Friday, August 22, 2008

Thanks, Dick

Ms Reid:

While searching for a literary agent to whom I could submit a query letter, I came across your entry in my "2007 Novel & Short Story Writer's Market" handbook .

And I have to tell you, it gave me a chuckle.

On your "How to Send Work" page under "MAIL:" you wrote:

"DO include an SASE. We prefer you send a #10 business envelope with a first class stamp and that we recycle your manuscript."

"and that we recyle your manuscript" makes no sense in this sentence (to me).

You also wrote:
"DO proof read and spell check carefully. We expect you to care about your craft.
Sloppy proofreading is a danger sign."

Shouldn't "proof read" be "proofread" ?

And then you wrote:
"...we suggest attending a writers' conferences to help you... "

"a" is singular. "writers' conferences" is plural.

Just trying to be helpful!
Dick Seymour

Of course you are, and thank goodness.

I will immediately rush right out and have all the copies of this 2007 edition of the book recalled; insist they be burned (preferably at the stake to prevent any kind of further contamination); and, have new, corrected copies hand delivered to everyone who was so damaged by these clearly sloppy, egregious, and intentional errors for which I am personally and only responsible. 2008 and 2009 editions are of course exempt, but I know you want to use the old reliable 2007 edition.

Thank you so much for making me aware of this. I've made sure to note your email address and name so I can take instant action on all further communication from you.

Yours most gratefully,
(oh wait, should that really be you r s most?)


Gary Corby said...

As all hope of a future in writing fades, a bright career as a copy editor opens up before him.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Dear Janet,

I interpret goat. I also write it fluently. I noticed your last email was written in "goldfish" with a shark accent. May I suggest my services as email editor for all missives sent to goat-writers?

I can expertly redackt umm redak umm rede ... um edit out all those goldfish tainted comments and replace them with pure and fluent goat.

Bill E. Goat,
assistant to assorted pixies,
fun date (for French Alpines),
Expert Editor (except I can't spell redak umm or what ever it is.),
And all around personable and indispensible assistent or umm assitant or umm something ...

Okay, so i'm going to bed now. ... Just forget the above. ... Send sweetcorn feed and dried leaves instead. ... and we'll always have ... umm the Bronx. ... Okay not the Bronx, that'd be bad ... We'll always have umm The Dalles or better yet ... Biggs Junction and the shared bowl of chilli!

Suzanne Nam said...

it seems more than a little unkind to post such an email, especially when most of your readers are automatically going to side with you based on your position.

i know the blogosphere is open to all, but it seems unnecessarily mean to cut someone down publicly for a private email about typos...

people googling this person's name may stumble upon your post, which was no doubt meant to be a private message to you.

Merry Monteleone said...

Oh, I'm thinking Dick Seymour is not the actual name - unless his parents were excessively mean spirited.

Susan said...

Considering the beautiful relevancy of the title 'Thanks, Dick', I thought it was a joke too.

If this is real (is it REAL?) then the first part announces he's dumb (the manuscript gets recycled, the reply goes in the envelope, seems obvious). The second part shows him to be a nit-picky jerk: why point out a copy-editor's typos in a long-published (and in most cases, already discarded) edition of the book, except to be an ass?

I enjoyed the laugh, anyhow, whether it came from "Dick" or "Jane"t.

Jessica said...

wow, I"m just wondering why someone would send a letter like that. If this is for real, what's the point?
For all he knows somebody else made those mistakes when putting the info up.
Guess he got a form rejection from you . . .

Timothy Fish said...

It is difficult for some of us to take constructive criticism. That fact is that Dick is absolutely correct in what he has to say, though it comes a little late. It is ironic that a statement promoting quality writing was written with such a low regard for quality. While I don’t enjoy people pointing out my mistakes, I realize that it can help me to avoid those same mistakes in the future. I very much doubt Dick meant any harm by his comments.

Bob said...

Mocking Dick for privately pointing out poor writing, to one engaged in publicly pointing out poor writing, seems foppish (sic), at best.

clindsay said...

Timothy -

The style of Mr. Seymour's letter is utterly passive aggressive, which is neither helpful nor appreciated.

Kelley said...

"As all hope of a future in writing fades, a bright career as a copy editor opens up before him."


*sigh* good one.

Ryan Field said...

"Oh, I'm thinking Dick Seymour is not the actual name - unless his parents were excessively mean spirited."

I agree; just imagine his name in alphabetical order on a list, with last names first.

Just_Me said...

Ryan! You need a water warning with your post!


