Monday, July 16, 2007

The New York Bias

Jill Elaine Hughes said...

"The Rejecter said...
OK guys, knock it off. There's a MILLION agent websites that will tell you that publishers/agents do not care where the author is from and do not demand, or even recommend, that the author is from NY. "

---True, they SAY this. But it does not reflect who they actually publish. Of all the new memoirs I've read in the past 6 months (I follow the genre closely since I write it myself), 8 out of 10 were by authors who live in NYC. And my own (and my agent's) experience with the NYC publishers definitely shows an anti-Midwest bias. The fact that the publishers who are buying my books (all major pubs) are not headquartered in NYC (two are in the Midwest; one is in London but is a division of Random House nonethelesss) certainly reflects this.

If you were from the Midwest yourself, you'd better appreciate the bias we have aimed at us from the East.

All right, let me give this a shot. Looking at this week's hardcover non-fiction bestseller list and the memoirs or memoir-like material listed:

1. THE LONE SURVIVOR by Marcus Luttrell. (Texas)

5. A LONG WAY GONE, by Ishmael Beah. (Sierre Leone)

7. THE REAGAN DIARIES, by Ronald Reagan. (Illinois)

10. THE BLACK SWAN, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. (Lebanon)

14. I FEEL BAD ABOUT MY NECK, by Nora Ephron. (Brooklyn. Fair enough)

20. SAVE ME FROM MYSELF, by Brian "Head" Welch. (California)

21. MERLE'S DOOR, by Ted Kerasote. (Wyoming)

22. LITTLE HEATHENS, by Mildred Armstrong Kalish. (Iowa)

23. MARLEY & ME, by John Grogan. (Michigan or Florida; I can't tell)

24. DOG DAYS, by Jon Katz. (Upstate New York)

29. INFIDEL, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. (Somalia)


Jill Elaine Hughes said...

And out of all these, only ONE is from the Midwest (Iowa, home of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and darling of the NYC pubs, natch)

Case closed.


Jill Elaine Hughes said...

And Ronald Reagan might have been BORN in Illinois, but he spent 90% of his life in California, so I don't think that counts as Midwestern. Plus, he was the president, and most presidents can get book deals just by breathing (and they should, I'm not discounting that at all----but the fact is, Midwestern writers are largely ignored). Thank God we actually have some respected publishers headquartered out here (i.e, Sourcebooks, Hazelden, Chicago Review Press, University of Chicago Press) or a lot of our work wouldn't see the light of day.

The Rejecter said...

Okay, so only ONE person on the CURRENT NYT bestseller's list was from the exact geographic local (out of the entire world) that you care about.

There's only one California guy too. Are you Californian readers really upset about that?

Unknown said...

There's also the fact that there are many, many, MANY people living in New York, which suggests a lot of writers.

I grew up in a small city in Nebraska (10,000-ish). I'd wager there are more writers living in New York than there are men, women and children in my entire hometown. A lot of towns are much smaller. Midwesterners are not less talented than writers on the East Coast. There's just a lot fewer of them because there's a lot fewer people in general. That's not bias, that's demographics.

But let's suppose there WAS an anti-Midwest bias. Complaining about it isn't going to fix it. We can't whine our way into publication.

Saundra Mitchell said...

It's probably news to Michigan that they aren't part of the midwest.

Austin Williams said...

There may only be one person definitively from the Midwest, true... But there's only one person from New York City, only two from New York State, and possibly three from the East Coast in total, depending on whether John Grogan is from Michigan or Florida.

Consider too: the Midwest is quite small population-wise compared to either of the coasts, has fewer major cities and universities from which literary types typically derive*, and most of these memoirs/biographies are from people who do not live in the Midwest, either coast, or even in the United States.

*-Important! This isn't to say it has no major universities or cities, or literary types living there!

Jill Elaine Hughes said...

This also doesn't account for the disproportionately high number of books (esp. memoirs) published by NYC authors. Anyone who follows the memoir genre (not just the bestsellers) closely can attest to this phenomenon. And I am sure there are plenty of other Midwesterners out there in Rejecter blogland who know first-hand what it is like to live with this cultural bias.

Jill Elaine Hughes said...

"To be frank, not a lot of news happens there, and certainly almost no national news happens there except wildfires that seem to encompass an entire state."

This is a patently outrageous and inaccurate statement (and yet typical of the anti-Midwest bias of New Yorkers).

Furthermore, wildfires do not happen in the Midwest. They happen in Western states, like California.

Anonymous said...

I also suppose that by saying this, the Rejecter asserts that the entire population of major cities such as Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Minneapolis do not exist, and do not contribute to the United States culture or fabric.

Since you say nothing supposedly happens out here, I'd challenge you to pick up a copy of The New York Times tomorrow morning and see just how many news articles are centered on happenings in one or more of the above cities. Chicago, after all, is the third-largest U.S. city and you should find plenty about little-old-backward Chicago on the NYT front page---especially given presidential candidate Barack Obama is from here. (Hillary Clinton also grew up in the Chicago suburbs, but who's counting?)

The Rejecter said...

Forgot about the cities. All right, all right, I take the news comment back.

