- By: Jessica Faust | Date: Aug 11 2011
I’m trying to figure out how to write this blog without offending a whole lot of people, which is ridiculous really because if I’ve leaned anything from this blog it’s that I have no idea what’s really going to offend a whole lot of people.
We’ve talked a lot about how there’s bad advice everywhere, and while I’m talking publishing I think we can all agree this is true of everything. We blogging agents work hard to try to dispel the bad advice as much as possible, even going so far as to politely correct other agents on Twitter and even their blogs when we feel they are giving bad advice, or advice that’s not quite in agreement with what we’re doing. It might not be bad, but we have a very different opinion from our very different experiences. Our hope is that if you hear enough good advice it won’t be long before you’re able to make your own conclusions based on all the knowledge you now have.
There’s one group of people though who I hear incorrect advice from regularly and, granted, not all of them give incorrect advice (it would be ridiculous to even think that), and certainly not everything they say is wrong. However, it’s come up on Twitter and in the comments on the blog and, more important, it’s come across my desk. When it comes to giving real-world advice on publishing I find that professors and college-level academic employees, namely those teaching publishing programs who have never themselves worked in publishing, often give advice that is so far afield or worse, so old-fashioned, I just cringe.
Let me stress, it’s not the writing advice I’m talking about, it’s the how-to-get-published advice and, frankly, even the career guidance. Many times I’ve been asked to look at the resumes of my interns and I’m always more than happy to do so. Every single time I advise them to make changes, primarily to place the focus on their work (i.e., intern) experience, I’m told that’s not the way their career departments told them to do that. Well, who’s doing the hiring here? Do you want to work in publishing or in the career placement office? I’m actually shocked by this. It feels so old school. In a time when we have so many struggling to find jobs, why would you place the focus, your education, on top of the resume unless you’re seeking a job in education? For the most part, everyone you’re competing with has a similar level of education, so it doesn’t make you stand out, not when a potential employer is looking at hundreds of resumes.
It’s not just resumes though. I’ve been amazed at the how-to-get-published advice people come up with, advice they learned in classes at school. Again, typically the query letters will stress academic background over the book and conflict with a lot of the networking, query advice many of us give on our blogs.
I don’t think anyone is doing this on purpose. In fact I know they’re not. I also don’t think any of the advice they’re giving is going to kill a career or ruin someone’s chances of getting published, but when a professor or someone with an academic background gives us advice we tend to really listen to it. I know I did. When I was in school I had a lot of amazing teachers. I looked to them for advice on everything, and if they said it I believed it must be true.
The academic world is very different from the professional world. I know this from discussions with friends working for colleges and universities. I respect everyone who works as a professor or teacher. I tried it. It’s a really difficult job and not something that just anyone can do. It’s not something I feel I can do, or do well anyway. I only wish that when giving advice on how to work in the professional world more people in the academic world would take the time to consult with those of us in the trenches to ask our advice. I know that if someone asked me how to successfully apply for a grad program or as a professor I would refer them to someone in those trenches because, frankly, I’ve never been there and don’t have a clue.
This is a very brave post and true.
Regarding everything which smacks of getting one’s life started, adjusted, and maintained my husband uses the term, “welcome to the real world”. He has, in fact, said those words so many times my daughters roll their eyes and repeat his mantra as a way of accepting, that life after academia, is ‘real’, not an imagined future.
My youngest just started her dream job, due in part, to cover letters, and a resume which emphasized the practical experience she has garnered as the lead, and with her impressive academics at the bottom. Like a query letter, hook them with the story and reel them in with the specifics.
It is always advisable to remember that school, Ivy League or Community College, is an insular existence of promise and expectation. Once out in ‘the real world’ that education is the foundation, practical experience builds the high-rise.
Your post today should be sent to every student AND every person standing in line for the job they desperately want and need.
Thanks, this was a really good post that will change some futures.
So what if you piss off a few teachers. To them I say, “welcome to the real world”, your knuckle slapping days are over.
Great post, Jessica. And so totally right. =o)
This doesn't surprise me, but is really kind of sad. You would think that a good professor or someone mentoring students in the field, would be doing research and be up on what's current, what agents and publishers want.
