Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Seriously. Don't Do This.

Okay, so those of you who follow my blogs know that I like to post from time to time about writers behaving badly (or as I affectionately call it, Stupid Writer Tricks). Well, I have got the ultimate be-all end-all in Stupid Writer Tricks to tell you about. And in all fairness, I'm included as one of the stupid in this story, because it wouldn't have happened at all if I hadn't been such a sucker.

I get random emails and Facebook IMs from random people wanting me to help them get their books published, help them get agents, write their books for them, donate my organs to them (well, maybe not that one, it just feels like it) EVERY SINGLE DAY. Usually I just delete those messages, unless I actually know the person and have reason to believe said person actually has a chance in hell of knowing what he/she is doing. So when I got a Facebook IM from a high school classmate I hadn't heard from in 20 years asking me for erotica writing help, you can understand why I was tempted to delete it along with all the others.

But this message was different. It was very well-written, it showed the person had done a lot of background research into my work before contacting me (indeed, another high school classmate of ours suggested to her that she get in touch with me), and showed she had already done considerable research into the erotica publishing market. She asked politely for some publishing advice if I was able to offer it. Since this was someone I remembered as being pretty nice in high school, I thought I'd do the world a good turn and respond to her. We ended up striking up an interesting conversation, and I eventually agreed (against my better judgment, but more on that later) to take a look at a sample of her work.

She sent me some sample chapters to read, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that her writing was nothing short of excellent, as good as any of the best erotic writing anywhere. Having been an erotica editor myself, I know how rare that is, and (again trying to do the world a good turn) I offered to hook this person up with my agent. This was a very generous thing to do on my part, mind you, because a) my agent is currently closed to submissions, except by referral by one of her existing clients; and b) I do not refer people to my agents and/or editors unless I think their worth is top-notch, since it can reflect poorly on me if I refer amateurs or people who are not quite ready for prime time.

Needless to say, my old classmate was very appreciative of this---or so she seemed at first. She gushed about how wonderful I was, and how grateful she was, and she was practically in tears with gratitude. Which is nice and everything, but as I cautioned her, I just made the referral---there was no guarantee my agent would offer representation, of course. So after getting my agent's permission to pass along her contact information, I told my classmate to do the query submission, and I alerted my agent to look for it.

A couple of weeks passed. My classmate's submission was sitting in my agent's review queue (she's very busy). Then, out of the blue (again) I got a Facebook IM from my classmate, which went something like this:

"Hi, I've been doing some research and I've determined that literary agents are completely unnecessary. I don't want to give up 15% of my income to somebody else, and besides, I'm a lawyer [with zero publishing experience or creds, natch], so I can just do all of that work myself. [and other arrogant, idiotic misconceptions to that effect, yadayadayada]. So I wanted to let you know I'll be withdrawing my submission from your agent's consideration. Okay, bye!" Edited to add: this is my very watered-down paraphrasing of her email. The actual email was absolutely hair-curling in its arrogance and rudeness.


After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I typed a very polite yet firm response, in which I informed her of all the various and sundry reasons why her "research" (which I'm sure included a combination of disgruntled writers' message boards and scam publishers) into literary agents was incorrect. I also informed her that the decision to have an agent or not was hers alone (hey, it's her career, if she wants to throw it into the toilet, that's her business), and signed off. After I did that, I immediately fired off an email to my agent, informing her of this exchange, how rude this person acted, and to expect her submission (which she couldn't have made without my generous referral, natch) to be withdrawn.

Oh, and it gets better.

So about 10 minutes later, I get a very neurotic response from my classmate (NOT my friend, let's just be clear on this) in which she says "Oh, you must think I'm a total flake now." (Really? Ya think?) She blathered on about "this publishing business is so intimidating, I'm getting conflicting advice, but yours has been the most frank and informative" (maybe you should have followed it then, hmm?), "I'm such a doofus" (yes you are), blah blah blah. Then she basically said, "Maybe it's not too late to salvage this, I haven't actually emailed your agent yet."

To which I replied, "Oh, it's defintitely too late to salvage it, hon. Because maybe YOU haven't emailed my agent yet---but I have. I told her you were extremely rude, and arrogant, and all manner of other adjectives, and if she has half a brain on her shoulders (here's a clue: she does) she will not waste a single solitary minute more of her time with you. And neither will I. And by the way, don't email people at random for the first time in 20 years seeking advice and favors, then turn around and throw both in said favor-giver's face. Goodbye, have a nice life, and by the way, don't contact me ever again."

The moral of the story is twofold. One, there is a reason why most established authors don't go around granting favors to every random yahoo who emails them asking for one. (because the one time you do it, you can have THIS happen to you). And two, in the extremely rare event an established author goes out of his/her way (i.e., exchanging emails, giving publishing advice, taking hours out of her busy schedule to read your manuscript for no pay, making a very generous agent referral), it would generally behoove you not to behave like a complete idiot asshole.

Seriously, people. Don't do this.


1 comment:

  1. I have to say a really big "Amen" to this. Poor you! And how embarrassing with your agent/ Yup, the Delete key will be working just fine, from now on I'll bet.