2.09.2006

Miss Snark isn't Quite the Fluffy Bunny Slipper Girl You Thought She Might Be

Dear Miss Snark,

As your blog is a great source of information giventruthfully, I'm hoping you can help me make sense of this incident.

At a recent writer's conference, I pitched a book to a very well known agent. Although the agent wasn't interested in it, she did request a partial of another book I'd written that had finaled in a large contest.

Later on, a friend of mine overheard this agent publicly ridiculing the first book I'd pitched her to a another group of writers (my friend knew this book was mine as she'd helped me brainstorm it and it's a fairly unique twist on an old story).

What on earth makes this agent think this behavior is acceptable? How would you react to this? My ire is up to say the least.


Well, my ire is up too. But not at the agent first. Why is your friend passing this along? This is akin to "I saw Killer Yapp licking George Clooney's face but you weren't there Miss Snark". Some things you just don't ever need to know.

But to your question: what the hell is wrong with someone who'll ridicule people behind their backs? The answer of course is that we live in the postlapsarian world, and we are all bitterly human.

Yes, of COURSE you have hurt feelings. Yes of COURSE it's grossly inappropriate to ridicule someone behind their back.

However, given that this blog is named Miss SNARK and I have a nitwit of the day, week and year, and I tell people they are scum sucking pigs for charging fees, AND I run a critique that's called CRAPometer, the only difference is that I do ridicule people openly and to their face. Here in New York, we sometimes call this "master class". We even write plays about it and have them produced on Broadway. Sometimes they're called Master Class, and sometimes they're called A Chorus Line, and a lot of times they're called "reviewed by Michiko Kakutani".

I'm sorry dear reader but in this case, after I bop your "friend" on the noggin, I have to say "suck it up" to you. Of course, I wouldn't send that agent the partial either, cause her sense of decorum is a bit skewed, but other than that, if this is the most humiliating thing that ever happens count yourself lucky.

51 comments:

Kagura Shinra said...

I would never tell my friend somebody said something bad about them or their work. Friends are supposed to protect each other from that kind of stuff. And as for talking behind people's backs. Yeah, it's rude of her, but everybody does it.

Bernita said...

Frankly, I'd sooner know the truth, even if it's bitter.
One hopes the agent gave reasons for her derision.

Anonymous said...

I think the friend did her a favor. Even if the agent liked the partial, the idea that she used her pitch as material to entertain is skewed. Doubtless the writer should get over it, as not all agents are as professional as Miss Snark.
But how DUMB is that agent to pull such a thing at a conference and think it wouldn't get back? Worse, what if she wanted it to?

Anonymous said...

Well, this sort of thing does happen. I know of one agent who publicly ridiculed an author who was friends with most everyone in the group to which he spouted his vile opinion. He also ridiculed another author's work in front of his clients who then went on to ridicule it to others until it got back to the author. And all this was just for fun, mind you. It's not like this agent was invested in either author. Just gossip. Just to shoot off the mouth.

Some people think that being in publishing or agenting makes them pretty special.

An ass is an ass is an ass is an ass. Doesn't matter what business s/he's in. Every business has them.

Eileen said...

I have long suspected that late in the night during writer conferences agents meet over pails of gin and amuse each other with immitations of the worst pitches they heard all day. Sort of like the early episodes of each season's American Idol.

Mags said...

Here in New York, we sometimes call this "master class". We even write plays about it and have them produced on Broadway. Sometimes they're called Master Class, and sometimes they're called A Chorus Line, and a lot of times they're called "reviewed by Michiko Kakutani".

This is just freaking brilliant.

Cornelia Read said...

I was going to quote the exact paragraph mags did, with the exact same comment, but was obviously beaten to it.

Brava!

Catherine Marie Scott said...

As my grandmother used to say: "Believe nothing you hear and only half of what you see."

Applying this principal to the situation, you must disbelieve it. Which also means that I disagree with Miss Snark regarding the submission of the contest finaling ms. If the agent asked for it, then send it. Always do the right thing, even when others don't.

The absolute worst that can happen is she will make fun of it and your friend will tell you about it and you can disbelieve it.

You might put the friendship to the Crap-o-Meter test.

Anonymous said...

"postlapsarian world"?

Darn, and I've only just made it to the google world.

Anonymous said...

People in the publishing business are just people. I found this guy's blog and read it with utter disbelief. You mean a pipsqueak intern can actually TAKE and KEEP my manuscript and show it to his friends and make fun of it?

Shortcut to: http://cryovault.net/blog/?m=200506&paged=2

(Goto June 10th, intern's journal day two.)

