Thursday, November 29, 2018

When "I have an offer" is a red flag




I can here those woodland creature wheels a'spinning as you read this tweet.

Here's what you need to know:

1. When you have an offer from an agent, you SHOULD let other agents reading your work know about it. There are numerous posts on how to do that here on the blog.

2. If you're ever tempted to say you have an offer when you don't, DO NOT DO IT.

For starters, publishing is not like any other kind of business where this kind of chicanery might be seen as business as usual. It's the exact opposite.

And, unless you have an offer in hand, you won't know how to answer any questions about it, and that will give your little game away instantly.

And, most important from your point of view, it will not get us reading faster. It will get us passing faster. This is the time of year when if you want me to read something quickly, I have to say no. 


Bottom line: There are very few things that will get you blacklisted by agents. Lying like this is one of them.

I know the readers of this blog would never do such a thing.

The purpose of this post is to tell you that we, on this side of the desk, can distinguish between the skulduggery of invented offers and the email you send when you have (a legit) offer.

Don't let this one writer's idiocy and the furor it created bother you.  Just sit back and know that you're a whole lot smarter than s/he was.

28 comments:

Amy Johnson said...

Thank you, Janet. Your understanding of what might be happening on this side of the desk, and allaying our concerns, is much appreciated.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I saw this the other day and well, face palm. I could not figure out how the writer thought they would get away with this because they went beyond the usual "I have an offer" lie to actually naming an agent and they made this claim about other agents at other agencies as well. It sent a phalanx of agents twittering like aggravated hornets. Such an epic bad idea on the writer's part.

My hamster wheel exploded. I worry enough that I will send such a bad query that agents will all get together at happy hour and laugh at me and then never look at my pages ever. Then I was sad. And scared. So I read my query to my pug again and she whined at me. Not a good sign. Well, I hope workshop next week helps. Now I have to do my day job.



Lennon Faris said...

"...smarter than s/he was."

WAS?

*gulp*


5,979 words left for Nano, folks. Happy writing out there.

Timothy Lowe said...

here hear! (first line of your post)

I saw this on Twitter. I am reminded of the line from American Pie: "What . . . a . . . loser."

Luanne G. Smith said...

I had an offer of rep a few years ago and sent out the requisite notices to all agents who were still considering my work. At that time no one asked me who the offer was from. After the dust settled I ended up passing on that offer of rep (which was really just my gut telling me it wasn't the right project/agent match). Fast forward to this year, and I had a new offer of rep for a different project. This time when I notified agents still considering the novel EVERYONE asked me who the offer was from. I could absolutely sense their distrust. Apparently this has become a real scam by unscrupulous writers.

NLiu said...

Wow. And apparently *Colin* deserved to be eaten by bears...

All the best for the end of NaNo, those who are participating! Think of all the words you got down (The ideas had! The writerly discipline forged!) not the days you failed. And remember: the international date line is quite far away. Still a few hours to go!

Matt Adams said...

While I'm not defending the writer, this really does stink of overkill and feels a lot like piling on, especially when retweeted a bunch of times like happened yesterday. The writer tried something to get agents' attention and speed up the process a bit (or they got the name wrong, or misinterpreted something or whatever). It was a mistake, but one the agent could have easily ignored or addressed when/if she was asked about it. Instead she went public, and while she didn't use the writer's name, she added to the pantheon of how annoying queriers are.

What's troubling about this is it's all one-sided Writers don't have a forum to complain about bad agent behavior because of the very thing Janet talked about, that any bad querier behavior gets discussed in the community. I've had bad experiences with agents -- plenty of great ones, too -- but I'd never say anything about it publicly (or tweet about it) for that very fear. But agents have no such qualms about complaining about writers (even if they are just queriers) and it feels a little gross to see how quickly people pile on. Queriers are human being who have invested a lot of their time, talents and energy into a process they have little control over. Most of the time their hard-crafted (even if lousy) queries are just ignored, or their novel -- the thing they are deeply emotionally invested in -- is rejected out of hand. I'm sure bad queries, or mis-followed guidelines, or even silly attempts to rush the process are aggravating, but it would be nice if a little more empathy was presented to writers. Even bad ones. They're trying as hard as they can -- they just want it so bad. While the occasional bit of bad behavior is not justified, it's at least understandable.