Anonymous said...

Geez Louise, I had no idea mid-westerners were such whiners! Oh, wait, I expect the vast majority are not, only the few who happen to have an anti-NY bias and reply on this blog. I am NOT from NY or anywhere mid-west, or anywhere at all, actually, as I grew up all over the world. Write a good book, and it WILL get published IF it's sufficiently different/interesting enough to grab the attention of those jaded agents/editors who have seen more unpublished books than there are people living in Iowa.

Barbara Webb said...

I'm from the midwest (born in Missouri, living in Kansas), and I have to agree that not a lot happens out here. Well, we did vote out evolution. So maybe just not a lot happens out here that we want to talk about.

Anonymous said...

If you want to make a difference, write a kick-ass memoir about your life in the Midwest. That's the only solution. Whining isn't helping anyone do anything.

Oh, and please don't say that your memoir will never be published because of anti-Midwestern bias. That just reeks of sour grapes.

Jill Elaine Hughes said...

Actually, my memoir IS being published, but by a major Midwestern-based publisher (after all the NYC publishers rejected it as not being "interesting" or "relevant" enough because it is set mostly in the Midwest.) Apparently to many New Yorkers, Midwesterners (even those of us who live in big cities) are incapable of having interesting lives, since "nothing" supposedly happens out here.

I beg to differ.

Case closed.

Anonymous said...

"Forgot about the cities. All right, all right, I take the news comment back."

Speaking of forgetting cities, what about:

St. Louis
Kansas City
Ann Arbor
Des Moines
Green Bay
St. Paul

Oh right, I forgot----nobody lives in the Midwest, and nothing happens there, either, so I guess none of these cities count?


The Rejecter said...

I deleted my ill-informed comment.

The Rejecter said...

[i]Apparently to many New Yorkers, Midwesterners (even those of us who live in big cities) are incapable of having interesting lives, since "nothing" supposedly happens out here.

I beg to differ.

Case closed.[/i]

Clearly, I have been defeated by the sound reasoning of this hip midwesterner, who has proven over multiple posts that I simply toss out any query not from New York, or even bother to look at where the writer is from, and that most people who are published are New Yorkers, except for most of the people on the bestseller list, and most of the people not on the bestseller list, and most of the people who have written what is considered the great literature of our time. But ignoring those people, the rest are New Yorkers. In fact, I don't have an unrelenting hatred of the work by 20-somethings in my MFA program who write about how much the subway sucks and what the New York skyline means to them, and don't long for the dark gothic of Faulkner or the non-location-based fiction that consists of just about everything I read for fun. (Chibi City is the place to be, man. The sky is the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.)

Miss Hughes is the authority on what is good fiction, which is why the only agent she managed to land was a new agent from Germany who had no sales when she signed with him, despite what is actually an extremely formidable previous writing career as a playwright. There is nothing suspicious at all about a woman with a novel being turned down at the standard literary agencies with actual track records.

I encourage you all to go to her blog and ask her questions about how to evaluate good fiction and how the industry works, because she said "case closed" and I guess that means my case is closed. I'll just go back to what I do for a living, which is reject people who have submitted mediocre women's fiction.

Jill Elaine Hughes said...

In response to the Rejecter's accusation that I supposedly write "mediocre" women's fiction and am repped by a lousy agent (who also happens to live outside NYC):

My agent was indeed new when I signed with him, but he has since landed numerous sales (including one book which is reviewed in this week's issue of NEWSWEEK and fast becoming a breakout bestseller), and he has also brokered/is in the process of finalizing sales for _three_ of my books this summer with respected mainstream publishers paying substantial advances (some in excess of $10,000 apiece), the details of which will be released shortly.

But then again, don't listen to what I have to say. According to The Rejecter, I don't know what I'm talking about, I am a lousy writer, and a Midwestern country bumpkin to boot.

I just think the Rejecter is upset that somebody called her on the carpet when she put her foot in her mouth, but then again---let the book sales and the money chips fall where they may.

Sincerely Yours,

An Soon-To-Be-Published, Well-Compensated Midwestern Idiot.

Anonymous said...

Bias or not, a good story (memoir) trumps the location in which you live.

It is quite possible that the lives of the type of people attracted to NYC lead to more dynamic memoirs than the lives led in the thousands of small towns and cities in the greater part of the midwest.

(Before someone points it out, yes, there are big cities in the midwest also.)

Is there a bias? I don't know, but I bet you a Nathan's hot dog against a Carvel Butter Burger that being in NYC does get you noticed a lot easier.

My two cents.

Anyone seen my protagonist lately?

Anonymous said...

But then again, don't listen to what I have to say. According to The Rejecter, I don't know what I'm talking about, I am a lousy writer, and a Midwestern country bumpkin to boot.

Actually, I was listening to what you were saying, and based on your comments, I found you eye-rollingly arrogant, closed-minded and obnoxious.

And based on that impression, I never want to read your memoir. You appear to think it's better to browbeat your opponents into submission than entertain the possibility of being wrong. I don't want to spend any time getting to know you.

Ms. Hughes, you have come across as supremely un-classy.

