Friday, November 25, 2016

How much of a PITA can you be?



Yesterday's post on nudging gave rise to this comment from blog reader delicartoons.deLLcartoons (as I recently "discovered" ie was told very nicely!)

>solid professionalism. In other words, in a way that underscored she'd be a pleasure to work with.

I know you've mentioned this before, but how important is professionalism? Would you refuse to work w/ a highly talented and skilled writer if said writer was more of a pain in the ass than red-hot caltrops on your chair?(1) Would you work w/ a writer who was far from ready, if said writer displayed excellent manners and a professional attitude?(2)

Would you suspect the writer's attitude might go public, and would lose too many potential readers.(3)

In your post "How to be Stupid" you discuss how rudeness can cause a writer to lose a publisher, especially a small publisher. You suggest that '(i)f you're the kind of person who flies off the handle or needs "translation services" an agent is a good medium between you and the publisher.' But how much rudeness will an agent take?

Obviously I need more things about which to worry. "Am I polite enough to my potential agent?" should be a good one.

Please. Thank you. I appreciate your time and effort. I apologize. And I hope you have a nice day.

If you're even thinking about this, you're going to be ok.

The writers who end up in trouble are the ones who are either oblivious or don't care.

Let's address your questions one by one:

(1)
Would you refuse to work w/ a highly talented and skilled writer if said writer was more of a pain in the ass than red-hot caltrops on your chair?


What kind of PITA is the writer? Are they meticulous about their writing and thus working right up till the deadline, causing everyone to tear out their hair? I love those writers. Line 'em up.

Is the writer unable to follow directions, or certain s/he knows the right way without asking, and when corrected, still can't get it right? Not so much. No one is born knowing all the minutiae of publishing but most clients pick it up on the first go-round. The ones who don't or can't, again, not good candidates. Those people are generally weeded out before signing though. I can spot 'em pretty quickly now.

Is the writer rude to his/her editor, publisher, the minions in my office? No dice. Unless the writer is earning multi-millions, there's little chance I'll put up with that. Life's too short to work with people who create more problems than they're worth.

(3)Would you suspect the writer's attitude might go public, and would lose too many potential readers. Yes. And that can be a huge problem. HUGE.

(2)Would you work w/ a writer who was far from ready, if said writer displayed excellent manners and a professional attitude?

I expect every writer I work with to do this. It's not a bonus. It's not something that's an afterthought.

Again, if you're even wondering about this, you're going to be just fine. Worry instead about those plot holes in chapter 11, they're much more likely to trip you up than this is.

29 comments:

french sojourn said...


What an absolute waste of a blog post today. Such a silly question, if the Agent isn't professional enough to figure out that they're working for you...pffft!

And if your Agent can't bring a publisher into line, what good are they. To many writers pussyfoot around Agents, Jeeze. It's the writer putting the food on the table, holy Godiva.

Looking forward to tomorrows post, I guess.

(Written in Olde World Sarsticia font 16 point.)

french sojourn said...


sarcastica font....it should have read.crab!

DeadSpiderEye said...

So I read "Is the writer rude to his/her editor..." and I get to, "No dice" which kinda infers a world where authors and editors skip gaily hand in hand through fields of buttercups together, yeah. Authors and editors being polite to each other, that's from a query for a science fiction novel right?

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I do wonder how many would be writers destroy their prospects by being a PITA. I would think there would be at least a few. There is so much untapped talent out there, I do wonder if agents and/or publishers would put up with a rude, arrogant, and abrasive client regardless of talent.

However, there exists a fair few true asshats that end up being successful in the arts so maybe some do ignore the nasty soul in exchange for profit. Still, even if nice guys finish last, it still seems being kind and humble is a better way to be. In all things.

Panda in Chief said...

Whee! Only four comments so far? Huzzah!

In my youth I was a bit of an asshat. Yes! Me! Can you believe it? But in the past 20 years, I have mellowed, along with the graying of my hair. Especially realizing that things on the internet live forever, and having at least one "trying to be quick and efficient email" that was misinterpreted, I try to err on the side of politeness. Maybe living in the exceedingly polite Pacific Northwest for the last 37 years has rubbed off on me.
Or maybe I'm just mildewed from all the rain.

