Tuesday, August 11, 2015

So, is this normal?

Imagine my excitement when I landed Big Time Agent! However, after I signed the contract, crickets.

After 2 months I sent a gentle email nudge (BTA's preferred form of commo) asking if there were revisions needed, if I needed to do anything..etc).

After a couple of weeks, BTA responded and we talked. BTA had obviously forgotten about me and (1) asked me to resend the ms, saying that BTA got so many emails that it was lost somewhere. I did so, along with some other requested things.

It's been a month and...still those darn crickets.

I know now I should have asked more questions during The Call, like how often communication would occur.

Here's my question: is this normal, the prolonged silence? (2)  I know BTA has many best selling authors. I respect that BTA is busy, but I also run a business and I know to respond promptly to clients. How long should I give this before terminating (yep. No termination clause. I am exposing my ignorance on the internet because it might help others who are blinded by the light).

I know one of BTA's authors and this author speaks so highly of BTA. Of course, the author is a best seller, which probably helps. I think highly of BTA too, I just need to know what is normal in the agent--client world.

First, you have no idea if BTA forgot about you unless she said she had. You can't read her mind. (If you can, please fire her at once, and come sign with me)

Second, the question isn't whether this is normal. The question is whether this is how you want your working relationship to be.

Normal could involve dancing pantsless in bars on Seventh Avenue (and trust me, for some of my clients who shall remain nameless

it does)

The question isn't whether dancing pantsless is normal, it's whether you want to do it.

And it's clear you don't.

You need a different style of communication. One that does not require months of silence and phone call prompts to hear from your agent.

For some clients that style might be just fine. I have clients who hear from me no more than twice a year and are ok with that.

I have other clients who hear from me several times a week, and one of those might be a phone call just to shoot the shinola.

Every client is different. One of the things one learns as an agent is what each client wants/needs and then tailoring communication to fit that.

That kind of tailoring does not come quickly or easily.  I have clients who've given me wake up calls. I have some ex-clients who did so as well.  Sometimes we learn the hard way.

You need to do the following:

 Speak to your agent candidly. Mention it feels like she forgot who you were. Be very direct that waiting for a month feels disrespectful and like you don't have value.

Then, listen both to what she says and how she says it. If she gets defensive and blames you, or faults your expectations, things are not going to change (ie get better.)

If she listens carefully, apologizes, and the two of you work out plan for meeting your needs, things are going to change (ie get better)

If you realize things are not going to change, you have a choice to make: suck it up or terminate the agreement.

This is where you need to be brutally honest with yourself: what do you want in an agent. Some very good agents are terrible with client communication. If she can sell your book, and get you a good deal, will it be worth the communication downside?  That's a question only you can answer.

You need to think about this NOW before the book is sold, because once the book is sold, she's the agent for that book forever.

A word of warning: a lot of people will weigh in on this topic. Some will have a list of "shoulds." Be very careful about listening to other people's should lists. The ONLY thing that matters here is YOURS. I've seen too many writers go astray listening to other writers telling them they should do this that or the other.  Listen to yourself (and me of course!)


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Whoop, #1 lazy bones.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Hi 2Bs. Was wondering if you'd beat me.

Lisa Bodenheim said...


Lisa Bodenheim said...

Now that I'm all over the angst of trying to be first and misspelling 2Ns name.

About the topic at hand.
There's no such thing as normal communication style with agents? Instead, each agent has their own unique normal. OR, if we're lucky enough, we might land an agent like Janet who has her own skilled way of finessing how to deal with woodland critters.

Unknown said...

I would willing do big agent's laundry. But that's just me.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Think hard, relax. Then watch, Field of Dreams, especially the scene with Burt Lancaster (Doc, Moonlight Graham) and Kevin Costner in Doc's office the night they meet.

Those few words, so eloquently said, is the story of our lives.
I'm serious, don't do anything until you listen to Moonlight Graham.

Unknown said...


hate when I'm in a rush.

AJ Blythe said...

I understand the OPs nail biting. I think I'd be doing the same in your shoes. Nothing to add, because I've yet to sign with an agent, but I wish you all the best and hope that things work out for you.

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Congrats for signing with BTA. I hope it works well for you. Wait or no wait.

Straight forward communication is important in any business relationship. Perhaps you could ask what timeline your agent imagines for you. Best of luck. Don't let it eat you up. Write.

ProfeJMarie (Janet Rundquist) said...

"This is where you need to be brutally honest with yourself: what do you want in an agent. Some very good agents are terrible with client communication. If she can sell your book, and get you a good deal, will it be worth the communication downside? That's a question only you can answer."

This part of Janet's post is key, I think. My former agent and I recently parted ways (fortunately, on very amicable terms - I'd still highly recommend her) and while she was great and timely with communication, there were other little things about our relationship that didn't fulfill my "perfect working relationship" list. Also, none of those little things were what ultimately ended our partnership because she is friendly, professional, and very good at what she does, which meant that those "little things" would have been worth it.

On the other hand, as I search for a new agent, I know even more than I did, and this will help me with future conversations with a new potential agent. (Yes, finding another agent can happen, RIGHT? :D )

So what Janet says about having the candid conversation with your current agent is spot on, of course. It's good to get it all out there and know how it's all going to go. Also, I always found that it was helpful to have a phone call with my agent about those kinds of things instead of email (in spite of my phone phobia. Haha).

Kitty said...

Carolynnwith2Ns, is this the scene you mean ?

Colin Smith said...

2Bs!! Carolybb!!! I'm not mocking you, Lisa--that just cracked me up! Thank you for that. :D

I'm not an agent, nor do I have any experience with agents other than stalking them online and being banished to remote fiery planets with eleventh graders whose grasp of their own language is tenuous, let alone the English language. And I want an agent because...? ;)

Anyway, so, my point...? Oh yes. I fall into Janet's warning category, so I'm not going to say what you should do, Opie, other than do what Janet said. Communicate!

I'm sure this is something Janet (and maybe others) has mentioned before with regard to that "will you be my client?" call. When you accept an offer of rep, there are things we ought to talk to the agent about, one of which is our communication style: do we prefer email/text/phone/courier/town crier/kiss-a-gram/don't care? Another conversation point is frequency of communication. So rather than tell you what you should do, writer friend, I think we should use this as a reminder to all of us pre-published creatures to keep a list of "things to ask" and make sure this one is on that list. :)

Marc P said...

