| This Weeks Column:
HOW EWA GOT TO BE EWA
... a MobyLives guest column
by Gerard Jones
On the MobyLives links list, "Everyone Whos Anyone in Adult Trade Publishing" a website that gives information about agents and publishers in an extensive rating system, seems to generate both the most hits and the most reader interestreaders write in regularly to ask about it. MobyLives asked the site's proprietor to discuss what it's all about.
17 November 2003 What I like about my little website, Everyone Who's Anyone, is that it's a labor of love.
That comes in handy on all sorts of levels. If it were a commercial venture, I simply could not have done it. When some hotshot agent or editor asked to have his or her name or e-mail address removed, I'd have to remove it. When I included excerpts from rejection letters, I'd have to get "permission" from the writer to use his or her words, which I wouldn't ever get. Who's gonna want to admit they dissed such cool books? Nobody.
When I called people bad names their lawyers might have thought they had some cause of action to sue my ass. The way it is now, I'm judgment proof. Ha! I don't have a pot to piss in. And not only that, I'm old. I forget things. I put shaving cream on my toothbrush again this morning. When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose. Who could possibly have anything against a labor of love by some poor old guy who brushes his teeth with shaving cream?
It's free speech, a function of the free press, but in order to really be free, it has to really be free. That, in a nutshell, is why my little website can't make any money, why I don't want it to make any money, why it won't make any money. It's why I love it. It's why other people love it, too. Which would you rather have, love or money? I'll take love any day. Make love, not money, I always say. That's one of my seven pillars of wisdom, by the way.
Okay, how EWA all started is . . . I've been writing some strange combination of fiction and nonfiction on and off since I was in high school. Forty years or so. I never cared about moneyall I ever cared about was getting chicks to like me. Some editor, Hillary Borton, when she was still at Penguin-Putnam, dissed an earlier version of my book "Ginny Good" (which ends with the narrator ruminating about maybe bagging this writing bullshit and getting himself a job at McDonald's) like this:
"Dear Mr. Jones: I very much enjoyed the freshness of your work, however, I find that there are two kinds of writers, those that want to write and those that need to write. If your story is as thinly disguised as I suspect, Mr. Jones, then you are one of the latter, and I count you in good company. Those who want to write, generally, want to be published and rewarded for their efforts. Those who need to write are primarily concerned with the product of their labors, recognition being an afterthought. In light of the current hard cover fiction market, I see no way in which your work will be published in its current state. Whether or not you wish to subscribe to the parameters of popular fiction in order to alter the fate of your work is up to you. In the end, you may be happier with the job at McDonald's. Warm regards, Hillery Borton"
I wrote her back:
"Dear Ms. Borton: You apparently want popular fiction to continue to be fatuous, formulaic and stupid. Why? Why not give people a chance to read something fresh and true? Something entertaining and honest and funny and tragic? You sound like someone with some integrity. Why, then, wouldn't you rather work at McDonald's than continue to promote the fatuous, formulaic claptrap and crap that passes itself off as popular fiction? Thanks for your warm regards. Gerard Jones"
Over the years, when I got sick of writing stuff, I'd sometimes try to sell the stuff I'd writtenmainly as a lark. I amused myself. I'm easily amused. In 1997, I put a way early version of "Ginny Good" up on a website. Nobody read it.
In late 1998, I signed an agency agreement with a really cool agent, Rosemary Scoular, at PFD in London. She said, "I have read and thoroughly enjoyed your book. It is well written, original and very entertaining, and I would be really keen to have a go at placing it with a publisher on your behalf."
She wanted me to take the website down. I did. I was sort of excited about her selling the thing, but I'd just got dumped at the altar by some chick and was writing another book about heartbreak and sorrow, so I didn't pay much attention. Then I got some other chick to like me, moved to Hawaii for a year and paid even less attention.
Rosemary couldn't sell the book. She tried. Lots of heavy-duty Brit editors said the typical nice things they say, but none of them bought it. Rosemary and I went our separate ways at the beginning of the year 2000, I rewrote the book again, stuck it up on another website, DeadGinny.com, and started shopping it around to editors and literary agents again.
I got a bunch more rejection letters. They hurt my feelings, so I started writing letters back.