Claire Bobrow said...

This story should go in a Query Tales collection to be read each Halloween around a campfire. As KarenMcCoy wrote in her last FF entry: facepalm. I missed the Twitter storm as I was probably reading tweets from The Museum of English Rural Life. (Their feed is hilarious!)

To all the NaNoer's: go, go, go! You should feel really proud of what you've accomplished this month.

S.P. Bowers said...

Thank you for using the word Skulduggery in your post. It makes for a happy day.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Matt I so understand you feeling bad for the writer because we're writers. In this case, I do think the agents are doing other writers a service.

Agents do "pile on" bad agents as well as querying writers pulling over the line moves. This was an asshat move on the writer's part. It upset me as someone about to query again for the reasons Luanne mentioned. It hurts trust between perspective agents and their perspective clients.

A few months back, an agent was lying to her clients about offers and the agent community quickly descended on the agent and used her name to warn writers about the dishonesty in that deal. As a community, most agents play fair. They love writers. Really. If they don't, they are really in the wrong business.

And I appreciate agent warnings for writers with their don't do this thing or that thing tweets. Most of those warnings are not career killers. Just one way tickets to Carkoon for a spell. And Jeff Somers did most of the "do not does" and survived quite well apart from his pants.

As for a place for writers to complain about agents, this blog has dealt with unfortunate agent problems over and over again. Agents that don't communicate or seem shady. Agents that disappear. Agents that drop clients after very little effort to sell book. Agent-client mismatches. Agencies that close shop with no warning. This is where writers can complain and find a path back from such matters.

Writer Beware is another site for this. It's not a personal thing or an us and them situation. Bad behavior on both sides is discouraged equitably as it hurts all of publishing, a business both writers and agents depend on.

Yes, writers are desperate to find representation and a book deal. Believe me, I am so nervous about diving into the query trenches again, I can't stand it. I put so much into this book. But agents are desperate too. They are dying to find the next Harry Potter, the next Lee Child or Stephen King. They need new writers to do that. It's not such an uneven game really. Although, none of this makes rejection any easier. On either side.

Oh, sorry I am rambling. Trying to escape day job. There's stomach flu in the school district. I am almost the last one standing.

Colin Smith said...

Elise said most of what I was going to say. I'd also include the QueryTracker forums as a place for writers to warn about dodgy agents.

I find it incredible that people would think it's okay to lie about their credentials. Especially these days, who really believes they'll never get found out? Communication and research is significantly easier with the internet. Beyond that, agents talk. If you tell Lauren Spieller you've had an offer of rep from Barbara Poelle, I'm sure within 24 hours Lauren would have a text or email from Ms. Poelle confirming or denying the fact. And Ms. Poelle won't question why Lauren asked. She understands. And she would probably do the same.

NLiu: Thanks for the sympathy, but trust me. Becoming bear breakfast is nothing compared to the kale fields of Carkoon. Janet was being kind. :)

Amy Johnson said...

Do bears like the taste of kale? After roaming the kale fileds--not just any kale fields, but those kale fields--would Colin taste like kale? Can a bear's sense of smell detect that a person would taste like kale? Does time served on Carkoon immunize a person from bear attack? Could that be the purpose of the suffering? So many questions ...

Timothy Lowe said...

I, for one, don't think lying is a legitimate business practice, in this case, not even an effective means to an end. Especially if it means dragging some unsuspecting professional's name into the mix. When you throw someone's name around like that, you could be doing that party damage as well.

Yes, it might feel like "piling on" and "shaming" but I think Miss Volpe had a right (responsibility?) to make it clear publicly.

Claire Bobrow said...

I agree the social media piling-on situation can be excessive. However, while there are plenty of honest “dunderhead” mistakes a querying writer can make, falsely claiming an offer of representation isn’t one of them. Everyone who's trying to get published presumably wants it badly. That doesn’t excuse lying. Does anything? Good relationships are built on honesty and trust. To manufacture an offer to get ahead is a betrayal of all parties involved, and of readers and writers everywhere.

Craig F said...

It seems kind of like a bunch of upper class men having a joke on an under class man's naivete in social situations.

I admit this may have gone a bit beyond that. It could also be an excitable child who really believed what they said. It would be easy to be deluded if you haven't done enough research to understand the system.

That system is kind of screwy, compared to the rest of the world.