I am going to 'weigh in' here too ... from personal experience. I think it is so important to have a very clear idea about what you want from an Agent too as Janet so critically says... but it is also very important to have an idea about what you want from the industry too. Getting an agent is a huge milestone in a career, but it doesn't change anything overnight, nor does getting book deal or getting it published... well that does kind of I suppose... but it is a long process. The old cliche is that the journey that is more important than the arrival works here really, the relationship you have with your agent is the relationship you have with with someone that is with you all the way on that journey. Some people like quiet and the time to read a book and others like to chatter. I'm a chatterer so whenever I do speak to my agent it is like 90 percent or more probably not work related. Clearly an Agent has work to be doing and can't be doing that with every client and vice versa. My only other point to make is just be really diplomatic with any nudges you make - and just be ultra polite... I guess in a way you are on the first date basis with you Agent at this stage in relationship terms - so mutual respect is going to be the key. I am sorry about all these metaphors - but never burn a bridge unless... actually never burn a bridge. Usually no news means no news and She/he is waiting to hear back from publishers and etc. Either way brilliant news and don't worry about everybody who keep asking you about what is happening??, when is it out?? etc etc - I know that is the most infuriating part at this stage - because none of them understand how the industry works.

Colin Smith said...

Can you imagine the scene?

Mr. Hoover: Uhhh... Julie? There's a rather buff young man in nothing but a loin cloth at the door asking for you...?

Julie: Oh, that'll be from Janet.


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Oh Kitty, thank you so, so, much. That's the exact scene.

OP don't let this moment "brush past you in the crowd".
What if this were "...your only chance"?

I blew mine 44 years ago. Regret is bitter fruit.

This is not to say to hang on to what you have even if it feels wrong. But remember no relationship, personal or professional is perfect.

Theresa said...

Yes, OP, follow all of Janet's shoulds. This post is a sharp reminder that signing with an agent doesn't always equal finding heaven on earth. Sometimes personalities and work styles don't mesh.

Laura Mary said...

That's a good idea to keep a list of things to ask/things that are important to an agent/author relationship - so long as you don't get too hung up on them all being just-so, and create yourself a fictional 'dream agent' to measure up to.
Remember most issues are negotiable, particularly communication form and frequency.
Unless you are requesting kiss-a-grams Colin! That might be a deal breaker!

LynnRodz said...

I'm going to have to watch Field of Dreams again after watching that wonderful scene. Thanks 2Ns.

Hmm, Janet has a dancing pantless client who remains nameless, but doesn't mind showing his face, or does he? I hope for your sake, Janet, he doesn't read this blog! Or if he does, it's only after an evening at the bar.

OP, my advice - follow Janet's advice.

Laura Mary said...

Laura's Agent wish list:

- Revisions must come with corresponding amounts of chocolate.
- Agent to keep 2am-4am slot clear for potential 'I'm a terrible writer!' meltdown
- All timescales and deadlines must accommodate adequate Kitten video viewing time.
- contracts to be sent via kiss-a-gram.

Dena Pawling said...

“BTA got so many emails that it was lost somewhere.”

With so many agents indicating they receive carloads of queries [someone recently said 50+ per day YIKES], I can see this happening. Wouldn't it be beneficial to have a separate email address for clients to use? I would think that would be a requirement in this type of business. Or at least have your inbox set up that certain senders end up in a “client” folder, so you can prioritize those emails.

“First, you have no idea if BTA forgot about you unless she said she had. You can't read her mind. (If you can, please fire her at once, and come sign with me)”

I apparently CAN read your mind. Remember “he lives in the subway tunnels”?

Where do I sign?


Marc P said...

I had a subway for the first time in my life recently in a place called Cromer. I am here to tell you it did not change my life and I think it unlikely I shall be venturing thence again to sample similar!

Mary said...

Hi, OP here. Thanks everyone and thanks Janet for posting my question. Good advice here. I don't mind prolonged periods of silence as long as I know something is happening behind the scenes. I got spoiled because my first book was accepted by a publisher without an agent and the press has been great in communicating. But for the second, I did want to go with an agent and I got a referral to her from one of her clients. If I know she is chewing things over, having others read the ms, or even submitting, that's fine. I'll contact her tactfully.

Anonymous said...

Janet, as usual, has some pretty sage advice here. The most important being: "Be very careful about listening to other people's should lists. The ONLY thing that matters here is YOURS."

I have a friend who broke up with BTA not long ago. BTA had been after me to submit. She repped what I wrote, but wasn't even that concerned about it. She liked me and liked my writing. She approached me and asked me to submit.

I was flattered. Who wouldn't be?

I submitted the query and pages as requested. Instant reject from assistant.

Time went by and she sent me a PM on twitter asking why I hadn't submitted. I told her what happened. Submit again and put requested material in subject line.

I did. Another rejection.

Time goes by and she asks again why I'm not submitting. Oh, that had to be a mistake. Submit again.

I did. I put requested material in caps in subject line. I put at the top of the query an explanation this was personally requested from BTA.

Another rejection.

Another PM. I explain the third rejection and get, "My assistant wouldn't do that."

I was tempted to forward the mail because I really don't like the insinuation I said something that wasn't true, but I didn't. I decided if the communication was that poor within the office, I was better off not being there.

I asked friend why she broke up with BTA. Friend could have written this post. Zero communication. Zero suggestions on edit. Friend finally hired an editor since she couldn't get any answers from BTA on suggestions to improve the manuscript. Still no communication after she hired the editor.

She decided to go elsewhere.

Frankly I felt like the two friends bear hunting. "Jake, I appreciate you inviting me along to go hunting, but why'd you pick me? I know you like to hunt alone."

"If a bear attacks I don't have to outrun the bear, I just need to outrun you and you're slower than molasses running uphill."

In a previous life, as I've said before, I had two agents. Super Agent, and she really was, repped my children's books. Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum repped my suspense. I heard from SA occasionally to let me know who she was submitting to, make suggestions based on feedback, or let me know how submissions were going. I was in the catbird seat.

I heard from Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum constantly. I baked them cookies. We loved each other. They just were crappy agents. A pox on them and their little dog too.

