Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Ok, so I was rude

Yea, I confess. I was really rude to an author tonight.
Yes, I know better.
Yes, I should have better manners.
Yes, I'm probably going to straight to hell in this handbasket thing that just came Federal Express from some guy named Luc StNoir.

Here's my side of the story. (There's probably another one, but this is my blog, my version)

I went to an event that was chockablock full of authors tonight. Normally I fly very much under the radar at these things. No name badge, certainly no introducing myself with my full name or with the company name. I never say what I do. If anyone asks I say "sales" and hope they think it's a fancy way of saying taxi dancer at a waterfront dive bar.

Sometimes my cover gets blown. Tonight was one of those nights. I didn't make a big deal of it, just steered the conversation to something safe like the presidential election or why it should be legal to serve cat meat in a restaurant.

My luck ran out at the end of the event. 100 people were headed toward the exit, as I was, and I got buttonholed by an author. "Do you represent cozies?" she asked. I responded that I represented all kinds of crime fiction. "Are cozies considered crime fiction?" came next.

Now, it's 9pm, I'm trying to leave to get home and do four more hours of work, and my temper slipped a bit. "Cozies have always been considered crime fiction," I said in my most forbidding tone, one that is supposed to convey "and that's the last word we'll have on this subject."

Then it happened. The next words out of her mouth were "my book is about" and that is where I surrendered the last vestige of good manners, proper upbringing and bought my one way ticket to hell. I said "don't tell me about your book."

Could I have said any one of ten thousand other things? Yes. I could have said "I'm sorry but I can't hear you." I could have feigned a choking fit. I could have channelled Rita Rosenkranz the most polite and gracious agent in the world.

I didn't. I said "don't tell me about your book."

There may be some redemption for me in that I did remember to say "you can send me a query letter and I'll read it" but basically I told her to take a hike.

I'm not proud of this, and I'm probably going to try hard not to do it again. On the subway home, I figured out how I will avoid this in the future.

It turns out some clients of mine own children. Very cute ones in fact. I've met two and they were quite charming. Other clients have children they have not shown me yet (probably a well developed sense of protecting their kids accounts for this oversight.)

Here's my plan. I'm going to get an array of photos of these CCC (Cute Client Children) and the next time someone says "can I tell you about my book" I'm going say "sure, absolutely, but first let me show you pictures of these great kids." I figure 50 pictures should do it. If by some horrid chance there aren't 50 children, I'll start collecting pictures of dogs, cats...and goats.

yup, that's the plan! I'll let you know how it goes.

And in case anyone reading this gets the wrong idea, this event was not a writing conference or workshop. It was not an event designed for authors to meet agents. I wouldn't have said that at a writing conference or one of those events.

And if you're reading this and wondering how to avoid being the person who has to look at all those pictures here's the drill:

If you meet an agent at a social event you do not initiate talk about your book. If s/he asks, you can respond, but you do not initiate that conversation.

Agents are on the lookout for good books, but generally we watch for them in our incoming queries, not in hurried conversations in a throng of people.

Have I initiated interest in books at gatherings like these? You bet. It's ALWAYS after a conversation that covered a topic of interest to me, and the author mentioned their book was on that subject. The author did not say "would you like to read it." I said "I'd love to read it."

See the difference?
Social contact with agents can be effective if you don't fling yourself at us.

38 comments:

Libby Loo said...

I think it's sort of the same as approaching a doctor at a dinner party and asking her to "take a look at this rash I have," or bitching about every ticket you've ever gotten to a cop when he's trying to enjoy his kid's soccer game.

There is a time and a place for everything and some people just aren't in sync.

Tricia Sanders said...

You'd think it would just be common sense. I mean if you saw your doctor in a social setting would you run up and say, "Doc, I have this pain. I seem to be running a slight temperature."

My husband is a cop, and we live outside the city where he works, but we still have neighbors call once in a while, if they hear a noise outside their window. Uh, hello. Tell your husband to walk his scrawny butt outside and see what's making the noise. Mine is off duty.

There you go. Maybe you need an off-duty sign you could slap on your back.

pjd said...

So if we meet you in a social setting, can we ask to see the goat pictures?

Vicki Pettersson said...

I just took Easter pics of my kid.
I'll send 'em to you.

Warning: The KId is so friggin' cute it'll probably incite conversation.

Mags said...

Don't worry- I'm sure she's blogging about it as we speak!

Lee said...

First of all, I'm in business myself and I reserve the right to choose what measures I will take to make money. If you don't want to talk to an author about a book, then queries be damned, that's your choice.

