Saturday, July 05, 2008

Floor Swallowing Lunch, part 3

From the comments column:


I have enough faith in Moonrat's opinion that if she was willing to take this guy to lunch that he's probably good enough that he's going to find a deal elsewhere.

Maybe he felt that "life's too short" to go with someone less experienced. He probably spend a few years of his life writing this book and why should he go with the first person that shows interest?

The attitude that authors should be forever grateful to any agent or editor that shows them the slight bit of attention is disheartening.This post mocks the author and calls him names, which is far more disrespectful than anything he did to Moonrat (which was, as far as I can gather, merely asking her boss to read his work).

Well, here I thought I was preaching to the choir about how not to do things. Clearly this reader/commenter has missed the point.

No one asked the author to be forever grateful.
No one called the author names other than author/prospective author. (I re-read the post to make sure)

And just asking the publisher to read material on submission as though it's no big deal demonstrates a completely naive mindset about how this industry works.

Let me be clear: I've never asked an editor if the publisher has read a novel I've SOLD to them let alone one that is on submission without an offer. NEVER.

I have confidence that if a publisher needs to read something before there's an offer or expression of interest, the editor knows this and will tell me about it.

This was a get to know you lunch. It was not an offer on the table, let's hammer out a deal lunch. This wasn't a I'm offering on this book, I want to woo you lunch. This was a you've got a good idea, and here are the things that need to change before I can take it to ed board lunch. If the author doesn't think those changes are the right direction, the only correct response is thank you for lunch, how about them Yankees.

Let me be extra clear: This author behaved in a way that lost him the interest of the editor, and most likely put his agent on red alert for future editorial interactions.

Authors should be treated with respect. That's a given.
You know what? Editors should be too.

41 comments:

JL Riffe said...

I think the important thing to take from all this is to listen to your agent. She/He is your guide through the wilderness. So lest you become an unmarked grave in the trackless waste unpublished hopefuls, follow your agent's cues

Katie Alender said...

A few years ago, I worked at a TV network, which in a way was a lot like being an editor. You have a lot of decision-making clout but not much money and very little acknowledgment (nobody knows who you are, even if they're obsessed with the shows you're responsible for).

People constantly thought we were being snotty or snooty or exclusive when we declined to take a pitch meeting based on a two-sentence phone pitch. Or when we asked THEM to make the copies of scripts instead of doing it ourselves.

What they don't realize is that while they are focusing all of their attention on one or two projects, we were dealing with twenty suppliers just like them. At any given time, we had 15 projects in active rotation, and for every snippy supplier who wanted to know why I didn't have time to run 30 copies of their 120-page script, there were three who did all that we requested (and more) without a hint of a whine or protest.

Yes, authors deserve to be treated with respect--and from what I read, the guy was treated with quite a bit of it.

What gets me is that he was perfectly willing to work with Moonrat when she devoted her time and attention to suggesting revisions. It was only after she had invested herself in the project that he decided she wasn't good enough.

At some level, structure and protocol exist because they're the only way busy people can get anything done at all. Elevating yourself above protocol essentially means you're suggesting that you're far more important than everyone else.

Katie Alender said...

(For clarity's sake, let me say I was an assistant, not an executive.)

Josephine Damian said...

Agent Janet: Re: the get-to-know-you lunch, what if the writer lives far away (like me) and (like me) can't afford the time and money to fly to NY for a sit-down with a potential publisher? Could this conversation take place on the phone? Or conference call with agent? Or webcast with a web camera gizmo? Instant message?

Or does the publisher really need to size up the author face-to-face before they make an offer?

Just curious.

Having lived in the NYC area for 30 yrs. I'm just not gonna go ape-shit over the idea of flying in for a big-city, dress-up lunch invite.

Janet Reid said...

I've sold books for clients I've never met, let alone never taken to lunch in NYC.

These lunches are not requirements.

Most editor/author contact is phone and email. IF the author comes to NYC, sure we set something up, or if the editor or agent is heading out to the authorial hinterlands we do our best to set up a chat.

