So, I started sending queries out for the book the other day and I cannot say that it isn’t without some doubts and reservations. You see, when you read the wish lists for a lot of agents, you notice a few things. It is a female dominated industry for one. In many ways, it reminds me of higher ed. Second, much of what they are asking for is “Women’s lit” or stories focused heavily on a female protagonist. I’m beginning to feel like the Irish who came off the boats during the famine and saw those signs saying their kind need not apply.
I can imagine a few reasons for this. One of which has to deal with the pendulum swing of the 1980s and 1990s where literacy in girls was very important and though at the time much of what was out there to read for young adults was for boys, they realized that girls needed voices and agency in what they were reading. Then Oprah started dropping her book of the week, which would sell like mad. Mostly to middle-class suburbanite white women who had enough leisure time to read. I speak from experience because I worked at a Barnes and Nobel during that time and that was who was coming end and pulling those books off the shelves like crazy.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like there is much demand or want for men’s voices in literature. Not at least with agencies. And don’t gaslight me with this shit, because when I fill out the online form and the dropdown menus for categories comes out, it specifically says things like “Women’s lit”. They don’t really seem to be interested in things that aren’t marketable towards demographics they know are going to buy the books. Which is just business, I suppose.
I think about Jane Austen writing under a man’s name about women in the Early Romantic era about women.
It’s just more gatekeeping. I have a story that I feel is important, and though this might sound like sour grapes, I’ve read a lot of stuff that is out there. It all panders to an audience and sacrifices the only requirement in writing, which is to tell a good story. Come the hell on. Have you read The Girl on the Train? or any number of novels with “girl” in the title? The Girl on the Train was a blatant ripoff of Hitchcock’s Rear Window. But it sure a hell coattailed Gone Girl (which I thought was very well done. I’m sure your mileage my vary).
Cue my surprise when I think of all the Harry Potter ripoffs. Nobody wanted to publish JK Rowling either, until the myopic scope of publishing realized kids might actually like a book like that. Then everything was kid goes into a secret world of magic and fantasy creatures in a school like setting to find their destiny. In that, it reminds me of higher education too. We do it this way, because we’ve always done it this way. And then everyone wonders why nothing original comes out of Hollywood these days, and why going to a bookstore is disappointing because every last damned bookcover and title looks identical.
Maybe I should have written a book about a young girl who goes to wizard school and sees a murder on the train on the way there? And nooooobody believes her. Instead of, you know, the goddamned story that forced me to write it down for the last two years.
I dunno. I just get tired of this disparity and the whole pissing on my leg and telling me it’s raining situation I keep running into in this world. Not just with this, but with everything. A note to agencies. When all seven agents on your roster are asking for the exact same thing, don’t be surprised when you find yourself in a rut. I wonder why nobody reads anymore. Could it be that men have been taught to believe within the last two generations that only involuntarily celibate men and women read? Maybe a man would pick up a book and read it if it actually had someone who looked and felt like him in the story. Sorry if that makes anyone uncomfortable, but I feel like men have been apologizing for breathing for a couple generations now. Some of us should be apologizing, yeah, but the rest of us are just as flabbergasted as women.
I’ve noticed too that I can go places and write great content and try to shop it out to travel magazines…but if I were a 20-something girl in a sweater and leggings, I would actually be selling my shit. I guess I should just stay in my lane and go back to work at the gravel pit.
Believe me when I say this. My experience in Higher Ed was nearly the same. And court. Which when a judge looks down at me from her bench and says “Mr. Harris, why aren’t you working at a new job and making the same money?!” Nobody seems to buy it when I say “Because no one wants to hire a 46 year old male secretary for what I was making after 20 years on the job.” It’s a hard racket to be in. Your existence makes the office ladies feel like you are an interloper and the boss isn’t trying to get you to fuck him.
What I am is a writer. In a world that doesn’t want me to be one. I didn’t have any choice in the matter. I drew the short straw in generational/genetic lottery. Like some sort of witch, there is a writer born to a family every few generations. And unfortunately that makes me a dipshit who writes things nobody wants to buy or read.