How to Blow It

Thanks to YA author Tera Lynn Childs for her Twitter posts on reasons for instant rejection by agents Jessica Faust of BookEnds and Janet Reid.

Both ladies are spot on. When I meet someone who claims to want to be a novelist, I know I'm in the presence of a light-weight never-will-be when the following credibility bombs drop from their mouths. My curmudgeonly, uncharitable thoughts are included for your edification - and you can bet most agents and edits out there, who are approached so much more often - feel about the same.

1. I just don't really have the time to write, you know?
(Nobody's given extra hours for writing. We just make it a priority, you know?)

2. I have this great idea for a book. You want to work on it together? You do the writing and use your contacts -- I'll share the profits 50-50.
(Excuse me, I'm running late for an appointment.)

3. I have this great idea for a book. It's going to be a huuuuge bestseller.
(Great writers prove their greatness. With their published work.)

4. Favorite authors? I don't really read much.
(Bwahaha! If you don't really, really love books and reading, your dream's toast. No exceptions.)

5. Besides, everything out there is such crap.
(Not everything published is great. But people who slam everything aren't paying attention. Plus they come off sounding like sour-grape, egotistical know-nothings.)

6. My book's just like (insert title of humongous bestseller). Only it's well-written.
(Uh, no, I wasn't rolling my eyes. There was just something stuck in them. Scout's honor.)

7. My sister/mother/husband/best friend says it's great, so would you mind taking a look and recommending me to your agent? (No. I have only a precious few credibility cards to play with my agent, and I'm not wasting one on some stranger who doesn't know enough to get an unbiased opinion.)

8. Someone helped you out, right? So don't you think you ought to give me a break and hook me up with your editor? (Your obnoxiousness is tempting me to give you the kind of break that involves emergency rooms, itchy casts, and pesky assault charges. I don't know you and don't owe you, and you're coming off as stalkerish.)

9. Do you think you could read my manuscript and give me some pointers? (This really isn't such a loser thing to ask, but I have very limited time for critiquing unpublished work, and it's pretty much all taken up with reading the manuscripts of critique partners with whom I've established long relationships and great trust. Besides that, like most authors, I've been burned, hurt badly by people who not only didn't appreciate my two cents but have accused me of trying to sabotage them, being jealous, or wanting to steal from their ideas. In our litigious society, I can't afford to take the chance on getting my arse sued off for doing a near-stranger a huge favor. Sorry.)

10. Well, anybody can get published if they're only writing romance. What I write's much more challenging. Way more selective, you know?
(Must. Leave. Now. Before violence ensues.)


Vicky said…
Thanks for the laughs! (What planet are these people from?)
The Planet Ego, I think. ;)
Is there anyone who hasn't been toasted/burned/incinerated after agreeing to critique as a favor?
Good question, Heather. That's the same reason so few authors are willing to sign their names to judging sheets. Even if you loved the thing and only took off a measly point or two, you run the risk of having someone demand to know in detail why. Ugh.
Suzan Harden said…
ROFLMAO - Thanks, Colleen. I really needed this today. (And I hope I've never done any of these, even unintentionally.)
You, Suzan? Nevah!!!

Honestly, most of the RWA folks clue in on good professional etiquette really quickly. Quite a lovely group of people and very supportive.
Excellent advice! May I post a link back from my writing blog? (Which is a bit silent while I'm on deadline...)
Thanks, Jennifer. Please feel free to link anytime!

Best of luck with that deadline!
marjorie said…
i have a question on a variant of #9 -- people often ask if they can take me out for coffee (dude, i can BREW MY OWN) and pick my brain about freelancing or about writing about parenting. some of them even know my work. i WISH i could help everyone, but i don't have time! is it insulting to have an FAQ about how to be a freelancer/how to break into magazines and send it out to anyone who asks? do you have a script for graciously saying "i wish i could have coffee with everyone who asks, but..."? i'm a spineless wonder.
Good questions. I think that having a FAQ on your website is an excellent idea.

About the coffee, I just thank people and tell them I wish I could, but because of deadlines and other time commitments, I'm afraid it's not possible for me right now. Sometimes, I'll offer a ten-minute phone call in lieu of this, or I'll let them know where I plan to present a writers' workshop where they might catch me. Depends on what kind of vibes I'm getting. But it's definitely okay to put up boundaries. You have to, or you can't do your job.
marjorie said…
thanks, colleen!

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