Wednesday, March 03, 2010

1-800-DIM SOME

My phone rang this morning and it was a Los Angeles area code, although the number was unfamiliar. I picked up because I am headed out to LA for Left Coast Crime next week and thought it might be someone calling about that.

It wasn't of course.

She rattled on for a good sixty seconds about how a friend suggested she call a literary agent for information. By the time she paused for breath, and I could say "I'm sorry, I can't help you over the phone" my other line was ringing, and it was someone I needed to talk to. I said, "I'm sorry" again and hung up.

Of course, I got an email telling me how rude I was.


I'm ok with being called rude. Usually the people who do are the ones who don't understand how publishing works. They remind me of tourists who are offended people in Paris don't speak very good English.

And honestly, if this poor soul had just emailed me, and said "I'm totally at sea here, I don't know what to do, and I found your name on the internet" chances are I would have actually given her a suggestion or two.

And even if I hadn't, the place to get information is called a library not a literary agency. If you don't know the difference, consult a librarian.

41 comments:

worstwriterever said...

Is this something that actually happens on a regular basis? Unbelievable.

T.J. said...

I am an aspiring writer. But I wouldn't dare call a literary agent if I was not invited to do so by the literary agent.

Your caller was the one that was rude by calling a personal line.

Deep River said...

I wouldn't worry about it.

Everyone knows (or should know) that the folks up there in The City aren't rude - they're just very busy captaining industry, real estate tycooning, Wall Street mergering, and getting cabs in the rain.

Oh and landing a very nice deal on the latest hot new client, of course.

As opposed to my chief worries, which are when is high tide and why is the rum gone again.

TERI REES WANG said...

Funny.
How is it that you are named the rude one?...She ambushed you!

We do what we can, when we can.

Mary said...

Wow, I'm amazed by the set of cajones some people have. Although it's probably not cajones size but, as you said, ignorance.

I would be beyond embarrassed and would never turn around and e-mail the same person and call them 'rude.'

Tsk! Tsk!

Jen said...

Wow how rude was it to call you rude. You're right a library is an excellent source of information and they would have been right to research first before consulting someone!

Christi Goddard said...

I'm totally at sea here, I don't know what to do, and I found your name on the internet. My dinghy is taking on water and heard you know something about sharks...

Kristine Overbrook said...

So many of us are clueless when we first get started. That doesn't give them the right to be nasty.

When I first got into writing I called an agent. I called once, got no response. About a month later I joined a writers group and they explained things.

I wouldn't be an agent for anything. You all get it from everywhere. {raises glass}here's to you and all you do.

Josin L. McQuein said...

She cold calls, starts vomiting her problems without giving you a chance to talk (which means she most likely knew what would happen if she did), and you're the rude one?

She had your e-mail address and chose to call and interrupt who knows what aspect of your business, and you're the rude one?

She expects free advice (try that with a doctor, lawyer, or accountant some time), and you're the rude one?

If she had your email address, chances are she's got a computer and access to Google. Which means she should have found this blog near the top of the page. So she should have had plenty of information right there, including the "contact" options for you and Fine Print.

At least the time difference works in your favor from LA to NY. It would have been worse if she called you in LA on NY time. :-0

(FWIW, my aunt went to Paris a couple of years ago and said the people there was exceptionally nice to her. The only ones they were "rude" to were the ones who pulled out the high school French and expected them to know what they were saying like they were experts.)

Ricky Bush said...

You've never been to my library. If I had your number, I might call you first too.

Jared Larson said...

So, what's your number again? ;-)

therese said...

It's time for a shark break. I will forever praise you for sharing this applet. When you are attacked as rude, send it along.

http://www.sharkbreak.com/widgets/mini-sharkbreak-widget-01.swf

Philangelus said...

When I was 17, I called a publishing house because the listing in the guide was missing something. I don't remember exactly what it was, but I'd already been to the library and copied out information on publishers I wanted to submit to.

I figured I'd get the receptionist and instead got the editor. Cue total fright.

He was awesome though and said, "Why not tell me about your book right now?" and I did, and he said, "Sure, send it to me."

I got a rejection six weeks later but right then I learned that phones are very, very scary things indeed, and some writers (ie, myself) ought not to be trusted with them. :-)

Chantal said...

Sorry, when I started out I decided early-on that the only place to get information and not sound like and idiot would be the internet--then work from there through other writers. Like any career, you have to start from the bottom and work your way up (well, most of the time)...calling an agent is skipping several crucial steps. I hope she finds an awesome agent in the future.

stacy said...

Hmmm. I'm planning to move to Los Angeles soon. Hope I don't run into her. ; )

B.E. Sanderson said...

The sheer laziness of some people boggles the mind. (At least it does mine, but I'm easily boggled sometimes.) This person knew enough to have your email address, but she couldn't be bothered to read anything else about you, publishing, the industry... whatever her need was? Sheesh.

Susan M. Boyer said...

Outrageous. I've rarely met anyone LESS rude than you. You do more for writers trying to learn the publishing industry than anyone I can think of.(I mean that--I'm not sucking up here, okay?)

I think you're right--she hasn't yet learned how publishing works. (Not that I have--it's a process.) One day, she will look back on that phone call and cringe with mortification.

M Clement Hall said...

The place to get information that might be distributed by a literary agent is from their blogs. I am amazed at how much readily available information is offered to the public at no cost by the generosity of literary agents who also refer their readers to other agents' or relevant sources of information.
Anyone aggressive enough to expect a personal instructional course over the phone is not deserving of sympathy.

Shain Brown said...

