Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Rant: dissing agents in public

Dear Sir,

I write in reply to your blog post about your pitch session at the Austin Writers League. (At the request of the agent mentioned in that piece, I am not linking to it now.)

You've queried me in the past. [I'm sure I must be rejection #something in that long list you have. I didn't actually try to find what you said about me.]

I thought you were a good writer. You didn't happen to be writing books I wanted to take on, but that doesn't mean I thought you weren't good.

And you and I agree about the insanity of pitch sessions at conferences. You're right that asking someone to describe their writing, rather than just show you a page is nuts. In fact, I couldn't agree more.

If only, if ONLY, you'd left it at that. I would have cheered you on as a comrade in arms in the War On Pitching.

But then, you must have let your evil twin out for a spin. Is there any other explanation for your casual dismissal of Liza Dawson Associates (an agency respected by the entire publishing industry) and the agent you were meeting with?

If it wasn't your evil twin, you must believe it is not only acceptable, but witty to comment snidely on a professional woman's appearance and attire. Perhaps in your day (you do after all describe yourself as 'old') it was, but let me assure you, that day has passed. You can certainly do it, but women have found their voices (that was sometime in the 70's in case you weren't paying attention) and they have this cool new thing called social media that works like a megaphone. You can say whatever you want, but they're going to respond with a volume unlike anything you've ever heard before. And they are going to call you to answer for this unseemly behaviour.

There is a much quieter sound now as well: the sound of a thousand doors closing. One of those doors is mine. Up until yesterday when I saw your blog post, I would have read and carefully considered a query from you. Like the agent you so snidely dismissed I too read all my queries (and don't remember individual ones when asked about them weeks later at a conference.) As I mentioned above I think you're a good writer.

But now, your name is flagged as "divert" by my spam filter. You've joined the list of writers I won't ever hear from again.

This won't end your publishing career. It may even give you some notoriety you can trade on for a while. But is this really the writing you want to be known for? The snide digs and curled lipped derision that only highlights what you're truly feeling? Rejections sucketh mightily, verily it does, and assuaging that pain by throwing stones at the person doing the rejecting might feel good in the short run.

But when you throw stones these days, all you do is provide return ammunition for your target. You're about to find out what that feels like I fear. I'm sorry to see this happen because good writers aren't all that easy to come by. Unfortunately for you, I prefer my clients to be good writers and good people. One out of two is not a passing score.


Adib Khorram said...

Ugh! I had forgotten about that dude. This is a terrific rebuttal.

Timothy Lowe said...

This one positively sizzles. I believe the hair on my arms is standing on end. Oh, the dangers of being an ass saddle on social media. It's a much smaller world than it used to be.

Well said, JR. Well said.

nightsmusic said...

I must have missed that whole thing, but can we say;

Cut off your nose to spite your face?

Shoot yourself in the foot?

Not playing with a full deck?

Honestly, why for the love of chocolate, would anyone want to kill their publishing chances like that? Publishing is a unique group, and big or small, word gets around.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Well, there it is. Our sharkly host does not disappoint.

It's one thing to be frustrated and vent, at length and in private, to people you know. It's another thing entirely to blog, at length and in public, in the most incisive language one can muster, about somebody who told you no.

Kitty said...

I once joked that I keep the sin of gossip as a backup for confession when I can’t think of anything else. We all chuckled. And then one of them said, “You should watch the the gossip sermon from the movie DOUBT.” I never considered gossiping in the same way again. I think it also applies to today’s subject.

Colin Smith said...

I just don't understand why someone would do that. Yes, I have momentary flashes of annoyance when someone does something that rubs me the wrong way. But that passes very quickly because, after all, I'm sure I annoy the mess out of a lot of people--including you lovely folks. This is what happens when your world becomes all about you and getting what you want. Unfortunately, unlike most celestial bodies at the center of the universe, this kind of attitude doesn't tend to attract. :)

A good rant, Janet. Not as ranty as some of your rants. Perhaps it's because you are addressing a particular person, and not an issue in general (see, for example, past rants on NORMAN, or Pitch Sessions)?

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Well you know that old adage, pride cometh before a fall. And that won't be a soft landing. *sigh*

I was looking for adorable kitties and puppies on Twitter the other day (isn't that what Twitter is for?), and one of the agents I follow (for said pictures of kitties and puppies-agents have the best), became entrenched in a conversation where a frustrated writer was teetering on the edge of being insulting. Her advice was simple "The publishing world is tiny." Her implication to upset, recently rejected writers everywhere, was erase that next tweet you are thinking of sending now.

Writers trying to break through must remember that. When angry or frustrated, instead of mindlessly ranting where the entire publishing community will see, post adorable pictures of your pets and write more. Rejection is part of the trade. This is no place for spoiled children whatever their age.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Whoa boy. Sometimes people don't even use the brains they sit on.

A part of me thinks that sometimes people sabotage their own efforts and dreams because deep down in that place we often deny exists, we believe we are nor worthy.
Some might call anti-agent comments an accident, like the cliché, shooting oneself in the foot. That was no accident.
It was a calculating, I don't give a f***, take no prisoners blab.
It was simply stupid.

Years ago, on one of the most tragic days of my life (and one of the worst for my state and our nation) I crossed the line. I had no one to lash out at but an amazing agent, on her blog. (Donna remembers, she was there.)
Anyway, I apologized because I was wrong and because I admire and adore AA. We even got to hug at a reading. That day and my own stupidity still brings me to tears.
I'm not cutting ass-hat any slack but sometimes our ass-hatness (new word) isn't about the situation at hand but about something else all together.

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

I recall reading this dude's blog back when it first became public. His entire tone was condescending and absurd. I sat here dumbfounded that he would make fun of the agent's appearance. Venting your frustrations regarding the various hurdles encountered on the road to being published is one thing... to attack someone's attire? How painfully ignorant and flat out unkind of him. Way to go, Janet.

Mister Furkles said...

What happens on the Internet stays available on the Internet forever and ever.

Reconsider before posting.

AJ Blythe said...

Another classic tale of what not to do. Maybe someone should buy him a copy of "How to win friends and influence people".

I remember that case... I think our lovely Julie made mention PPM (pre-pet month), and another agent had a rant earlier this week. But sadly this isn't the first time I've read something similar, and scarily probably won't be the last. People forget posting on the internet isn't whispering behind closed doors, it's opening the door and announcing with a megaphone.

Miri Baker said...

Holy crow.

You know, I don't believe someone who tosses out derogatory statements on female form and attire as fluidly as any other description--dare I say with the ease of long practice?--is someone who's writing books I would want to read either.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

You know, I'd love an update on that writer. I wonder what happened after he spouted his stink pile.

JulieWeathers said...

I responded to that honyocker when this first came out. I normally wouldn't have gotten involved or maybe I would have, I've been known to go jousting before on a fat pony named Bimbo.

I worry I'm turning into Mother Goose at times.

Anyway, what this many did was unforgivable. I had a very enjoyable visit with Jennifer Jackson of the Donald Maass Agency at a conference once. We had both skipped out on a dinner at a conference and were some of the few patrons in the bar. I was wearing my teeshirt with a kitten peering up from a toilet and the words "Im in ur bathroom stalkin ur agent". She laughed. I offered to buy her a drink and we just visited. I said, "This has to make for some long days, why do y'all do it?'

She ticked off a few reasons, among which are the hopes of finding a prospective new client. They certainly don't go with the idea of crushing egos and destroying dreams.