But it's not a requirement to do a deal at all.

Linda Adams said...

Yikes! If an author got to the point of talking to an editor, that means that author earned it by good writing and good story--and blew it by bad attitude and celebrity-itis. Like the actor who gets a big role and suddenly thinks he's too good for the rest of the world.

It's not just about the book, but also the business relationship. It was his to own and his to blow.

#1 Dinosaur said...

Well color me impressed. Along with Josephine, I thought the you've got a good idea, and here are the things that need to change before I can take it to ed board interaction was more often conducted over email or phone rather than warranting a fancy lunch. I know for a fact that one can obtain an offer without ever meeting anyone face-to-face. Ain't the internet grand!

Julie Weathers said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Julie Weathers said...

I'm probably one of the few with a certain problem regarding this entire incident.

They were 3/4 through the lunch and the author was very excited with all the suggestions. It wasn't that he didn't want to change or he felt the deal wasn't right. I don't think they had even discussed deal. The problem was he was far too important to deal with anyone other than the "Boss."

He likes the ideas, but he's too special to deal with an underling. I also get the impression he felt a "man" would identify more with him and his work.

"Maybe he felt that "life's too short" to go with someone less experienced. He probably spend a few years of his life writing this book and why should he go with the first person that shows interest?"

If this were the case, why was he so excited about the changes Moonie had proposed? My gut reaction is she will also be one of the last people who shows interest. Life may be too short for super dude to mess with someone less experience, but I am going to venture a guess life is also too short for agents and editors to deal with divas who haven't even published yet.

"The attitude that authors should be forever grateful to any agent or editor that shows them the slight bit of attention is disheartening."

While I don't believe an agent or editor expects me to grovel if they agree to look at my work, I am going to give them due respect. Hopefully, I have a work that interests them and can make them some money. I expect to have a long, prosperous and enjoyable relationship with them. That isn't going to happen if I go in with the attitude I am the greatest thing since sliced bread. It happens when all parties respect each other, which this guy did not.

This author had no respect for a professional in the industry he is trying to enter. I have zero use for such attitudes. It also makes it a little harder on others who are sincerely making an effort to enter publishing.

The agent and editor took out time from their schedule to have lunch with this guy. Moonie had already put in time to make some intelligent suggestions to him about how to improve his work. Suggestions he liked, in case you didn't notice that earlier.

Everyone went pretty much above and beyond for him and he let her know she wasn't good enough for him.

I'm relatively sure both the agent and editor had other things they could have been doing besides extending some personal attention to this nitwit. Yes, I called him a name. It's the nicest one I could think of.

When I was querying before it always impressed the socks off me if an agent called to visit with me. Time is money, as they say. An agent or editor expending this time is tantamount to them handing you money. Who is seriously going to be stupid enough to say, "Uh, yeah, thanks for the dough. Could you call your boss now so I can talk business with the adults?"

Reminds me of when I used to raise and show Aussies. Invariably, some idiot would ask me to go get my husband so they could talk business. Of course, it's inconceivable a woman would spend countless hours studying pedigrees, plotting out breeding niches, raising, training and showing cow dogs. Also invariable was my husband coming in to ask about this dog or that dog; and I would politely explain where the book stacks were so the menfolk could look them up.

Grrrrr.

Haste yee back ;-) said...

I'm big city phobic and never been to China Town, but God I'd like a woo you lunch!

Haste yee back ;-)

Elissa M said...

This argument about respect for authors reminds me of something I experienced long ago. Like many out there, I once worked in fast food. Often the other (much younger) employees would grouse about a lack of respect (low pay) from management. I would say, "Have you seen the stack of applications on the manager's desk? Do you think you're getting a significant raise for a job that takes three hours to train a new employee in?"

The point here isn't that writing well is as easy as making fast food. It's supply and demand.