It goes without saying, that no one wants to work with asshats, no matter which side of the table the asshat sits on. Been there, done that, never even got a t-shirt.

Glad you are feeling better, Madam Shark. We missed the tappity tap of your fins on the keyboard.

Celia Reaves said...

... omg ... Janet's READ chapter 11 ... /scurries back to revising/

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I try to be nice and I strive to be professional, really I do, but sometimes, people on the other side of what I am trying to do just...grind my wheels.
You DO NOT want me burning rubber on the street where you live. That's why, when I drive by, I wave and don't shoot.

Actually, the world would be a better place if the top-hats, ass-hats and red-hats (with messages) simply respected that we're all in this battle together, so be nice.

Colin Smith said...

Oh, that's what PITA means! I thought it was round flat bread, or a misspelling of the animal rights group. So, PITA is related to a**hat. And if you combine the two, you get a headache, right? :)

If you go to all the trouble of getting an agent, why would you be a PITA? Why wouldn't you listen to agent advice and give them respect? But I suppose there are people out there like that. *sigh*

I guess this means you're doing better, Janet? Were you well enough to enjoy Thanksgiving?

Beth said...

I like it when you say good manners are not a bonus, they're an expectation. I just wish this would sink into the general population on the web. For some reason, many people seem to think that feeling strongly about something relieves them of any responsibility to behave politely.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

wait, we're not supposed to get along with editors? Is this like the villainization of lawyers in all those 80's kids movies? (which, strangely, is not the first time today that lawyer thing has come up, conversationally...) In my (limited) short story publishing experience thus far, the editors I dealt with were a pleasure!

(I am not making this statement under duress)

Cheryl said...

If you go to all the trouble of getting an agent, why would you be a PITA?

Oh Colin, don't you know that once you get an agent you're IMPORTANT? You have talent, obviously, therefore you--YOU--are the most important person in the agent's life. After all, how many more brilliant writers can there be?

None. Because you're a special snowflake. The agent said so--not in so many words, of course--when she signed you.

Laura Moe said...

Thank you for noting that being a PITA about craft and syntax is not being a PITA in a negative way. I was this way with my book, and found inconsistencies and incorrect plot references on the flap copy for the ARCs which I addressed. It is my career, after all. I'm sure they called me some foul names in the office but the changes were made. We still made the deadline. And the writer was less freaked out.
Oddly, though, once the books are bound and out there, so many of us out there wish we could do one more revision...yeah. Writers be crazy.

Michael said...

Why do agents hold onto manuscripts so long? If you're too busy, pass and let the wrter move on. A month, sure. Two months, three, okay. But seven months? That's terrible.

There aren't too many industries where this is acceptable, and it's only given a pass in publishing because writers are desperate for the attention of editors. But just because an agent can get away with it doesn't mean that they should.

Adele said...

E.M. Goldsmith - A cautionary tale: I actually saw a writer destroy his career once. His first book came out to local critical acclaim. His writing skills were excellent, he had won a local prize or two, and seemed set for a brilliant career. At a publishing industry professional day, he was part of a discussion panel: a publisher, an editor, an agent, and a writer. The other three people were nationally-known; the audience was filled with their peers.

Journalists had diplomatically referred to the writer as a 'bad boy', said he seemed to think highly of himself, but that wasn't even a start at a good description. The writer was 20 minutes late. He was in the building, just not at the panel. When he appeared, he swore long and mightily because the panel had started without him. He then denigrated the moderator's skills and the intelligence of the questions, talked over the others in the panel, and generally behaved so badly that the hundred or so people in the room became deadly quiet. That's what happens here. When you've gone beyond the pale, people simply sit in silence until you're done. Then they erase your name from their list of people who exist. I haven't heard anything about him since then. No more books, no more anything.

Craig F said...

I know that I am a horse of many colors. Generally I'm a pretty mellow beast but I still have those buttons. The buttons my first wife so enjoyed pushing. If someone climbs into my control room and starts pushing them the betting line changes.