Laura Bradford and Laurie McLean sat with us several times last year at Surrey and what a joy they were. There were times Laurie was simply dragging at times, but she was always such a fun person to be around regardless. Even though we never promoted ourselves or books to her, (we did talk a lot about cats and dogs) Laurie would unfailingly ask if anyone got any requests or offers every time we sat down and cheer us on.

I have nothing but pure respect for agents who take the time to go to conferences and share their expertise and time. It has to be exhausting and frustrating at times.

Not only did this man disrespect the agent in question professionally, he attacked her personally. No woman deserves to be ridiculed for the way she dresses or talks or cpompared to Hemingway's dog in a not so flattering way. "She is ignorant enough to be his dog".

He compares himself to Mark Twain and Hemingway. It's good to have confidence, I guess, but it reminds me of my last visit to the doctor. The nurse asked me how tall I was and I said 5'6". She measured me and said 5'2". She asked my weight and I said, 130. That lying scale said 180. When the doctor came in to find me crying asked me why I was so depressed, I told him, "When I came into your office, I was tall and thin and now I'm short and fat. Wouldn't you be depressed?"

I noticed some people feeling sorry for him because he was pounced on by so many people. Consequences have actions. He thought he was being funny by warning the world about this "nothing" agent. Sometimes when you gt out of your car to harass Mother Goose she winds up beating you over the head with her NIV bible instead.

Amy Johnson said...

I'm so glad the agent's name and a link to the writer's blog post wasn't included. I imagine that the agent probably appreciates others' condemnation of what was said, but likely wants to be left out of it. Well-meaning people can sometimes cause a bad experience to continue for a person who's already been wronged. My opinion: Janet did it right.

CynthiaMc said...

I've come to the conclusion all worlds are tiny and getting more so every second. Unfortunately snarkiness and degrading people are in style right now, as well as the tendency to agree with snarking as long as it's "the other side" being snarked at (particularly during election season).

JulieWeathers said...


The blog is no longer available, though someone archived it. He still has a website, but is pretty quiet these days. He was pretty cocky after the crap hit the fan and thought he was a big damned hero, cue Firefly music. He was going to show the man. rawr! He was fighting evil agents everywhere for the little guy.

Unfortunately, the revolution failed.

DLM said...

Yet again, Janet reminds me that the FIRST reason I ever came here - and became addicted to same - was HER writing.

One out of two is not a passing score.

(Well, unless you are passing wind or some poorly processed corn.)

Lisa Bodenheim said...

I also saw some of the flotsam washed up from this guy's rant.

And his derogatory assessment of her appearance? Unprofessional and offensive. I don't support bullies.

Janet: I so appreciate your ability to nuance situations, in this case to point out his admirable qualities and where he crossed the line, and to feel sorrow for a person who has cannonballed their own ship.

2Ns: Thank you for sharing your story. It must have been an extremely painful time in your life, the events happening and your reaction. I'm glad you're on the other side of it, that you were able to reflect and respond in a way that's in keeping with the 2Ns we know here in Reidland.

IF this man's attack IS an aberration to his usual mode of behaving, I would assume somewhere down the road he would issue an apology, just as public as his scathing remarks. But, he broke trust and is now sunk. Is he lagan or derelict?

Susan said...

Like others, I remember this post when it first came out because someone had linked it on Twitter with a rebuttal and I was curious. What struck me most was this wasn't the only post--possibly the worst, but not the only one. The writer had apparently turned his rejections into a series of scathing responses on the site, presumably to be amusing and snarky; however, as Janet and others point out, once that is turned towards someone, specifically--and the manner in which it was done--it takes on a different tone. That's when it becomes unacceptable.

I don't understand this world sometimes. How hard is it to have some self-awareness and know that our actions and words affect other people? How hard is it to be a decent human being--not even good, just decent enough. I understand bitterness and disappointment and feeling crushed by high expectations...but that's when, as a writer, you throw those words into a manuscript or a journal and keep going.

It's days like these when I feel like I need a unicorn--something innocent and beautiful and full of magic. That's my new motto when I'm tired and feeling cynical: I need a unicorn.

Colin Smith said...

Amy: Those who spend way too much time on Twitter (*ahem*) know who the agent was and have read the offending screed.

But Janet's point transcends a single incident. And if I may don my preacher hat for a moment, might I suggest this even transcends how a writer responds to an agent. What this one guy did is too reflective of how we all seem to be treating one another these days, and it has to stop. We are all creatures made in God's image--yes, even Shih Tzu Hair Man--and as such deserve a basic level of dignity and respect. The Golden Rule, people! If you wouldn't want somebody dissing the way you look because you don't like their writing, then don't do it to others. Our egos fight this because we think putting other people down elevates us, and that's what we want when we feel kicked to the floor. But it doesn't work that way. In fact, we end up digging ourselves into a deeper hole.

All right, I cut the remaining 58 mins of the sermon, because I think you're all OSSUM, and you know this stuff anyway. ;)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Amen Colin.


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Lisa, thanks. You brought me to tears. Reidland is a wonderful place isn't it.

Shaunna said...

Thought about this all throughout my jog (I like to call it a run, but it really isn't) this morning. This guy is my modern Oedipus, Hamlet, Gregor Sampson. I feel pity for his ignorance, relief that I've never done anything as self-destructive. But in all honesty, my fingers are crossed behind my back, and one thought occupies my mind: there, but for the grace of God, go I. The internet is my catharsis.

K White said...

Colin: "I just don't understand why someone would do that."

IMHO, because he's an angry old white guy (I call them AWOGs and there are lots them running around today) who doesn't like the fact that the world is changing and he's no longer in his deity-granted place at the top of the heap. (Before that's taken the wrong way, I, too, am on old white guy, but I'm not angry. I learned to accept change a long time ago.)

I do not follow the agent in question, but just happened to read her Twitter feed the day this occurred. What impressed me was how quickly other agents came to her defense. It proved to me that publishing truly is a small industry and a good reputation goes a long way.

Finally, I recently attended the World Science Fiction Convention. There were a lot of AWOGs there protesting SF&F finally embracing diversity and publishing more authors of color. Listening to the AWOGs rant made me angry and I went quickly to the booksellers to buy the novels written by diverse authors, but ignored those written by the AWOGs.

BlancheDuBois said...


The only thing that could make this better is an audible finger snap at the end.

Well done, Janet.

Bethany Stefanski said...

This makes me sad because I had a lovely expirence with an agent from that agency. The agent took the time to give feedback on a partial. I thought that was gracious and encouraging. Also, although I haven't read the post, I must condem any attack on a person's appearance. Women aren't around to adorn the environment and it upsets me that some people still expect them too.

K White said...

Blast it! I need a beta reader for my comments.

AOWG ... not AWOG (although the latter has a more poetic sound).

JulieWeathers said...


I'm very sorry for your pain. We've all had those times when something else makes us strike out, but you were person enough to apologize.

This jackass, and not the cute kind of jackass, never apologized nor felt the need to. He was wholly justified because of her treatment of him. How dare she reject his brilliance!

The title of the post ought to say something, "Rejection #(more than a few hundred)".

As a general rule, it's never a good idea to discuss rejections on your blog. If you're querying, you're going to get them. You know it, agents know it. However, do you want an agent who might be interested in you going to your blog and reading post after post about your rejections?

People ought to be coming to your blog because it's interesting. They should, for the most part, feel better when they go away. I try to be interesting, maybe informative, and hopefully drop a note of cheer somewhere along the line in my blog posts. Once in a while I'll do something more somber, but as a general rule I try to stay upbeat. I always hold the angry posts off a day before posting. By that times, I usually decide it isn't worth it. I may feel justified and what I have to say may be true, but it isn't worth the battle.