Authors definitely should be grateful when anyone takes interest in their work, be it agent, editor, publisher, or lowly reader. Be grateful, gracious, courteous, and humble. You are not anywhere near as special as you think you are, and the stack of applications (queries, manuscripts, or published books), is higher than you would believe.

Janet Reid said...

I must respectfully disagree with you Elissa. Writing well isn't anywhere near easy, let alone as easy as making fast food.

Supply and demand is a little trickier here.

The metaphor works better if you remember that it's not just today's hamburgers you're competing against, it's all the best hamburgers for the last 100 years or so.

Most publishers make 80% of their income off the backlist, that is books published last year or before that. To Kill A Mockingbird, On The Road, Nancy Drew even.

You have be better, fresher, and luckier. And you have to be nimble about the pitfalls that await you.

There's nothing easy about this. Nothing.

Elissa M said...

I apologize. I honestly never intended to say writing was as easy as fast food. Proof right there that putting thoughts into words is hard!

I only wanted to make a point about supply and demand, and to say writers should appreciate anyone who sees merit in their work.

Mea culpa.

Gary said...

This is off topic, but I have to say it...I was startled when Julie said she used to raise and show Aussies. Then she mentioned pedigrees and breeding niches. Oh my! Is this legal? I was relieved to discover she meant a type of cow dog.

Regards
Gary (an Australian)

Julie Weathers said...

"This is off topic, but I have to say it...I was startled when Julie said she used to raise and show Aussies. Then she mentioned pedigrees and breeding niches. Oh my! Is this legal?"

What can I say? I'm a sucker for an accent.

*wink*

Turn around, dear, let me check your stance. I do so love nice, straight legs and solid hips.

fersure said...

You called him a "joker." In my book, that's not particularly respectful. It's fine if you think this author made the wrong decision, but if you compare the tone of your post to that of Moonrat's about the actual incident, you'll see a pretty clear difference.

Moonrat acknowledged that there were reasons an author might want to work with a more experienced editor. No one said that Moonrat or any editor should not be treated with respect. The fact of the matter is, anyone who has any sort of career has had to deal with this problem. At some point or another, most of us have been passed over or made to feel badly for being too junior. This is a sad truth of the business world, but luckily, in most cases, passes with time. Although you may object to the author's obtuse way of handling the situation, do you really feel that your reaction was any better? Is the appropriate response to perceived disrespect to be even more disrespectful?

You may think you're preaching to the choir and in many ways you are. Most of your readers are aspiring authors who appreciate the help that you offer. But at the same time, it seems unlikely that these same aspiring authors would be willing to offer criticism when you aren't quite as right as you think you are.

Mags said...

fersure said...
...At some point or another, most of us have been passed over or made to feel badly for being too junior...

Moonrat wasn't passed over. The author did not have the authority to pass over the butter dish at that lunch. Moonrat was slighted by a joker who decided that he was important in ways he wasn't.

The day Janet starts censoring her choice of words to please people who can't read the word "joker" in this particular context without getting up in arms is the day I send my books off the Publish America for immediate publication. If I can't learn how things work from those who tell it like it is, then WTF? It's just a book, right? Baaa.

Julie Weathers said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Julie Weathers said...

Hey, Fersure,

I think some people are still missing the point.

This moron was all gung ho about the suggestions Moonrat spent precious time putting together for a 200-page submission. Not a completed manuscript. Not a celebrity bio. Not the Bible. A 200-page partial that SHE, not Robert, worked on and was trying to get in acceptable condition to go to the next step. They didn't even have a deal yet.

Not only does she waste time doing this for him, she takes out time from her schedule to meet with him and his agent. He is excited about her suggestions and 3/4 of the way through the lunch pops up with this idiot idea he shouldn't really talk to her anymore until the PUBLISHER reads it himself.

It's not a matter of him wanting a more senior editor because she didn't have good ideas. He already said she did. It's the idea that he is so important the only one worthy of handling his masterpiece is the stud duck.

He was rude, disrespectful, arrogant and ignorant.

"But at the same time, it seems unlikely that these same aspiring authors would be willing to offer criticism when you aren't quite as right as you think you are."