I have no clue is this is a joke or a real letter. I'm amused if it's a joke, and slightly sad for the person if it's not.

Suzanne Nam- lighten up...

TerriRainer said...

IMHO Ms. Reid has every right to lambaste the schmuck.

It's just another way that she can keep ALL of us from committing professional suicide by being a dumba$$.

Even in her snarkiest moments, MOST can learn a lesson from her.

Bravo Ms. Reid!

Mags said...

Dick was just looking for some attention, or he would not have taken the time. It's a book. In print. There ain't no "helpful" here.

"Just trying to be helpful!" is actually Twit for "Ha! I'm clever, aren't I? Aren't I?" It's true. I looked it up in my Twit to English dictionary.

Don't everybody get up in arms, trying to stick up for Dick. He's perfectly happy with the response.

Charles said...

he's right. if you're going to be so pedantic--sorry--exacting in your requirements, you should at least read over what you're submitting before hitting the send button. i'm just saying.

A P Mullaly said...

Ummm, is it just me or do you all miss the point. My understanding is those books are not put together by the agents, but compiled by a third party. Thus all mistakes are theirs.

I think that is Ms. Reid's point. Not that the Dick wasn't right, but that pointing out someone else's mistakes in an attempt to show how superior he is, just indicates what a clueless wonder he really happens to be.

Chef said...

I guess I did miss the point. Most agents don't assemble novels or non-fiction books, either.

Aren't those books ultimately put together by third parties? You know, like editors and publishers?

And who is responsible for their content?

Charles said...

wrong, ap. the third party "compiles" the information based on submissions from the agent. is it a coincidence that the cited passages are very similar to language on janet's own website? i'm not about to do a comparison, but for all i know, it was cut-and-pasted directly from the source. or does the text from people's personal websites also come from "third parties"? an ad hominem attack on dick, despite whatever ingratiating value you want to perceive, doesn't address the issue.

Janet Reid said...

"helpful" implies something can be done to fix the problem. Dick is quoting from a book that is not only two years past publication there are two subsequent editions, neither of which have this entry.

I fix mistakes on my website frequently. I've had at least three emails from folks pointing out things that needed fixing. I thanked them and did it it.

This wasn't that. If you can't tell the difference it's a good thing you think I"m a real bitch and won't be querying me.

Charles said...

So if he hadn't closed with "just trying to be helpful," a statement one could just as easily read as an off-key attempt at mitigating the tone a little as it could an impish dig, you would have been able to accept the fact that he pointed out sloppiness in your work, regardless of how long ago (and 2007 isn't that long ago) or how many corrected editions have been put out since, instead of getting so defensive?

And why would I query you? Is that the only reason people read your blog?

Alicia said...

Janet, your snark is what has put you on the top of my query list! (When I finish my revisions on everything that is!)

Mags said...

Have you recently changed perfumes, Janet? You've been driving the trolls nuts lately!

Brown Trash Punk said...

somebody was trying to charm you and win you over. FAIL

Taymalin said...

Charles: It would be interesting to know what you think the issue is.

The problem is that whether Dick sent this letter in an attempt to be helpful or not is irrelevant. It isn't helpful to give criticism on what cannot be changed. Whatever his intentions, it cames off as "I'm so superior to you. Your mistakes make me laugh. Ha ha ha ha."

As this blog often gives advice to writers so that we don't kill our chances of landing an agent we like in one fell swoop, Janet is doing a kindness by posting this type of thing, whether you approve of her methods or not.

It's also highly entertaining for those of us with an oversized, but underused, snark bone.

jnantz said...

Lighten up, chuck.

Dick was being a, well, twit. Janet called him on it. It's a free country, so I guess if you don't approve of her methods on a blog you freely clicked on, CHANGE THE URL.

Or you could sit there in your superiority complex and tell all of us how rude we are. Hope it feels good for you, 'cause the rest of us couldn't physically care any less.

Rock on Janet.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

For a Pixie, I'm fairly well educated. I've stuggled with spelling all my life. Having a spelling or grammar mistake pointed out to me isn't the end of the world, but I like it best when it is well-intentioned.

I don't see this email as well-intentioned. It's a bite back, probably from someone rejected by Janet.

And guess what else ... come on! just guess! ... Rude behaviour is ... well rude. There is seldom an excuse for it.

I know (of) another agent who prides himself on his spelling and grammar, even with it's split infinitives, misplaced prepositions and such. He's vain. Go off to his blog and send something similar to him ... He might need it ... No? He didn't reject you? umm humm

Just behave. No excuses. NO whining. Just civility.