Years ago, Mother used to keep me up at night playing Scrabble with her until 2 or 3 in the morning. I like Scrabble, but when you're in grade school, it makes for a long day at school. However, we stayed up a lot of nights when my stepdad was out drinking to see what kind of mood he'd be in when he got home.

While we played Scrabble, she'd tell me stories about her horrific life as a girl like most parents would tell their kids fairy tales at bedtime. I'd think, if you knew this terror, why aren't you protecting us? At last Jim would come home and if he was in a decent mood we could go to bed. If he was on the hook, we'd have to run for the back door and go hide somewhere outside until we were sure he'd passed out. Sometimes we had time to grab our clothes and sometimes we went out the door barefoot in nightgowns in the middle of a Montana winter night.

I've had some people tell me I should blog about my life or write a memoir. I think I have nothing of value to add to the world with my story. I want people to be uplifted and laugh. There are already enough sad stories and rants around.

If not for long Montana nights of Scrabble, I wouldn't have nearly the vocabulary I do. Thanks, Mom. (If only there had been some kind of grammar game!)

I don't know what DB's story is, but he's lived all over the world. He's published a few books. He appears to be healthy. V.C. Andrews agent had little sympathy for people who couldn't be careful with their query letters and manuscripts because V.C. typed all her stuff on a typewriter with very few errors and lived in chronic pain daily. Perhaps he is in pain of some sort, physical or emotional, but it doesn't give him the right to be a pain.

Mark Thurber said...

If the original screed is an example of the publishing process bringing out the worst in people, the Reef shows it bringing out their best. Janet's response channeled what I am sure was not-insubstantial anger on her part into something constructive. And the entire community here follows her lead. We all have such hopes and fears around our writing, and I know we push each other's buttons now and then, but the level of kindness and support remains extraordinary through it all! Thanks, everybody!

Now that I think about it, the action in both my novel-in-a-drawer and my novel-in-progress hinges on how the protagonist tries to transform overwhelming emotions into something good. The books are MG and YA, respectively, because of course adults must already know how to do this.

Kelsey Hutton said...

He didn't only denigrate her for her appearance, but also for her age--references to her as a "girl," who only knew the greats "of the last 18 months," and the first half of that awful, awful statement about Hemingway's dog was that she was "young enough to be his granddaughter" as if that meant jack.

*the blood boils*

The other day I went to pick up pizza from a local joint. The (young) guy at the till asked me "What're you picking up, sweetheart?"

*the blood boils thicker*

As a young woman, this happens to me all the time--I get sweetheart, sweets, cupcake, honey--generally from strangers (or, much worse, at work). I hate it. I am not your romantic partner, or your nine-year-old niece. It's not a term of endearment if I don't find it endearing.

I addressed it. "Please don't call me sweetheart. I don't know you at all. That's not OK."

And he said. "You're right. I'm sorry. What are you picking up?"

It was--staggering. No arguing, no protesting, just a simple apology and then we all moved on with our lives. I got the pizza and said thanks on my way out. It was a perfectly unnotable exchange, except that it'd never happened to me before.

There are two kinds of people in this world: those can apologize, and those who can't. It's a pretty sad, lonely world for those who can't.

Donnaeve said...

I remember this...well said, QOTKU - an eloquent kick in the pants if I ever saw one.

2N's, or Wry Wryter, yes I do remember. And yes, you owned up, put your big girl pants on, and apologized. The blog comments to you that day were hard. Vicious even. They were protecting AA like we'd probably want to protect our Queen. But...AA's blog = different sort of crowd, with some cynical and scathing in their opinions.

Here's something that happened at SIBA. Y'all can judge for yourselves as to whether the person I met was a for real asshat or not.

There I was at the bar...


...having my usual beer, relaxing b/c my events were over and done with, and for the first time in about 48 hours my heart rate was normal. A distinguished looking man squeezed in beside me. I could tell he was staring. *thank you most excellent peripheral vision.*

Finally he says, "mind if I stand here?" I'm thinking, huh? duh, it's a bar, but of course I smile and say, "Not at all." I guess that was his ice breaker. We chit chat and I learn he's from NC, and that's he launching a new press. I won't tell you the name b/c, ya know, I'm about to share something negative about my experience with him. Eventually someone else pushes on the other side of me. The bar was getting crowded, and he says, "do you mind?" to me, and before I know what he's doing he's grabbed the bottom of my stool (ha, bet some of you read he grabbed my bottom - NOT), and slides my stool closer to him.

Conversation resumes. Did I mention how bad his breath was? I didn't? Okay, well it was, and now I was closer. I eventually stand up, scoot my stool back to where it was. It was a life saving move - believe me.

Anyhoo, his partner, who turned out to be his sister - who I THOROUGHLY enjoyed talking to came up, and after about 30 mins, they told me they'd be at the Publisher's Exhibit the next morning and to drop by. I said, "I will!" And he says, "No you won't, you're just saying that." (insert frowny face) I say, "if I say I'm going to do something, I will."

Fast forward to next morning. About 9:30 I make my way down to Publisher's Exhibits - and WOW what a sight it was! For those who read the recap on the blog - you know I went right on over to ABA and thanked them. Then I mosey around, poking at books and looking in awe at all the GREAT stuff, when I spy the dynamic duo at their table and go up to speak to them.

And what was the first thing out of this guy's mouth? "You look different today."

internal thought - WTF is that supposed to mean?

Honestly, I was so floored, I was speechless. Eventually I think I mumbled something about not sleeping well...and then I changed the subject to their book and was very complimentary. The book did look nice - a children's Christmas story.

Now tell me that guy wasn't an asshat.

JulieWeathers said...


I guess I'm missing the big picture.

And what was the first thing out of this guy's mouth? "You look different today."

That just means I look different to me. I could look better. I could look different in the different lighting. I could look different because of the different clothes I'm wearing.

Miri Baker said...

Julie, I agree it's a fairly innocuous comment in isolation, but I would question why my/anyone's appearance is the first/only thing to come to mind in this situation; why should it be an issue of comment of all? It's a new day, of course I look different. Alert the presses.

Matt Adams said...

But BLA's okay? BLA mocking editors/agents of whom she disapproves is okay?

Agents mocking query ineptitude is okay? On the internet, forever, that's okay?

I know there's a difference between naming and not naming, and maybe that's the difference. But I do think it's reasonable to point out that the guy did pay for a conference, and part of that conference was to pitch an agent, and (according to him) the agent could not have cared less about being there or anything he had to say. I don't think that's an uncommon occurrence at conferences. Maybe it's considered tough love, but in truth, tough love from anyone other than your mama is usually just rude.

I'm not arguing with Janet here because I she made good points and did so probably as kindly as it could be done. I'm more concerned with the backlash the guy received and is still receiving, apparently. he took down his blog post -- someone archived it to make sure it lives forever. Is that a fair and just retribution for the sin of insulting an agent by whom you felt insulted?

And there's something else to point out in this. All he did was write a blog post, right? I don't think he went around advertising it or publicizing his post anywhere -- he just wrote a blog that someone found and decided to eviscerate him for. He seems like a dick, no argument about that. But did his post really deserve the backlash he's gotten. I don't blame an agent for not wanting to work with him after reading the post, but it wasn't just making a note in the spam folder -- it was a few days of piling on and piling on before it went away.

Writers have to learn to live with rejection. Part of the game, I know. But if you're going to agent, don't you have to be prepared for some backlash from those rejections? Agents invite queries, agents attend events and conference that people are paying for, and they often don't even bother with a response. And when they do, 99 percent if either a form letter or a canned pass at the conference. No one deserves to be the one vented against, but when you take the gig, part of that ought to be an understanding that you're dealing with perhaps the most personal thing someone can do, and maybe -- just maybe -- it's not great form to be so casually dismissive of it.