In this life, I want an agent who communicates enough that I know I'm still alive. Those occasional reminders are good. Let me know what's going on with the manuscript once in a while. Call me to shoot the bull if you want. I like to talk. I won't be doing any calling unless there's a problem.

"Hey, Janet. I hope y'all are doing well up there. How's the minion? Who's got a new book coming out I need to read?

You know that book you've been sitting on pins and needles waiting for?

Yeah, it turned out great. That thing is awesome. You would have loved it. The funniest thing happened.

I went down to this local bar. There I was sitting in the bar nursing a Shiner Bock and this guy walks up and asks me to dance. It was a waltz and I love to waltz. Besides, he had a voice like Shelby Foote. He even kind of looked like him. Lawsy, who could say no to that? I couldn't.

Well, we wound up back at my place and everything was going pretty good until the FBI, CIA, EPA, and a few other alphabet guys busted down my door and arrested us.

So, the CIA and Homeland Security have my computer and all my papers, including that manuscript. They think it's some kind of code and won't let me have it back.

Damned Russian spies. Why'd he have to pick Shelby Foote for his American accent?"

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I'm with Amanda.
You do the agent's laundry I'll clean the bathrooms. I already swab the decks on Carkoon.
Going to the store for Comet and a new scrub brush.
Anybody need some B's? Seems I have a couple extra.

Colin Smith said...

Hello, Mary! Thanks for the question. Congrats for landing a BTA!! This is a good reminder for those of us on this side of the agent quest. :)

Anonymous said...


"Mr. Hoover: Uhhh... Julie? There's a rather buff young man in nothing but a loin cloth at the door asking for you...?

Julie: Oh, that'll be from Janet."

I was stalked by a guy for eighteen months once. It's not as exciting as it sounds, though I was on record with the police as saying if the guy broke in my house I was going to blow his head off no questions asked. They advised letting him get across the threshold before I shot him.

I transferred the phones to my babysitter one day when I went to work. She got an obscene phone call from the guy.

"Oh, you must be calling for Julie. She's not here."

What the heck, Sally? You automatically think an obscene phone call has to be for me?

Donnaeve said...

As strange as it sounds, I've learned adrenalin rushes are addictive. You get The Call - I remember mine clearly - it came at 5:00 p.m. on March 9th 2012. I liked my agent from the second he said, "Donna? How are you?"

Floored and giddy, and trying not to act like it, that's how I was. I was sooooo pumped! Things happened quickly for me. Within six days my book was on submission, so this is a bit different sure.

However, crickets invaded my house too. And the longer it went without the book being picked up, the louder they got.

Anyway, like QOTKU said, it's a matter of what you want. It won't change unless you make the effort. Here's a goodie for you; at this point in time I'm actually waiting on something I happen to know would take, oh, say about 2-3 minutes to accomplish, and I've been waiting for months.

I've learned I have an extraordinary amount of patience and it has served me extremely well in many, many, many instances over the past few years. And I've felt all the better for leaning more towards taking that approach versus reacting to "what I think."

The only "should" I would recommend is you really should think past the initial thoughts you're having now. And by that I mean what if it's the worst case scenario and you do end up terminating? I'm wondering how much detail you'd need to go into when you query again. As in "Dear New BTA, and do you end with, "I signed with X, and we have parted amicably." Since your current is a BTA, I would imagine anyone you query would know them (?) and QOTKU has said agents/editors talk. I wonder if this would make other agents think twice if they found out how new the contract was with current BTA?

IDK. In my opinion, waiting for extended periods of time is normal. It's normal in my world anyway. Haven't we all heard about the "glacial" speed of publishing? This may be partly why. Communication slog.

Donnaeve said...

Wow. Mary the OP, you've ALREADY come forward after only giving us 2.5 hours to respond to the post? There I was...busy busy busy typing out my response only to have you shut the door before I could hit Publish. Dang it.

You know we need to wax poetic, and fill Ms. Janet's comments up with something like, oh 100+ tidbits of knowledge. :)

Colin Smith said...

Donna: You certainly do have patience. You hang around us every day, after all... :)

Julie: "They advised letting him get across the threshold before I shot him." Sounds like good legal advice. :)

Colin Smith said...

Donna: You mean we managed to stay on topic for 2.5 hours? That must be some kind of record! :)

Donnaeve said...

Colin: No doubt. We should have a trophy! Or some LAVA CAKE.

Colin Smith said...

lava cake... laaaavaaa caaaake... laaaaavaaaaaaa.... 8-D

Anonymous said...


First congratulations on having a published book. Second, congratulations for acquiring BTA. That's validation you've got something special.

You have to do what's right for you. Obviously, this isn't working or you wouldn't have written to Dear Janet for advice.

I would certainly handle this sooner rather than later. You don't want to have to continue to deal with this after a sale is made.


Karen McCoy said...

2Ns: A thousand times yes. The whole movie is spectacular, but that scene in particular really resonates. I'm also reminded of a quote I read recently in the beginning of the book, "The One and Only Ivan":

"It is never to late to be what you might have been." - George Eliot

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Karen, thanks. I think I'll have that inked on my ass next to my AARP tattoo.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Oh, and Mary (OP), published book, BTA, I'm jealous just for the bragging rights.

Anonymous said...

LOL Lisa - at least you didn't forget an N... (I think your 'bother' was funnier than even the mistake!)

I'm trying to figure out what I would prefer in communications, should I ever get an agent. It's probably good to know now, so it can be brought up early (in the Call, for instance).

I think, at first, I might need some hand-holding. Not to any extreme, but some guidance in the editing process, maybe "I like what you've done here" or "I liked it better before"... just so I know where I am. A guide through the publishing process, perhaps 'I've sent this out to X number of editors whom I think would be great fits. I expect response times to range from one week to 3 months.' (I understand that 'expected response times' aren't always 'actual response times'. But after 3 months, I might be antsy for an update.)

Once I'm more confident in the process, I probably won't need as much hand-holding.

For business communication, I'm okay with e-mail. I like having the proof of the communication handy, so if I get a moment where I think, "Wait! How did I put that? Did she maybe misunderstand or did I misstate?"... I can go back into the e-mails and find out that, no, I did say this properly, and she did understand what I said.

But that doesn't mean I wouldn't like a call once in awhile to shoot the breeze. I like shooting the breeze. I never hit it, of course, as I'm a terrible marksman, but I enjoy doing it, anyway. And I think that having that sort of communication would help me to feel better about publishing woes, because I'll know my agent knows me and understands me.