Bears, except for Polar Bears, do enjoy an, at least, occasional salad. That would make Colin even more delectable to their palate.

BrendaLynn said...

I’m at the stage where agents ‘almost’ like me. It’s the publishing equivalent of “Let’s be friends.”
The thing is to not let the madness drive you into doing something that you regret (that empty case of Lindt chocolate and vacant bottle of Johnny Walker notwithstanding). The thing is to get back on your desk chair and write another, better novel.
If I’ve learned anything about this query nonsense, it’s that it progresses as your writing improves.


Karen McCoy said...

What Claire and Elise said. All the facepalms. Joanna Volpe is a great agent, from what I hear. I saw her on a panel a few months back, and she's also a brilliant speaker. Looks like someone was trying to bank on that reputation--and now, if they want to keep writing, it will likely have to be under a pseudonym.

Not going to win NaNo--new project is only at about 30,000 words...but lots of revisions are happening, in lots of projects! For those of you getting new words in, go, go, go!!

Karen McCoy said...

BrendaLynn, just saw your comment. I am at the exact same place. I hope you make it out of the "friend zone" before I do! :)

Beth Carpenter said...

I've wondered about those spam emails that pretend to be something official, but turn out to be an offer for refinancing my mortgage. As if I'd take a mortgage from a business whose first contact with me was a lie.

I can absolutely understand the temptation. You've queried and waited. It's hard to understand why a novel that took six months to write takes a year to read, and by gosh, you just want an answer...but it's still a lie.



AJ Blythe said...

I wonder if the writer in question got bad advice from another writer or author? Sadly, I often see others trying to genuinely help by offering bad advice. Published authors who have been in the biz for a while and out of touch with querying or writers who have heard the whispers (and there are some crazy wives tales of publishing out there) may not understand how wrong the advice is.

Regardless, even if you hear what sounds like good advice, you should consult Dr Google. A few minutes of your time and any writer can sort the bear from the kale.

And thanks Amy for asking the important questions!

Colin Smith said...

If I may offer some responses to Amy's questions, drawn from my considerable experience on that infamous exile planet:

1) Do bears like the taste of kale?
It seems they will tolerate it if it happens to be in the mouth of the human they are consuming at the time.

2) After roaming the kale fields--not just any kale fields, but those kale fields--would Colin taste like kale?
That's actually a good question. One of the interesting properties of Carkoonian kale is its strong odor that tends to rub off on those who spend prolonged periods of time among its verdant leaves (e.g., exiles to Carkoon). I can attest to being licked by various kale-loving creatures. Including the farmer. Who did look remarkably like a grizzly bear. With six arms.

3) Can a bear's sense of smell detect that a person would taste like kale?
I can't speak for regular bears, but that kale farmer did get uncomfortably friendly.

4) Does time served on Carkoon immunize a person from bear attack?
Maybe not immunize, but it does put being mauled by a bear into perspective. There are worse things in life.

5) Could that be the purpose of the suffering?
To gain perspective? Quite possibly... :)

Amy Johnson said...

Ha! Thanks, Colin! I'm so glad I asked. :)

JEN Garrett said...

I have stuffed the cogs of my hamster wheel with the queries I've never sent and somehow it still manages to turn! Quick, I need to find the send button before I explode like E.M. Goldsmith's hamster wheel!

Oh, wait, that wasn't a helpful comment... Crap, what's the weather like in Carkoon this time of year?

Tammy Pigott said...

All I could think when first reading this was, “oh no! Oh no, no, NO!” This writer just ostracized him/herself from the very group of people who would go to bat for them. No matter how good their stories may be, they’ve just eliminated their chance of securing an agent. At least it’s better they showed their hand sooner rather than later, I guess . . .

BrendaLynn said...

Back at you, Karen. The best thing about this blog is that it helps you know that you aren’t alone.

Gabby said...

Claire Bobrowj, thank you for mentioning the Museum of English Rural Life. I have just started following them and their feed is indeed delightful.

Karen McCoy said...

So much this! We are indeed a mighty reef.

MA Hudson said...

If this was a genuine mistake, the writer can just use a different email and variation on their name to query again.
However, the seems more like the actions of a bully business person than a bumbling, well-intentioned newby. No matter how good the writing is, who would want to work with someone like that?!