I suppose you can understand a college professor saying "stress your academic credentials when querying fiction." What else would they say? "Leave your academic credentials till last, or don't mention them at all–they don't really matter"? As true as the latter may be, it seems counter-intuitive for a college prof to tell students that the degree they're paying money to do won't actually give them a resume advantage. Of course, my response would be that the focus of a college course should be on the art and mechanics of writing, not how to get an agent. However, I do have this strange belief that every higher education endeavor should be done in order to learn more about something you love, not just for some letters and a piece of paper that claims you're educated so you can get a job. But I'm weird like that. 🙂
This was a great post Jessica. Thanks!
Kudos on the great post! As an elementary school teacher, no amount of college training actually prepared me for the realities of my job.
Since I won't be financially able to return to school for a degree in writing, I am eternally grateful for blogging agents like you. I feel like I'm still getting a great education simply by practicing what the agents preach.
I don't think professors are trying to lead anyone astray. From their perspective, education is the most important thing.
In my previous life in the normal workforce (well, actually the computer nerd workforce), the combination of education and experience was everything. But the experience comes first on the resume. Otherwise, the person reading it may not keep reading.
For whatever it's worth, I remember my professors telling me that it had been a long time since they'd had to get an agent, so their insight might have been out of date. I suppose not every teacher is going to be that aware.
That said, one of my biggest disappointments with my program — well, one of only two, because my program was wonderful — was that we didn't get very much practical advice or training. It was ALL about the writing, and that's important, but for those of us who actually ARE pursuing writing as a career, there's a whole business side we never learned. I've spent the years since graduating trying to become more familiar with the industry, and I wish I'd been given some of that training/info when I was still in school.
In the writing world, I'm on the author side, but in my day job I do a fair bit of hiring and know what you say is true. People are told 'this should be this way' and they trust it, when in reality, what I need is for the information I'm looking for to leap at me. I'm sure in your case that is THE PITCH (voice and story), the genre, the length… and the other stuff is icing.
I ALSO see a lot of academics who think we all need MFAs, when my blog cruising (agents and writers) suggests this isn't the case at all–not that that isn't a legitimate route, but I think if we all had MFAs we'd all write a lot more 'like each other' than we do with our more varied backgrounds… and the variety is GOOD because readers aren't all alike.
Even if somebody had brilliant advice on how to get published, say, four years ago… doesn't follow that it would be applicable today.
When I pick up a book, read an article or a blog, I don't CARE what the author's credentials are. If non-fiction, can s/he write clearly and in an interesting manner? If fiction, can s/he tell a story and make me care about the characters?
The best credentials in the world don't impress me if you can't do the job – whether that job is telling a story or filing.
I work for a private college – though not as a professor – so I run into instructors and students and graduates on a daily basis. Even given all that, our department hesitates to hire anyone who only has a diploma and no work experience.
But of course, that doesn't stop graduates from insisting they're the best people for the job, because a piece of paper says so.
Then again, from a professor's point of view, that's how acedemic works are published, and I think a lot of people have a hard time recognizing that there's more than one kind of publishing. Oh, and no one wants their graduates being told their education isn't worth that $40k+ they're about to spend the rest of their lives paying off in student loans.
Or in other words, I see exactly where you're coming from.
Thank you. Yes. This: The academic world is very different from the professional world. This is true in so many areas–this is why (as an overly rational person working in academia) I encourage students to get out in the "real" world as much as possible for experience, for resume builders, to learn how things really work so their life post-graduation isn't a complete shock. Because the ivory tower is, while an important bastion of intellect and learning, most definitely not the real world at all. (I could digress about how it's a crying shame that most professors have never actually been in the deep waters of the real world, having gone straight through undergrad and graduate programs and into faculty roles. Those faculty who do have outside-academic experience are, IMO, leaps and bound ahead of those who haven't in terms of helping the student population acheive their goals.) So, yes. Students–your professors are brilliant people. But their opinion is only one of many, and though many profs may believe to be, or purport to be, experts in everything, they're not.
I was very lucky in college because most of the profs in the En department were published authors, or they were trying to be published authors. It was also an urban environment, close to New York, and a lot of my profs lived in Manhattan. So I usually received excellent advice.
But I do know what you're saying is very true. I've seen it myself and I've been stunned by the bad publishing advice some teachers will give their students.
Hey now…just as all agents aren't the same, and all publishers aren't the same, so too all educational institutions aren't the same. You speak of "traditional" education–the generally insular world, indeed, where lofty academic pursuits have no time or interest in the realities outside the walls. I'm a dean, though, at a career college, where life is different. We ONLY hire teachers with real world experience, sometimes (as rarely as possible, but it does happen) sacrificing the requirement for academic credentials along the way. Our career services director was hired directly from the world of human resources, and he gets most of his advice directly from the mouths of employers.