Being stupid is a sin. The email was stupid.

καὶ ἐὰν ὁ ὀφθαλμός σου σκανδαλίζῃ σε, ἔκβαλε αὐτὸν· καλόν σε ἐστιν μονόφθαλμον εἰσελθεῖν εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ ἢ δύο ὀφθαλμοὺς ἔχοντα βληθῆναι εἰς γέενναν.

[don't you just hate quotations you can't read?}

Janet Reid said...

If thine eye offends thee, it is better to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to smack a goat around and holler "translate THAT, mofo!"

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Not quite, Janet, but sorta!

Elissa M said...

Third party or taken from the web site, SOMEBODY type sets the damn thing before it's printed. Yes, it's all on computers, but it's not desk top publishing. Does anyone here think typos in a novel were written by the author?

Regardless, pointing out mistakes in an outdated reference book is, as many have said, ludicrous, not helpful. Being snarky to agents is just plain dumb.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

I have another comment ... surprised? My uncle and I recently had an article published in J-RAD, a journal specializing in theology and history. Okay, so you don't know what J-RAD means ... sorry... Journal From the Radical Reformation, published by Atlanta Bible College.

The text has typos. What made it to print was the first draft without corrections. It was a joint mistake. Big deal? No. I'm sure it's mildly embarrassing for us all. But we still got “academic fan mail.”

This happens. Writing an email to point it out is pointless ...

Pete said...

Dick merely pointed out some mistakes. That hardly makes him a "twit."

Even if the mistakes can't be fixed now, they're still mistakes. And having them pointed out might encourage the one who made them to be more careful in the future. Stubborn writers like myself have certainly learned that way. So have captious editors and nitpicking agents. Being defensive and bitchy about it doesn't help.

Oh gee, there goes any chance I have of ever obtaining representation at this agency. Damn!


Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...


It's a matter of civility and good judgment. I'm sure there are those genetically disposed to point out other's mistakes. Perhaps you're one. My sympathies if you are. It must be a hard life.

Why would one wish to do it? Do you honestly think the man who emailed Janet meant to be helpful? Is that the tone of the email?

What possible good motive may he have had? Do you really think he meant to be helpful?

You amaze me. Why are you defending what is nothing more than bad behaviour? And stupid bad behaviour at that?

Frankly, I think you're what they call in Internet parlance "a troll." You've made a blogger name but have no name. My visit to your profile was the first visit by anyone. I beleive you are here under a new name to further a debate you lost under another name.

Antiquis temporibus, nati tibi similes in rupibus ventosissimis exponebantur ad necem.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Oh heck, i'll get an email over this, won't i?

"You've made a blogger name but have no name."

Read: "You've made a blogger name but have no blog."

Pete said...

Shal'el, I'm no troll. My name is Peter Spotswood Dillard. I've visited this site frequently and have followed a number of threads, many of which I've found quite informative. I don't know why the information indicating my previous visits isn't showing up.

This is the first time I've been compelled to post something because, frankly, the pettiness of holding up Dick's post for ridicule and the pathetic a**-kissing of some posters in this thread just rubbed me the wrong way. I haven't posted any other comments here, and consequently I haven't lost any debates.

Strictly speaking, Dick's intentions don't matter. What matters is whether he was right, which he was. It also matters whether his pointing out these mistakes might lead to more caution in the future. I hope so.

Since I'm not a troll, I'm not going to belabor the point by getting into a protracted argument with you or anybody else on the Internet. Please don't jump to conclusions about people's motives.


Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Nice to meet you, Dr. Dillard. Most people know me as Rachael ...

Being right does not make up for rude and thoughtless behavior. Civility rests not in being right and rude, but in being right and civil. That calculated rudeness is based on a truth does not make it less offensive.

Best regards,

Victoria Louisa Gabriella Henriette Rachael Michelle Elizabeth d'Orléans - de Vienne - Stewart

AKA Rachael de Vienne

Pete said...


Thank you for introducing yourself.

Civility certainly matters. I didn't mean to imply otherwise. If I did, then that's my mistake.

Nevertheless, uncivil remarks can be true and provide advice that should be followed. In all honesty, Dick's remarks didn't strike me as uncivil. Perhaps his intentions in making them were, but we don't really know. Yet strictly speaking, what he said was true, and the advice he proffered was appropriate--whether or not he was being uncivil. Typos and other errors in submission instructions do not project a professional image. So it is in the agent or editor's interest to eliminate them in the future.

That's all I have to say about the matter.

Best to you,


jnantz said...