Case closed.
Wallet closed.

Thomas said...

Wow, this is getting to be just silly.

Rejector: having a blog with any degree of success will, almost by axiom, draw the ire of others. They can die from it if it suits them.

Ms. Hughes: you got a book published, what are you complaining about.

I hope all goes well for both of you.

Joni said...

Wow, this got intense. But I was interested because I have noticed before (mostly by keeping a close eye on PW) that there seemed to be a ton of kids' picture books set in NYC compared to anywhere else specifically named. (I'm not saying there aren't a lot of Generic Land picture books. But there aren't too many other places, urban or rural, that get so much, well, ink.)

So FWIW, which I suppose is zero, I don't think JEH is completely off base; I think she has a point.

It's only human, I'm sure; decision-makers in this industry live there; most of them probably LIKE living there and thus think it's the center of the universe and that everything that happens there is fascinating. But editors and others in the industry should try to overcome that tendency if they can. Because there actually are a few book buyers (and kids) with completely different experiences. NY isn't as bad as Hollywood at thinking everyone lives and thinks like they do; but it does sometimes fall into that bias.

Anonymous said...

If NYC publishers have a bias against Midwesterners and toward NYC types, they should have a bias in every genre, right? Here's the breakdown of the hardcover fiction top 15, the most prestigious of the NYT fiction lists:

THE QUICKIE, by James Patterson (Palm Beach, Florida) and Michael Ledwidge (the Bronx)

A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS, by Khaled Hosseini (born in Afghanistan, lives in California)

LEAN MEAN THIRTEEN, by Janet Evanovich (born in New Jersey, lives in New Hampshire)

THE JUDAS STRAIN, by James Rollins (born in Chicago, lives in California)

BUNGALOW 2, by Danielle Steel (born in NYC, lives in California)

PEONY IN LOVE, by Lisa See (California)

DROP DEAD BEAUTIFUL, by Jackie Collins (born in England, lives in California)

DOUBLE TAKE, by Catherine Coulter (born in Texas, lives in California)

THE 6TH TARGET, by James Patterson (Florida) and Maxine Paetro (New York state)

THE BOURNE BETRAYAL, by Eric Van Lustbader (NYC)

THE DOUBLE AGENTS, by W. E. B. Griffin (grew up in NYC and Philadelphia, lives on the Gulf Coast, probably in Texas) and William E. Butterworth IV (Texas)

BLAZE, by Richard Bachman. (Maine)

THE NAVIGATOR, by Clive Cussler (born in Illinois, lives in Colorado and Arizona) with Paul Kemprecos (couldn't find)

THE CHILDREN OF HÚRIN, by J. R. R. Tolkien (England). Edited by Christopher Tolkien (born in England, lives in France)

ON CHESIL BEACH, by Ian McEwan (England)

In short: If you can't be live in California, be English. If you can't be English, then be from Texas or NYC. If you can't be from Texas or NYC, try Illinois or Florida. But for God's sake, the instant you have some money, move to California.

There's a definite big-city bias, and writers seem to come from the edges of the country, not the middle. (Mind you, that's where the population is concentrated, too.) Based on this, you could argue an anti-Midwest bias. But a bias so strong that 80% of all published books are by New Yorkers? ...Not seeing it.

Anonymous said...

The 8-in-10-from-NYC statistic was regarding memoir, not necessarily the book market at large. (lumping fiction in isn't necessarily appropriate for comparison).

I would agree there is a pro-NYC/pro-East Coast bias in memoir specifically (just look at most of the successful memoirs lately---THE GLASS CASTLE, ANGELA'S ASHES/'TIS/'TEACHER MAN, A MILLION LITTLE PIECES (okay, that one's a fabrication, but it still sells), THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING etc---every single one of them penned by NYC authors. Coincidence?

Twill said...

You have a "survivor bias" error here. Just because the best or most popular books are geographically dispersed says nothing about the provenance of the majority of memoirs that are published.

You will also notice that nearly everyone on that second list is writing their nth book, n>6, so it tells you nothing about the experience received by the general population of writership.

Try going to a source that includes all books, not just bestsellers. And eliminate those written by people with national name recognition (such as dead presidents, who don't even have to be breathing to get a book deal.)

Anonymous said...

The 8-in-10-from-NYC statistic was regarding memoir, not necessarily the book market at large. (lumping fiction in isn't necessarily appropriate for comparison).

If there's such a strong bias toward NYC authors in memoir, then at least part of that bias should bleed over into other parts of the industry. Fiction is the category closest to memoir--some of the recent bestselling memoirs WERE fiction--so that's where you'd expect to see the bias emerge. It's not a perfect correlation, but it's a start.

Try going to a source that includes all books, not just bestsellers. And eliminate those written by people with national name recognition (such as dead presidents, who don't even have to be breathing to get a book deal.)

In that case, please point me to a listing of such authors that provides a good general survey. I'm not going to trawl all of Amazon.

Anonymous said...

You have a book deal and you are still blathering about like a shrill harpie?

Sour grapes, anyone?

Anonymous said...