Actually, I am not known for common sense. I pretty much say what's on my mind. If I were still working on the suspense I might be concerned about trying to make nice. I doubt it, though. I'm pretty notorious for not being "deferential." I don't even plan on querying Ms. Reid as I don't think she would be remotely interested in what I write. I really don't need to make points with her. However, when a person is right, they're right. In this case, wonderboy was dead wrong and his actions got called for exactly what they were. Pompous, self-centered, bull crap.

Julie Weathers said...

PS, you'll note neither Ms. Reid or Moonrat referred to him in these unflattering terms, I did. They were both remarkably restrained.

And, in case anyone is wondering why I wouldn't query Ms. Reid, I read somewhere she doesn't rep epic fantasy, mystery, romance, thriller fictional novels with comedic overtones and really cool fireworks recipes. I may have to delve into this a bit deeper, though.

John said...

Late to the party. But whoa. Passions sure run high, don't they, in online confrontations between (a) people who speak common sense and good manners and (b) those with opinions ferociously impervious to both?

Glad to see I wasn't the only one brought up short by the "I train Aussies" aside!

Julie Weathers said...

"Glad to see I wasn't the only one brought up short by the "I train Aussies" aside!"

Well, they can be a little hard-headed at times, but a well-trained Aussie is a pure joy to behold.

Don't you agree?

John said...

Ha ha, well, [wandering off-topic] I always thought the appeal of Russell Crowe, say, was in his... his... unruliness, his outright refusal to be well-trained.

Assuming you're speaking of Australian shepherds, though -- the breed and not the profession -- Wikipedia tells me they "will also try to herd anything that moves, including people." I think we're speaking here of a dog with too MANY training issues, not too few. No wonder you "used to" raise and train them.

Julie Weathers said...

Oh, heavens no. That is one of the joys of Aussies.

I started puppies out working ducks, then we graduated to sheep and cattle. They literally will try to herd anything, children, paper, chickens. I love that intelligent, alert attitude they have. And, they really aren't difficult to train because so much of it comes natural to them.

Of course, the horses were like that also. They all had a very pronounced desire to work. Cats, chickens, dogs, people, each other, anything that moved.

At one time there were only seven quad working champions in the states and four of them were from my bloodlines, with three of them being pups I raised.

I lost my last Aussie last year, but when I get back to the country I am going to track down another one.

And now, back to our regular programming. Sorry all.

Julie Weathers said...

always thought the appeal of Russell Crowe, say, was in his... his... unruliness, his outright refusal to be well-trained.

Well, I'm pretty sure that isn't the first thing that appeals to me. Conformation is always top of the list and he is very "correct."

Janet Reid said...

re: you called him a joker.

Here's the rule about respect: you have it till you lose it.

An author deserves to be treated with respect, right up until the time s/he demonstrates s/he isn't respectable. In this instance that point was right about "let's have lunch closer to your place next time so Robert can join us."

You're quite right I don't respect that author. His behaviour is the reason. If you think that equates to not respecting authors in general you should probably quit reading this blog.

fersure said...

Right, so, the question was:

Is the appropriate response to perceived disrespect to be even more disrespectful?

Two more to consider:

Is it really that hard to admit when you've made a mistake? (You re-read your post and couldn't find any name-calling? Really?)

Do you really believe that all people that disagree with you should leave?

Jessica said...

fersure,
I think you like to fight.

Ryan Field said...

I skimmed over all these posts and didn't even bother to comment because I thought you nailed it, Janet. I was an associate editor once and I know how Moonrat felt.

Mags said...

The line between reader with a dissenting opinion and troll is about twelve words behind you, fersure dear.

How dull.

Rena said...

I've been reading Ms. Reid's blog since May 2008 (went back to catch up on all the old postings as well). I see her posts as honest and reflective of an insider in the industry (very informative for writers). On more that several occasions she has praised the authors she work with, not just on their writing but their "PROFESSIONALISM" as well. I don't think she was out of line in her comments. She was honest and the comments were just. That author was a jerk, plain and simple... Moonrat's post should be a lesson in How Not to Act When Trying To Enter the Publishing Industry.