JulieWeathers said...

And once again, I've posted a stupid comment that's too long to delete that I regret. Perhaps Miss Janet will have pity on me this once and delete the 10:37 comment and I promise I will be more careful in the future.


Steve Stubbs said...

You wrote of some unidentified blogger:

“you must believe it is not only acceptable, but witty to comment snidely on a professional woman's appearance and attire.”

Is he running for president? It was reported on CNN the other day that Republican women are WILD about Donald Trump, not because he has ever said anything substantive (he hasn’t) but because he calls women dogs, pigs, losers, and disgusting bimbos. One woman was on the air telling us Trump says what he feels and she likes that. As a non-woman and a non-Republican, I had a different take on it.

I thought he was demonstrating to us what the “J” in Donald J. Trump stands for.

He must be a writer, because his approach to disclosing significance of the J-word is, “show, don’t tell.”

Mark Ellis said...

I remember reading about this individual (writer Dan was it?) on this very blog, and out of morbid curiosity followed the link to his screed against the young agent. I had never seen nor taken any interest in the back and forth between agents and writers via social media. Two thoughts came to mind, both having to do with WWII's Axis powers: the Hindenburg, and Hari-Kari. The man went down in flames, but I couldn't help but think he had given up all hope, and nihilisitically decided to burn his own dirigible down.I've known older, specifically male writers who get to a place where they strongly sense it's never going to happen, at least from the standpoint of big time representation. How they handle that sense is as different as every writer's sense about anything. Reading about this guy's flame-out had me thinking, "the humanity, the humanity."

Elissa M said...

I don't know of the incident (and can't say I'm sorry about that). I don't know if the blogger in question "deserved" the (apparently overwhelming) backlash that ensued. I do know that we all should remember there's a real person behind every post, and anyone can make a mistake.

If they refuse to apologize and then double down on the initial mistake, well, we do have the ability to file them under "people with whom I do not wish to associate" and move on. Which is what our gracious Queen has done (after posting an informative caveat for her followers).

Two wrongs never make a right. The pile-on shaming that occurs after someone posts something stupid on the internet can be as bad--or worse--as the initial offense. We must guard against attempting to elevate ourselves with holy-than-thou repartee.

To paraphrase Colin, even distasteful politicians deserve being treated with a basic level of dignity and respect. That may be more difficult in some cases than others, and as imperfect as we all are, there will be times when we fail. Still, we must always strive to be civil. (This blog is a great example of people remaining civil even when disagreeing.)

And we must always remember: Our words will come home to roost. Make sure they are words we want hanging around.

Donnaeve said...


It was rude in my opinion. To Miri's point, maybe innocuous in of itself, but is it the right thing to say to a virtual stranger you've only just met? And the very first thing? Before a "good morning, how are you today?"

Where I'm coming from...where does how I look "today" fit into the conversation at all, really? It felt too familiar to me - like he knew me well enough to assume he could make a personal observation - out loud. No, I don't think so.

JulieWeathers said...


I must be dense because I have no idea what BLA is.

"Agents mocking query ineptitude is okay?"

I hear this so frequently and it irks me to no end. Everyone who has a query critiqued here or on Miss Snark ASKED for them to be critiqued. There are some other sites like Evil Editor that are also voluntary.

The ones done on Twitter are so vague they I have no idea how anyone could be offended or consider them mocking.

The writing just isn’t up to pro quality.

Needs beta readers and critique partners. This is not at the writing level to show to a professional.

Writing is good but problem with the premise.

Already self-published. No query or synopsis, just a link to the ebook and several paragraphs about the author.

Witty, laugh out loud funny. Full MS.

Upper MG. I liked the voice in this one. Request.

Upper MG. The premise wasn't my cup of tea.

YA historical. Interesting premise/setting. Sample pages had tension and I got a good sense of the setting. Request.

Space Opera. I have a soft spot for SO, and this one sounds fun. Writing is good, too. Request.

"All he did was write a blog post, right?"

Yes, all he did is write a blog post insinuating she was less than professional. She had no interest in being at the conference. She treated him with disrespect. In other words, he very much damaged her reputation and reputation is stock and trade for an agent, especially a new one.

Agents don't get paid to go to conferences. You say yourself, "she couldn't care less about him and that isn't uncommon at conferences." Apparently his blog post did the trick. She's one of those uncaring agents who are only in it for the money.

When I took over the prison ministry, we had five volunteers and a few hundred students. We sent out a personal letter with each lesson as well as some inspirational material. When it grew to a thousand students, the letters got shorter. At two thousand, it was a form letter with some personal comments tucked in at the top and we had untold complaints about how they missed the hand written letters. At five thousand, they were danged lucky they were getting the form letter with those comments at all, but we still got complaints about how they missed the personal letters.

And so it goes with all the would be authors in author land. I don't care how many queries you get. I want a personal letter from you! It's my right.

Morgan Hazelwood said...

When you critique, you are excellent about not making it personal. It's all about the work.

They need to remember that when the get rejections. Look inside, look at what you wrote/said/did. Don't start out casting blame.

Gratitude is a good thing.

Peggy Rothschild said...

I, too, am unfamiliar with the original kerfuffle, but love E.M. Goldsmith's comment that "This is no place for spoiled children whatever their age." :D

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Yesterday I was helping my husband carry three huge bookcases up and out of the basement. He's a cabinet maker and a damned good one but at our new house his workshop isn't finished and his latest project (a challenge for sure) was completed in the basement.

So I took the bottom, switched to the top, felt around for hand holds, danced backward and pretty much complained the whole time because it was almost to the line of something I physically could not do.

He started yelling, not actually at me (well, yes he was) but at the sucky situation of having to build and eventually lug three eight foot tall bookcases up and out of the basement.

I simply said, "don't backtalk the person who is here to help you."

He shut up, so did I and we loaded all three bookcases.

Agents deal with more writers than we writers deal with agents. We need each other.

But, when you're struggling to heft something almost beyond your capability the last thing you need to hear is that you're not strong enough, even if it's true. And the last response you need to give is "you're welcome," even if they never said "thank you."

nightsmusic said...

When I came time for my kids to use the internet, one of the rules we enforced was, "If you wouldn't say it to their face, do NOT say it on the internet."

Too many people find it easy to hide behind the anonymity of a keyboard and monitor never thinking that just because they're not face to face, their words don't hurt less or do as much damage. That said, writing requires a thick skin. One must either develop it to survive or move on to something that doesn't require one's soul to produce.

BJ Muntain said...

I read that post - not on his site, but on another blog where someone had taken screenshots of the original. Not only was what he said inappropriate and insulting, he said it in such a snide, smug manner that I wanted to punch him right in that sniggering smile.

If I remember correctly, this fellow had been previously published. Not only did it come across that he thought he was better than the agent he talked to, he also insinuated that he was better than other writers. He was better than the writers at the conference he was at (the only reason he was there was to pitch - the others actually attending and learning were all obviously cattle). He didn't need the conference. He didn't need other writers. He didn't need to improve in any way.

I hate superiority complexes. People who think they're better than others generally aren't worth being around.

Julie: Your response to him was perfect. I told several people that at that time.

Matt Adams: The thing is, the guy had no reason to be insulted except that she didn't appreciate his genius. I've pitched several agents at conferences. Some were interested in my work, some not. This agent wasn't interested in what he had to say? Well, maybe that's because she was there to hear pitches, and he was trying to charm her for the first five minutes of his ten minute session. Then he had five minutes to tell her what his book was about - and he spent that time trying to get her to read his writing. Who was rude? He was - he ignored any pitching advice he'd heard, thinking he could do better by charming her off her feet. When that didn't work, he wrote a blog post about her appearance.