We live in a world were information is at our fingertips, and as individuals have to be resouceful enough to find it and make use of it. I recently started writing, and the first thing I did was reseach the How's and How not to's. It's true writing takes thickskin, and agents are tough, but they are fair and if you willing they will offer all the information you need. There is no room for spoon feeding here.

Katherine said...

This is a clique-ey (my word) place/industry/community/small world--pick one. Some people are clueless, young, inexperienced, naive and hopeful--pick all of them. Be careful, friends, you all sound like ducks pecking away (to borrow from Stephen Covey and probably the only thing I got out of his book). Let's hang on to our humanity here and give the caller the benefit of the doubt. Take a step back from our frenzied lives and view this as a phone call--viewed as a mistake in the literary clique--but, that's all--a phone call. Take a breath, everyone. This literary clique is not something to be proud of--seems a lot like high school and I think we all remember that, no matter what group we ran with.

Margaret Yang said...

Isn't it funny that people who toss around the word "rude" are usually the rude ones?

Chumplet - Sandra Cormier said...

I hate phones. I get heart palpitations just ordering a pizza. I can't imagine what'll happen if I actually have to talk to an agent.

Daisy said...

At first glance I read the post title as 1-800-DIM-SUM, and now I really want a steamed pork bun.

Vacuum Queen said...

Ha ha. Those tourist/morons in Paris you speak of, are referred to as "TOURONS" by locals.
Makes me laugh every time.

Susan at Stony River said...

So did you answer the e-mail?

I laughed out loud when I got to 'library'. Librarians get the same: I once pointed out the tax information books for a lady, and five minutes later she was back at my desk wanting me to help her fill out her tax forms. When I explained I couldn't do that (DUH) she stared at me and then reminded me (oh here it comes, my favourite) that her taxes paid my salary. Pffft.

People do seem to feel entitled to customer service on their own terms these days, much more than years past as I recall them.

Alli said...

Believe it or not, some literary agencies in other countries encourage potential clients to call them in place of sending a written query. Seriously. I found this to be the case in some of Australia's most successful literary agencies. The thought of calling an agent as a "query" is much more terrifying than sending a letter!

Janet Reid said...

Hey Katherine, it wasn't the phone call, it was the email.

I explained I couldn't answer her questions.

I actually answered the phone and didn't hang up.

To send an email telling me I'm rude seems a tad overwrought as a response.

Even if she wasn't clued in, the proper response to "I"m sorry I can't help you" is not "well why the fuck not."

Betsy said...

You're hilarious. Consult a librarian. Oh, the phone calls. Our last assistant was from the midwest and you hear him giving a short course on publishing to some of these "information seekers." I told him that his challenge was to get them off the phone in under a minute. Then, and only then, he's be a New Yorker.

jmartinlibrary said...

Indeed, librarians are ready to assist that lovely darling on the phone.

Usually, I just lob a copy of Publisher's Marketplace at such a person's head.

Sometimes, in the line of duty you have to shush someone. Permanently.

;)

magolla said...

Where the hell's the clue stick when you need one!?

kitty said...

I can understand that caller. She was clueless and called. However, her e-mail was uncalled for.

I called an actor's agent one morning for info on his client. Trouble was, I had forgotten the 3 hours time difference and called while he was still asleep. I was so embarrassed that I apologized and never bothered him again. Lesson learned.
...

igloo said...

I will never understand rude, entitled people. Burning bridges at this stage seems a little counter productive.

I just found this site and wow, what a great resource.

Thank you for sharing it with those of us in need.

moonrat said...

don't hate me, janet, but...

this post just made me want dimsum.

valbrussell said...

I run a small business to feed me while I write and when I read this I laughed out loud. I recognized the caller, she called me the other day and asked if I knew how to do something completely unrelated to my business. Providing any service turns you into an object of either adoration or scorn, depending on whether the caller in question gets what they want.

Mary McDonald said...

I can't understand someone calling an agent out of the blue. What's with some people?

Janet Reid said...

Moonrat, after I wrote that post I had to go for dimsum too. Great minds yadda yadda.

Now,a post titled Sushi or Sushidn't She must be next!

Terri said...

Way to go Janet! I'm a lawyer (a public defender) and have had to learn how to shut off the talk-torrent in a very straight-forward manner. I'm sure I've left some ruffled feathers in my wake.

It was the email . . . not the call that makes this noob open to ridicule.

I remember one rather pointed and high-handed rejection I got. Yes, momentarily, the urge to hit 'reply' was huge, but I resisted it and I am glad I did! There is a time to leave well enough alone.

As this person should have. She could have unloaded on her friends about how sharky you are, but to seek out and email you was just too much. Although now she lives on as a blog post . . .

Now, something important, I wonder if the local place delivers Dim Sum?

Katherine said...

Janet, thanks for the clarification. I WAS too focused on the phone call part and missed the email follow-up that set you off.

There is the adage of "let it go" that writers should live by. Yes?

Kathleen Fasanella said...

There is very little I read here that couldn't be applied to my job of working with fashion designer hopefuls.

Oh wait, I got a wild inquiry last week. Can you top this?

A designer contacted me about producing 20 styles for her line one week before deadline. This would entail patterns, fitting, cutting, sewing etc which isn't possible -good grief, the fabric isn't even here. In exchange for doing the work, she'd allow me to sponsor her in a fashion show.

Janet Reid said...

I think that one tops 'em all!

My faves are the writing conferences that "invite" agents and don't pay any expenses. Their thinking is we're so eager to meet potential clients we'll attend.

It's pretty hard not to laugh when I reply. Well, ok, it's impossible.

Philangelus said...

Well that makes total sense. It's not as if a hundred potential authors a week could send you a letter and a few sample pages. How else would you find writers if not by traveling to their fine distant conferences?