The answer, sadly, is yes.

carriekabak@yahoo.com said...

Questions for you, Miss Snark---->

I've heard of authors spending the whole of their advance, many thousands, on publicity. (Long distance travel, contests, free gifts..) Do the author's own efforts truly pay off in the long run?

Do you think publishers are doing enough for new authors?

Carrie

Anonymous said...

Word of the day: postlapsarian-- after the fall of man. [OED]

Thank you Miss Snark. My sarcastic and precocious 12 year old son (who goes to parochial school) will love that word and will use it right to his science teacher's face to explain his late homework.

Bernita said...

Anon,
Re: the intern. That strikes me as unethical.
If a publisher undertakes to destroy rejected submissions - which I believe most do, if they're not returnable - what's it doing in some summer intern's hands?

Anonymous said...

Yes - that intern is unethical, or just plain dumb - certainly a nitwit. (If you read his site further, you will never want to send a MS directly again...your life will be in the hands of 20 year old aspiring nitwits.)
Worse yet, the house he's working for has such a great rep that you'd think they'd watch out for little urchins like this guy. I know he's not the only one (nitwit) there, too.
What can you do? Complain?
I say get an agent who can bypass the interns!

Elayna said...

I would tell my friend if someone was making fun of their work because I wouldn't want them to walk into a relationship with someone like that expecting trust and respect.

After reading about this situation my first thought was that the friend may be exaggerating. It is possible that the agent said something, but ridicule is a strong word and maybe the friend overreacted. Did she mention exact words that the agent said?

It is possible that an agent would do this.

It is also possible that the friend is jealous and lying.

Many possiblilities here.

Kate Epstein said...

Bottom line: this author will never wholly trust this agent. And you can't have that in this relationship. Writing's too difficult and personal to be represented by someone you don't trust. There are other fish in the sea.

M. G. Tarquini said...

Better link on the nitwit intern:

http://cryovault.net/blog/?p=42#comments

May his employer see that post.

Bernita said...

~clawing her eyebrows down from her hairline~

Thank you, Anon and M.G. for the link.
Several things suggest themselves, but why bother.

Makes one wish, on the other hand - after reading further - to begin a list of people one will never buy, providing they get published.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, m.g. for the cool link.

And thanks bernita for sharing my disbelief!

May his employer give a crap!

(yeah, right)

litagent said...

When I was in college I was lucky enough to be able to hang out with bunch of my professors and I was shocked -- shocked -- to find out that they talked about their students the same we we talked about them. And yes, this included ridicule as well as admiration. Is it rude? Absolutely. And absolutely human nature. It's one of the ways people cope with the stresses of any profession. I'm with Miss Snark. Let it go.

bordermoon said...

One, a friend wouldn't have told you. Two, as long as the agent telling what he or she thought was a hilarious tale didn't mention your name, then try to just let it go. Odd as it may seem, agents, editors, and even authors have been known to regale their peers with the stuff they receive -- but they never give names. Just things like "You won't believe this, but I got a romance where the hero kills the heroine -- with a lawn mower!"

"No names, no pack drill."

Still, it's rotten that it got back to you. My sympathies.

Gabriele C. said...

I would expect a friend to tell me such things. And I'd be dang glad to know that about an agent because if she doesn't like some of my work, she won't be able to represent me even if she likes the other manuscript. That's the point for me, not the riducule; I'm pretty hardened against that though I don't live in NY. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Gabriele is of the belief that if an agent doesn't like some of her work, then that agent won't be able to represent her even if she likes other of her works. I do hope Gabriele's not on the agent hunt, because if she's hoping to find a agent who likes *everything* she's produced, then she's destined for a long, futile search. There's a human element in the process which can't be discounted.

Elektra said...

I often help one of my former teachers grade papers, and we see some pretty hilarious (read: unbelievably stupid) answers and have a good laugh over them. I would NEVER, however, mention the answers to other students, with names or without. It's rude, immature, and shows a real lack of self-control.
Moral of the story; Have a laugh with the other agents. Don't do it when writers are around.

Reggie said...

You finaled in a contest and and agent asked to see your work. Now your "friend" wants to tell you something hurtful about that agent. Are you that easily manipulated? Didn't you go to high school?

I'm guessing your friend's name is Ima Jealouscow.

archer said...

There is no such thing as bad publicity.

Anonymous said...

No doubt that writers need to have tough skins. We expect mounds of rejections, bad reviews, and other professional disappointments.

However, this is different. Writers pay for writer's conferences and often for the opportunity to pitch. Agents' expenses are likely paid by the conference organizers. It's different than the slush pile. Writers should be able to expect some modicum of professional respect, not public ridicule in front of their peers.

