Thursday, July 03, 2008

More on the floor swallowing lunch

The earlier post on tone deaf writers and what I would have done elicited this:

Okay, that is how you repair your relationship with the editor. Now, what do you say/do to the writer? Fire him on the spot? Have a long talk with him? What do you say? Writers do dumb stuff. Readers of your blog want to know what's fatal.

Honestly, I have no clue. I'm blessed with an extraordinary roster of clients, all of whom are pretty smart about how to behave in business situations. They understand that expressing frustration to me privately is cool. Asking about how things work, and what to expect BEFORE we get to the lunch (or even afterwards if something made them wonder) also cool.

I know for a cast iron fact that my authors know how to behave in public. I've seen them deal with things we still laugh about (none of which I am ever going to post on this blog, so don't even hope) with a gracious presence of mind that makes me profoundly grateful to be part of their team.

Part of that is this kind of boorish behavior doesn't just pop up unexpectedly. Someone who is this tone deaf here at the lunch has probably done or said things earlier. Those are the people who aren't clients of mine. I'm pretty careful about who I sign. As you should be about who you sign with too. Every editor has stories of agents who are tone deaf and behave like nutcases. More of those than author stories, frankly. They see more of us.

If that had happened to me I would have been pretty direct with the author about why that deal was dead now, and why I wasn't all that happy about having to go out and find another one. But no, it's not a firing offense. Yet.


JLR said...

I'm new to the blog and don't know the story. Can someone link to the prior blog? I was unable to locate it. (I am also new to blogs in general so sorry if it was easy to find & I've just missed it.)

Creative Clusterer said...

Scroll down to That Breeze You Feel/after you read that, read So, The Earth Opened UP... and good luck and welcome, as well. I don't usually post comments but wanted to point you in the right direction.

Margaret Yang said...

Adding "Watch what you say at lunch" to my to-do list.

I see your point. These things don't come out of thin air. The writer was obviously a boor in other situations too and the agent probably knew it.

Julie Weathers said...

"I see your point. These things don't come out of thin air. The writer was obviously a boor in other situations too and the agent probably knew it."

He probably is, but I am guessing the agent was just as shocked as Moonie.

No agent would knowingly jeopardize a professional relationship.

There was a very solid reason I normally conducted all real estate negotiations with the other agent only. It takes more time, but you don't have your buyer or seller making stupid remarks because they are too emotional about a decision.

In this case, writers have to be included at some point so there is no choice. I truly feel Moonie was simply saved from a very stressful relationship. Who wants to have to deal with a moron like that all the time? Hopefully, the agent either educated the writer very quickly or cut him loose. My initial response would be to cut him and then cut him loose, but that would be rude I suppose.

Geldings are just so much more pleasant to work with.

Helen DeWitt said...

The writer was certainly rude and shortsighted. But there's more than one way to understand 'these things don't happen out of thin air.' It's not uncommon for an agent to pitch an author a game plan early on (e.g. 'if you work with me you'll deal with senior people'), forget all about it, and then set up meetings with editors without telling the client the plan has changed. It's not uncommon for an agent to put pressure on a client to agree to a deal that has a good chance of going through, even if that involves major changes to the book, rather than look for someone who likes the book as it is. And it sometimes is the case that an editor isn't really right for the book - and one of the signs of this is when the editor is passionate about a project which is not the actual project under consideration, but something the current project could be morphed into after months of extra work. If an author has run into any or all of those problems in the past, if he thinks his agent is looking for a quick commission rather than the editor who's right for the book, he might take unilateral action. (Which is, again, not to say this wasn't rude, only to say we can't really tell whether this is someone who would always be impossible to deal with.)

The fact that JR doesn't run into this kind of problem may say something about her clients, but presumably also says something about the way she deals with them. There are some wonderful books, mainly for children, about mistreated animals that find a human who understands them - Black Beauty, Mary Elwin Patchett's books - and what they show us is that we really can't tell (on the basis of one incident) whether a horse that tries to kill everyone who comes near it is a rogue or an animal that has been treated very badly in the past. (Which is, I'm guessing, why JR wouldn't automatically drop a client who did this.)

pattinase (abbott) said...

Hi Ms. Reid. I wonder if you'd be interested in contributing a brief review of a forgotten book to my blog project on July 25th. You can find samples of the previous weeks here:
I can post your review on my blog should you not wish to use yours.
If you're too busy or it's not your thing, I understand and thank you for reading this. Best, Patti Abbott

Josephine Damian said...

If only agents were trained profilers. They could spot the "problem clients" before signing them up.