While I'm not defending the writer, this really does stink of overkill and feels a lot like piling on, especially when retweeted a bunch of times like happened yesterday. The writer tried something to get agents' attention and speed up the process a bit (or they got the name wrong, or misinterpreted something or whatever). It was a mistake, but one the agent could have easily ignored or addressed when/if she was asked about it. Instead she went public, and while she didn't use the writer's name, she added to the pantheon of how annoying queriers are.
What's troubling about this is it's all one-sided Writers don't have a forum to complain about bad agent behavior because of the very thing Janet talked about, that any bad querier behavior gets discussed in the community. I've had bad experiences with agents -- plenty of great ones, too -- but I'd never say anything about it publicly (or tweet about it) for that very fear. But agents have no such qualms about complaining about writers (even if they are just queriers) and it feels a little gross to see how quickly people pile on. Queriers are human being who have invested a lot of their time, talents and energy into a process they have little control over. Most of the time their hard-crafted (even if lousy) queries are just ignored, or their novel -- the thing they are deeply emotionally invested in -- is rejected out of hand. I'm sure bad queries, or mis-followed guidelines, or even silly attempts to rush the process are aggravating, but it would be nice if a little more empathy was presented to writers. Even bad ones. They're trying as hard as they can -- they just want it so bad. While the occasional bit of bad behavior is not justified, it's at least understandable.
Matt raises an interesting point here, one that's worth talking about. The underlying sense seems to be agents have all the power, and writers have none. If you're a writer, I'm sure it feels that way. If you're an agent, it doesn't. Both of us need to understand that.
The point that "the writer tried something to get the agent's attention and speed up the process" is the one I'm perplexed that you think is "understandable."
What this writer did was try to jump the line. If your novel is in that line, are you ok with a writer lying (literally) about an offer to get her work read before yours? If I were in that line I'm not sure I'd be so sanguine. By speeding up her consideration, she's slowing yours down. It's that simple.
Moreover this is the kind of me-first think that places the wants of one person above the needs of the community. It's ok for her to do it because really what's the harm?
Think about what happens if 30 people do it? Or a hundred? I'll tell you the first thing it would mean: exclusives. If I regularly got "hurry up I have an offer" emails I'd start requiring you send me your manuscript exclusively.
Exclusives aren't in an author's best interest. Not now, not ever.
The second thing I'd do is request fewer mss. That would be GREAT news for the writers whose ms I do request. Not so good for the other 80% who'd get passes instead. Again, what's good for a lot of people versus what's good for just a few.
Then there's the whole idea that lying to someone you want to work with is an acceptable tactic. How about we change positions. What about if I tell you that I know I can sell your book for six figures, knowing full well that the chances of that are quite slim? Is that ok, because really I WANT to sell your book for six figures?
Is it ok for me to lie to you as a tactic to get you to sign with me? A tactic to placate you? We had a recent instance of an agent lying about offers to her clients. Rightfully, there was a pile on of epic proportion when the particulars came to light.
The sense I get from Matt's comment was it was just a little thing, it didn't matter. But it wasn't a little thing. It wasn't just "I have an offer" which is bad enough. It was very specifically an offer from a specific agent with a stellar rep, known for finding big successful books, and using her name gain interest from other agents.
That said, it was a pile on, and that is the nature of the Twitter beast. That doesn't make it right, but it's also not a reason not to let writers know about one of the very few things they can do that will hinder their search for representation in a permanent way. That's the down side of community.
Not all mistakes merit a public discussion. I'll even say most of them do not. But this one did. And knowing all y'all the way I do, I could hear the meticulous and fastidious among you thinking "wait, should I NOT tell requesting agents I have an offer." Thus, my contribution to the pile-on.
Opinions of course
One of the things I value most about the blog readers here is your willingness to offer alternate viewpoints in a way that makes reasonable discussion and disagreement possible.
And a sidenote: The idea that writers don't have a place to complain means you just haven't found Absolute Write yet. Trust me, writers have raised complaint to an art form there. There are also private Facebook groups of all sorts. And the Author's Guild has a new message board where authors can talk about a wide variety of subjects. There are others, and some commenters yesterday mentioned them.