I'd also like some advice in how to deal with my professional life. What are my weaknesses, and how can I make them stronger? Should I self-publish some of my work to promote other work? <-- this is something I would much prefer to have an agent discuss with me than to just go out on my own.

Also - what Laura said: chocolate. Gluten-free chocolate. Chocolate can make the world a better place, even in the depths of publishing woes.

Lynn: Regarding the client who shall remain nameless... I follow his Twitter account. He speaks often of pantslessness and booze. He is not ashamed of either.

ReCaptcha: Again with the commercial trucks? Are you trying to make it difficult? There were at least 5 images of trucks of various kinds. What makes a truck 'commercial'!!! (and no, you didn't fool me with that vintage sports car)

Lisa Bodenheim said...

CarolyNN with 2NN's NOT 2BB's: Yea, sorry about that. My eyes weren't terribly focused and my fingers were trigger-happy.

Maybe Colin would like those 2BBs since he had a good chuckle from them.(actually I did too when I saw what I did--after the *palm to forehead* move)

Or maybe Colin only needs 1B?


All in good fun, Colin? (I hope he thinks so)

Mary said...

You guys are hilarious. This is way more entertaining than work right now.

Julie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Julie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lisa Bodenheim said...

ooops, I missed bjmuntain's comment. Maybe he'd like that other "b"


Theresa said...

Like Donna, I'm curious about what happens after the termination of an author-agent contract. There must be endless scenarios, though. Has anyone terminated then quickly found a new agent--even when the original book on submission was never placed?

Colin Smith said...

Lisa: I could take one b: Colibwith1B. I've often been CollinWith2Ls. Some people hear my name pronounced and think it must be spelled with 2Ls. I need to be careful with BBs here, though. Give these Carkoonian teens any weapons and who knows what will happen. :)

Julie: Wow! That is really scary/creepy/nasty. Of course, I didn't mean to imply that you would be anything less than faithful to your beloved. And if I was to be accurate to the kind of kiss-a-gram Janet would send, he would probably be more like Jack Reacher than a Chippendale. :)

Colin Smith said...

And by Julie I meant Julie H, not Julie W... Julia as opposed to Julie. Yeah, you all figured that out, I'm sure... :)

Julie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Donnaeve said...

Julia. Totally creepy, for sure.

Never been stalked but I had to go to court once - b/c a kid all of 15 years old exposed himself. Tried to say it was an accident.

The judge was a trip.

Judge: "So, your ****** was out?"

Kid: "Yeah, I didn't know though."

Judge: "You didn't know?"

Kid: "Nuh uh."

BANG! goes the gavel.

Judge: "I'm a male, in case you hadn't noticed, and son, I always KNOW when the horse has left the barn. One year probation and six months community work, and 80 hours of counseling."

Yeah. That happened.

Anonymous said...


"And then it occurred to me... how the heck did he get my phone number?"

Been there done that. A guy in Everquest, a game, tracked me down, got my name, then had a friend in IRS get my address and phone number for him.

I get a call. "Hey, Julie. This is Haylen from Everquest. Are you surprised?"

"Umm, yeah. How'd you get my phone number?"

"I have a friend at the IRS. I'm going to be in Texas next week. Want to go have coffee?"

Colin Smith said...


I started commenting here because I decided that 1) The chances of screwing up were pretty high. But. 2) The results of screwing up were probably not horrendous, at least at first, and 3) I could figure out how not to screw up before things got horrendous.

Let me add 4) Because we all screw up, and we all know it, so the rope here particularly long before you really hang yourself. If this little vommenting community can help you (and the rest of us) hone interaction skills--at least in written form--then that's a wonderful thing.

Julie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...


And by Julie I meant Julie H, not Julie W... Julia as opposed to Julie. Yeah, you all figured that out, I'm sure... :)--

Yeah, anymore I go back and reread through comments to try to match up the Julie responses so I don't look stupid.

Anonymous said...


"Never been stalked but I had to go to court once - b/c a kid all of 15 years old exposed himself. Tried to say it was an accident."

I've had two of those experiences where I called the police. One guy was in a car and asked me for directions. He couldn't hear me, so I walked closer and there he was saluting the flag.

I made a consoling remark about the miniscule object then got his license number and called the police.

The second guy was a bit more interesting. I got stood up for a date and was irked, so I decided to walk downtown to the movie. I noticed someone following me, but didn't pay too much attention aside from just keeping an ear to how close he was. I crossed the railroad tracks that ran between two high fenced sections of a lumber yard and the guy closed on me.

"Get back in the alley."


"Get back in the alley. I've got a gun."

He raised his coat pocket that had something in it.

"I don't think so."

"I said get back in the alley before I shoot you."

"Well, go ahead. Damned stupid ass men. I'm not in the mood for your sh!t."

I walked away with him standing there, mouth hanging open.

I was about a half block away when he yelled. "What's the matter with you! I've got a bra and panties, too."

All right, that was over the top. I stopped at the next phone booth and called the cops. You know, you'd think threatening to shoot someone should be over the top, wouldn't you?

Turns out he had accosted several women. The cops said he was a rapist. I don't know. They arrested him in his garage. He was sitting in there in a gold lame' bra and panties, sucking on a baby bottle.

Yes, I got to ID him.

Colin Smith said...

Julia: That's good. I've done enough stomping on toes this past week. Though if Max Buttonweezer doesn't quit doing that thing with his ears when I talk about gerunds, I'm going to flatten his feet more than they already are! Yes, I have a Buttonweezer in the class. I'm sure it's part of the punishment.

Julie: So has anyone based their MC on you yet? I'm taking notes. Seriously, that kind of come-back is something I read in novels. Excellent! :)

Marc P said...

@julia seems like you are living life with your nerves unsheathed - which most writers do but not to that extent. The trouble with writing is that you then have to walk into the fire with those unsheathed nerves. And waiting and worrying and waiting is the cruelest fire of the lot. For me I feel most calm - when I am in my head and writing new stories - so the old advice is get on with something else is really a good one - for me at least. It also helps if you can vary what you write as well maybe. So that if it is a novel you are waiting on.. why not do some other form of writing before talking another such large project. Some articles. A play maybe that you can get performed locally. Some Flash Fiction. Of course nowadays most publishers want to talk about other books - so ignore all that and get stuck into the next novel! The next novel is always the best anyway! :)

Marc P said...