All that said, I haven't seen any career colleges offering programs leading in to the publishing industry, mostly because we aim to only offer education in fields for which there is direct evidence of plentiful high-paying jobs, and–well, last night, when I mentioned high-paying and writing in the same breath at my James River Writers group, it brought many sardonic chuckles. Thus, you're not likely to see any of our graduates lining your halls looking to get in as an intern.
Your brush, then, painted correctly, but I felt the stroke was somewhat too wide.
Great post, and from where I stand (as an ex-academic, myself) it is RIGHT on the money. When I got my MFA some years ago, there was NO talk whatsoever of query letters or agents. There was not even a Career Planning Office available for us. The closest thing we got to it, was a panel of faculty members talking about all the weird and crappy jobs they'd held before they got a teaching position. So I was taught to try for teaching, because clearly writing wasn't actually a *job*, its not something you "do", it's something you "are". And while that's true, in its own way, writing is also something you do. It's a verb. Maybe more MFA programs these days are more helpful in this regard. Or maybe I just went to a low-level program. Either way, it has been a real challenge for me in my writing career. Thanks for bringing it up.
YES! Yesyesyesyesyes! *see me pumping my fist in the air*
I would add something you didn't touch upon: academic snobbery. Dear Professor, not everyone writes "literature." And there's nothing WRONG with writing genre. I LIKE genre. I READ genre. I also happen to write it.
At a recent academic gathering, I overheard a professor disparaging "hack writers of pulp." Really? Seriously? Dude, if you write like you talk, no wonder you haven't sold your 200,000 word self-described "Great American Novel" set in post-Cold War Russia which you just described as The Brothers Karazamov court Daisy Miller. Wait…what? I think my brain just exploded.
P.S. I won't expound on what he had to say about editors and agents, but it makes me wonder if he wasn't the one who prompted your "Publishing Logic 101" post of several days ago!
I guess it's all about where to put the focus. Like with a mapquest map you can go wide, find your freeways and exits. Then you can zoom in and narrow your search, you can zoom tighter and find the actual street address.
With job applications, query letters, etc. you already know how you got here. So go tight first, focus on why you're the best applicant. Give the most pertinent info first then time or space permitting zoom out a bit.
***All this zooming makes me want to take a car trip. ***
HA! I've actually blogged about this before. I work (for a publisher) right down the street from Emerson, which has a masters in publishing program. People at my company will often earn their degree in the program to further their careers and I end up meeting their younger counterparts who take it to further their writing careers (rather than a more traditional MFA program) because they feel the information is more relevant to the business aspect of the industry.
They then relate to me said information and I spend the rest of the evening explaining to them why everything they just told me is wrong. I often have flashbacks to the bar scene in Good Will Hunting.
Frequent selections are "fiction novel" (I always wondered how this continued to be used), placing education at the top of the resume, that agents will request to read manuscripts if they see the author has a post-graduate degree, the horrifying "who you know is more important than your writing" (though I think that one is self-propagated among the students). It goes on and on.
I started giving them names of agents who frequently blog like you and Kristen and Janet, saying, go read these blogs. Your career will be much better for it.
I was in the Iowa Writer's Workshop when we were told that having a class about publishing your work would be "irrelevent." ::omg::
I am a much published author with teaching experience who looked into the idea of applying (in the UK) to become a lecturer of Creative Writing. I gave up because despite the experience (and some pretty good qualifictions) I didn't have a doctorate or a record of research in a literary topic. They seemed to me to a bit odd for writing (although perhaps excusable). What really put me off the idea, however, were the number of academics teaching creative writing whose entire published output consisted of a couple of poems in the college magazine (which they had edited). How can people like that, no matter how good their academic qualifications, teach about the practicalities of writing and getting published? It's insane and it is short changing the students.
Great post. I've met a couple of writers with MFAs, and I was shocked to find myself explaining the basics of querying and agent search to both. Neither one had the first clue about the publishing process. One seemed to think that just because he had an MFA, his novel would be snapped up instantly. When it wasn't, of course it was the agents who failed to realize his brilliance.
Jessica, you aree right. Aspiring authors should listen to literary agents, editors and publishers, not to their professors.
