OK... take a look at this: SlushPile Hell. Yikes and yow!
There is nothing posted at that "amusing" website to indicate that the query lines included in SPH are written by the anonymous blogger for the purpose of satire. So, my opinion is based on the belief that the sarcastic blog is written by an actual literary agent who has posted truthful and unedited snippets from authentic queries s/he has received and has then written sarcastic comments designed to ridicule those query lines.
Based on no posted statement that the blog is totally an imaginative creative endeavor for the purpose of comedy... my opinion is that the blog, SlushPile Hell, is unethical. And it serves to diminish the professional integrity of the blogger. I think it represents a total breakdown of professional standards.
Most agencies care about their public image and how this type of activity may reflect on a standard of excellence many agencies have firmly in place. I do not think the President of an agency would support an employee's personal agenda on the internet (during the work day?) which could reflect badly on the company.
And there is a larger picture. If the SPH blogger did not receive permission from the writers to post those query snippets, aren't the pieces of the sent queries that are being ridiculed at that blog under an umbrella of privacy protection within the agency? It may not be within that agent’s legal right to even post those snippets that s/he receives (as an employee of the agency) to a personal blog. I would think that the lines posted are part of privileged communications. They are not his/her personal property. All sorts of issues should cause concern. I do not think it matters that the snippets are posted with no names attached. I would be worried about litigation if the targets in that site are remotely identifiable by any other indicators. The flip side of that is really funny. It could be copyright infringement or plagiarism (using quotes without giving credit to the authors of the material being used)! Yes, writers should be able to handle harsh criticism of their work, but there is something very wrong when the ridicule is coming from a person to whom the material was sent for the possible purpose of representing that work.
How do you think those query senders would feel if they saw parts of their queries insulted for the amusement of an internet audience? You don't think they would be hurt or humiliated or mortified? They are filled with hope and they may want to send the same query to many agents. How would their chances for representation be damaged if another agent read the blog and then recognized a line ridiculed at the blog in a query s/he received? There seems to be no question that it damages the query sender's chances of getting another agent. He has been designated a joke.
This internet snark has all gone too far and I wanted to address the particular matter. There are no limits, no boundaries, and everybody crosses a line in attempts to bring on the funny. Everybody is a wannabe comic. The internet is a real cesspool where anybody can put on a mask and anonymously go for the jugular. Here's a strong head's up: "Tell us who hates us!" from the NY Daily News, July 22, 2010.
After writing this... I should worry, I suppose. I sense a real fear out there among writers. They become lemmings in comments. Very few writers will be vocal and say it just isn't right. I wonder why.
Can we all say: BLACKLIST. Put me on the top of that blacklist. I would be honored because I choose my issues carefully. I wrote "Going for the Jugular." If there is a 'blacklist," I am already on it. LMAO. I bet the same people who participate in any active blacklisting would be the first to support the Hollywood Ten. LMAO redux.
The anonymous blogger states,"If you don’t find it amusing, go back to reading I Can Haz Cheezburger." No thank-you. I prefer the wit of S. J. Perelman, H. L. Mencken, and James Thurber.
This photo is from about 1989. Look at the way my classroom was decorated. I posted the old themed "feelings are important" cut-outs! You can see them on the left. Twitter, and Facebook, and texting, and ears attached 24/7 to cellphones, or iPods, and all that other nonsense makes me feel like life has "jumped the shark." Oh, how I long for Willoughby. I feel like I am living in a morph of what human interactions should be.
Here's an afterthought: The agent today announced a contest on Twitter. She wrote: "Submit your entry for THE WORST TITLE FOR A CHILDREN'S BOOK. Hashtag #badkiddybooks." I should have entered the title, "Playground Bullying for Dummies." I might have won.
afterthoughts, added 9/3/10:
Fair use does not cover material received as an employee under stated submission guidelines and then turned around and used on the internet for a totally different PURPOSE, which is (arguably) criticism.
The writer has to agree to that purpose and a release for that agenda has to appear on the website and agreed to before a submission is sent. You can’t send material to a BUSINESS for one purpose (hopeful acceptance for representation) and then have it used by an employee for his PERSONAL agenda (criticism). Queries are sent for possible representation, not for criticism (which at SPH is ridicule). So if that is how they will be used, agencies need to post that as a DISCLOSURE under the submission guidelines.
Also, queries are NOT personal letters or journals that are being published. They are electronic correspondence received by an EMPLOYEE within the submission guidelines posted at the agency’s website. If the agency is going to use those E-mails and share them with a third party on the internet for another agenda… they have to state that at the agency website I would think.
Regarding: “…. that quotations from unpublished personal letters and journals might constitute fair use.”
Again, they are NOT personal letters or journals, they are electronic submissions for representation. They are sent to an employee (the agent) who is receiving those E-mails within the guidelines for submission set by his employer. They are not sent to his personal E-mail address. Then, it could possibly be arguable. They are sent to: SUBMISSIONS (at) AGENCY NAME (dot) com. The agent may not have any right to the fair use of any part of those E-mails because they are the PROPERTY of his employer once they are received. Has his employer consented to their “fair” use?
Many agencies have a clause FOR THEIR PROTECTION which you have to agree to before you electronically submit anything at all. Does SPH’s agency have any release in place that allows agents to use query snippets on the internet for a personal agenda? Is there a release in place that states pieces of the queries may be used on the internet for the purpose of “criticism?” Without the sender clicking on a release or signing a release and consenting…. the entire legality of SPH can be challenged and a precedent set for similar activity.
My name is not brevity…
Oh well, it took me thousands of words to actually say what could have been said in one sentence: This is not a LEGAL issue anyway, it is one of professional ETHICS…. And, in my opinion a president of a reputable agency would fire an agent that he employed who created that site if he discovered that queries were being used as fodder for a personal agenda. It sort of makes a mockery of the whole process.