I think your friend should let the conference organizers know about this agent. This is not good for their business and undermines the whole positive atmosphere of learning and support that most attendees expect from a writer's conference.

Miss Snark said...

that intern works at MacAdam/Cage. Man oh man.
What a snot.

David Niall Wilson said...

Yes, it was rude, people are that way (watch American Idol and study Simon). Editors do it. Agents do it. Reviewers do it - we talk about others, it's a way of life...but to worry over it is another thing. Life is painful, suffering is optional - so sayeth Sylvia Boorstein. There are other agents, and other days. I don't mind so much that the friend told, but if it had been MY friend's manuscript, I likely would have said something straight up to the agent in question in front of the group they were entertaining so they could at least be as irritated as my friend was going to be ... and so maybe they could think about the wisdom, or lack thereof, in their comic delivery.

What is most irritating about such situations and questions -- to me -- is the notion that letting it slide, then coming back and gnawing at it later will produce anything worthwhile. If I have a problem with someone, I just deal with it straight up and as immediately as possible so I can get on to my so-called-literary life...

DNW

Demented M said...

Actually, I totally disagree with Miss Snark. First, I would want to know that a potential agent was lacking the common sense and decency to be sure they wouldn't be overheard before ridiculing someone. Who's to say they won't commit the same indiscretion with editors? The best predictor of future behavior, is past behavior.

Also, it seems odd for an agent to both ridicule and request a partial. Personally, I would not send my work to them as I would have questions about their character and judgment. It's one thing to poke fun at the clueless newbie telling everyone their thriller is made for Hollywood and demanding a six figure advance from the non-fiction editor they corner in the bathroom, quite another to do it to a potential client.

Second, we authors are told over and over and over and OVER again not to be morons at conferences, the least publishing pros can do is return the favor.

Save the ridicule for a private moment with known and trusted colleagues. If someone can't manage that tiny bit of professionalism, maybe they shouldn't be your agent.

M

Anonymous said...

I'd say the agent requested a partial of the second work ONLY because it had finaled in a contest, thus indicating to her that it had been pre-judged by others and found worthy, and was therefore possibly marketable; she might have ridiculed that one as well had that not been the case.

Remember, people, agents (some, Ms Snark, no offence intended) are not the best judges of literary merit, but rather of marketability - and often not even good judges of that. (Proof abundant: all those best-selling writers whose work was turned down by dozens of agents...

Forget that agent. Move on.
C.

mapletree7 said...

Disagree - if I'm being stabbed in the back by a potential professional colleague I need to know.

Anonymous said...

Any chance this "friend" either greatly exaggerated this story or made the whole thing up?

Anonymous said...

I'm the writer in question and I assure you the friend who told me of this incident is neither jealous nor exaggerating.

This friend is a multi-pubbed author. She has no reason to be jealous of me and no reason to exaggerate since more than one person who knows me heard the agent's statement.

I'm happy she told me. I like people who look out for their friends, especially in this business.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

I find this entire episode depressing. I'd rather post my book on the internet and give it away than deal with an "intern"/snot like this one, or his company. This makes me angry.

Plainly, the male brain doesn't come off the pilot light until sometime near 30. (Sorry, guys, but it's true.)

Anonymous said...

You know, I found that MacAdam Cage intern's site back in October...and linked it to a young male friend of mine (who's never queried anyone, mind you) - and he totally blew me off, saying it was no big deal. I am so glad I posted it here again today. Since October, I thought I was just thin skinned and/or easily annoyed.

I was shocked because MA/C has such a great reputation - and yet treated a few of my pals pretty poorly...so I went surfing and found this little dork. And suddenly I understood why my pals had been treated like muck.

Ken Boy said...

This is an essay by Colin McEnroe entitled, "I am Michiko Kakutani."

http://www.mcsweeneys.net/1999/01/23michiko.html

Who knew?

mcbun said...

Human nature or not, I think that this agent's behaviour is pretty poor. I would forever be wondering what she was saying about me behind my back - and assuming that it wasn't good.

Here in Rabbitania we don't approve of fluffy bunny slippers. We wear fluffy poodle slippers.

Molly said...

I'd want to know. I wouldn't want to end up with an agent who was so tactless and oblivious to the possible repercussions of speaking in public at a writing conference about a pitch she'd just heard.

To me that is a clear indicator of moron-to-avoid status, despite the "big name" attached to her agenting.

That Girl Who Writes Stuff said...