Maybe you and other literary agents can visit universities and tell the students about the real life.
I'm a recovering academic and I use my many English professor friends as beta readers on my fiction. It's lovely when they say, "this is great! You'll be published right away with something like this!" but I know they are wrong.
They have no clue about commercial publishing and commercial publishing has no clue about academic writing/publishing. I am lucky that while being an academic myself, my father has had a long career in commercial publishing so I am at least aware of the differences and know what I need to learn to move from one to the other.
The resume thing about education though–no one ever told me that! And thought many of my jobs have been in teaching and academia, I have applied for many that aren't. Just that little tip is a great help, thanks!
P.S. I refer to academic English lit programs. I know nothing of creative writing and FA programs.
When I was in college, a professor, in a private meeting, told me I "couldn't write my way out of a paper bag."
As an 18-year old, I believed him. It put the brakes on my writing aspirations for many years. It actually affected my entire life. Now, at age 63, I finally have submitted a book for consideration.
All those years lost because of the opinion of one person – a trusted professor.
Excellent post, Ms. Jessica.
Students everywhere should know that college professors, especially unpublished ones, are NOT a good source of information about publishing.
ALWAYS GET A SECOND OPINION!!
ALWAYS CONSULT WITH SOMEONE ACTUALLY WORKING IN YOUR FIELD OF CHOICE – whatever that may be!
Caveat: I am in the query stage. So what do I know?
But what I've picked up is that a query or pitch is an attempt to sell your book. A novel is a story, and due to the vagaries and idiosyncrasies of that market, nearly anyone can try to get a book published. Even amateurs. Even first-time hopefuls. Even ME.
But since you're trying to sell your book, you should do everything you can to sell, which means do what the gatekeepers want and need.
IIRC, agents get somewhere around 1000 requests/queries a month. They're not looking for a new best friend. They're not looking for a charming coot who'll send them wry, reflective Twitter posts. They're looking to find a book they can sell to a publisher.
A novel is the attempt to tell a story, and anyone can try to do it. There isn't a bar of "Well, we only accept novels from academics." The bar is (IMO), "We only accept a MS if it sounds interesting and sellable."
Maybe there is a class of people who would be excluded from consideration because of their credentials (I can't think of any off-hand), and maybe there is a class of people who should be considered because of their hook ("I'm Snooki and someone helped me write a book which also includes its own set of crayons."), it's my sturdy opinion that the credentials you need foremost are a well-written pitch, a well-researched understanding of the agent and the business, and a well-written book.
Everything else is, in my opinion, interesting for your friends to know but fairly useless for an agent who is considering pitching your book to a publisher.
Feel free to correct me, and I would appreciate hearing the other side of the argument, but please understand that to me it's a fairly pragmatic argument: what really works.
A great post, and it makes a lot of sense, and is (perhaps sadly) rather true.
As an academic, I have to say that in MFA programs, it maybe possible that discussions of getting fiction published are "irrelevant." Most MFA programs (there are a few exceptions) teach students to write "literary" novels. The market for those novels is very and specific (arguably male dominated), and often many people make connections in that world through the MFA programs. (Short story anthologies are put out by other schools where the profs know each other, etc. and so connections can be made that way.) For these people publication itself may be irrelevant. They write for the sake of the art. Now, one can debate whether that's a great position, but it is a viable one. They aren't earning a living off their royalties, most of them.
That said, as an English lit prof (not a creative writing prof), I've had students come to me, rather than to the creative writing teachers because I write and am trying to publish genre fiction. I can tell them, to a point, how the world works right now, and, even better, how to educate themselves about it.
As a Medievalist, I teach Chaucer and Shakespeare. Both pop/genre writers of their day. I think the distinction that's being made between "literary" and "genre" is sad, ridiculous, and relatively (post 1900 or so) new. Good writing is good writing. But that's a different conversation. I just couldn't resist saying it. 🙂
Of course professors would tell students to list their education before their work experience. For a professor, who works at a college, that IS their work.
Best advice I had from my college career counselor was to put my education after my work experience. I graduated 29 years ago and I still put education after my work experience when I create my resume.
Great post today Jessica!!!
This whole line of comments makes me immensely thankful for my MFA program, where no one is encouraged to write like anyone else, genre fiction is never discouraged, and the last day of every residency is focused on publication by bringing in agents, editors, and publishers to talk to us.