JulieWeathers said...


“you must believe it is not only acceptable, but witty to comment snidely on a professional woman's appearance and attire.”

Is he running for president? It was reported on CNN the other day that Republican women are WILD about Donald Trump, not because he has ever said anything substantive (he hasn’t) but because he calls women dogs, pigs, losers, and disgusting bimbos.--

Well, he could be raping them or defending the rapist of a twelve-year-old who raped her so violently she was never able to have children and then laughing about how she got the guy off when she knew he was guilty.

Lennon Faris said...

Oooh. I want to read this like watching a train wreck. But I guess I'm glad no link was provided. The guy would've seen a spike in traffic, and that would be like buying a product just to show you don't agree with the company.

I agree with 2N's - I suspect there's something else going on. Maybe a little too much agent rejection, maybe overcompensating for something else :P

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Yeah Lennon maybe the guy has little hands.

And on that note I'm off to work to play among the American Consumer and their wants.

Have a nice day.

Adele said...

Not professional, no, but I do have some sympathy for the guy.

For those who haven't read the post, his comments about the agent's clothing were references to her youth - not her personal grooming or sexual attractiveness (which is what I feared from reading the comments).

I read the author's rant and surmised that he was an older man who grew up in a different time. Then I searched his name, found his website (not the Linked-In page where he published his screed), and discovered I was right. He was in high school in the '60s. Two things: when he was young, professional women, even young ones, wore their hair up, wore makeup, and dressed in Chanel suits and nylons and heels. Now, of course, they don't, but it seems like his subconscious didn't get the memo. Plus, he has had a long writing career, though not in fiction (technical writing and journalism). So it's understandable that the way he thought his agent appointment experience would go, was not the way it went. Lots of people aren't at their best when that happens.

I'm not saying his post was professional or polite and I agree with Janet on the quiet rustle of the closing of a thousand doors, but I don't think he deserves infamy.

Miles O'Neal said...


I have no idea why you want that comment removed. That was wonderful.


I don't know who BLA is, or what the point of that part of the comment was, but as for the rest, nope.

First off, by the guy's own admission he did pretty much everything wrong in that session. EVERYTHING. On top of that, he was condescending, arrogant, and downright nasty- with misogynistic personal comments about the agent as the vomit-inducing icing on an Ex-Lax[tm] cupcake.

The whole thing about "not advertising" his blog doesn't wash. He's a writer. Of course he promotes his writing, which includes his blog. Had the blog been purely for a few friends he should have kept it private. A public blog- especially for someone who lives by self-promotion- is a public forum in the spotlight. You might have no one looking, but you might have lots of people looking. You'd better think about that before you post.

Dan screwed up big time. It took some googling, but I found that blog. That was an asinine post. Perhaps he was hurting. OK. It was still asinine. It should have been replaced with a public apology (which does not replace the need for a private apology).

It's just a big ol bag of Nope Chips.

Panda in Chief said...

Boy, this is one of those days when I sort of wish I had been aware of the original kerfuffle, but actually am glad I wasn't. It sounds completely cringeworthy, and my tolerance for watching those sorts of dumpster fires has receded as my age has advanced. I grew up on the east coast where a particularly witty insult was worth an extra gold star on your "gotcha" chart.

I learned my lesson long before the days of the internet: never say anything to ANYONE you wouldn't say to their face. I made a comment about a fellow sixth grader that was less than flattering. Needless to say, witty though it was, it got back to her and she beat me up. It didn't cure me from making snarky comments right away, but I learned to watch who I said them to.

Happily, since moving to the mellow left coast several decades ago, the more temperate weather, kind people, and large number of trees in my vicinity have softened both my outlook and my tone, and I am a kinder and gentler panda. Joining the kid-lit community has continued the mellowing process. Often I am tempted to say something cutting, but have learned to take a deep breath and let the thought go unsaid.

The asshat under discussion did, in my not so humble opinion, deserve the piling on he received. Uncomplimentary comments on anyone's appearance make me cringe. As a victim of bullying in junior high school, I am thankful the internet did not exist then. There is not any excuse for it among children, and less so among adults.

I have come to believe in giving someone the benefit of the doubt, until they say or do something belittling or cruel. While the Shi-Tzu haired orange numpty is a human being, he forfitted any claim to benevolence when he hurled the first racist statement. And still, I try to only condemn the things he says and does, (which by this time have numbered in the hundreds) rather than making insulting statements on his appearance. (Okay...perhaps "orange haired numpty" is nasty and insulting, but his terrible statements and willfull lies have reached a critical mass. Not to mention riling up those for whom hate is a way of life.)

I have so appreciated the friendship and kind critiques of this community and SCBWI. It makes me want to be a better person. Y'all are da bears!

Colin Smith said...

I'll make this general so Matt doesn't feel piled on. ;) Yes, people do make mistakes and say the wrong thing. They even post blog articles they later regret. But:

1) I haven't heard anything to suggest he regrets what he said.
2) I haven't heard anything that suggests he is repentant.
3) I haven't seen a public apology from him to the agent in question.
4) I haven't seen anything from the agent in question to say he apologized privately.

If anyone has seen any of the above from him, then make it known. That would be a good start to repairing the damage here.

Maybe he is of an older generation that sees no problem with venting on agents who appear to him barely out of college. I get it. My kids will sometimes pontificate on subjects they don't really understand, and it annoys the mess out of me when they talk to me as if I just plopped out the womb yesterday. Thing is, we're not talking about a teenager dabbling in agenting. We're talking about a bright young woman who is with a very reputable agency who knows her business. That demands the writer's respect, regardless of the writer's age, even if the writer disagrees. Just say "thank you" and move on.

Ardenwolfe said...

And that's the reason some hopefuls shouldn't blog. An 'in the heat of the moment' rant can ruin your reputation forever.

JulieWeathers said...


It was a ham-handed attempt to say that even though you may be in pain, it doesn't give you the right to hurt other people. When I get irked at Mother, and at times I think I have a right to be, I think of that little girl who was terrified of the dark and yet they would lock her in a closet for days just for crying.

We don't know what kind of struggle someone is going through or has gone through.

Agents are people, too. They have health problems, kid problems, spouse problems, finance problems, rejection problems as editors and even authors turn them down, and sometimes they have rejected authors who track them down and attack them while they're picking their kid up from school.

That doesn't mean I have to like them all. I don't. It just means I don't have the right to be an ass. I haven't done a single thing in this world that's earned me the right to be an ass. I will never do anything to earn that right. So, when I am one, I need to apologize.

What other people do with their lives is up to them. One life to live. One lifetime to give.

Anonymous said...

I prefer my clients to be good writers and good people.

I detest the stereotype--mostly foisted on actors, but other artistic types get plenty of it, too--of the diva who is only tolerated because they're brilliant at what they do. All stereotypes have some kind of basis in reality, though due to the influence of media some of it might be highly overblown. But it seriously seems to me like that kind of attitude can not be the norm. In order for brilliance to shine, you have to have others of normal skill level surrounding you. Otherwise, your brilliance is the norm.

I'm sure there are some people who are so fantastic at what they do, they can act like everyone else only deserves the position of licking their boots and actually get away with it. But I feel like most people who go into the arts thinking they can do that end up like our subject today--lacerated and left to bleed in shark-infested waters. It's not a death sentence, but boy, he's not getting out of this whole.