I imagine if the memoir was rejected by multiple agents/editors for being boring, it's probably boring. Rite bettar an dey’ll leik u.

It's not like you were being blacklisted.

Self-centered conspiracy theory bullshit.

~Says the Ohioan~

Anonymous said...

Case closed.

I love how Ms. Hughes keeps saying this -- as if she could bring all discussion to a halt through sheer force of will.

One has to remember that agents are interested in making a living, not acting as guardsmen to some hallowed literary arena. They judge your work on how well they think it will sell -- a mix of whether they think it should sell (i.e. personal opinion of its worth) and whether they think there's a market for it. Those NYC agents didn't think your work would sell well. They might have been wrong.

But to imagine an agent looked at your postmark and thought: "A Midwesterner? I don't want to make money off a Midwesterner! Tainted goods! Filthy lucre! Blech!"...

That's just silly.

This isn't some misguided attempt to stir up internet buzz for your book, is it? Because this isn't the place (or the way) to do it -- as you may have noticed, Rejector's mainly read by unpublished looking to be published. So a contracted author waltzing in, bragging about her upcoming royalties, blaming her previous lack of (what is sure to be vaulting, she claims) success on the prejudice of NYC insiders, and generally attacking someone who goes out of her way to provide insight and information to the rest of us... well...

That's a pretty silly idea, too.

Rob said...

I second what Thomas said. You're published, so who cares about the other agents/publishers. Besides, the list the rejector had of books on the best seller lists were from all over, not just from New York.

Quit your whining, you are making mid-westerners look bad. "Case closed..." What a closed-minded attitude.

I wish you luck but don't expect me to buy anything you write.

BTW, when I read bios from authors of books I read, 90%+ are not from New York

Tena Russ said...

"the other rick said...
Bias or not, a good story (memoir) trumps the location in which you live."

Totally agree.
Also, attitude is everything.

Another Midwesterner

Unknown said...

"...and he has also brokered/is in the process of finalizing sales for _three_ of my books this summer..."

Would you kindly tell me what the titles are, so I can better avoid buying them?

Did those nasty NYC publishers not like your memoir? Boo-freakin'-hoo, lady. You can't make people like what they don't like. And I'll bet you nine dollars American that they don't like working with people who blame everybody but themselves for their problems. You're an adult. Suck it up.

As a card-carrying Midwesterner, let me put it to you straight: YOU MAKE US LOOK BAD. If there is an anti-Midwest bias, I hold people like you responsible.

none said...

It's Chiba City.


Dwight's Writing Manifesto said...

This I know:

My ms deals with a clatch of Mississippi River construction divers and is set in St. Louis where the river deepens and is much more trecherous than it is north of Iowa.

One (NY) agent wrote in their rejection: "You'd have more luck if this were set in Chicago instead."

Another (NY) agent wrote in their rejection: "[good, but not for us yadda yadda] You should shop this to a regional specialty publisher or university press in your town."

Whine, schmine. My only whine is that I should have been smart enough to guess that I was handicapping myself by setting a story between the two costal islands that comprise this country.

New Yorkers don't want to read about podunk any more than I want to read
That's squarely on me.

I won't do it again.

Unknown said...

*snerk* The whole thing is ridiculous.

Perhaps if there were more midwesterners worth publishing, they would find themselves in possession of a publishing contract from someone in New York.

I think it amusing that the assumption that New York doesn't want the Midwest comes from the assumption that few books from the Midwest are published, I'd say that's leaping to conclusions.

Anonymous said...

"Perhaps if there were more midwesterners worth publishing, they would find themselves in possession of a publishing contract from someone in New York."

---So you're basically saying that midwesterners are inherently stupid, untalented, and unable to write publishable work soley by virtue of their geographic origins?


Anonymous said...

Judging by comments here, there's definitely an anti-Midwest bias in American culture. How that plays out in the publishing would would have been a fascinating debate, but this comment section is a perfect example of how good debate can be killed stone dead by bad debate tactics.

(If Hughes ever meant to have a debate. "Case closed" in the very first comment? Yeesh.)

Andrew said...

For me, it boils down to this: publishing is tough. It's tough for everyone. But everyone has an individual set of advantages and disadvantages, and you have to know what your advantages are, then make use of those advantages. Being part of some well-known event is an advantage. Right now, I think being of Middle-Eastern or North African descent is an advantage. Being connected to the literary scene in New York is an advantage. Being connected to the literary scene in Kansas City, however, isn't much of an advantage. I wouldn't say it's a disadvantage, though, so much as lack of advantage. Disadvantage suggests competition. I'm not trying to knock Ishmael Beah and Nassim Nicholas Taleb out of the running, but trying to get my own stuff out there. I don't have the same advantage they do, but that's life.

Anonymous said...

Ah, but bias cuts both ways. For every "midwesterners are stupid hicks" comment I see, here and elsewhere, I see an equal number of "east and west coasters are elitist snobs" complaints. At what point does complaining about parochialism become parochialism in and of itself?

Dwight's Writing Manifesto said...

Yeah. The copy of "Rhetoric and Fallacies of Logic" on my bookshelf is smoldering by mere proximity to my monitor.

