Courtesy….it does count, and other ramblings

Yesterday, the night before…on twitter, well.  It was interesting.

It started when a guy’s email to an agent went public.  In short…the guy was a jerk.  I’m not linking to it, but basically, the guy received a polite rejection and then responds with a note along the lines of… thanks, you moronic female.  Go back to your second-rate hack writers.  Apparently I’m too brilliant for you to understand.

Insulting in so many ways.

  1. Struck me as chauvinistic.
  2. Insulted every one of the agent’s writers
  3. Um… the arrogance.

How did it go public?  Well, the agent posted it to her blog.

Personally, I have no problems with that part-there was later a haiku contest, and that?  Well, I see no point in it.  Also, tons of people join in on the bandwagon, and knowing human nature, I imagine many of them were doing it in hopes to make their names stand out to the agent.  Eh, that isn’t likely.

So here are some thoughts on this subject and courtesy in general.

A disclaimer though-a lot of people are assuming the writers who are jumping in are doing this to either impress in agent, or just because other writer friends are…I rarely do anything just because other people do it.  Actually, I’m more likely to do the opposite-that’s kind of how I am-I have a contrary nature.  And I’ve got an agent-one I love and adore-I knew I’d love her when I was asking around about her and was told this:  “Well, she’s blunt.”  *G*  That’s how I am.  It was a writer/agent match made in heaven.  As I don’t need an agent, and as I don’t know the agent, or the writer, I don’t really have a pony in this race.  But I don’t need to have a pony in the race to have some thoughts on the subject.

My thoughts….in a random, nonsensical string.

Courtesy counts.  On both sides.

  • This guy received a polite rejection.  There was no reason for him to be an ass.  And he was an ass.  When he got an auto reply,  he was an even bigger ass.
  • This guy, if my research proves correct, isn’t an aspiring writer.  It would appear there is an assumption that he is an aspiring writer, but I think he’s already published.  Aspiring writers are going make more mistakes-that’s how we learn, and even then, really, there’s no reason for rudeness.  The guy’s website?  If that’s him in the pictures?  He’s also not young-as in…he’s not fresh out of high school, still trying to figure things out.  Had he either been younger or an aspiring author, or both…maybe I would have had a different reaction, but I don’t know.  Because regardless, his response was flat out rude and he should have behaved with a little more courtesy.
  • As he is already published, he should know the drill.  If you wanted to be treated with professional courtesy, you have to act with professional courtesy.
  • I have no problem with the guy’s letter being posted on an agent’s blog-it serves as a reminder for one very simple rule:  courtesy counts.
  • Now had it been me?  Would I have posted his letter?  I dunno.  Maybe.  Possibly-I might have closed comments-you can make a point without letting something become a free-for-all.
  • I wouldn’t have done a silly haiki contest-don’t see the point.
  • There is no part of the publishing circle that is unimportant.  This goes from the unpublished writer straight to the reader.  We need all of us-because we were all unpublished at one point.  And without no readers, who would buy our books?  We all matter.  But not one of us matter any more than the other.
  • Writers who think they are the end all, be all of brilliance?  Um… get over yourself.  Really.  Seriously.
  • If you’re inside the business, you will learn/have learned that very often, you get subjected to rude (and often bizarre) behavior.   And sadly…this is not uncommon.  It’s part of the business, so we deal with it.  We all deal with it in different ways.
  • Publishing is not a rainbow world.  There are no unicorns, daisies and ponies awaiting you once you sign a contract.  It’s a tough business and unfortunately you’re going to find many unpleasant people.
  • You will also find some amazing friends…some will be fellow writers.  Some may be your agents, some may your publishers, some may be your editors, some may be your readers.  But go into this world with your eyes open, because it will save you a lot of disappointment.
  • It strikes me that some people see this fiasco as the ‘end’ of this writer’s career-it’s not, not unless he stops writing, and I don’t see that happen.  Now whether or not his career goes anywhere could depend of 1) is he talented 2) is this indicative of his professionalism?  But this isn’t going to put an end to his career-thinking this put a huge black mark against him in the annals of agent history? Eh, agents look for talent and they look for professionalism.  If he has enough talent to catch the eye of an agent, and if he can act professionally, I don’t think that agent isn’t going to care about this.  The internet is a small world, and yes, things live forever on it, but agents are all about business.  If this guy pens a book that an agent sees as the next mega-blockbuster, do you really the agent is smart to walk away from that?
  • Now… I don’t know that I would want to be that agent-actually, I know I wouldn’t.  I wouldn’t want to work with him, period, ever, forever and a day, not unless he adjusts his attitude, but  agents do/can/will continue to work with difficult authors.
  • It also strikes me that some people think this guy has become the victim of a bully…like he’s the dorky kid at high school being picked on by the popular kids. I’ve got a different view point~kind of an outsider view point, maybe because I don’t tend to join in on a lot of the discussions, even though I do observe.  What I saw happen was a guy took a potshot at a woman because he didn’t like what she had to tell him.  She swung back…publicly, and man, she had a hell of a right hook.  Now he’s dealing with those consequences.
  • Do not set people in the publishing industry (writers, editors, agents) up on some sort of pedestal.  Don’t.  They are just people, and like all people, they will make mistakes.  When you put people on a pedestal, they are going to fall off, and that leaves you very, very disappointed.
  • Jumping on a bandwagon doesn’t accomplish much.  Following a crowd doesn’t accomplish much.  Human nature, being what it is, I imagine some of the people commenting about the original note were trying to be clever, witty, etc, etc in hopes of catching the agent’s eye and making her remember them.  This agent is hugely popular.  She probably sees this A LOT.  Following the crowd doesn’t make anybody stand out.  Jumping on the bandwagon doesn’t make you stand out.  Me, personally?  The comments I remember the most are the politely-written, dissenting opinions.
  • It is not an easy business, and the writing is actually the easiest part.  If you want to go into it, that’s great…but do it with your eyes open.

Some things that have made me kind of sad…a lot of unpublished writers seem to think that speaking up against what they feel is wrong is automatic black mark against them.   It’s not.  It really, really isn’t.  Standing up for what you feel is wrong isn’t going to ruin your chances at finding an agent.  Trust me.  If you’ve got talent, if you’ve got a strong voice, and if you got a powerful story, that’s what an agent looks for.  They are not going to look back over your blogging history and wonder if you ever stood up against something you felt was wrong.  They may go look at your blog, but if you’ve got an interesting one, a professional presence, that’s probably all that matters.

So.  There ya go.

The vast majority of us do try to be courteous, even when we’re handed the opposite and it happens more often than you would believe. Editors who have to walk around a hotel with their badges flipped around because otherwise they basically get accosted, even in the middle of private conversations, by total strangers who want to pitch ideas.  Authors who have readers come up in the middle of booksignings with a manuscript and want them to read their manuscript-yes, this happens.  I was at a fellow writer’s blog and saw a comment by another writer who was told by an unpublished writer that this writer OWED the unpublished writer-because the writer was published, and the unpublished writer wasn’t.  Agents who can’t have a meal without being approached and having an idea pitched at them.    I had a reader get furious with me because I asked her to please delete a picture she had taken of me with my daughter-she had no right to take a picture of my child, but she was utterly furious when I tried to explain, “Please understand, but I don’t let people take pictures of my kids.”

While a lot of people think the mess with the agent & writer was a horrid awful thing…well, if it served a purpose…if maybe it keeps some other writers from doing that, and they learned a lesson, maybe it’s not a bad thing.