That said, I am glad I knew the ins and outs of the process before I went in. Having published a book (rather than short stories in lit mags) has given me an education a college can't.
I have too many degrees to count, one of them is in English with a creative writing emphasis, not a MFA. I want to work in academia and specifically as a creative writing teacher, what degree do I need? Yup, the MFA. I have self-published six of my YA novels with another one picked up by a small publisher and one is considering another. I have a murder mystery coming soon from a small press and just had a romance published by another small press. I believe that anyone can learn the technical skills of writing and, in fact, should learn them. However, not everyone needs or wants a degree and do you need one to succeed as a writer? No. And are some professors giving their students wrong advice? Sure, but, not all of them. Does that mean students shouldn't do degree programs? No. But, go into them with your eyes wide open and don't expect that ANY degree will get you your dream agent.
We pay so much in money and time for the education that we NEED it to matter. I have a degree in counseling and worked as a social worker. But I have to admit, what made me successful I learned before I even hit kindergarten. My mom always said, 'treat others as you'd want to be treated and don't judge'. That advice was key…but honestly, the diploma looks much more impressive in the frame.
Thanks for all the logic in your posts.
Thank you for posting this. It takes someone being brave and bringing it to the table to start real discussion and change things.
As someone who has worked in education for a number of years, my education is important; however, we all know that one can earn a degree and not be at the top of their class. The proof is in the pudding…or in this case, between the pages of the book.
I've been saying this for years.
My college experience was film. Screenwriting and directing. Which I'd argue is even more to the point of this topic.
I had great, influential, and Oscar winning teachers.
But only a few of them were actually currently working in the industry. None of them could help me get a job once I graduated.
Most of them ~~I~~ knew more about film than they did. And I didn't know shit.
I seriously question the value of 1/4 million dollar educations that waste 4 years of your time over the kids who out of high school, know what they want to do — and "learn" their craft by actually doing it.
Not to mention they are generally 4 years ahead of the college crowd.
What happened to the notion of the apprenticeship in this country?
I find in many cases, professions, I learn more from working in a given profession than being told to read books about it.
I found this linked over at Janet Reid's blog and I just have to add my two cents worth.
I think you're so correct. My sophomore year, I was given and followed some really bad career advice from the career office. The guy meant well, but he didn't know anything about what it's really like for a college grad after college. So many people have a bachelors degrees these days and communities with colleges get an influx of highly educated with little practical experience adults ready for the workforce. So in that respect a bachelors degree matters much less, than what you've done with it.
There is a real sense of arrogance to many of these replies, the "I know better than my teachers" arrogance that permeates the social consciousness, the notion that someone who has chosen to teach doesn't have an opinion or a clue worth following.
It seems, though, we are all told through our childhood and young adult years that nothing is more important than education, only to be immediately told upon the completion of said education that it was all for nothing and those doing the teaching are isolated know-it-alls who haven't set foot in the real world. It's this astounding notion that allows society to point at those who have taken great pains to educate themselves and say, "Ha! That person speaks like some college professor!" As though it's now an INSULT to call someone educated and well-spoken, as though it's some badge of SHAME to have achieved academic success.
You know something funny about professionals, successful professionals? Many of them can't teach a lick. So leave the teaching to the teachers. It's probably the hardest job in the world. Much harder than sending out a dozen query letters and calling yourself a writer. I should know; I've done both.
I physically had to restrain myself from dancing all over the living room when I read this post, it made me so happy!
When I worked in publicity at Random House and later as an agent, I was forever trying to pound this into people's heads.
I hired publicity assistants base on pretty every single criteria EXCEPT where they went to school. I certainly didn't care how much formal education a person did or didn't have. I was more likely to be interested in the kind of job they held to PUT themselves through college. Also if I saw no job experience at all, I usually dismissed the candidate.
A part-time job in high-school? A stint at McDonalds? A volunteer gig at a local hospital or animal shelter? All these things matter more than formal education. They prove a candidate has a work ethic.
This is pretty much the structure of any interview I gave:
I wanted to know: Do you love books? Talk to me about the last five books you've read. Can you write a pitch letter? Show me samples of your writing, both personal writing and professional. Name five books on the current New York Times bestseller list. Now name five recent RANDOM HOUSE books that have been published. Why do you want to work in publishing? Can you lift a 50-lb box? (Some galley boxes weigh that much.)