Commenters who use ad hominem attacks are jerks.

All posters who state their counter-position based on convenient straw man facts they pull out of their butt are probably all illiterate felons writing from the rec room at in a Haitian halfway house.

And everyone who uses extreme examples to make a point should be taken out and shot.

Sad, really, because there's an interesting premise on the table, true or false.

Anonymous said...

I think everyone is missing a vital point, the very point I think Ms. Hughs has been trying (unsuccessfully) to make.

It's not the author so much as the setting. For fiction, I don't think a NY agent would necessarily dismiss a midwest author the moment they saw the postmark, but for a memoir, maybe. Because the memoir of an author from Kansas City will likely be set in (gasp!) Kansas City, and who the hell wants to read about Kansas City?

(Well, I would, but then, I'm from Canada, and we're a bit off up here. It's all the snow.)

You hear agents say all the time that they have to "fall in love" with a book to want to spend their time and money repping it. That's fair enough. But because what gets repped is dependent on the personal taste of agents--the majority of whom are NY urbanite sophistos--a lot of good books that would appeal to a large segment of the reading public are either ignored or relegated to small presses with limited marketing and distribution.

Dwight is right. If your story isn't set on one coast or the other, then it needs to be set in Paris or Kandahar or even Middle Earth to get more than a glance and a quick "no thanks" on an eighth of a piece of paper in your SASE.

Here in Canuckyland it's Toronto, not NY, but it amounts to the same damn thing. This phenomonon permeates everything in our lives, from literature, movies, TV, the news, music, politics and even the freaking lottery. It's called "the west gets screwed again."

Whether it's a function of bias or population distribution is debatable, but regardless, it sucks.

Anonymous said...

Premise is that NYC editors/agents are predjudiced against Mid-western writers. No one has mentioned all the OTHER regions in the USA - does that make for bias against these unmentioned regions? Southeast, Southwest, Northwest, Farwest, non-contiguous US, APO/FPO, territories, and whatever I've left out. And, you know, I'm willing to bet a good number of NYC and CA based authors weren't born there. Are all of you living where you were born? Is the perceived bias against authors, or against their settings, or both? I haven't read a book based in NYC in I don't know how long. I just can't see any of this conjecture about bias as anything but sour grapes. Honestly. Write well and keep writing.

Anonymous said...

Is it just me, or did no one else notice that Hughes said eight of the ten memoirs SHE READ were by NYC authors?

It ain't what they're publishing, hon, it's what you're reading.

The Rejecter said...

I think people have missed the vital point I'm trying to make, which is that if I get a manuscript that takes place in East Bumblefuck, where they only have one working phone line, and the manuscript is a great read, I'm not going to reject. I'm going to hand that right to my boss.

Anonymous said...

NYC gal born and bred here, and let me tell you, the bias absolutely goes both ways. I've had to travel to various midwestern states (Oklahoma, Wyoming, Iowa, Nebraska, Illinoise) for business, and each time I look forward to it less and less.

I started out enthusiastic, of course. For my first trip, I was looking forward to meeting new people and seeing a life different from the one I had grown up with. I had always heard how nice midwesterners were compared to New Yorkers.

Yeah, well. I met two kinds of people while out there:

a) The "nice" ones, who spent the whole time simpering stuff like, "Oh, well, I'm sure this restaurant isn't very impressive for a big city gal like yourself...I'm sure this mall isn't impressive to someone who comes from New York City..." and generally feeling sorry for themselves.
b) The "mean" ones, who would immediately start picking petty, nasty little fights with me, in some defensive move anticipating the cutting remarks I would make against them as a cityite. That I had no intention of being biased against their backgrounds never seemed to occur to them.

And it's only gotten worse every time I've gone back since then. I rarely meet someone who isn't quick to judge me by where I grew up. Yet I would never judge someone by that and neither would many of my fellow New Yorkers. So midwesterners, maybe those of you who feel like the mean, snotty NYC dwellers are picking on you should take a moment to stop feeling sorry for yourselves and evaluate who is really starting this drama.

And to midwestern authors who claim an anti-flyover state bias, well, consider yourselves luckier than NYC dwellers in one respect...when your shitty manuscripts get rightfully rejected, at least you can pat yourself on the back and tell yourself that it's only the mean gatekeepers' rude regional bias keeping the world from experiencing your greatness.

Anonymous said...

Wow! East Bumblefuck. That's the next town over from me. I'm from Bumblefuckville. Maybe I'll postmark the novel I'm sending you from Mayberry. Just sounds better.

The only bias I'm aware of in the publishing industry is toward anything that Paris Hilton might put out. And she puts out a lot, I understand.

Austin Williams said...

Might I also venture this biased observation:

The only city in the Midwest that's even worth comparing to New York in terms of size, culture, history, and erudition (things that, again, produce more literary types than any other) is Chicago.

All those other joints are glorified suburbs with some spikey, pointy things in the middle that gets mistaken for a skyline.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it. >-þ

Stephen Parrish said...

Hey Anon 5:05, take it easy. Jill Elaine Hughes speaks for herself, not for the rest of us East Bumblefuckers.

Anonymous said...