Julie Weathers said...

"Is the appropriate response to perceived disrespect to be even more disrespectful?"

Perceived? I'm rather amazed you are so obtuse you can even stretch this to consider Moonrat wasn't insulted and disrespected.

However, since you see nothing wrong with what Clueless did, then I really am surprised you can find anything wrong with what anyone else has said about this egotistical moron. Unless...wait, are you an author who recently had lunch with an editor instead of the stud duck?

"Is it really that hard to admit when you've made a mistake? (You re-read your post and couldn't find any name-calling? Really?)"

I don't know. Is it? I'm going to venture a guess you feel completely justified in your opinion Moonrat simply needs to get used to this treatment.

"Do you really believe that all people that disagree with you should leave?"

Actually, she said if YOU really think she disrespects all authors, perhaps you should stop reading the blog.

Oh, yeah, another "perceived" thing.

On that note. Let's agree on something. You're just enjoying the attention and you fersure don't have a clue about courtesy.

Daisy said...

When, if ever, would you expect the publisher to read a book that was up for acquisition? Are they generally more book people or business people, or what? (I'm speaking, of course, of houses that are big enough that the publisher is not also the editor, receptionist, HR department and janitorial staff.) It's not exactly relevant to the matter at hand; I was just wondering.

Josephine Damian said...

Good to know. Thanks for the reply.

Elissa M said...

Wow. Julie, are you sure you raised Australian shepherds and not something more aggressive (like pit-bulls)? ;)

This is intended as a tongue-in-cheek compliment, BTW. Don't want any misperceptions.

pseudosu said...

What I take away from all of this is that the publishing world isn't that different from the visual art world, (my paying gig until someone publishes me) in which--

#1 your work must be worthy -- something the market decides. Gallery owners, like agents and editors, make a living by predicting this accurately.

#2 You yourself, the artist or writer should be easy, perhaps even enjoyable to work with.
There are always plenty of talented people lined up behind you who would be thrilled to take your place.

Whatever your opinion about how this went down is, take it for what it is people; valuable information about the way things work in this business.

Julie Weathers said...

"Wow. Julie, are you sure you raised Australian shepherds and not something more aggressive (like pit-bulls)? ;)"

Nope, raised Aussies for years. One pit bull in the family is enough.

I can't abide rudeness in people, though I normally am pretty easy going and patient about most things.

JL Riffe said...

I'll second Pseudosu's comment.

I hope, however, that when the comment section starts heating up that Ms. Reid does not find herself wondering why she bothers?

This would be a blog I'd hate to see her pull the plug on.

/Regards
JL Riffe

freddie said...

I'm late to the fight/party here (again). Fersure, the author was wrong to ask Moonrat to have Robert read his ms. Why? It's special treatment—something Moonrat tried to explain to him (in a very nice way) during the lunch. And not only did he not understand that, he went on to say that he thought Robert would "get it" in a way Moonrat couldn't. That's a pretty insulting way to ask for preferential treatment, especially when you throw in the factor that he knew nothing about Robert.

Look, I realize this guy isn't applying for a job. But he's not shopping around as a customer, either. Demanding to speak with a manager does not apply here. This was to be a partnership. The author should have realized that and didn't.

As for Janet's comments, they were appropriate. This guy really screwed up.

Lynn Price said...

You know what? Editors should be too.
Ah, bless ye, dearie.

How Publishing Really Works said...

Surely the most appropriate way for the author to behave in this instance was to ask his or her agent if a meeting/consultation with Robert would be a good idea, once the lunch was over?

I've worked as an editor and a writer, and know that a good agent makes all the difference in situations like this. And yes, I do think that the writer was, in this case, badly behaved.

Agents know the business inside out. They do far more than just sell the book, which is why I'm so happy to have my one.