Colin Smith said...

lucia: I think some people look at brilliant, grumpy, anti-social writers of old and think it's okay to be grumpy and anti-social as long as you're brilliant. And since we're all brilliant, then we can all be grumpy and anti-social. The problem is, this is the 21st century, not the 19th or even 20th. The social aspect of writing is a lot more important than it used to be. Like it or not, that's a fact. And even those of us who don't consider themselves very sociable have to learn some social skills. At least how to smile and make an effort to engage.

Matt Adams said...

Just to clarify, BLA is BadLiteraryAgent on Twitter. She (I think it's a she, because she has Parker Posey as her avatar) is often funny. Often mean to writers and queriers in general, rarely to a specific person, though she has been known to be mean to a few other agents or people offering literary services. But the overwhelming theme of her feed -- and of those who jump on board -- is a general cruelty towards those who dare query her (I'm assuming she's a real agent with another, less mean, online personality.

Obviously agents are people with kid issues and like issues and all that stuff. So do writers. But many agents think nothing of not responding to queries (even with a form rejection), of asking for a partial or a full and then forgetting about it for six months until nudged, and then tweeting resentment at being nudged. And they think nothing of attending a pitch session that someone else has paid to attend and not bothering to offer any feedback at all.

The guy who wrote the post had done his research on her, he had queried her, and she didn't remember his name -- that's okay, but you could understand someone being disappointed, couldn't you? If I'm remembering correctly, he had signed up to meet with her specifically because he had queried her. And she -- according to him -- pretty much blew off the session.

Now, that's her right. No question. And as I said before, he sounds like a jerk, and he has behaved badly here. All of that, at this point, is a given.

But my original question still remains -- why is it okay for agents to denigrate writers -- even in a generic attempt to be funny. or mean -- and it is not okay for writers to do the same? The answer is easy -- because agents have power in the publishing world and unpublished (or not yet successful) writers don't. So some agents feel it perfectly fine to say nasty things about writers because they know there are no consequences to it. People below are accustomed to apologizing for people in power, saying they have bad days and they are people, too, and their job is so hard. Well, so is writing. So is finding the courage to seek approval for something you've spent time and energy and a part of your soul doing. So is paying for a conference and thinking you're going to have an honest chance to pitch your book and have the person sitting across from you look both unprofessional and disinterested (I'm just repeating what he wrote. Since I wasn't there I have no idea, but it is curious how quick every is to assume his interpretation is the wrong one). And he has a right to that opinion, just as much as if he had written how wonderful she was and how much he took her advice to heart.

No one has a right to be an ass. Well, that's not true. We all have the right to be an ass, and everyone else has the right to adjust their behavior and opinions toward us accordingly.

But at the same time, I still find it unseemly the level of piling on that occurs about this guy. He has taken down the post. he hasn't apologized, but that's someone's right. And still he's attacked. People on this thread call him an angry old white guy resenting that women and minorities have a say in the world, someone jokingly insinuated he's compensating for a small penis. That's all okay to do, because he's powerless. But say something about an agent, and everyone leaps to defend them. It seems as though there's a double standard at play, and I wanted to point that out.

Asd I said before I think Janet's post was kind-hearted on the subject and her advice should be well-taken.And as for this guy, Neil Gaimen once write that it has always been the jester's role to poke fun at the king, but in the end the king is still the king and the jester is still the jester. It may do no good to attack those with the power, but I think we all ought to look at what the overall picture represents before joining the mob.

Janice L. Grinyer said...

wow. A good reminder to be careful you are not standing on the bridge you're burning...

I have a pitch set up at Surrey. But I think I will politely introduce myself and hand them a query letter instead, asking for their feedback like JR mentioned in a previous post. Thank you, JR not only for valuable advice but also for career-saving warnings.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Matt it's called mob mentality. But really, it's true his hands are small.
Look, if you are going to put yourself out there you have to be prepared to be skewered. I've poked and have been poked. That's why I try to be amusing. Don't always get there but I really try to be nice.
Is nice so bad?

Steve Stubbs said...

I could not find the blog Ms. Reid mentioned but I did find a picture of the agent and was blown away by how drop dead gorgeous she is. Untalented and uninspired wannabe writers pathetically pitching their dreck at a conference is business, and nobody’s appearance should have any relevance. But if the agent felt grievously wounded by this character’s insults, I wanted to say, he’s either blind or an idiot, 1 of the 2.

If he says he is “old” the subtext is he would have no chance with anyone like Jennifer in a social setting. And if he can’t write, either – well, I don’t think you have to be Sigmund Freud to figure out why he is miffed.

Jennifer. if you read this, you look great. Don’t let some moron with cataracts tell you otherwise. Kudos to you, and best wishes with your agenting career. I hope you find great happiness and get rich. Sorry you had to find out firsthand what kind of low lives we share the planet with.

Panda in Chief said...

Matt, not trying to jump all over you, but one statement needs to be addressed. It is NOT all right for agents or editors to poke fun or make snarky comments about someone specific on their tweets or blogs either. Just as a disappointed writer should not vent online and say hurtful things where anyone can read it, neither should an agent be doing that sort of thing and most don't.

I can't assess this guy's ass-hattery, as I did not read his post.

Janet's point: don't be an ass-hat or it will bite you in the ass eventually.

*sound of 1,000 doors quietly closing and locking*

Panda in Chief said...

And I nominate, "And be careful you're not standing on the bridge you are burning..." as next week's sub header.

three and out!

BJ Muntain said...

Umm... Matt? BadLiteraryAgent is an example to show writers the kind of agent they don't want to query, and perhaps to show agents the kind of agent they don't want to be. As Ms. Janet has often said, "A bad literary agent is worse than no agent." BadLiteraryAgent also denigrates bad agents.

"And she -- according to him -- pretty much blew off the session." No, *he* blew off the pitch session, because he didn't pitch. Why did he schedule a pitch session with someone he'd already received a rejection from? He was trying to change her mind.

I've been to enough pitch sessions that I can tell you: yes, agents get tired. Agents can get scheduled for two hours straight of 10 minute pitching sessions, and yes, they're going to get overwhelmed. Did she seem disinterested to him? Well, maybe she might have been more interested if he'd actually pitched. If he hadn't been trying to charm her out of a rejection she'd already given him.

The thing is, he told his story from his point of view - and he came across as the villain. In public. On social media. In fact, he's become the writer that gets pointed to by agents and by other writers as they say, "Don't be like this writer."

And he did that because he thought he was better than other writers - you know, the ones that follow the rules and try their best to have the most successful pitch query. He chose an agent who had already rejected him to try to get her to change her mind. And he didn't pitch. He had nothing prepared when his charm didn't win her over. He thought his writing was so brilliant that he could get away with breaking the rules... and he learned, as most villains do, that just isn't the way life works.

Matt Adams said...

Panda, I'm not saying it's "right," but they do it all the time and no one gets upset or attacks them.

Now, to clarify, they rarely pick out an author and use a name. But if you've just sent a query for your vampire novel to an agent, and that agent tweets to the world "Please, God, no more vampire novels!!!" that's nothing that's going to make you feel better. If you put your word count in your first paragraph, and an agent tweets out "Why are people still putting word counts up front!" Or whatever.

BLA has been known to pick on specific people. Not queriers, but people.

I do think everyone should be nice. I just wish it was consistent on both sides of this equation.

Anonymous said...

Matt, for what it's worth (a lot, to me), Janet has said more than once over here that she thoroughly disapproves of the practice of agents bad-mouthing writers. It's not true that there are no consequences for those who do that-- I just very quietly refuse to query the ones I've seen do it, and suspect I'm not alone. From what I can tell (I don't follow the acct), BLA is a parody, where the exaggeration is deliberate. Different rules for humour, regardless of whether it strikes any one person as being funny.