I know plenty of Midwesterners who go out of their way to be nice to East Coasters visiting from out of town who find their hospitality repaid with snide remarks like "how can you STAND to live here" "this place is a joke" and "why the hell is everybody here so goddamned NICE? It's irritating." True stories, all.

Then again, I've always been treated nicely by the natives when visiting NYC, so I am not sure why they are always so mean when they come here. Maybe it's an "out-of-habitat" thing.

And I'm sure Oprah Winfrey would be pretty pissed off if you told her to her face that she lives, works, and runs her multibillion-dollar media empire in a "flyover" state.

Anonymous said...

"And based on that impression, I never want to read your memoir."

Ditto, and thank you for telling her. After the double-case-closed obnoxiousness, I'd be more likely to read her memoir in the bookstore than to put down any money for it. More likely still to skip it completely.

This is what Gerard Jones did, although I think in some ways it was successful (and he wrote a hell of a memoir--sex, drugs, and rock and roll just to start with): he made himself into the king of sour grapes before getting an agent, and then when he achieved minor success, he kept up with the sour grapes, to my amazement and disgust.

I'm letting go of the bitterness, because I'm not in the hunt anymore, but it depresses me to see people whose much-vaunted success leaves them just as mean as they were while they were agent-seeking.

astairesteps said...


Is this post response scary or what? Have you ever received more than 50 comments on a post? Amazing.

Anonymous said...

It only looks disproportionate when you don't take population density into account. NYC has around 8 million people and Cincinnati has around 300,000. If there were 8 bestsellers from NYC and 1 from Cincinnati, there would be more best selling authors from Cincinnati per capita than from New York.

Twill said...

I don't think the case is closed in either direction.

I do think that Jill Hughes has shot herself in the foot with stridency. I understand the frustration, but it is important to demonstrate poise when frustrated.

Especially when you are winning. Also, it is important not to appear difficult to work with when your agent is in negotiations. If I were her agent, I would confiscate her internet connection. ;)

Issendai - You could look at Publisher's Marketplace or other industry sources, I guess. The key is to use "first time novels" or "first time memoirs" as your search, since people who are being published for the 10th time can live where they want.

I don't know whether your conclusion is true or false. I merely pointed out a source of error in your assumptions which casts doubt upon the conclusion inferred.

Dwight - If you have an interesting story, it's possible to get it optioned as a movie. Hollywood *loves* new places and new types of scenes.

Also, mysteries have less of a problem with anti-regional bias than mainstream fiction. In a mystery, sometimes having a good (and different) location is the thing that puts the story over the top!

Twill said...

rejecter -

Some of your 7:05 comments are way over the top. I was disappointed to read them.

Indeed, one could read them as anecdotal evidence of the exact bias Ms Hughes is claiming.

If I recall correctly, a few weeks back there was a discussion of how a good writer might not happen to find a home at any of the big literary agencies. Was that not here? Perhaps on Bransford's or Vater's site.

The Rejecter said...


I apologize to you and all my readers. Generally I try and keep pretty positive (despite the name of the blog), but eventually everyone has their tipping point and they hit it and turn in to a bad poster.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry but I read the complaint you got about a lack of memoirs by midwesterners and all I got from it was, "Waaah, waaah, waaah."

Twill said...

Yeah, my sarcastic side gets ahold of me on occasion, too. I find "gentle reproach" works better for getting things back on track, though. ;)

Anonymous said...

"So you're basically saying that midwesterners are inherently stupid, untalented, and unable to write publishable work soley by virtue of their geographic origins?"

#1. "solely"

#2. The smart, talented ones have all moved to New York.


But is is true that living in a city where culture and literature is as valued as it is in NYC makes a great stmosphere for a writer.

I've been to Bumblefuck and I wouldn't want to live there.

Anonymous said...

I'm in a writing group in NYC. There are 11 of us, 9 are published, and several teach writing. None of us are originally from NYC, but we all live here now (except one of us who takes the PATH in from Jersey.)

NYC attracts writers. That's why so many of them are here. But we still write about the places we know, which are pretty diverse.

Anonymous said...

I'm personally amazed that no one seems to have noticed one rather salient fact: the majority of people who live in NYC are not originally from here. That includes the vast hordes of evil editors waiting to reject your manuscript due to obvious regional bias.

It's a peculiar fact about New York that people tend to erase your history once you move here, and forever after will think of you as a "New Yorker" with all of the attendant stereotypes. It never fails to surprise me when I visit my in-laws in Iowa that they seem to believe (despite knowing full well otherwise) I sprung fully-formed from the bosom of NYC, and am thus unfamiliar with such rural oddities as wood stoves, plain common sense, and the outdoors.

Anonymous said...

You hear agents say all the time that they have to "fall in love" with a book to want to spend their time and money repping it. That's fair enough. But because what gets repped is dependent on the personal taste of agents--the majority of whom are NY urbanite sophistos--a lot of good books that would appeal to a large segment of the reading public are either ignored or relegated to small presses with limited marketing and distribution.

I have no real opinion one way or the other on the original subject of this thread, but I do think that this comment deserves better than to have gotten lost in the shuffle.