The letters I wrote cracked me up. ("Crack yourself up." That's another of my seven pillars of wisdom; number four, I think.) I figured anyone with any brains would love the stuff I wrote, so whoever dissed it had to be a moron. This went on for a long time. It's amazing how many morons there are. I had my doubts sometimes, sure. My confidence got shaken on occasion. Can two thousand agents, editors and publishers, the top executives of a 25 billion dollar industry, really be so completely wrong? I consoled myself by saying, hey, if they're morons, hell yeah, they can.
Oh, I have to mention here that my agent, Laura Strachan, and my publisher, Paul Cohen, at Monkfish Publishing, are not morons. They loved my stuff.
Then in July of 2002, I made an extraordinary discovery. If you send yourself an email with a bunch of email addresses on it you can just click on them and send a bunch of emails, like really quickly, really easily. So I figured out how to make a website and stuck the urls and the email addresses of all the literary agents, editors and publishers I could find.
It was hard workthere were a bunch of thembut once I got it done, it was slick. I thought about making it alphabetical but the alphabet is stupid, so I made it hierarchical, best first. There were no hard and fast rules. If someone was extra sweet to me, I'd put him or her higher up on the list and if somebody pissed me off, I moved him or her down a page or two. I used to do that with my mother when I was a kid. When she pissed me off, I threw her toothbrush down the clothes chute. Ha!
But now I could send an individually addressed query letter to 2,000 of the top, most successful, cream of the crop agents and editors in the US, UK and Canada in two days! I could get more rejection letters in a week than it had previously taken me ten years to get! I was in heaven. And I figured when other writers found it, they'd be in heaven, too. I want everyone in heaven, just like methat's one of my goals in life. I have seven of them, too, but I forget the other six.
After I tested it out, I stuck the whole shebang up on a website, and the rest is history. It got some sort of cool reviews, such as this one at Nettle.com, and this one at The New York Observer by Rebecca Traister. But other than Traister's article, the mainstream press has resoundingly ignored my little website. The Morning News said something about it once, and of course MobyLives and Robert Birnbaum at Identitytheory.com have mentioned it. Pat Holt keeps telling me she's gonna write something up about it, but she hasn't yet. Hey, yo, Pat! How about it, man?
I think people are scared to acknowledge it 'cause it's so cool and so revolutionary and nobody can see any way of making any money off of it. But it's caught on, anyway. Now agents and editors come to me. Check it out:
"Dear Gerard Jones, Your website is extraordinary. Aside from the wealth of information you provide, you demystify the process of publishing and give writers back the dignity which agents and publishers have stripped from them. I was an agent for many years in New York (first at Sanford Greenburger, then at John Hawkins and finally at Ralph Vicinanza). Some of my previous clients included H.H. the Dalai Lama, Joyce Carol Oates, Larry Watson, Henry Mayer, Pat Shipman, Eric Kimmel, Kathe Koja, Gary Amdahl, and Roger Lewin. Five years ago, I moved to Jerusalem. When I first came here, I thought it was crazy to try and agent from outside of the New York publishing 'community,' but the writers here really needed someone and New York agents, for the most part, do not want to deal with foreign writers. So I hope to be a useful advocate, help get some good books published, and if I can support myself in the process, or at least keep from losing money, I will be happy. Sharon Friedman"
To which I replied,
"Dear Sharon: Thanks! I'd be happy to include your agency in my little directory. I can't make a whole new page for Israel Literary Agents, since you're the only one I know about, but I'll stick you in a prominent place among US Agents. The whole publishing bureaucracy needs not only demystifying but also to be brought kicking and screaming out of the 19th Century and into the 21st. My little directory might play some minor role in the process. Or not. Who knows? Not me. All I know is that all the work I did on the book that's coming out in the spring and the other books I'm still trying to sell was done and is still being done almost exclusively by e-mail. It's opened up a whole brave new twoway street between agents, editors and publishers, and otherwise virtually undiscoverable writers. Thanks again. G."
Okay, to sum up. Hm. Maybe there is no summing up. I have a bunch more to say but it would mainly be a reiteration of what y'all can find at the site itself. So, that's it. I quit. I give up. Don't it always seem to go. Throw me in the shallow water. I can't give you anything but love, baby. Thanks.
©2003 Gerard Jones
Previous column; SAINT GEORGE AND THE DAMN TRUTH ... A list of suspected Communists kept by George Orwell goes on public display for the first time, inspiring John Reed to ask if it isn't time for a closer look at the great writer.
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