“The Talent Killers”: The Litopia Dialogues

by Mary W. Walters

In four podcasts originally aired May 4 to 7, 2009, I was interviewed by U.K. literary agent and host of Litopia Daily, Peter Cox, about my essay “The Talent Killers: How literary agents are destroying literature and what publishers can do to stop them.”

These four podcasts are available free from iTunes as downloadable episodes that you can play on your MP3 player at your convenience. They are Litopia Daily episodes number 202 through 205 inclusive. Just go to the iTunes store and search “Litopia,” then click on the “album cover” of Peter Cox and you will go to the Litopia menu.

While you’re there, sample other episodes as well. Both Litopia Daily and Litopia After Dark provide interesting news, trivia, gossip, interviews and discussions that are relevant to writers everywhere. Each segment of  Litopia Daily (which airs Monday to Friday) is approximately 15 minutes long. Litopia After Dark (Fridays) is closer to an hour.

You can also access the four discussions between Peter Cox and me directly from the Litopia site. Under the text description of the program, find the icon that looks like this:

Picture 1Press the arrow part of it on the right, and voila!

Here are the four podcasts.

Episode 202: Agents are destroying publishing It is proposed that the “The Talent Killers” may be a seminal essay, as well as a symptom of the massive upheaval currently underway throughout the books publishing industry–an upheaval to which it would be wise for everyone involved in the books business at any level, from writers to readers, through agents, publishers, book buyers and booksellers, to pay attention. (Peter Cox points out that he does not completely agree with the the conclusions I draw in my essay. He does not feel we can lay all of the blame for all of the problems on the shoulders of literary agents. I am heard to concede that this might be true.)

Episode 203: Writers keep out! Peter talks about his recent blog post in The Bookseller“Dead Men Walking”– which predicts a dire future for agents, particularly newer agents, who aren’t paying attention to the changes in the industry, and I get so wound up about the importance of remembering that the writers ARE the TALENT that I knock my microphone around a bit.

Episode 204: Agents with attitude,  in which Peter describes me as “the scourge of literary agents everywhere,” but then goes on to drive his own skewers into a couple of agents in particular, whose approaches to writers are supercilious, condescending, arrogant and even rude. We  denounce ‘agents with attitudes’ in general, and the fan clubs that encourage them, while agreeing that not all agents  can be painted with this brush.

Episode 205: It’s Future-Agent! From the Litopia site: “What future is there for the agent in tomorrow’s brave new publishing world?  We stand on the cusp – it could be a new Golden Age, or it could just as easily be the eve of extinction. Those agents who truly study the needs of authors are most likely to prosper.” Our dialogues conclude.

* * * *

I am grateful to Peter Cox and Litopia Daily for giving me an opportunity to speak to the issues I raised in my original essay, for actually hearing what I was saying, and for restoring some of my faith in the system — not faith in it as it currently exists, but faith that change is coming, and that as writers we have a crucial role to play in determining our own futures.

I, for one, welcome the challenge. And I’ll be writing about it often on The Militaant Writer. My next topic is already beginning to percolate in that place inside my head where the writing always starts–working its way around even when I’m paying no attention to it. It’s going to be about writers, and our relationships with one another. (No. Not that kind of relationship. Don’t worry. Not spilling any beans.)

3 responses to ““The Talent Killers”: The Litopia Dialogues

  1. I listened to a couple of the podcasts, and something that struck me is how so many of the writers I converse with online all have those same two agents bookmarked (Janet Reid and Nathan Bransford). I’m not sure it says anything about anything, but it was interesting that Mr. Cox happened to mention those two and used the term “deferential” when describing their devotees. I’ve read some of the comments on both of their blogs, and quite frankly he’s right. The tones of their blogs (at least lately, I’ve only read them recently) remind me of nurses who’ve been in the business too long and have lost all compassion for patients and simply roll their eyes when the patient needs something, or teachers who hate children. I always thought at that point it might be time for them to consider a career change. Not that writers are either patients or children, but these people have assumed a position of authority over writers. It’s almost as if they want the same kind of unquestioning deference patients typically give the medical community.

  2. True digital dame.

    Here’s my response to the ‘black eyed’ agents recently blogging about this very topic. I realize not all agents employ the methods described in the dialogues, but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t take some critiques to heart.

    The system needs an overhaul, we’re long overdue.

    http://christianusera.blogspot.com/2009/05/black-eye.html

    Great conversations, it’s good to see other people are having these discussions.

    -C

  3. Write something people want to read and you’ll get published. Stop writing crap that doesn’t SELL and expecting agents to swallow it up.

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