I agree with your point about the tendency of an internet response to be disproportionate to the "crime." Yeah, this guy expressed an opinion that was . . . ill-advised at best. But he didn't commit an actual crime. And really, anyone who has been on the internet more than five minutes has seen this ganging up on offenders, over and over and over again. It's sad, disillusioning. Often ugly. It ends up revealing more about the supposed defenders of the person wronged than it does about the person who committed the offense. When does enough become too much? I don't know. But even the NFL has penalties for piling on and late hits. There is a point where it becomes unsportsmanlike, no matter who is involved. Human nature, I guess.

I pretty much just keep my mouth shut and stay out of it. Partly because almost no one cares what I have to say about the latest kerfuffle, but also because my energy and attention is better spent on other things.

Beth said...

"But even the NFL has penalties for piling on and late hits. There is a point where it becomes unsportsmanlike, no matter who is involved."

Good point, kdjames. I don't know enough to know if that was the case here, but I often see shaming taken to excess. If we'd remember agents and writers and everyone else are actual people with actual feelings and treat them accordingly, the internet would be a more mellow place.

JulieWeathers said...


First off, did you read the description of Bad Literary Agent?

"Parody of a Literary Agent"

"And they think nothing of attending a pitch session that someone else has paid to attend and not bothering to offer any feedback at all."

I have never ever pitched at a conference and not received valuable feedback. Maybe I'm special. I always carry pages with me just in case. I have them in the side pocket of my binder and my note pad in the other side. I don't shove the pages at them, but they are there where they can see them and they often ask to read. They'll very often make some notations as they read.

I don't shove the pages at them. I don't dominate the conversation. I don't brag about myself. I pitch succinctly and leave time for the agent to ask me questions. If I stop yapping about myself and leave them time to talk, they do.

At Surrey there's a refreshment kiosk right outside the room where they have the pitch and blue pencil sessions. I ask the expediter if they know what my person likes to drink besides water and ask if I can buy them that and have it delivered. They may not have had a chance to get up and get a cup of coffee or a Coke in a while.

"No one has a right to be an ass. Well, that's not true. We all have the right to be an ass, and everyone else has the right to adjust their behavior and opinions toward us accordingly."

Right. Legally, he has every right to be an ass. I read some of his other posts, comments, rants, before he decided to focus on politics. He was quite proud of standing up for downtrodden authors everywhere. That's fine. Not once did he apologize. Nope, he doubled down on his diatribe. He was a martyr.

When you put yourself out there and proudly stand behind every word of it, then be prepared for the consequences good or bad. He's a big boy. He knew what he was doing. He certainly knew what he was doing when he kept piling on more bs as if the initial post wasn't bad enough. He couldn't have been more insulting if someone had paid him.

I don't have a scintilla of sympathy for him because I not only read the original post, but all those that followed. No one gave him a black eye, he earned it.

JulieWeathers said...


Yup. He goes in with a chip on his shoulder to begin with. She rejected him and he was going to show her she was wrong. He opens the pitch with, "You rejected me."

How does an agent respond to that?

He did it on purpose because he wanted to make her feel bad. He had no respect for the other writers there. Remember, he's akin to Hemingway and Twain, how could he respect the rest of those peons?

He's angry because agents don't want to be called on the phone to begin with and he has to stoop to querying and pitching.

So there he sits in front of a pear-shaped girl in a formless frock who was sent against her will to Texas.

He's mad because they say not to give the agent pages or thumb drives. Well, duh. Agents hate to read. Can't have stuff they have to read.

Not only does she hate to read, she obviously hates Texas and can't wait to get out of that hell hole. Except, well, she's from Texas. She's not fresh out of college. She's highly educated with two degrees. She has two professional licenses and was a literary assistant to a top agent and an editor. Heck yes, it's nice to look young. I want to know her secret.

And now I am irkified all over again. I'm just not sure if it's because this young woman found the fountain of youth or DB once again proves how rude people can be.

And for the record, I think referring to a man's penis is just as much a cheap shot as a man cutting down a woman due to her looks.

Matt Adams said...

BJ, I think you're wrong about BLA. It's not a parody and it's not a teaching place. Its for an agent to vent and for other agents to agree with him/her.

And to be funny. At that she does a great job.

As for the rest, my point isn't that he's right. He's not. he's a jerk. I've said that every time.

However, he wrote a post on his own blog (that has since been removed) and was obliterated by everyone with a blog in the literary world. His sin was being dissatisfied with his encounter with a specific agent and going public with it, and as a result he's been blacklisted by everyone, including the nicest agent I've ever encountered. He's getting insulted again here -- months after the fact -- for the same crime against the community. And it's not a crime for which agents are equally prosecuted.

So this isn't a defense of him. He's a jerk. It's a question about the imbalance in appropriate criticism. Because every where you read, you're told not to vent about agents. Don't burn bridges. The moral of Janet's post -- Janet, who is as nice and supportive as an agent could be -- is "don't criticize agents or you'll get blacklisted." She said she won't even see things he sends her anymore. And that's for the crime of criticizing someone else.

And in that she's perfectly justified. They all are perfectly justified because no one should work with someone they don't want to work with. But the tenor of the attacks has been vicious -- really, much worse than he did to the agent in question. And even here -- a great, well thought community -- we've been almost uniform in saying this condemnation was justified and equitable.

So that's what I'm saying, apparently very badly. Not that he was right in his criticism, but that the consequences of those criticisms have been extreme. And that when agents do much the same thing, no one calls them on it.

Colin Smith said...

If I may quote BLA's Twitter profile:

Parody of a Literary Agent / Actual Schmagent. Queen of the #querytip. To waste your time, query me at

Just to settle that point. :)

Colin Smith said...

Matt: I've interacted with BLA. I think she sees what she does as parody. I described her as the Literary Agent equivalent of Basil Fawlty. :)

Parody can be an effective teaching tool, by taking bad behavior and exaggerating it to absurdity. It makes the bad behavior vivid and memorable. No-one wants to run a hotel like Basil Fawlty!

(And if you've never seen the British sit-com "Fawlty Towers," do yourself a favor. Twelve 30 min episodes that you won't regret watching.)

Writers do have ways to condemn bad agent behavior. QueryTracker allows writers to comment on their agent experiences. Predators & Editors also track industry professionals who act unprofessionally. Agents depend on writers for their livelihood. We don't need to bad-mouth bad agents (especially not here--that wouldn't be right). We just stop querying them, and we use the various forums available to warn others.

Matt Adams said...

For the record, Andrew Dice Clay used to say his act was a parody. it gave him cover to say what he apparently wanted to say, to make the jokes he apparently wanted to make without being considered a racist mysoginistic monster himself.

I guess it kind of worked because he's still got a job playing the same character after 3o-some-dd years.

BLA says it's parody, and gives it cover to say whatever it wants about authors and people who query and anyone it feels like. Saying it's parody gives it cover.

But no insult is ever delivered without a hint of truth, funny or not.

So yes, I see that BLA is supposedly a parody account. And it's funny. But it's also more than funny. It's sometimes insulting and mean in its contempt for those unpublished writers trying to get a foothold in the literary world.

BJ Muntain said...

Let's consider the question: Does this guy deserve all the vitriol he's received?

Maybe not. But then...

The man didn't just insult one agent. He insulted many agents. He also insulted the hundreds of other attendees at that conference. He also insulted all authors who go to conferences... probably all authors in general. And he insulted women, in general, by publicly denigrating a professional woman doing her job.

