The Information Authors Aren't Allowed to Share

We've all heard the old wisdom: everyone in the publishing industry knows everyone else, so don't be mean or else a lot of people will avoid you. This is pretty sensible as a concept. After all, writers who reply to an agent's rejection with a rant about how they're an idiot for passing probably aren't people who are good to work with. However, there's a fine line between being respectful and not being open about your experiences for fear of stirring the pot. That's what I want to talk about today.

I first encountered this kind of dilemma with my bookstagram account, where I frequently post reviews of the books I read. Most of my reviews are positive, 4-5 star ones, but sometimes a book just isn't for me, and I'll give it a less than favorable review. I recently read some advice that made me pause -- if you're an author and you review a book negatively, it could burn bridges that you might want to cross later. What if an agent you want to work with represents the author whose book you didn't like? What if you want the author to blurb your book? It could lead to a super awkward situation, to say the least.

Needless to say, I'm much more careful now about reviewing books I didn't like. I was a little miffed -- it feels almost dirty to have to tiptoe around my opinions to avoid ruining my career -- but refraining from posting a book review isn't a huge deal at the end of the day.

On the more insidious side of things, though, authors often feel pressured to keep quiet about bad behavior by publishing professionals for fear of burning bridges. I think it's one of the reasons why a few literary agencies with less-than-ethical business practices still have authors clamoring to be represented by them. I'm not talking about the obvious schmagencies who charge reading fees or things like that -- I'm talking about the seemingly-legit ones whose indiscretions fly lower under the radar.

Which agencies are those? Well, I don't really know much more than most of you would -- and if I'm honest, I'm a little scared of naming the ones I have heard of, just in case it comes back to bite me. And herein lies the problem. If the majority of the people involved in the industry are afraid to speak out, the cycle of schmagenting only continues, and it's hard for writers to know who to query without access to insider information. Of course, this means a lot of authors end up in less-than-ideal agent relationships.

Suffice to say, if you're querying and want to know a couple of agencies to strike off your list, you might want to check out this tweet and this tweet and this tweet (and the replies may also be helpful).

I don't have a solution to this issue, and I unfortunately don't think it's going to go away any time soon. The only thing I can recommend is that you DO YOUR RESEARCH when querying. Thoroughly Google people's experiences with an agency or publishing house before querying them. Many industry professionals will also be happy to answer questions about the legitimacy of agencies or publishing houses -- sure, it can feel awkward to reach out on Twitter to get the deets, but it won't hurt to ask.

Be safe out there, friends.

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