Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Rant alert

I am back from a week in Maine where I rent a cabin six steps away from the ocean. This year I brought both a Blackberry and my laptop with wi-fi and still there was no phone or Internet service, so I was forced to relax.

I did go into town twice to access my email from the pubic library, where I had more than 500 messages (and only about a fifth were for penis enlargement and transfer of funds from Nigeria). Part of the reason for the deluge was that my colleague, Jenny Rappaport, was getting married on August 19th and I had insisted that she take the week of the wedding and the two weeks following (when she will be on her honeymoon) off. She told her clients to get in touch with me if there was a crisis (in publishing in August - spare me!) and you can't imagine how may imaginary crisis emails I received. One of her clients was concerned that Jenny had said she would give her feedback on her next book (four already sold) and since Jenny was taking these three weeks off, Jenny would not get back to the author in time for her self-imposed deadline of beginning work on the next novel by September 1st. Jenny had said she would get back to her by Labor Day. What did she think I was going to do? Tell Jenny to read the book on her honeymoon? Please!!!!

It made me remember that when I was in labor (I had decided to have natural childbirth, so I was in labor for 3 days) one of my then-clients had called to ask when I was going to send out his $50 royalty check and when I explained that I was in active labor, he said "so what." Needless to say that was the last time we spoke and he is no longer my client.

Another client complained about her ex-agent whose wife was diagnosed and with breast cancer and underwent a double mascectomy. He was suddenly unable to move her to the top of his list. She was miffed that he didn't take the time to call and explain why he couldn't do what she expected him to do. Wasn't it obvious that he was having a crisis?

Agents and authors should work with each other for long periods of time, as your agent is your writing career manager. You are a team and she is your partner. There are times in everyone's life - agents are people too - when you should be given permission to slow down. Birth, death, marriage, illness, divorce are just a few that come to mind. I can't tell you the number of times I have had to call editors on clients behalf and explain that a deadline would be missed due to these circumstances and I have always received the common courtesy of understanding and extension of the deadlines. It always amazes me that some writers don't automatically extend that same courtesy to their agents.

15 comments:

tessa said...

Amen.
Perhaps the agent/author agreement should include a paragraph about common courtesy.
Some people are so selfish it blows me away.

Maprilynne said...

Wow. If my agent gave me another agent to contact while she was on her honeymoon the ONLY thing I would contact them for would be to let them know that I just looked out the window and their house was burning down.

And even then I'd call the fire department first.:)

Seriously though, let your agent have a freaking vacation!!!

Catherine Avril Morris said...

Well, actually... I feel bound to point out another side of this situation.

As one of Jenny's clients (though not, thank goodness, one of those who contacted you regarding an "imaginary crisis"), it concerns me that you'd make an example of another of her clients in this way. You're Jenny's employer/associate, and she did send out your email addy before leaving the office, saying we could contact you in her absence "in case of emergency." She didn't define what an emergency was or was not.

You are a team and [your agent] is your partner. I completely agree. I also understand and agree that agents have lives, too, and I'm so happy for Jenny and her new hubby. But I would assume that, in Jenny's absence, you'd stand in for her in dealing with her clients, which to me doesn't include publicly chastising one of them. If I were this client, I'd feel embarrassed at least, if not outraged.

KingM said...

As an innkeeper I see this behavior all the time. Most people are thoughtful and polite, but a small minority will suck the very marrow from your bones if you let them.

Cathy in AK said...

Good gracious! What's wrong with some people?

Tessa, it will be a sad day indeed when we have to contract for common courtesy, but I see your point.

Lori Perkins said...

I wouldn't have posted about this if I didn't think it needed to be read by writers.

Some of Jenny'd clients have emailed because they have pending business that I can step into - a meeting with a Japaense pubisher in Japan, a film deal, a possible offer - of course, I am there for that.

But when Jenny sends out an announcement that she will get back to everyone by Labor Day, which is Sept. 3, so the next business day is Sept., 4th, there is no reason why I should receive an email asking me what is happening with a ms. Jenny is reading to give feedback because the author wanted a response by Sept. 1st and isn't going to get one until the 4th.

Anonymous said...

Catherine Avril Morris, I agree with you, I think that client should be "embarrassed at least." But she should be embarrassed by her own behavior.

What would she have done if she got sick, and Jenny called her husband, telling him that the client better not miss the deadline, because after all, they had a deal?

You have to use common sense, if not common courtesy.

Jeff Strand said...

I had a self-imposed Sept. 1st deadline to get my first seven-figure book deal, and Jenny's honeymoon ruined everything!!!

JimmyT said...

Amazing, just amazing. Even in supposedly cold corporate America I'm pretty sure they let someone finish giving birth.

Sonya said...

Yikes, man. I'm really baffled by the complete lack of courtesy these days...

Though, admittedly, I wouldn't have been surprised if my employer had insisted that I work through my labor. Go figure. :-)

Anonymous said...

Catherine Avril Morris, notice that Lori didn't identify the client in question. No one except Lori, Jenny, and the client herself (plus any friends she may have complained to) have any idea who she is. She can be as embarrassed as she likes--in private. Public embarrassment would have been a whole different thing.

writtenwyrdd said...

Thank you for sharing this. It seems so obvious, but perhaps only in hindsight to many with limited experience in the business world or the publishing world.

Chumplet said...

I don't send an email or make a phone call without first asking myself, "Is this really necessary?" Heck, I don't post on blogs without checking whether my comment is helpful or pure drivel.

I know by now that an agent or editor's time is valuable, and although they are generous with their advice, they aren't babysitters.

Anonymous said...

I am amazed at how selfish some people can be. Haven't they ever learned that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar?

In my business, we call them losers.

Ryan Field said...

On the flip side (I know I'm late with this comment), I had a health crisis this summer with my partner of fifteen years and publishers and editors were spectacular in giving me enough time and space to deal with what I had to do. I can't thank them all enough now.