Wednesday, July 02, 2008

That breeze you feel is your offer waving bye-bye!

I laughed out loud when I read this post over at Editorial Ass about an author who didn't understand what in-house advocate means.

This joker knew his project needed the attention of the bigwig rather than the "lowly editor." What a crock.

The one person you never treat poorly is the first person who said "yes." Everyone after that will love the project (we hope) but that first yes often ends up being the most passionate and will help you out when the fecal matter hits the atmospheric rotation device.

If you are in a competitive bid situation it's certainly fair to ask what the people up the food chain think. Absolutely. This post wasn't about that. It was about a project at the acquisition stage, and the author didn't ask what other people thought (and basically that's the agent's job anyway).

The blunt truth is there are more good projects than editors or agents have time or inclination to take on. I won't work with people who demonstrate by what they say or do that they don't value what I bring to the table. The shorthand for this is "life's too short". I hear that from my colleagues as well. Publishing isn't one of the high paying industries. One of the trade offs is we don't have to put up with jerks as often as people in other industries.

Of course, the truly ironic thing is that everyone who reads this blog already has figured that out. The people who need to hear it, won't.


PJD said...

The people who need to hear it, won't.

And of course the people who really need to hear it wouldn't recognize themselves in this story anyway. They see themselves as special when in fact they're just arrogant. (OK, some very few of them may be special as well as arrogant. I hate to generalize.)

JES said...

PJD: wouldn't recognize themselves in this story

This author doesn't sound like someone who *cough cough* needs to read editors'/agents' blogs. If anything, he probably shakes his head that so few of them frequent his site.

But I sometimes wonder about someone in his shoes just stumbling across Moonrat's post and the comments it engendered. I like to think his ears would burn in shame but suspect you're right: no clue.

A while back, I read an interview with an agent who sometimes assigns an assistant/intern to cast a net into the blogging waters. Not, as you might think, to find the Next Great Author, but to find (and highlight for future reference) potential troublemakers among the commenters on publishing-industry blogs. The agent said that if a query comes in from one of those people, no matter how courteous and deferential it might sound, the author automatically gets a form rejection.

Like, ouch, right? But also pretty obvious: you never know how your behavior might come back to haunt you!

Stacia said...

Curious: What would you do, if that were your client?

If you don't mind.

Mags said...

john said...
...but to find (and highlight for future reference) potential troublemakers among the commenters on publishing-industry blogs...

Sigh. I thought all those TRO's shoved into my SASE's had to be coming from somewhere. Aw damn.

Susan Adrian said...

All right, that's it. Between that idiot and the people who ignored the poor lady on the hospital floor, I'm divorcing from the human race. Enough.

Kelley said...

mags- could have told you that a while ago. :)

susan-I have to think they are the exceptions, not the rule. How discouraging would that be...

though, like December/Stacia, I have to wonder what another agent would do? Maybe not in this instance specifically, these are real people involved after all, but in general. There must occasionally arise instances where clients jeopardize deals because of behavior, ego, even inexperience. I'm just curious what role/responsibility the agent has in this scenario? Will/should an agent intervene? Halt discussions? Something like that?

Dharma Kelleher said...

As you are probably aware, the infinite monkey theory suggests that an infinite number of monkeys (with typewriters), given an infinite amount of time, would eventually create the works of Shakespeare.

What most agents and publishers sometimes forget is that in the interim, these same monkeys will be sending you their 400K-word cyberpunk/romance memoir (all single spaced on flame red paper with every 5th page inverted) and will be rather upset and insulted if you do not agree to represent them. And if you do say yes, expect them to still throw poo at you until they can talk to someone who's opinion "matters".

Sounds like you have one of those monkeys on your hands.

Margaret Yang said...

I'm with December/Stacia. I am really curious. What does an agent do in cases like this? Is it possible for the agent to save the author from himself?

A&J Writers said...

I must be horrible for thinking not of how to save such an author, but of how one might be able to steal such a wasted opportunity for herself. Ha! -A

H. L. Dyer said...

The poor agent was probably too blindsided to respond, but her options to save the author from himself might have included:

1. Stuffing a dinner roll into his mouth
2. "Accidentally" stabbing him with her fork
3. Inducing a state of hypnosis
4. "Smile, Moonrat! You're on Candid Camera"

Although, it seems he was pretty determined to make a horse's patootey out of himself, so she was probably doomed from the start.

Monica E. Spence said...

Some people are too stupid to live. Or write.

In-con-ceiv-able said...

That was a very informative post. Thanks to both of you for sharing. I had no idea there was someone higher up the food chain than Moonrat. : )

Julie Weathers said...

I'm surprised the agent didn't grab the "author" by the hand and take him to the back of the restaurant, like you would a misbehaving child. There, she or he would calmly and politely explain proper public behavior in the presence of adults.

Anonymous said...

One of the interesting parts of the Moonrat posting was her comments about 'junior' staffers. I did this when signing on with a financial advisor just building his practice. I figured he was young and hungry and would do a good job. He did! We've had a business relationship for over 20 yrs, even 13 of those years living in different countries.

I can see the same thing happening with an agent. Of course we would like to have the best, but sometimes growing with another person can be equally rewarding to the both of you.

Lina said...

I have enough faith in Moonrat's opinion that if she was willing to take this guy to lunch that he's probably good enough that he's going to find a deal elsewhere.

Maybe he felt that "life's too short" to go with someone less experienced. He probably spend a few years of his life writing this book and why should he go with the first person that shows interest?

The attitude that authors should be forever grateful to any agent or editor that shows them the slight bit of attention is disheartening.

This post mocks the author and calls him names, which is far more disrespectful than anything he did to Moonrat (which was, as far as I can gather, merely asking her boss to read his work).

Debra Moore said...

“Some people are too stupid to live. Or write. In-con-ceiv-able.” –Monica

I can never see the word "inconceivable" without thinking about The Princess Bride.

[Vizzini has just cut the rope The Dread Pirate Roberts is climbing up]
Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Cracks me up every time. I am often shocked at clueless “diva behavior” myself and the successful authors who display it on a regular basis. But I'm starting to wonder if maybe it’s something I should try to develop after all...perhaps it’s a “squeaky wheel” issue...

Just a thought.

Debra Moore

Julie Weathers said...

"I should try to develop after all...perhaps it’s a “squeaky wheel” issue..."

I much prefer to use, "How can I be a blessing to my agent and editor?"

The squeaky wheel often gets replaced. Especially when there are 200 other perfectly good wheels that don't squeak.

Just my two cents.

Debra Moore said...

"The squeaky wheel often gets replaced. Especially when there are 200 other perfectly good wheels that don't squeak."

I'm sure you're right (at least I truly hope you are!! :-) said...

I think the cliché you're looking for, Julie, is "the nail that sticks out gets hammered down."