Friday, September 07, 2007

The car formerly known as mine

The picture isn't the best quality because I took it on my cell phone, but it shows a bunch of the damage. Let me explain.

On Wednesday, my mom borrowed my car (the one pictured) to go to a doctor's appointment in NYC. My car is by far the crappiest of the ones that my parents own, being a 1988 Oldsmobile, which is why they loan it to me for free. It's also a decent one to take into the city because no one in their right mind would want to steal it, and my mom's doctor isn't in the greatest part of Manhattan.

On her way home from NYC, on the NJ turnpike, my mom rearended a pickup truck. We won't go into the details of the accident because that's not appropriate to post on a blog. Needless to say, the car turned out looking like that. My mom, for those that are wondering, came out of it bloody and badly bruised, but is otherwise fine. Part of her injuries stemmed from the fact that a 1988 Oldsmobile HAS NO AIRBAGS, so she hit the steering wheel pretty hard. On the other hand, because it's a 1988 Oldsmobile and built like a freaking tank, it probably saved her from getting hurt far worse than if she had been in a newer, albeit more fragile car.

I'm going to use this as an example, however. Not about how you must drive safely or anything like that because that's not my point at all. My point is that once I found out she was hurt, I was out of the office on Wednesday. This is my mom we're talking about. I was with her and my dad in the ER until 3 am on Thursday morning. I got home, and I lost all of Thursday as a working day because I was so physically and emotionally exhausted that I slept.

I woke up this evening, and what do I find? One e-mail from a client who decided that they would fire me via e-mail (always a polite touch), and several other e-mails from clients, along the lines of: "Where the hell have you been? Why are you not doing work for me, NOW?!". I am so sick and fed up of being stomped on like this. Really, you get an agent, and this is not how you treat them. We are human. We are people. We have things come up in life. Accidents happen, people get married, life happens for us too.

I understand that writers can get anxious and that you worry about your work. I understand that it's a huge thing to finally have an agent behind you who will send out your work to publishers. I can see this from the point of view of an agent and a writer. But for god's sake, people, don't treat your agents like this. I have a SMALL client list, here. Somewhere between twenty to twenty-five people (I have to count), and I cannot and will not drop everything at a moment's notice for a client who thinks they're having a crisis. Unless your house has burnt down, you've been in a car accident, someone has died, etc, and you are not able to finish your book on deadline, YOU ARE NOT HAVING THE TYPE OF CRISIS THAT WILL CAUSE ME TO DROP THE WORK I AM DOING WITH OTHER CLIENTS AT THE MOMENT.

And I mean this in the general sense, speaking for all agents. We're all busy; we all have lives; we all have other clients. You, and this is the general "you", not directed at my clients, but at writers in particular, are not the end-all-and-be-all of our existences. Wait in line, especially if your agent is like me, and working in a semi-autonomous fashion. There are other clients besides you--as long as you realize this and cut your agent some slack, then you'll have a productive business relationship with them.

Please try to be considerate, and your agent will try to be considerate back.

Lori says that I'm way too nice to people.

Maybe she's right.

Maybe I should be a jaded, disillusioned old industry hack. Wouldn't that be fun?

At least it wouldn't hurt when I get stomped on, and accused of being a horrible person, just because I'm not working as fast as someone thinks I should be.


Jess said...

I'm so sorry about your mom; I'm glad she's mostly okay. One of my good friends was in the same sort of accident two-weeks ago; it's really traumatic. (All accidents are.) I hope your clients calm down. And congrats on the wedding. I don't comment much so I may as well make a run of it.

E.B.L. Gorton said...

My goodness!

You mother is going to be all right though, right?

I don't understand the mentality of a person who would react in that way. Of course agents are busy!


hope your mother recovers quickly.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Sounds like you're better off without the client who fired you via e-mail.

Hang in there. Take care of your mom -- and yourself.

Jeff Lyman said...

I'm glad your mom's okay, if a little banged up. That's what's important.


Anonymous said...

No good deed goes unpunished.

Same goes for nice people. There's always someone out there waiting to take advantage of a nice person.

Still, I vote you stay just the way you are: sweet, kind and unjaded.

Dave said...

I'm just glad your mother is fine.

The rest can wait.

Lee Ann Ward said...