Mr. Dillard,

I think the issue you're raising is a good one, if there were something Janet could do to fix it. As she said, she routinely corrects issues with the guidelines on the web site.

However, we're talking about someone who is pointing out her flaws in a work that came out in late 2006. It's now bordering on late 2008. And were it me, yes I might have written to her to let it be known that there were some typos in her entry. But I would have worded my email as such.


"Ms. Reid,
While searching for a literary agent, I came across an old 2007 copy of THE NOVEL AND SHORT STORY WRITER'S MARKET. I saw your entry and noticed a typo or two you might want to mention to the editors. I couldn't find the 2008 edition to check if it has been fixed already.

Under "Do proof read" they have it as two words instead of one, and they added an 's' to conference in "a writers' conferences".

Again, these were probably minor typesetting gaffes with the publisher, but I thought you might want to know in case they haven't been fixed yet.

I hope that was helpful,
Jake Nantz"

See the difference? I'm being polite and giving her an out, because even if she did rush through filling out the form they send out each year, and made the mistake herself, it's a bit churlish to assume so because it's a mistake and anyone can make it. The typesetters had to go through HUNDREDS of pages. Odds are pretty good there is another typo lurking with dastardly intent somewhere else in there. Rather than say something along the lines of "That sentence makes no sense (to me)", Dick could instead have asked, "I think you mean that you'd prefer to recycle the manuscript rather than have to return it, but I'm unsure. Would you mind letting me know if I'm off-base?"

Besides, if he really wants to go through this method of publishing (rather than self-publish), wouldn't you agree that Dick should do a little more research first? Especially since almost all major agencies say (or at least imply) that they'd prefer to recycle your manuscript rather than return it?

freddie said...

This actually raises a very good question: When is it okay to point out mistakes?

I have an orchestration book that looks as though it was self-published and got very little or no proofreading or editing before it was printed. Typos all over the place. Plus, many sentences are garbled and don't make a lot of sense. I get a sense of what the author is trying to say, but it isn't very clear. As a user of the book, do you think it would be rude for me to write to them and point out the errors? It's a useful book otherwise, for someone in my field (film composing).

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Hi Freddie,

You may not get a good reception, but if you really find the book useful ... and maybe have ideas to contribute ... and want to go to a lot of work ... you might offer to work on a revised edition.

As I've said a number of times, I can't spell consistently. It's not sloppiness. The problem has a neurological basis. I have learned to work around it. I never reject a well meant critique, even if I don't take all the advice.

But some people are sensitive. ... You might start by simply contacting the author and telling him how much you value the book. If a pleasant relationship develops, you can move on to more pointed but kindly phrased comments.

I still think Dr. Dillard misses the point. Yes, we should benefit from a valid criticism no matter how phrased, but the original email is designed to irritate.

So, while Janet may get some benefit from the criticism, though I do not know what this long after the fact, the writer stains himself permanently.

Publishing is a small world, smaller than many realize. So it's also a stupid thing to do.

Certainly you will meet idiots along the way. When Pixie Warrior (wonderful book! you should read it!) was on submission I got back a three page letter from an Editor telling me in great detail why it would never be published, how poorly written it was, how bad the descriptions were. In the same week's email I got an acceptance.

Did I rant and rave? No, I laughed. Not everyone likes everything. Seldom is it personal. The man who wrote the email to Janet made a rejection personal.

Oh, and I thanked the editor who wrote the long letter and said that I carefully read all her advice. Of course I didn't take any of it. It was bad advice. She just wanted a different book. I don't write that kind. ...

And as far as characterization goes, not everyone agrees with the editor who was so critical:

"PIXIE WARRIOR is simply enchanting--a wonderful crossover book that will keep anyone delighted. The main character is both precocious and endearing, and the world building is the best I've seen since Tolkien. I cannot praise this novel highly enough."--YA Books Central

If you take rejection as personally as the writer of the original email has, you become miserable. There is no satisfaction in being petty.

That being said, when Pixie Warrior got to number 2 on both the Mobipocket and Readerwise best seller in Fantasy lists, I did send the editor who wrote the long and harsh letter a link to the lists. (naughty of me, huh?) I didn't point out that the book she published the same week made it to number 148. That would have been mean. ...

So, in my rambling way, I'm saying: Sure, we can be tempted to slap back at what we see as a slight or insult or hurt. It doesn't bring much satisfaction, and it's silly. There is no real fight to pick when you’re rejected. Write better or find someone who likes what you do write.


Sara J. said...

Wow, you guys have a lot of time on your hands.

But on the other hand, I just read all these posts.