Precious Cargo

Refreshingly Bitter And Twisted Observations On Life's Passing Parade.

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Location: Valley Village, California, United States

Saturday, January 14, 2006

James Frey And Oprah

Oprah could have devoted five minutes at the opening of her show and destroyed Frey's career, if not his life.

Why didn't she? Oprah's audience looks to her for her oracular wisdom. Nobody wants to admit they were fooled, least of all somone who millions look to as some kind of demigod who they think is infallible.

Oprah is all too human, and it would be hard for anyone not to want to have her every word hung on to by her followers as gospel. If Oprah admitted she was mistaken, her credibility suffers and she might see her audienc erode. Public taste is so fickle.


Joe Konrath recently posted some rules for writers, and one of them was to omit the often requested SASE (Self-addressed Stamped Envelope).

This generated a post by Miss Snark to the effect that she would summarily dispose of any query that wasn't accompanied by an SASE.

Even though Miss Snark said that this was her last word on the subject of SASEs, she soon issued a follow-up post, wherein she said she picked up a query, started reading and stopped when the writer said they had two books published to acclaim without mentioning the books' titles or other information.

Then she saw that the query had no SASE and tossed it.

I can absolutely effing guarantee that if the writer had given credible details about their two books and the rest of the query read well, Miss Snark would be on the phone in a hot minute, SASE or no SASE.

In a recent post (not about SASEs) she wrote the following:

"And you'll be surprised how many times there is no "written response" to a submission. Phone calls are a norm when you're working on a hot submission."

I'm beginning to wonder if Snark's SASE posts weren't just a gimmick to kick up some excitement on her blog.

If so, it sure worked well.

On my first book proposal, I received about a half-dozen responses from agents which gave some reason for rejection, and it was always the same reason. I was proposing a biography of actor Nick Adams, and the agents who gave a reason said Adams was not famous so nobody would be interested in him.

I suppose this was useful, if only to satisfy my curiosity about why they weren't interested in representing me. I learned never to propose a biography unless the subject was a household name.

One very detailed, full-page letter from Los Angeles-based agent Bart Andrews told me a number of other things about selling biographies that it took some time for me to digest but were educational.

Three proposals later, I have never received anything good inside an SASE. I stopped including them with submissions about two years ago. I could've stopped some time before, but I figured the way a lot of other writers do: SASEs don't cost much, so it's easier not to think about it and just include them.

If you're just starting out and want some feedback, you might include SASEs. At some point, you'll become confident enough about your material to omit them.

In many cases, any feedback you receive may be useless because there's no way to fix the material other than to abandon it.

There was no way to remedy my Nick Adams proposal, because I couldn't make him famous again. The only thing to do was write a proposal about another subject. I later managed to interest Filmfax magazine in an article about Adams, so I was able to salvage the resarch and writing I did for that proposal. You can read that article by going to my web site. See my profile for the url.

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