Do I have statistical evidence that would hold up in a court of law to back it up? Of course not; it would take a doctoral thesis to either prove or disprove it, and even then someone would dispute it on one side or the other. But I think it's a suggestion that should at least be taken seriously, if only on common-sense grounds.

ORION said...

My debut novel is commercial fiction (not memoir). I'm originally from Seattle but have lived in Hawaii for nearly 20 years. Where I was from was never an issue. Of all the published writers I know - none are from New York.

Unknown said...

So you're basically saying that midwesterners are inherently stupid, untalented, and unable to write publishable work soley by virtue of their geographic origins?

Totally. That was completely my point. Congratulations, you read between the lines so well!

Or maybe, just maybe, I was saying that there aren't as many midwesterners in publishing as there are easterners. A stretch, I know. Occasionally? People do actually mean what they say, and not what you think they're trying to say without actually saying it.

Tena Russ said...

I think this lengthy and sometimes vitriolic debate will be known as the Jill Elaine Hughes effect. I'm not sure if that's a good thing, but it generated 60+ posts!

John Robison said...

When I offered Look Me in the Eye to publishers in January, not one of them bemoaned the fact that I don't live in New York, and indeed much of the story is set in New England, Georgia, and other seriously hick-like places.

There were suggestions whispered, of course. I know I'd have done better if I'd rented an apartment in the City before submitting the book. But I ended up OK, anyway.

My hogs aren't starving, and since I let the goats through the hole in the fence so they can forage on the town land, they're great, too!

Of course, my book talks about visiting New York, and at one point, I do state that it's well known that the girls, lawyers, Broadway shows, and medical doctors are better in New York.

But my brother and I are still here in Amherst, Massachusetts, and people still seem to want to read our books.

And I will be paying homage to the Big City on September 25, at the B&N flagship store on Union Square. You're welcome to come hear my brother Augusten and me, and ask all the City-centric questions you want.

Anonymous said...

I noticed among the published authors that I know, [from all over: midwest, NYC, wherever] that if they are not AS successful as they wish/expect - they tend to invent a reason. I never heard this specific one before, but they all have the same quality of implausibility together with incredible defensiveness and rigidity. They fall into 2 catagories: "the industry has changed", or how other people get different "breaks" that you are shut out from. The people that need to believe these claims usually cluster with others so they can reinforce each others self deception, so this woman is really branching out by taking her show on the road...

Kim Rossi Stagliano said...

John, you forgot to mention you're as tall as a skyscraper, which gives you a certain NY feel....

I grew up in a town called "PLAINVILLE", I kid you not. Massachusetts, not Iowa. I lived in Cleveland for 10 years and let me tell you, there were plenty of creative people there. I didn't think anyone was a hick for not being from the East Coast, but I got the feeling some folks just assumed I considered myself superior. And I don't mean the lake. The whole thing was, ah, Erie..... I love being back East, but I sure miss the Ohio housing prices! They win that battle for certain.

Kim Rossi Stagliano said...

Oh, by the way, Les Roberts, a Cleveland writer is one of my favorites. And Ray Bradbury has written more about rural Illinois than anyone. You can hear the corn rustle and the see the flat stretches of lonely roads in his words.

MaNiC MoMMy™ said...

Here's what I commented over at Jill's site--

I haven't read all the heated banter about this, but it really sounds like you're Nanny-nanny-boo-booing the Rejector with how much money you will make, how many books you will have published (even before all the contracts are signed)... I'm just suggesting you be careful at what you boast about until it all actually happens.

And this is coming from a fellow Midwesterner in Chicago! Just be careful with what you say. You never know who is reading! : )

Bottom line, I do think there are benefits to being in NYC when it comes to networking and meeting agents and editors and even publishers, but don't you agree that it's the words that sell a book, not the location of where the author lives? Is this really what everyone is debating here?

Why can't we all just get along!?
Cheers! : )

Anonymous said...

Apparently Jill Elaine Hughes has deleted her most recent blog post (in which she assaulted Rejecter's income* and publishing credits) along with the negative comments it generated.

*Yes, she argued she was right and Rejecter was wrong because she earned more money than Rejecter.

Kurt Vonnegut once claimed that a writer must have a personality worth expressing and sharing, without which her story wouldn't resonate with readers.

Jill, I'm sure your stories won't resonate with me, so I'm not going to buy them. Possibly the New York crowd had a similar reaction.

Case closed.

Austin Williams said...

"I noticed among the published authors that I know, [from all over: midwest, NYC, wherever] that if they are not AS successful as they wish/expect - they tend to invent a reason."

I believe this is related to Riddell's Law.

"Any sufficiently developed incompetence is indistinguishable from conspiracy."

Anonymous said...

This has got to be the dumbest posting.
Next, please.

Tena Russ said...

Ray Bradbury was from North Bumblefuck AKA Waukegan, Illinois. He moved back and forth from there to West Bumblefuck, AKA Tucson, Arizona. Ray managed to survive living in the hinterlands.

Anonymous said...