Also, I have four beautiful kids myself and will gladly send you multiple pictures of all of them for the low, low price of one query critique ;)

Loretta Ross said...

This sort of thing happens in any job, I'm afraid. When I was working as a fast food manager I'd go into the grocery store on my day off and people working there would come up to me going, "that old woman on the drive through was really rude to me last week!"

I have no kids but I have 36 nieces and nephews and I lost count of the greats and great-greats a long time ago. You want kid pictures, I can set you up!

pete said...

Ms. Reid,

An interruptive "sorry, I'm a bit gassy" is a reliable means of conversational extrication. If you are unable to get in a word, wave your hand behind you like a tail and offer you best apologetic 'incoming' smile. A proven technique used on hundreds of bad, bad dates and one client meeting. Each time the conversation ended promptly and politely, my guest would leave, yet I never smelled a thing.

Best regards,

Pete

December/Stacia said...

Pictures of the kids is a great idea, actually. Very funny.

I too have beautiful children, and would be happy to donate their photos to the cause.

Aimless Writer said...

I'm afraid you're going to be flooded with cute kid pics now. lol
I think it would have been better manners for the writer to ask if you had time for a pitch or simply say, "Great, I'd love to send you a query. Do you prefer email or snail?"
I think its rude to just come up to an agent and pitch. Its like assuming you are never off work.
I think you might have come off as a little impatient but I think its understandable.
I use to work in dentistry. You would not believe the people who wanted to talk about their teeth. Ewwww. After a while I used to tell people I was just a bum.
Don't worry, you're not going to hell.

Paige said...

Au contraire -- you were not rude. In fact, you gifted this writer with an opportunity. She has been invited to write you a query. And when it begins with an apology for her faux pas (wow, what's with the French?), you'll remember who she was, and hopefully she'll take that opportunity and write the most amazing query ever. Hint to writer: use this to your advantage.

Bill Cameron said...

I'll be sure to include a pic or two of Jessica next time I mail you something. Already wallet size! Or will you just put them on your iPhone?

I-hate-picking-a-name said...

So I completely missed the StNoir reference ... and being caffeine-deprived, I wondered if maybe he was a designer, or some popular fictional character I didn't know about.

I wouldn't admit this in cyberspace if the Google hit hadn't made me laugh so hard.

He really makes handbaskets?

http://www.dailyinquisitor.com//hunter/jean.htm

Sean Ferrell said...

This post sounds suspiciously like a "I'm only human" story, but that can't possibly be the case. Right? Right?!

Amie Stuart said...

I have teenaged BOYS! Not only will I send you pics, I'll send you them! They are cute, funny ( I live with Chris Rock and Adam Sandler no joke), and fabulous at interrupting folks at the worst time possible--great for social situations like the one you described above *ggg*

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

This is when it's very helpful to have a companion with you. As you drop to the floor, feigning a heart attack, the companion cradles you, sobbing, "Oh, why?! Oh, why did this have to happen to her?! Take me, Lord! Take me instead!" And then point in aggitation to the eager writer, "Go get a priest!"

It takes some rehearsal. When she is off running for Father O'Malley, you can recover. Pretend to cough up a chicken bone or something, just in case people are still looking.

Janet Reid said...

Right Sean. Quite right.

Susan Adrian said...

There you go, ruining my keyboard again.

{mopping up coffee}

P.S. Only one cute kid, but she's a doozy.

Chris Marshall said...

I think it was fine for you to cut her short. Someone who starts telling you about their book without even asking permission probably needs to be shaken a little. She obviously hasn't started doing the research she needs to be doing in order to make contact with an agent. It's sad, but you had every right to assert your boundaries in that manner. Just my opinion.

Josephine Damian said...

"Are cozies considered crime fiction?"

The fact that they even ask such a question is reason enough to
pre-reject them! (Oooh, good phrase! "Pre-reject" I think I'll use it more often).

Janet, you're much better raised than I am because I'd have dropped the "F" bomb on that pushy nit-wit's head.

Pete: Good one about being "gassy." I'll have to try it the next time I feel like letting loose an "F" bomb.

Ryan Field said...

Well, I don't do mystery.I thought a cozie was something old ladies put over their tea pots. So I googled it, and then I also found out what a koozie is, too.

But the woman was wrong, and I don't even think they'll keep you in purgatory very long for this.

Belvoir said...

"It turns out some clients of mine own children..."

Thanks for the hearty chuckle there..

M. G. Tarquini said...

I've met two and they were quite charming.

Amazing what a couple of stern threats and a well-placed bribe can accomplish, huh?

