6.09.2006

Death Valley Daze

Your awesomeness, Miss Snark, (awfulness is correct, but awesome is ok too)

The "businesslike" and "professional" question from "an occasional, if also slightly reluctant, snarkling " spawned a question in the echoing recesses of what passes for my brain, these days. It's fairly obvious that a businesslike and professional demeanor is appropriate in a business setting, or where the relationship is transactional. That's not the case here - you run your blog as you wish, which involves enlightening the willing masses and employing both a sense of humour and a needle-sharp wit. (The better to puncture egos with!)

It occurred to me that one who so completely misread the nature of the relationship between blog owner and blog reader might well do so in other arenas as well.

It then occurred to me to ask:
Do you ever find yourself wanting to tell someone "I love your book, but I'd rather be hung naked by my toenails in Death Valley than have to deal personally with you," and if so, what DO you tell the unfortunate wight? Or does good writing overcome even the horrors of having to deal with the perpetually clueless?


I've never actually used the words naked, toenails and Death Valley but "upon careful consideration I regret this isn't a project I can take on" sometimes means "I'd rather tell fortunes in Central Park for cash than represent you".

And yes, it does happen. Not often, but maybe three or four times a year. On the other hand, there are people who get up close and personal communications from Miss Snark and hastily mention they've signed elsewhere. Miss Snark is not only not everyone's cup of tea, she's not even everyone's choice for gin pail du jour.

The clueless are easy to figure out but I've had some near misses with people who have some strange ideas. I've actually had prospective clients ask "how can I reach you" if I tell them I'll be away for a vacation. I've had them ask for the name of my bank. I've had them ask for names of editors I work with. All of this bodes ill for getting to "yes". If you don't agree...fine, we've saved you a lot of postage and me a lot of reading.

14 comments:

Elektra said...

I've been meaning to ask about something related: why is it that a lot of agents, though they require the utmost professionalism in authors, respond to our queries by "Dear First Name"? It always seems like jumping the gun on familiarity.

Anyone else get a touch miffed at this?

Bibliophile Bitch said...

Did you ever get fooled? "Oh, wow, he looks completely normal what a relief. Oh my God! Is that a Smith and Wesson or is he happy to see me?"
Or you get a call from the prospective author's psychiatrist. Or you get 3am phone calls from a secret admirer.
Tell us a horror story, Miss Snark.

whitemouse said...

Whoever the Snarkling was who wrote that letter, I'd like to buy your book if/when it's published. You're hilarious. :-D

litagent said...

Elektra, it works both ways. I always, always, always, use an author's last name with the appropriate honorific, be it Mr., Mrs., Ms., Professor, Dr., Rev., what have you. But I would say that at least a third of the time, queries address me by my first name. And yes, it bugs me.

Elektra said...

Do they really? Is it the e-query effect or has it always been this way?

December Quinn said...

Urgh, Elektra, I hate that. I hate it hate it. I used to put a fake name on my nametag when I worked retail because I hated it. ("Sid", in case you were wondering.)

People thnk it's friendly. It's not, it's rude.

kis said...

I'd happily settle for a "Dear Karen" rather than the "Dear author, please forgive the format of this reply, but..." I occasionally get.

And I love how different each agency is. One will send a two line rejection in a font only lawyers could read on an inch-wide strip of paper. Another will send a personalized letter on expensive stationery. What gives?

Of course, anything but a "yes" sucks, but there's sucking, and then there's SUCKING, if you get my drift.

I'm a Mrs said...

I (apparently for one and only) don't mind a bit if my mail comes addressed to Dear Allison. But then, I'm Australian. That may make a difference.

What bugs me is, when trying to send a businesslike letter to a female editor/agent, you find their name listed without a Miss/Mrs/Ms. And I know a lot of people who hate it when they are addressed with the wrong honorific.

Can't win!

Anonymous said...

electra,
Yes, that seems to be the norm and it does bug me a little. It seems to magnify for me the disparity in the balance of power - my approach has to be strictly business/formal, but the agent is exempt from that requirement.

Just another of those little publishing business twists. It's not important, but I don't like it.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Dear Elektra:

I sign my letters with two initials and my last name. I hate getting a "Dear R. M." letter. It's Mrs/Miss de Vienne, or "Her Royal Highness, the Princess Sha'el, Lady de Vienne."

The agent or editor doesn't know me. I don't address them by their first name. I use their last name and an appropriate honorific. They should be as courteous.

I don't yell at anyone over it though. we princesses must be gracious. It's expected.
And we live in an age when informality has conquered good manners.

Anonymous said...

"What bugs me is, when trying to send a businesslike letter to a female editor/agent, you find their name listed without a Miss/Mrs/Ms. And I know a lot of people who hate it when they are addressed with the wrong honorific."

If I'm confused about their so-called titles, I'll merely address them as Beaula Belle Burke, or whatever. I never attach a Miss/Mrs/Ms. in front of my own name. Why is it even necessary to do so in this "enlightened" era?

Anonymous said...

If I were so immensely fortunate to get a letter saying "please send me your stuff", I think I would be just fine if it started with "hey you". :-)

If it were followed by "I'd like to represent your book," I think I might remind myself, should I feel tweaked, of the old line "call me anything but late for dinner".

But then, I know I'm weird ...

s. t. alker said...

I'm having difficulty seeing the problem here. For me it's simple: once we're on first name terms, we have established a relationship. It's one step on from the cold, anonymous form rejection.

The agent is clearly saying "I think we've got something here." It's an opening. It's an invitation for further dialog. Now you're free to reply back, on equally familiar terms, and discuss the finer points of your query / partial / full / newspaper clipping. Debate the reasons for rejection, and collaborate on a much improved submission.

Better still, you're pals after all: give him/her a call. It's not difficult. Pick up the phone. After a little chit-chat about the state of publishing in general, get back to the subject of your manuscript. This is the beginning of a wonderful partnership.

If you're on first name terms, you're practically at the point of dropping round to her/his house for Sunday lunch and sharing a few beers over the ball game while deconstructing Proust and identifying the similarities in your own work.

Agents are lonely people. Don't throw this cry for companionship and help back in their faces.

~sta

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Agents (and, I presume, Editors) are lonely people?

Oh, I have soooo many questions. How do you know this? Why are they lonely? Listerine works most days.

What if I'm a lonely antiquarian bookseller? (You do realize that most of the authors we sell are DEAD? So, we don't get to hobnob, associate, commiserate, or fawn over our authors unless we visit their graves. Even then, they aren't too communicative.) Does that allow me to forgo good manners?

I don't really mind if someone addresses me as "Dear Rachael" after I've gotten to know them through at least one email exchange and I've given them tacit permission by signing a follow up email with my first name. I gots to like you though. That means you were polite and business-like in your first email.

However, if you meet me at the ball and ask me to dance, it better be: “My dear princess,” or “My Lady,” or at least “Oh, my God, your so beautiful, I think I just forgot how to address you properly, but can we dance really slowwwwwly?”

lwmtgxkn seems excessive as a word verification code, doesn't it?