And Ray Bradbury wrote a great memoir, Dandelion Wine, based on his boyhood in Waukegan.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Hughes seems to have a serious problem with self editing. Sometimes the best thing to do is to not say anything at all.

But at least she didn't accuse you of being a "threat to our national security," Rejecter. I'm sure if she could have figured out a way to do so, however, she would have.

Check this out (can't figure out how to link it):

Anonymous said...

Is no one going to cut Jill a bit of slack due to the fact that, according to her blog, she's heavily pregnant and probably wildly hormonal? No, of course not - I know even as I type that there's just going to be a load of responses along the lines of, "Well, when I was pregnant I didn't..."

Don't even know why I'm bothering to post this really but I've typed it out so I might as well.

Anonymous said...

I live in the midwest. One of my beta readers lives in NYC. Guess who was introduced to an agent at lunch by a friend, was accepted as a client and had his manuscript read immediately by an editor? This, in spite of breaking every debut writer's rule in the book, including single-spacing the manuscript that ran for 140,000 words and introduced a total of 22 characters in the opening chapter?

The manuscript was ultimately rejected by the publisher, but hey, at least my friend has an agent whom he got without sending a single query.

Doesn't matter where you live/who you know? My Ass!

Unknown said...

"Is no one going to cut Jill a bit of slack due to the fact that, according to her blog, she's heavily pregnant and probably wildly hormonal?"

Why would anyone bother to check out her blog if she comes here and writes such ignorant statements?

Being a new dad myself, I can say that hormones may well have contributed to her ranting. To her credit, she asked for no quarter due to her condition.

Kim Rossi Stagliano said...

This post makes me long for that "how dare you critique a fellow MFA writer" post from several months ago! :)

I wonder if some of the setting issue is due to the fact that a writer can use New York as a character. For instance, if you mention a character walking into the Empire State building 99.0% of readers will be able to imagine the building in their mind's eye. If the same character walks into the Terminal Tower in Cleveland what percent of readers will have an image? The Terminal Tower WAS the tallest building between NY and the West coast for many years and has a rich history. And is gorgeous to boot. But it ain't the Empire State building. I think writers choose locations according to how they can connect with readers.

Sex and the City would NOT have worked in Minneapolis. The Drew Carey show would not have worked in Boston.

And lest the midwesterners think NY'ers do not think at all about the world west of the Hudson, yesterday's Times reviewed an area outside of Columbus Ohio as a terrific place to live.

As far as Jill being pregnant? God bless her, may she have a healthy baby and this storm die down so she can relax and concentrate on her child. The baby doesn't need all those stress hormones this thread must be generating - albeit, self-"induced" if you'll pardon the pun.

Bernita said...

Slack? No, I don't.
Perhaps you are unfamiliar with the effect of late pregnancy hormones, Anon 4:04.

Anonymous said...

I also hope we'll cut her some slack. She did delete the objectionable blog entry, so she may have re-considered. Or perhaps her agent suggested she temper her remarks. It can't be helpful to her--or to her "non-New York" agent and "Midwestern" publishers-to-be.

I'd have to say, though, that her advanced pregnancy makes me more surprised, not less, at her reactions. The late-pregnancy hormones, and the state of anticipation make it hard to focus on much besides the impending event. (In my experience, certainly.) Her most recent post, about "nesting urges" (sewing and cooking) seems much more in keeping with what you'd expect.

I wish her well, with both book and baby.

An ex-midwestern gal

Anonymous said...

Sorry, 4:04, no pregnancy slack. Women who think they've earned themselves a free 9-month bitchpass to be rude as hell then go "whoops, sorry, hormones talking!" make the rest of us look bad.

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:04, I knew someone who ate tree bark when she was pregnant, but I've never known any pregnant woman to ridicule someone else's salary, unless she was ALSO a bitch.

And besides, the information you refer to was posted 21 July, after every single comment but yours. What does that make you, quick on the draw?

I don't know why you bother, either.

M said...

Of course! While we're at it, let's not make people who do stupid shit under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs responsible of their actions either. Lovely idea, that.

Not to mention the fact that not everybody following this debate finds Hughes so fascinating that we simply must keep tags on her and her life.

The Rejecter said...

All right guys. I'm calling an end to the conversation of Jill-bashing. If you have something relevant to the issue you can post it, but otherwise, please refrain and let's move on.

The Rejecter said...

Huh. My blog has been blocked as a "spam blog" and I can't make new posts until they review my case. Nice.

Laura Matsue said...

I sleep on my brother's couch.

Rob said...

Hey Rejector,

Hopefully you'll be able to post a new topic soon so we can all move past this.

Personally, I hope things work out for Ms. Hughes - I have no reason not to. The worst I could say about her is that her attitude doesn't make me want to read her book any more.

Anonymous said...

Does all this mean I get brownie points for living in New York? Oh, Goodie!

Anonymous said...

As a Michigainer, I'd like to take offense at the idea that we're not midwestern...Or are you corn-staters suffering from a cultural bias against people who live in states where we grow food that human beings (as opposed to cattle) eat? I'm very disappointed. [/sarcasm] Honestly, if your book sells a dozen copies, will this be because of a "cultural bias" against whiny bitches?