Eric said...

Rude? Hell, this is the publishing biz. She's lucky you didn't bitch slap her upside the head. To paraphrase Chairman Mao: "Publishing is not a dinner party."

Well, not always at any rate.

Heidi said...

You're not wrong. Or impolite.

But if you think a stack of cute children photos is going to deter a wanna-be-published author, you have seriously underestimated the determination and desperation of some authors.

Sometime a little rudeness is called for. Not that you were. But sometimes it's necessary.

Brigid said...

Oh, wait. You're human?

When did this happen?

A Novel Woman said...

Having rescued my dentist-husband numerous times from dinner party encounters with inebriates who thought it entirely appropriate to throw their heads back, jam their fingers in their mouths and ask his opinion about the current state of their gums as the rest of us sipped our soup, believe me when I tell you I understand.

A friend of ours developed this neat trick. He'd reached a stage in life when he just didn't give a fig what other people thought of him. So he went prepared to every party he attended. When someone inevitably pulled that trick, he'd nod and wait quietly until they finished (i.e. pulled their fingers from their mouths) then he'd reach into his pocket and hand them a bill with his "consultation fee" and address. Then he'd walk away without a backward glance, leaving the interloper bewildered and the rest of us in stitches.

Come on. You know you want to.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Bill E. Goat (to strangely virile and really horned – notice I did NOT say horny – Goat): I want you to meet my cousin. She’s the Queen of Goats, and she’s a pixie princess!

Me: We’re cousins? I don’t think …

Bill: All pixies and goats are cousins …

Big Ole Goat: You’re Queen of Goats? I always wanted to meet your Majesty. Can we go somewhere private for a chat? I have tons of questions about the propriety of ….

Me: I’m not a pixie. I’m not a cousin to any goat, especially him. And I think I have an appointment with a dentist ….

Bill: Pixies are such liars …. She’s the queen, all right. … So, what was it you wanted to ask her?

Big: I want an invasion. We used to graze freely in Manhattan. Our rights have been usurped! We should mount an …

Me: a doe?

Bill: invasion?

Big (looking at Bill): Exactly …

Me: Why don’t you two boys butt heads about this. I have an urgent phone call coming right about now. (Stealthily pushes “ring test” on cell phone) See? … I gotta take this in private.

(Leaning over and whispering in Bill’s ear) Pixie vengeance is a terrible thing. You’re about to find out just how terrible!

Lorra said...

You should have told her that you only accept unsolicited submissions when they're slipped under the door in the ladies room. That way you know they're serious about wanting to get published.

The Anti-Wife said...

I'll send picture of my dogs - even the dead ones. Talking about your dead dogs is a real conversation stopper especially if you can fake a tear or two.

pat said...

I'm sorry.

Julie Weathers said...

Janet;

As others have said, you have a right to be off duty. If you wanted to be approached as an agent, I'm fairly sure you know how to put on a name badge. I don't think I would approach an agent at a conference under those circumstances. It was late at night and you were leaving.

I'll be happy to add to your picture collection. I have a nice variety, including kids, horses, ponies, dogs, cats, chickens, pet pigs, goats and gnomes. Several of the gnome pictures are with a group of bikers. Just tell aspiring author the bikers are your friends and make your escape.

Chumplet said...

After a couple of years, the writer will be confident enough in her abilities to NOT chase after agents and editors and launch into a pitch uninvited.

Until then, she'll wonder why agents will respond with a glassy stare or an invitation to critique their etchings (which they will whip out of their pockets in handy postcard size).

Just_Me said...

Janet~
If I send you pictures of cute kids and my pet yellow tang for your collection will you consider repping sci-fi?
Still no?
Sigh....

Picks By Pat said...

You mean it's NOT legal to serve cat meat in a restaurant?

Uh oh. I gotta call my uncle (he's a chef). He may want to hear this...

ChristineEldin said...

HAHAHAHAA!!
And also LOL at PJD's comment.

If pictures aren't enough, you should bring actual children. You can have mine. They never cover their mouths when sneezing, they scratch their butts, they make bad noises and they smell bad.

pjd said...

They never cover their mouths when sneezing, they scratch their butts, they make bad noises and they smell bad.

Chris, are you sure those aren't the goats?

Maya Reynolds said...

"just steered the conversation to something safe like . . .why it should be legal to serve cat meat in a restaurant."

Despite the above comment, I'm Fed-Exing you copies of my insanely adorable cat, Bob. Also, in view of the above, I'm offering his nickname, not his legal name-- Shish-ka-bob.