“People in the publishing business are just people. I found this guy's blog and read it with utter disbelief. You mean a pipsqueak intern can actually TAKE and KEEP my manuscript and show it to his friends and make fun of it?”

No, the frightening thing is this pipsqueak gets to pass judgement on your manuscript. He’s part of what’s between us and publication.

I wish I knew a guy who knew a guy to get around these people. (I guess they are called agents, right?)

Anyway to the person who submitted their manuscript . . . don’t worry about it. When you finally get published with that great big drool-worthy advance and book tour and Oprah appearance . . . . yada, yada yada, . . . . you can pull a “Pretty Woman”.

“You work on commission, right? Big mistake. Huuuuuge.”

Anonymous said...

"No, the frightening thing is this pipsqueak gets to pass judgement on your manuscript. He’s part of what’s between us and publication."

Boy, you said it.

Here's the scenerio - author sends book about rabbits, intern sends back note saying author's book about hamsters was not a very good read.

Waste of time. Save your postage for agent queries.

bordermoon said...

One more thing that may be somewhat consoling -- or not: are you sure, really SURE, that the ms. being ridiculed was yours? Could your friend have misunderstood what the agent was saying? "Fairly unique twists" often aren't...ask any editor who has had three manuscripts from three separate authors who live in different states and don't know each other -- all about the same curious incident in Graustark on the night the princess eloped -- hit her desk the same month. Perhaps the agent (who I agree was showing poor judgment to be doing this at a writers conference) wasn't talking about your work at all.

Oz said...

Yes, it may be a case of the 100-monkey syndrome. And did the agent actually read your work before turning it down or just hear a pitch?

It would appear the dorky little twit may have deleted his infamous post. Those links didn't work for me. Wonder what the rap is on him these days around the office over there?

Beware! Snarkling eyes are everywhere!

Anonymous said...

I don't think it was so much that the link was here, as it was that GalleyCat posted about this. The intern was a smug little snot and I think he used his own name; he was certainly easily identifiable. Why anyone would piss off Pat Walsh, MacAdam/Cage, and everyone who likes and respects them is beyond me.

Ron said...

Yah, I got an ill-tempered note from the ex-intern about how I didn't ask him about the posts in question before I mentioned them on my blog, to find out if he was kidding or not. But he definitely deleted anything from June 2005 that had anything to do with his internship.

Anonymous said...

Oh My! Ron? GalleyCat?
I feel like Deep Throat!

Speaking of which said...

There were two different links posted above actually, as well as the galleycat thing...In any case, in the little dude's post of Feb. 11, he refers to his remarks as 'tongue in cheek.' Okay.

Anonymous said...

The twit's posts are still cached in Google. Use these search criteria:

site:cryovault.net june day two

Click on the "Cached" link. Drop off the "day two" to see links for all of June.

His posts were quite clearly NOT tongue-in-cheek. Claiming "I was only JOKING" is a coward's way out.

I'd be tempted to feel sorry for someone so frustrated at his lack of success if it weren't for the fact that he misused his (temporary) position of power and bragged about it on the Internet. Unfortunately, the publishing world has more than a few little turds like this doing first reads on slush pile manuscripts. That's why it's important to get a really good agent, IMO.

Anonymous said...

Ron -
That twerp is claiming you are a rotten journalist now! Because you didn't 'check your sources!'
Did he realize that he WAS the source? Hmmm. You'd think someone over at MA/C would have beat some humility into the kid...you know something like, 'Sorry about that,' or 'That was wrong, dudes.'
Instead he comes out fighting - 'Yes it's 19 year old a-holes who read your work - and you better learn to be nice to them, dammit.'
What a spaz.
Grow up, kid.

That Girl Who Writes Stuff said...

Okay, hypothetical question Snark readers . . . what do you do if you suspect your manuscript was in the slushpile at MacAdam and Cage (or any other publishing house) during the Summer of Nitwits?

What if “author sends book about rabbits, intern sends back note saying author's book about hamsters was not a very good read.”

Do you resubmit?

Tell your recently acquired agent that yes you have submitted to MacAdam and Cage but the person who read your work wasn’t very bright?

I doubt all interns are morons.

But, what exactly do you do if your work lands on the desk of one?

Anonymous said...

Girl Who Writes Stuff -

I can speak from experience. Two of my manuscripts went through MA/C during the nitwit rebellion.
What do you do?
You forget about it.
I mean, in my case, I figured if a good house like MA/C was getting nitwits like turd-boy to do their choosing, then there were plenty of other fish in the sea.

What do you do?
You find an agent.

What do you do?
Don't waste time sending to them...because you now know the kind of turd who will be skimming your first page & 'pulling the trigger!'