Sorry @Julia I am just realising that you are the Julia who already has a good body of novels and not not writing more! Ignore me.

Colin Smith said...

If I might deviate from the topic ever so slightly, this conversation has caused me to reflect on that ever popular bad guy move of grabbing an innocent party--perhaps the hero's loved one--and forcing the hero to bend to his will by threatening the life of the person in his grasp. [Yes, the logical link between the foregoing conversation and this thought is tenuous to say the least.]

It seems to me this is a very risky move on the part of the bad guy for two reasons:

1) He's relying on the fact that the hero really doesn't want him to kill the person in his grasp. If the hero is a sociopath, or has decided that one life doesn't outweigh the cost of failure, bad guy's plan is toast.

2) Bad guy has put all his eggs in one basket. The success of his counter-measure is in the hands of the person he's holding. If he shoots her (assuming female for the sake of using a pronoun), his advantage disappears, and that momentary distraction might be fatal. So if shooting her is really not an option, his threat is empty. She can fight against him, kick him, and cause enough of a distraction to help the hero. Indeed, she has nothing to lose trying to escape, and whatever the outcome of her attempts to break free, the mere fact of her struggling helps buy the hero time.

So when considering crisis moments for the hero in a story, this situation doesn't rank very highly for me.

Okay, back to the regularly scheduled conversation...

Anonymous said...

Lisa: b-bjmuntain? Bad? Umm... Big? Nah... Bratty? Yeah, that's more accurate... :)

JulieH: I understand that anxiety. I get phone anxiety (but it's only a problem if I'm the one phoning - accepting calls is easier.) I think that's why it's important to get an understanding of each person's communications style. When you get THE CALL (insert overly-dramatic three-tone soundbite here), you'll say something like, "Umm. I need to talk about communications styles. I need you to know that, whatever I say, I don't mean to be disrespectful. And I need to be treated with respect in all communications. And a 'keep-in-touch' call or e-mail will help immensely." Maybe you prefer to communicate by e-mail, so you can self-censor.

Which is exactly why I sat down and figured out what sort of communications I need and posted it above. So I would know what to say to an agent, should I ever get one on the phone. :)

As for 'attracting these guys' - No. When you say that, you say that it's your fault they do this, that you're the one who's doing something wrong. Stop that. You're not doing anything wrong. There is some percentage of guys who are sleazeballs. The more guys you know (on social media, on the internet, in real life), the more sleazeballs you're going to meet. But that's THEIR fault. THEY'RE the ones who are sleazeballs. THEY'RE the ones who need to learn to control themselves in a civilized manner. And if they don't do this, it's not your fault.

I'm sorry that some of the sleazeballs have been worrying you, even scaring you. Like your husband (and others) has said, call the police. Because it's their fault they're scaring you, and they need to face the consequences.


Julie said...
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Anonymous said...

Colin: This made me think of the Ransom of Red Chief, by O. Henry.

For those who haven't enjoyed this short story (you can find it online easily), it's about hapless crooks who kidnap a kid for money... and it backfires.

Colin Smith said...

What bj said. We all have the capacity to be mean, creepy, sleazy, jerky (not the beef kind), etc. But most of us aren't either because we don't want to be, or we prefer people to like us rather than fear us. Anyone who chooses not to restrain the mean, creepy, sleazy, and jerky only has themselves to blame for the consequences.

Colin Smith said...

I should qualify my statement above. There are people with social disorders who struggle with "normal" social interaction and hence come across sleazy, creepy, etc without intending to. That's a bit more complex, and represents a minority of cases. I'm speaking to the majority here.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

I feel like I won't know what I would want, communication wise, with an agent until I had an agent and felt as though I "knew" them. I know I wouldn't want their communication with me to feel as though I had been remiss, somehow, and "had a test today" (to reach back to those terrible high school days when I sat down and wondered what everybody else was getting ready for....). Weeks or months with no contact is probably not what I'd be comfortable with, and I'd like to think I'd say so. Even a once a week check in doesn't seem to terrible, from either side. But then, my day job pretty much stays at work, so there's that.

I"m not sure why we're talking about being accosted on the street (I haven't had time to read all the comments, had a meeting this morning and sent a query out on my earlier break), but other than the occasional "why don't you smile" type of bullshit comments in the parking lot of the grocery store (I swear to God, the closest I ever came to murder was one day when a guy said to me "Smile, it can't be that bad." My father had passed away the month before. It certainly fucking was.) I've *thank God and knock wood* never had that issue.

I'm not a small person, I have not "Bitchy Resting Face" but what my friends have called "Judging Bitch Face" and if I'm just out in the neighborhood about town (and not on my work break), I'm walking a Doberman. So. I don't seem too approachable, and that's fine by me.

Anonymous said...


"Julie: So has anyone based their MC on you yet? I'm taking notes. Seriously, that kind of come-back is something I read in novels. Excellent! :)"

Wouldn't that be scarey as all get out?

One of the gals from my writing group wants me to do a talk at Surrey in the unconference thing about horses in fiction. She reminded me she still has the piece I wrote about how to clean a horse sheath. There's more to it than one might think.

I said, "Yeah, I imagine that would be the hit of the conference. Me talking about cleaning a horse sheath."

Of course, I've always thought that would be a great opening to a romance novel. Cowgirl is standing there with her arm up to her elbow inside a gelding rubbing the little bits and barnacles loose when a city guy comes up.

Flip the common trope on its ear and have a city guy falling in love with a cowgirl.

You're welcome. Run like smoke and oakum with it.

Julie said...
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Colin Smith said...

Julie: Nuh-uh. That one's yours. Write what you know! ;) Besides, from your anecdotes you have the perfect voice for that kind of story. Where do I preorder? :)

To the topic (or the thing most closely resembling the topic): If asked my communication preference, my natural inclination would be to say to the agent, "Oh, whatever's good for you!" which I know is not at all helpful. But, you know, I don't want to be a bother... :) If pressed, though, I prefer text/email over phone. On the business side of things, I don't need the agent to contact me frequently, but enough for Agent to be satisfied that I'm working on revisions, etc. And just to check in to make sure I'm still alive. I might contact Agent more often, though, and I would like a fairly prompt reply, even if it's a quick text to say "Can't talk now. I'll reply later." And Agent would need to make good on that promise. On the personal side of things, if Agent wants to shoot the breeze, I'm fine with a text/chat anytime.