When you insult someone, you're not going to get their approval. You're going to turn those people against you. If you insult thousands of people in a public forum, you're going to get thousands of people who don't like you.

Does he deserve all that vitriol? I don't know. But I know he earned my scorn by insulting me as one of those authors he feels are below him. I'm sure there are many others who read his blog who felt the same way.

Sara Halle said...

I rarely comment here but I have to jump in to say I don't agree with the assessment that the response to this blogger is worse than what he did to the agent. A pitch didn't go his way (not a big surprise considering he didn't want to follow the event's rules), so he chose to attack an agent's appearance and imply she wasn't good at her job. And because he was unnecessarily vicious in his blog post, and has apparently never apologized, people are entitled to avoid him.

I also don't feel that general comments from agents about being tired of vampire novels or misplaced word counts are on the same level as a personal attack. If there are agents who put up cruel attacks like this guy did, let me know who they are — I want to make sure I never, ever query them.

John Davis Frain said...

I'm late to this party cuz I went straight from working to a Sisters in Crime meeting, and what a day to miss!

Matt, I so want to take your side because I love to play the contrarian and help the underdog. But man, if you want to help somebody who suffered from a mass Internet gang attack, please pick a different person to save.

I'd agree that the response has been over the top if the guy had stopped at complaining about rude behavior and a lack of professionalism. It's bad behavior to complain about someone else's lack of professionalism with your own lack of professionalism, but I'd even respect his opinion and forgive him for that. It's like gossiping about other people gossiping. Bad form, but we all do it on occasion.

But the personal attacks he made make it (in my mind) impossible to defend him. And his lack of decorum afterwards makes it impossible to feel sorry for him.

John Davis Frain said...

Donna, I'm just catching up and I read your note about the guy at the conference.

I can put myself in your shoes, so it's hard for me to judge here. If you were offended, then I can respect that. But if I was standing next to you, I'd have to get a bit of an explanation. Taken out of context, his words didn't sound offensive to me.

On the other hand, one of my jobs is officiating basketball and I'm called more names on a given night than I care to count. What I'm saying is, things are relative.

I'm reminded of a George Pelacanos scene in his latest:
"We made a coupe of additional arrests. Like they say in the TV news, the situation had escalated. Not a full-blown riot, but trouble nonetheless. Someone yelled out at me, called a "cracker-ass motherfucker." I didn't even blink. The county cops don't take an ounce of that kinda shit, but we take it every night. Sticks and stones, like that. Then someone started whistling the theme from the old Andy Griffith Show, you know, the one where he played a small-town sheriff, and everyone started to laugh. Least they didn't call me Barney Fife."

God Pelacanos is a gem. So yeah, things are relative. And I respect your judgment. But if you're honestly wanting to know if this male thought the guy's line was insulting, I can only tell you that it didn't strike me that way. However, I'm glad you mentioned it, because now I'll stick that in the back of my mind for next time and I'll try to avoid saying anything like that.

MA Hudson said...

Donna - that guy was sooo rude! Yikes, saying you looked different in the morning pretty much implies he found you attractive the previous night but now his beer goggles have worn off. What a creep. (I want to use much stronger language.)

JulieWeathers said...

You would think he had learned his lesson, but apparently he was so proud of the way he put not only one agent in her place but two, that he had to keep it and post it on a professional site. I forgot about him also dissing the second agent. She made the mistake of saying, “You certainly have a lot of stuff” after he pitched everything he could think of to her and get his money's worth.

A professional person reminded him that was a professional site and the rant wasn't a good idea, but DB is proud of standing up to the "girls", so he's keeping it up. Good for him. Show them who's boss.

Andrea said...

Julie, the agent comments about queries you mentioned look like the #tenqueries ones and of course those volunteered for critique. Nothing wrong with that, I think. But there are agents I've come across on Twitter (not lately, I must admit, either I'm more selective these days in who I follow or it doesn't happen anymore) that do sometimes feel the need to rant about or make fun of silly queries, often followed by comments from sniggering wannabe-clients who like to be part of the club. I've seen it happen, and I don't think it's o.k. or professional on the agent's side.
There's even a blog (not updated anymore, I think) called Slushpile Hell, dedicated to making fun of silly queries, anonymously. I can't help feeling it's a bit of a childish thing to do.

Still, when I read Mr Blogger's post a while ago when it was circling on Twitter, all I could think was, oh dear. Not clever. Another white guy with entitlement issues.

MA Hudson said...

Matt - BLA sounds nasty. I assume she gets away with it because she's anonymous but if her identity is ever revealed, she certainly won't have hordes of new talent vying for her attentions.

In regards to the offensive blogger - nobody wants to work with an asshat, no matter how good they are at their job.

Allison Newchurch said...

Henry Johnson at 2.44 am sounds like a spammer to me.

I have read the blog referred to and I think you're all being too kind, calling the man an 'asshat' is way, way too nice.

On the up side though, I had not heard of the particular agent prior to the rant, and now follow her on twitter. :)

Donnaeve said...

MA Hudson Exactly. And that's what I told my husband. To comment on someone's looks when you have only just met is 1)rude, and 2)it smacked of the old, worn out one night stand scenario where someone wakes up the next day and is like, "huh, he/she doesn't look like I remembered."

So. Bingo. My husband got it - without any explanation. But then again, that's why I married him. :)

Lennon Faris said...

Nobody's prob. reading this any more, but I gotta give props to Matt for sticking up for a guy when almost no one else will. I still don't agree, but there is that. I don't know who the dude actually is, and there's no link to his name, so I still don't feel bad for what I said. If that's probably a poor reflection on my character, oh well. Can't win them all.

Since somewhere out there, he is a real person, I'll add that hopefully this guy wisens up to the ways of the modern world soon and is able to build a new reputation. I don't actually wish him ill.

Erika said...

Well said- you're a class act.

DeadSpiderEye said...

I think I inferred some criticism for his lack of empathy the last time he was the topic here. Now though, the attention directed at him seems a bit too spiteful to be comfortable. Yeah he wrote something nasty while stirred to petulance and everyone's pissed off at him, I get it okay? He's not the only party who it seems, might benefit from an external perspective either; brandishing the threat of turning a writer invisible, is not particularly edifying. Rather ironically I think that's a prospect that might silently churn the stomachs of a few writers.

If there is one virtue evident here it's honesty, at least we can see plainly what every one really thinks of each other. Nothing is ever a total loss I suppose and in the age of hypocrisy that at least, is something of a welcome rarity.

Irene Troy said...

At this late stage of my life I've finally internalized some important life lessons. Chief among them is the reality that what we say, write and do has consequences that often exceed our initial imagination and thoughts. What is posted online lives forever - an important fact to remember. But it doesn't have to posted online to be remembered forever. Rudeness and disrespect, in most any form, defines us as individuals far more than it does the object of our disdain. I've lost my temper, said things I've later regretted and generally behaved poorly. I don't blame this guy for feeling disappointment, even a moment of anger and frustration toward the agent and the business of publishing. What I blame him for is his evidenced immaturity and pettiness in response to his emotions of the moment. No one wants to hear that their work isn't up to par or feel an agent/publisher/reader isn't giving full attention. But this is part of the business and we -- as writers -- must learn to accept it. To issue a public attack on the individual agent, to stoop to the level of critiquing her appearance and experience...well, that is unforgivable. As with most things of this nature, his behavior tells us everything we need to know about him and nothing about the agent in the story.

Norman Dean said...

Rejection is part of being an aspiring author. Cruelty, meanness and abusive comments are not. Agents reject a query/pitch because it just doesn't work for them. Period. To attack an agent on a personal basis is terribly wrong.