I can only be as professional as the person across the table.

dellcartoons said...

Thank you for answering my questions.

One more question:

How do I politely tell one of my favorite bloggers that my handle is delLcartoons, not delicartoons? Or should I just be glad she got almost 92% of my name right?

92% is pretty good these days.

Seriously, I do appreciate you taking the time to answer our questions.

Julie Weathers said...

Good manners are never out of style.

Outlander "fans" periodically pop up on Books and Writers whose purpose seems to be to put Diana Gabaldon and her rabid followers in place. It starts out innocently enough with a question about why there's so much violence in the books or are all the rapes really necessary? These are fair questions and have been discussed to death over the years.

Quickly enough the true purpose emerges. The questioner wants to brag to their friends how they went to Diana's hangout and really laid her low. One who visits from time to time has blogged about how she thinks Diana needs serious psychiatric help due to the things she writes and wonders what kind of abusive childhood she must have had. She proudly links to her ponderings which have gained a following of Outlander haters.

Another asks if her publisher can no longer afford editors or if she's one of those people who thinks she's above editing as the wiring is horrible.

Diana often engages if she's not on a deadline and tries to carry on an intelligent discussion about why the person didn't like the book. Usually it winds up with "I hope you enjoy the next book you read more."

It would be difficult for me to be so level with people who are quite often very rude. One woman said she tried to read her books, but found them boring and overwritten and had to stop after the first few chapters. However, she was quite certain Diana's publisher would enjoy her manuscript she just finished. Could Diana recommend her so she wouldn't have to go through the query process? (She was sure Diana appreciated an honest opinion of her books.) Yes, I'm serious.

Put that up against the author who stalked a woman who left a less than favorable review on Goodreads, called her at work, and even showed up on her doorstep to harass her.

Which author do you think an agent or publisher would prefer to work with?

It doesn't really matter what you're going through, it doesn't give you the right to take it out on others. You may be battling, but you don't know what battle the other person is waging. Gird your loins, and slap on a smile. Tomorrow will be better. Or smile at your loins. Whatever works, but stop being a PITA.

Julie Weathers said...

Dell

I would relate a funny story about how you came up with the name. Of course, I'm the master of telling stupid stories that eventually do get around to a point.

Janet Reid said...

Wait. DelL??
But Del I cartoons means cartoons at the deli!!

I always thought it was an absolutely hysterical wonderful name.

You and InkStainedWench (not wretch) can hold meetings to cast spells (ha, see that!) on me.

I spelled CarolynnWith2ns with only one N for a while too.

roadkills-r-us said...

Am I the only person who read the title and thought, "Now THAT'S a challenge I can get into!"?

Then I thought it might be a Duchess of Yowl post.

Strike two.

JD Horn said...

I'm just happy you're feeling better. :)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I carry a "bag-a-Ns" for all the times folks forget I go by two. I've loaned a few too.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Dell, my column went weeks before I was brave enough to tell my editor that my byline was one N short. Just go for it.

Megan V said...

Who needs a PITA when you can have a WAFFLE (Writer And Fecking Friendly Laudation Expert)? Even asses love WAFFLES!

But really, good question Dell and the insight is appreciated.

Time to read through the archives again to make sure I'm not being a PITA while roaming the trenches.

Colin Smith said...

Just a reminder folks, you're not born a PITA. PITAs are bred.

Goodnight! ;)

John Davis Frain said...

I confess, I had it as Deli Cartoons, and I pictured certain characters like Limburger and Joey Pastrami.

But always remember, you call it a hair, I call it a garnish.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

We have a naturally occurring caltrop-growing plant here unfondly known as the Double gee. Nasty little monsters.

Then again, this is Australia.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Adele I have met a number of writers like the one you described. However, I have not witnessed one destroy his career quite so spectacularly as the one you described.

Help me Obi-Wan said...

I don't know where else to ask this, so here is a question: if one is previously published (attorney, no agent) with a formerly respected, now crashing and burning small press, what should one say when querying agents with a new ms? Does one mention they were previously pub'd by said disaster press? Or leave it out? It would easily enough be discovered, I would think. Not sure what to do. Neither option seems great.