Oh, and there should be an understanding that Sundays are usually the worst time to try to get up with me.

So, for all you agents out there who read this blog and are drawing up plans for my Flash Fiction Anthology, that's everything you need to know about contacting me. ;)

Julie said...
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Colin Smith said...

Julia: I'm picking my jaw off the floor. Your BROTHER is the Senior Pastor at First Baptist in Durham? Your BROTHER is Andy Davis? I was at a conference at First Baptist a few years ago, heard him speak, and met him. Wonderful, amazing guy. I have a ton of respect for him. He probably wouldn't remember me (though knowing his memory skills, he might). He would certainly remember the event.

"It's a Small World" just became INCREDIBLY real.


OK... I'll go back to reading the rest of your comment. But I think my mind is toast for the rest of the day now...

Julie said...
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Colin Smith said...

Julia: I remember him as being warm and friendly and intimidating all at the same time. I can fake smart by virtue of my accent. He's the real deal. And for a number of reasons that wouldn't be appropriate to go into here, I can understand what you say about him--not that I know him, but because he is, so to speak, of my tribe (you've read my About page). While I know I share a great many of his theological convictions, we don't always express those convictions the same way. To put it another way: we share the same concept of grace; we don't always express it the same way. He's not alone in that; and neither am I. :)

Colin Smith said...

Julia: And my point with the "small world" thing--sure, EVERYONE knows Andy. But how many of those people do you run into vommenting away on Janet Reid's blog? :)

Ardenwolfe said...

Thank you for this. It's more timely for me than you know.

LynnRodz said...

BJ, yeah, I follow him on Twitter as well. His favorite phrase is, "to the bar!" It's one of mine, too. Lol.

Julie said...
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Colin Smith said...

Julia: I'll look at the pics later when I'm home. Work clearly believes Pinterest is too dangerous for us. Probably true. ;) But thanks for sharing. :D

Julie said...
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Colin Smith said...

Julia: Well, I for one would love to meet you IRL. I hope we manage to make it to the same conference sometime. You come across as very open, friendly, and take-me-or-leave-me-here-I-am which I think is great. Not always comfortable, but I like that kind of discomfort. It challenges me and the social walls I put up.

Eeek, this is getting deep. Someone bring out the kale! :)

Donnaeve said...

Julie W!

"I made a consoling remark about the miniscule object then got his license number and called the police."

Took me a while to get off the floor. Ho boy. *wipes tears*

Your other story is more scary but just as hilarious!

I called the police too. I mean, there I was, a single mom, living in the trailer park, with two kids, and we'd already found a body in the woods a few months before. I didn't need some crazy hormonal teen bordering on becoming a psychopath and thinking he could visit to show me what he had. He was only fifteen but bigger than me.

Sheriff shows up and I tell him what happened.

"There I was sitting on my couch looking through his holiday wrapping paper sales sheet, and thinking about buying something when, there it was."

Here's the oddest thing - well, considering this account, not the oddest - I wasn't sure I was seeing what I was seeing because I'd taken out my contacts and I'm blind as a bat. I actually excused myself, went and put my glasses on, and came back and he still had it waving in the wind.

I wonder if that kid grew up normal or maybe he was the one trying to get you into the alley. :/

Julie said...
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Donnaeve said...

Talk about topic avalanche! Between Julia and Colin, and me and Julie W sharing the CREEP stories, aye yi yi.

Julia H - I found reading about all that fascinating. Thank you for sharing about your family. Good grief, why don't you write a memoir??? Your entire family is filled with genius, and incredible stories from the sound of it. Turns out, A BEAUTIFUL MIND is one of my favorite movies.

Julie said...
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Craig F said...

Damn, I was planning to abstain for a couple of days and work on the language of explaining a young solar system. I've gotten past the planetary ballet and the gas giants tromping the planets that cool too quickly but...

Mary, it sounds like it is time to threaten to head back to the query trenches. Find another agent and open a dialogue at the beginning. Exclusivity is a two way street.

The names game:

PBJMuntain, because she always get down to the peanut butter and jelly of the subject.

Colin with six S's, because he speaks and speaks and...

Julia Hovers (with her heart on her sleeve)

Someone else's turn now.

Colin Smith said...

Agree 100% with Donna, Julia. As you said, High IQ is a world many people don't understand. As both someone who is a part of that world--immersed in it, one might say--and is also a writer (i.e., skilled in the art of communication), you have a POV to share in a way that would be instructive, entertaining, and I daresay heart-wrenching at times. While I'm sure you could cite your medical/scientific background as platform, that recitation of your family's achievements is enough, I think.

Food for thought? And Janet reps memoir.

Why do I suddenly feel like a matchmaker?

"Janet, this is Julie, a remarkable writer with a fascinating family. Julie, this is Janet, a remarkable agent who represents memoir. Go have a drink and talk!" :)

Colin Smith said...

Craig: I'm sure I don't know WHAT you're talking about! I'm the quiet chappie sitting alone at the table in the corner nursing a Newkie Brown, watching the party... :)

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Colin Smith said...

Julia: Just from my wife's recent experience with the medical profession I get a sense of what you're saying. Not that she was ever badly treated, but there are those who put on a smile and do their job (with great competence), and there are those who actually appear to be concerned for your welfare. We have a number of medical professionals at church, and I can vouch for their care and concern for the people they treat. But, as you say, they take that with them to work--it's not a product of their education or environment.

As for the memoir, you can leave the professional one for now. But maybe you could consider the family one. I'm hopeless with titles, but one that came to mind for you would be: LIVING WITH SHERLOCK. :)

Julie said...
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Anonymous said...

Julia: Block that guy. That's one good thing about Facebook: you can block people like that.

And passion is a good thing. I know you want to be able to write clearly and concisely, so you want to wait until the anger is gone before you write about it... but I wonder if it might not help *you* to write through the anger. It might help to spew that pent-up energy onto a page. Have you found yourself feeling better or worse with putting everything into words today?

Sometimes the hardest things to write become the most beautiful things to read. Your posts today fit that definition.

