a publishing company that probably hasn’t ever been mentioned in any of the traditional publishing magazines is going to be permanently barred from the picnic?
We don’t gather as a group to compare notes. There is no shared database to cross reference when considering a project. Also, there are no secret handshakes or passwords. I’ll be honest when I tell you that I’m not anybody special at the country club—in fact, most members probably wouldn’t recognize me, what with my junior status and all—but if there was a secret blackball list, I’d know about it before this guy would.
I’m not sure where this controversy~! will all end up. I’m guessing it disappears in a few days. But in case it needs to be heard somewhere tonight—dear author, we love you. Please continue mastering your craft. Please do not chase after fishhooks that look appetizing but will only cause you pain. Research before submitting (there was plenty of discussion about this guy before this most recent incident). And, for the love of all that is good in the world, quit worrying about secret publishing cabals potentially exerting negative influence on you for calling out trouble when you see it.
It won’t happen.
I promise.
Publuminati Member #66613
AKA (Ben LeRoy)


Beth Groundwater said...

Very interesting post, Linda! Thanks to you and Ben for sharing it.

Jim Hartley said...

I had something like this happen once. I wrote a story titled "Bloodbank Encounter" and sent it to a pub specializing in Vampire material. The editor accepted it, but then went through and deleted all the parts where the vamp turned into a bat and flew away. He didn't believe a vamp turning into a bat was reasonable, so he just cut it out ... didn't ask, just sent an e-mail saying he was doing it. I've been looking for a chance to publish the original as I wrote it, will finally get the chance in a collection of short stories I have under contract. Arrrrgh!