Right now, there's a fairly amusing thing going on at Passive Voice: This agent posted a (dumb) critique of this post, and then claimed, "No, it wasn't a critique of that post! It was some other Harlequin author writing on some other self-publishing blog!" and then took down the post, and then took down another post because people were leaving criticism there, etc.

Forget Bad Agent Sydney. This is the guy you want to hire.

Aside from the general hilarity (he says you can make a living writing for Harlequin! That's news to Harlequin!) the post demonstrates Mayer's point that there's this mentality in traditional publishing that writers don't create content, agents/publishers/bookstores do.

But there's a twist: According to this guy, the publisher is responsible for a writer's successes. The writer alone is responsible for their failures. (The business model itself of course has nothing to do with how much money an author makes. Just put that thought out of your silly little head.)

Here it is:

When an author is not making money, it is NOT always the fault of the publisher. Maybe their writing has gone flat. Maybe they aren’t promoting enough. Maybe it is simply a matter of bad timing for when the book comes out. The point is, be careful blaming others for your lack of success in the business.

I for one am a firm believer in Harlequin. The editors work AMAZINGLY hard with the authors out there dedicated to their craft. The promotion departments do an amazing amount of work to get those books out to their readers. I would also add that all of the editors work amazingly well with me personally when I want to negotiate contracts. They are in it for the long haul with their writers and they don’t want to lose a great thing when they see it.

Interesting, no? If your writing "goes flat" (whatever that means), the editor had nothing to do with it. If your writing doesn't go flat, it's because the editor worked "AMAZINGLY hard." The promotion departments are also "amazing," but of course if the promotions don't come off it's because the writer isn't promoting enough.

And if the book fails because of "bad timing," which the writer has absolutely no control over and is completely the responsibility of the publisher? Hey, clearly also not the fault of the publisher. The publisher is "in it for the long haul" and "don't want to lose a great thing." They don't screw up, ever. If your book fails because of bad timing, it must be your fault somehow--you're cursed or something.

I understand the impulse to take ownership of a writer's successful work. I went to college with Joel Derfner, who wrote the excellent Swish. We've reconnected via Facebook, and a few months ago he was working on an essay that was giving him a hard time, so he asked for feedback. Being a former editor, I sharped my trusty axe (oh, who are we kidding? I sharpen it every night before I take it to bed with me; I call it Vera) and took a few whacks at it.

He published a really marvelous essay, and I was so proud--of myself.

And then I got a grip. I mean, he'd written several drafts well before I got to it, and it's not like the draft I saw sucked or anything. It's also not like I would have ever, in a million years, written that essay--it's Joel's life experience, and more important, Joel's talent that takes that experience and converts it so delightfully into written words.

Fine-tuning is important. Fine-tuning helps. I am all in favor of fine-tuning.

But fine-tuning is also roughly a gazillion times easier than creating something good from scratch.

As John F. Kennedy once said, "Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan." In the course of my career, I've had editor after editor take credit for "teaching" me how to write--of course the worse the editor, the more likely it was that those words came out of their mouth. Don't believe it when other people lay claim to your talent--if they were so damned talented, they'd be writing themselves.