Craig: "PBJMuntain, because she always get down to the peanut butter and jelly of the subject."

Laughing. And flattered. Thank you. :)

Amy Schaefer said...

Just to be that killjoy who strays back to the original topic...

Back in high school, my sister liked to watch a certain soap opera when we got home from school. And I tried to watch it with her, but it drove me crazy. Every minor misunderstanding blew up into a major, months-long issue. I found myself shouting at the screen, "Just talk to each other! You'll solve this in sixty seconds!" Of course, talking to each other won't keep a plotline limping along for another 60 episodes, so the characters never followed my sage advice. But I do think those are words to live by: don't live your life like you are a soap opera character. Speak and listen, speak and listen.

Figure out what you actually want in priority order (frequent communication, a big book deal, whatever is on your personal list). Express that clearly to your agent. Listen to what she says. Decide whether this is going to work or not.

Now, anyone want to trade places for a day? I dread absolutely everything I have to do today. Maybe I'd better get another coffee.

ETA: reCAPTCHA asked me to choose airplanes. Yep, I'm looking to escape, all right.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Okay, so I just got home from an afternoon of ( never mind ) and we're 90 comments in. So I wondered, what is my commitment regarding reading them all. So instead of reading I highlighted, cut and paste.

Well boys and girls, 90 comments is a 40 page book of single, plus double, plus white space of 13,001 words. Pretty respectable. If I decide to read, rather than write, I won't get much done. So I skimmed.
Julie, Julie, and Julia plus Colin, Colin and Colin plus 2ns, 2Bs and some Donnas and Amy, a BJ and (was Hank there?), a Dena, a Mary and a some Marcs, plus some others and it's an interesting read, I guess, because I'm going to work on my column now. Really I am.
I just added another 137 words.

John Frain said...

Sorry to intrude with a comment ON TOPIC (I'm so brazen!), but Janet's warning at the end of her post sounded so much like an invitation that I had to offer a "should" of my own.


You should be able to set expectations, OP (because what kind of name is Mary when we can call you Opie). I find that if you set expectations with someone, then waiting is not a big deal. If I'm on hold, and I have no idea how long I'll be on hold for, I might hang up after 30 seconds. But if I'm on hold and a voice says my estimated wait time is 3 minutes, then it's no big deal. BECAUSE THEY KNOW I'M HERE.

Same way with an agent/author relationship (listen to me talk about something I know nothing about!). If your agent tells you she's going to pass your ms around to a few agents in house and that'll take the better part of the next two months, then you don't have a thing to worry about for 60 days. Okay, 90. BECAUSE THEY KNOW YOU'RE THERE.

So maybe you should just tell your agent you like to understand what the expectations are (goes both ways) and that way you'll be able to concentrate better on your next manuscript.

Donnaeve said...

Julia, back OFF TOPIC if I may...

Holy F---amoli! To steal one of QOTKU's famous phrases.

I can say nothing to that absolute abysmal experience you had, except I'm glad you're HERE! And...that I was recently at UNC Children's Hospital. While there, I watched a group of what looked like interns go drifting by. They walked with such...I'm sorry to say, arrogance. They wore Carolina blue medical coats like it elevated them above the rest of us standing around waiting on admittance, or information, or whatever. I suppose if you get into UNC you have a lot to be arrogant about. It is a top school. Still. It was just an observation, but it struck me I wouldn't want them to touch me.

I realize there are many compassionate medical folks out there. You would likely have been the one I'd want to see hovering over my bed.

AJ Blythe said...

Wowzers, guys. Sometimes sitting on the bottom of the other side of the world isn't much fun - I miss the conversations! Wish I could read all your comments because the ones I skimmed were up to your normal standard. Maybe when you guys finish daylight saving and we start things will align better? Or will it get worse? Gah, timezones and I don't get a long.

Julie said...
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Carolynnwith2Ns said...


"Sometimes the hardest things to write become the most beautiful things to read."

Next week's sub-header maybe ?

AJ Blythe said...

Sometimes the hardest things to write become the most beautiful things to read. - bjmuntain

It gets my vote!

Unknown said...

Kind of off topic, but this question reminded me of something that happened back in 2013. I had the opportunity to pitch to Deborah Grosvenor (Tom Clancy's agent). First, I asked her in the hallway. She was curt and seemed...odd. Maybe it was because she wasn't receptive and declined to even hear me when I met so many wonderful agents and authors who were so warm and inviting.

I fortunately had a round 2 with her. Can you imagine? It was during a formal pitching session later that day. The goal was to be the "winning pitch" out of like 20 people and get a one-on-one with an agent. Deborah was on the panel of authors and literary agents judging. So, I read my pitch. If anything, I thought, I would get feedback from the 4 panelists. Each one had nothing but positive things to say, including Deobrah. She even dared to say the plot "seem really interesting". Dear God, she used a word of emphasis!

Unfortunately, it was a no from all of them. Why? Because they wondered where the audience would be for the book, as it sounded like a boys book ("think 'Fight Club'" one of them said). Nowadays, it's seems to be all about niches and unknown books becoming big. -_- Story of my life. Oh well.

Julie said...
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Susan said...

Julia: I've only been a lurker here for a little over a week, but your story about your experience with the medical establishment made me want to reply.

I want to tell you I empathize with your story, and I understand your fury. I've felt that same anger and frustration every day for years. Now...now I'm just mostly sad that it's come this far, that we refuse to take care of each other, that the people who are supposed to be helping us--who have the access and the knowledge--are so willfully ignorant.

I've had Lyme Disease for over 15 years. Most of my childhood and into adulthood, I've struggled with fatigue and a variety of nuisance symptoms that I was made to believe was just part of my genetic make-up. About three years ago, I had my gallbladder removed because it was infected (no test showed this, it was only because I was complaining that I was in so much pain that they decided to remove it and only later discovered it was infected. At one point previously, my gastroenterologist patted me on the shoulder and said 'you just have a sensitive stomach.' I responded by asking him if I kicked him in the you-know-what and it hurt, did it mean he had sensitive...Nevermind. Not important.).