Then I would make them go a practice pitch call in front of me to follow up with a reviewer, and I'd send them home with a copy of one of our books and ask for a sample press release or pitch letter by the end of the week.
I never asked about education, and when they would start to talk about their education, I changed the subject.
It isn't that I think education doesn't matter. It does. It's simply not relevant to most jobs in publishing.
Jessica, you are so dead-on with this post that it's scary that you'd think others might disagree with you on it.
The only thing that made my English degree the least bit useful to me later on was one writing professor who was actually a professional writer. He made us write (crazy, I know). He made us submit short fiction to magazines and novels to agents. He brought in pro editors and writers as guest lecturers. We got to know how publishing worked. We collected rejection slips, natch, but I also sold my first few short stories two years before I graduated. I wouldn't have done that without his guidance. And he was considered a maverick at the school.
The other classes in my major? Well, I read a lot of really good books. Wrote some papers. And was never once encouraged by any other professor to pursue writing as a career. They were all traditional academics who I suspect didn't get out much.
Flash forward 20 years. I now work at a major publisher, have more than 500 magazine bylines, 17 novels, and 8 nonfiction books on my resume, as well as more than 10 years as a senior-level editor at one of the biggest magazine/book brands in the world. None of this happens without that other professor's teaching style.
So that's my thing: If your profs aren't teaching you how publishing works, aren't pushing you to produce lots of finished stories and novels, aren't forcing you to submit them to editors and agents, then you aren't learning anything that will help you once you graduate.
We work with new interns every 6 months here. And if I had any advice for someone in college right now: Internships, internships, internships. Magazine and book publishers need people who know how to write, report, cook up great ideas, generate eye-catching headlines/titles, etc. They need content providers who don't need their hands held. You can't get to that point at age 22 unless you're working in a real office with real publishing people.
If you really want to work in publishing or have a writing career, that shouldn't scare you, or frustrate you. That should excite the hell out of you. Learn to produce great material in a timely manner and don't let it sit in a drawer. Next thing you know, you're a working writer!
I find that the 'education first' mindset is pretty much wrong in most fields. Like you mentioned, most people applying for that job will have a similar education. So what's so great about you?
I had been asked to review a resume of a friend and made similar comments, but she just wouldn't have it – because that's how she was taught (years ago) in school.
I like Tom's response, too. Sometimes it gets insular. The trade we want to be in (publishing) doesn't have a requirement other than "you must have a compelling book." (I'm assuming that a non-fiction book has credential requirements, of course.)
The academic world isn't wrong or useless per se. Sometimes it seems as if it lives in its own world. But it wouldn't exist if it didn't find the information that is taught to students.
In the field I hire in, there are those with degrees in the exact field, and there are those with parallel or similar degrees. I haven't seen much from the ones with degrees that say "you are exceptionally more qualified," because what we actually do never seems to line up with degrees and experience. We do stuff our own way, and we look for people who we think can be taught to do what we need given the skills and training they've had.
I go back and forth on the degree thing. I think a BA is a preliminary degree to get you into the first circle. But sometimes the degree itself doesn't get you into the job you want. It's a way to get into a job that's similar to what you want, and gradually you get the experience you need to get the job you want.
Word verification: prelied. I kid you not.
As one without a degree, and with a professional career in finance, I agree with your post, Jessica. Experience is vital, especially as things constantly evolve. What we are taught may not always be what we will need in the future, and this is very true in the publishing world.
I was on a panel once with three young Masters of Fine Arts grads. One of them pointed out that an MFA was vital to being a writer, because with it, you could get published and after enough publications you could achieve the ultimate goal of lecturing at universities.
I commented that I had just learned my entire career was a fraud.My columns and feature articles had brought me over 700 publication credits, at the time I was promoting my fourth book (I'm about to launch my eighth), I lectured at numerous colleges and universities, as well as writer's conferences and festivals in Canada and the United States, but I did not have an MFA.
You can imagine the look of distain I got from the MFA's!
Bottom line? The tearing down of others in order to prop yourself up is counterproductive and unhealthy, for the individual and for society. There's no one "right" or "wrong" way to find success in publishing.
The problem is that so many professors and teachers are book smart but not street smart. Not to say that all of them are this way, but many, many of them are.
And maybe they didn't start that way, but after years mired in acedemia, you start to see some really scary stuff about the way they think of the world.
It's not wrong to take their advice – just think of them more as guidelines than actual rules. 😉