After my gallbladder surgery, I went downhill fast, only no one could figure out what was going on. I was passing out all the time, having problems with my heart, my body was in agony, the fatigue was horrific, I was having problems concentrating, etc. Doctor after doctor offered their opinions but no solutions. Because all the tests came back negative, people thought I was crazy or making it up--to the point where I began to wonder if maybe I was. Luckily, I have people close to me who know me. Luckily, I knew myself better than that, too. I had to fight for my own life--and search for my own doctor who would later--in every possible way--save my life.

Because Lyme Disease isn't easily recognized, these doctors refused to acknowledge it as even a possibility. Even now, there's a war between doctors who claim that Chronic Lyme Disease doesn't exist and the patients who are living this nightmare ("Thirty days of antibiotics is all you need to get better," they say. Thirty days of antibiotics is in no way enough to rid the body of intelligent bacteria that have had years to burrow into every organ and tissue in the human body). Finding a diagnosis is just one battle. Treatment is another. Combine the pain, inability to walk or function, and the fatigue with the isolation of people who don't understand what you're going through--who don't care to even try--and it's the most terrifying, lonely experience--a horror story if there ever was one.

The thing is, there are thousands upon thousands of people who have similar stories--not just with Lyme Disease, but with other chronic illnesses and diseases, such as your own. Each one of them is suffering, each of them is struggling to survive, just begging for someone to say, "I get it. I understand. I'm here. Let me help you." Where is that compassion? ESPECIALLY from doctors, the people from whom we need it most?


Susan said...

(continued 2/2)

I say all this to tell you that I get it. I understand the anger--I feel it, too. I understand having something taken away from you--there's a part of me that feels like everything I've worked for has slipped through my fingers with this illness, when you often can't do much more than exist. I understand trying to find another purpose--I don't know what mine is yet, but I catch glimpses of it and maybe that's enough for now.

I understand the need to wait to write your story.I ended up writing mine as fiction (a coming of age story about a teenager struggling with a chronic illness) because it was the easiest way to explore everything I experienced without reliving it. But the emotions are still there--still real, still raw.

For me, the healing came from the writing. Even if you're not ready for that just yet, I hope you know that just hearing your story today, in this comment section, makes a difference. Because here's someone else who can stand up and say, "Me, too. I'm pissed that this happened to me, too. And I don't want it to happen to anyone else."

I think going through something like this makes you realize what you will and won't stand for. It changes you, makes you stand up for yourself, stand up for others. That's the difference you're making, just by having this story to tell in the first place.

I hope that you're well now. At the very least, I hope that you're healing and healthy--or at least on your way there. I know I don't know you--or anyone on this forum--very well, and I hope my comment isn't presumptuous. I just really wanted to say thanks for sharing. The long-winded way. ;)

Anonymous said...

I’m very late, and doubt if anyone will read this. But I’ll vomment anyway.

Mary, congratulations on signing with BTA! I’m doing the happy dance for you. :)

Colin, if Julia doesn’t want the buff guy in the buff, send him my way.

Julia, on finding a phone number: A few years ago I played an online RPG. Several of us talked on IM every night. One night Nancy started typing weird things that didn’t make sense, then typed gibberish. Then she stopped responding. Bill and Tanner were in the chat box too, and we all got worried.
I knew what state Nancy lived in, and that she lived near a military base. I hit Google and started looking. Within five minutes, I had her phone number and street address. I called…no answer. Called again…no answer. I was about to call the local police and send them to her house. Tried one more time…her son answered. I told him there was something wrong with his mother. He said “She’s in bed. She’s fine.” I insisted he check the den, where the computer was.
Minutes later, he was back. “I have to call 911. Mom’s having a stroke.” Phone went dead. Nancy was back on IM two weeks later. She said it was creepy knowing how easy it was to find out someone’s personal information, but if I hadn’t, she would have died.
Sorry, long story just to say “If you have a little info, it’s pretty easy to find out more.”
On communication: I prefer email. When I have a BTA of my own, I will ask “When will I hear from you again?” That will go on my calendar, and I won’t worry one little bit until that time comes. If it comes and I don’t hear anything, I will send an email to say “Any news?”

On doctors: When I was going through cancer treatments the first time, I ended up in the ER and found the most wonderful doctor. 18 years later, he is still my doctor, even though I have to drive an hour for a visit. He’s a wonderful, warm caring person, and I’m not letting him go. I’ve seen enough of the other kind to know what a treasure I have.

Julie said...
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Laura Mary said...

Anyway, my belated contributions on stalkers/flashers…
I was reading Gone Girl last year, and a friend commented on the fact that Amy is described as being ‘the type that attracted stalkers’ and how ridiculous that was.
It’s not, I get it. I seem to be a magnet for that kind of activity. Last week I had someone follow me ¾ mile down a country cycle path just to tell me he liked my leggings, oh and did I think it would storm this afternoon, and did I live near here…
I get told life stories on busses and trains all the time despite quite often sitting with headphones in and a book in hand.
A couple of years back I had to have management intervene with a work colleague who either wanted to be my best friend or steal my life, I’m still not sure which. It escalated slowly so by the time I told my boss I was getting 160 emails a day from this person I really had no idea how to shut it down! I’d get text massages seconds after posting something on twitter which made me think he must have been watching my feed constantly, and the replies were always such a massive overstep – I’d tweet about burning my dinner, he’d text and offer to come round and cook for me or did I want to get a takeaway… We never socialised once outside of work and he was married too! Luckily it all ended when he left the company.

As for flashers, my sister and I were once followed (sort of) home by a guy who thankfully was always on the other side of the street, but would emerge from alleyways *ahead* of us (how did he know where we were going??!?!?!?!?) with his trousers down, er, giving himself a treat! It happened about 5 times on a 30 minute walk. We laughed it off at the time, and lit cigarettes so we could burn him if he came too close. Obviously. But whenever I think about it now it gives me the heeby jeebies.

Marc P said...

Sounds like you are in England Laura Mary, and I don't know where you live but round here they have the bright idea of turning off the street lights at night! Absolutely beggars belief - we are going back to the worst of the Victorian times in a lot of ways!

Mary said...

Update: I sent a nice email to BTA checking in and asking what expectations were for communication. I got an email back a minute later setting up a call in three weeks. As a terrified woodland creature I of course feel like she is going to tell me my book is unsellable (why do I go there?) but am preparing some questions regarding communication etc. Thanks to everyone for giving me the nudge. And for the very interesting discussion on stalkers, medicine and lava cake.

Marc P said...

Great news Mary. :)