Hey, I'd just love for you to be my agent! So, now that you have an open spot... :) Any author who would fire a reputable agent is beyond ungrateful. It is a slap in the face to those of us who are busting our buns in search quality representation.

I'm glad your mom is okay, Jenny. I know that was very scary. And, she is the most important thing right now.

{{Big Hugs}} for you and your mom.

Anonymous said...

So glad your mom is okay. Obviously that IS the most important thing.

However... let me give you my take from the writer's mindset.

(You are not my agent, so possibly I'm way off base here.) But I think within the writing community the perception is, "Heck, my agent has time to write and do follow up comments on a blog, but she won't even return my email?"

From the writer's perspective, you, the agent, are our only source of imformation, AT ALL.

Sure, YOU may know where our books are or how long a particular editor is going to take, but unless you tell the writer this, it leads to these dark places. Lack of information is the worst thing for a writer. Because writer's do have the tendency to assume the worst -- like the agent no longer is excited about your work, or simply isn't trying to push it in any sort of productive manner.

Certainly, there are crazy writer's out there and I'm sure all agents have horror stories about them, but I have a hard time believing that there weren't first some well thought-out and polite emails from this client, and THEN some frustrated emails before he/she fired you.

You cannot expect writers to have endless caverns of patience unless you let them in on what is going on -- the overall game-plan for their work, the fact that the summer months are slower and not to get discouraged, etc...

Just my thoughts. Feel free to disagree.

Jenny Rappaport said...

Yes, my mom will be just fine, thank you to everyone for their kind comments. =)

Anonymous #2, I do understand your point of view, and there were indeed prior e-mails exchanged with the client that fired me.

I don't expect writers to have endless caverns of patience, but there comes a point when I simply have no new information to give someone. I can tell them that their book is still out with certain editors; I can explain that publishing is very slow during the summer months; I could stand on my head for all the good it will do, but it won't make the editors read the book any faster. I do tell my clients all these things. But I don't see the point in sending an e-mail every day or every week, which says that nothing new has happened.

If I don't like your work, I'll damn well tell you I don't like it. I don't play endless mind games, and any writer that thinks that their agent does should do a serious reality check.

As regards the blog and e-mail. The blog is my time; it's not taken out of work time, and anything that I write is because I want to do so. I don't read e-mail 24/7; I'm not a doctor or someone who's on call that way, and I never intend to be.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad that your mom's OK, Jenny. Car accidents suck. And that client is so rude! It's a priviledge to have an agent and it's OK to not be in communication with her 24/7!

Best wishes with your mom's recovery.

kathie said...

What? You're not a doctor? Oh my lord, I've a big mistake in being here...hahaha, that makes no sense at all, but it's what came to mind after I read your final comment. Hope all is well with your mom and that the wedding and honeymoon were's to settling back in.

Christa M. Miller said...

Anonymous, I agree to an extent... but those concerns are NEVER an excuse for rudeness. As a freelancer, I make sure I keep on top of my clients' schedules. Most of them travel a lot and I always give them a day or two to get back into the swing of things before I send them a friendly, polite reminder of what I need from them. If I don't hear back, I make a friendly, polite phone call. As with agents, they are the only people I have contact with on our projects - so why would I risk pissing them off?

Jenny, I'm so sorry your mom got hurt. Thank goodness it was just minor. I hope she heals quickly, both physically and emotionally. As for being a certain way, I too have tried to harden myself. It doesn't work. It's your nature to be nice. And, you know, there's nothing wrong with that. Stick to your guns on being nice, because there truly are not enough nice people in the world.

Please take care of yourself!

Anonymous said...

I'm Anon #2

Thank you for your reply.

Please understand I was not suggesting that you played mindgames with your clients, or are toying with them in any way. It does sound like this client possibly just doesn't "get" how publishing is, and that lack of understanding has been taken out on you.

I do stand on my point though (and that point may not apply to you, Jenny, or the Lit Soup blog) that there are a lot of writers who sign on with people and literally cannott get an email returned, much less their work sold. I'm speaking of the comment trail of angry writers on Kristin Nelson's blog when she posted on "How to breakup with your agent," in a July post.

There is a large disconnect between the info an agent knows and the info the writer knows.

If you are not one of those agents, then bravo for you!

KingM said...

I'm so glad your mother is going to be okay. How worrying.

As for the agent stuff, ouch. Speaking as a writer who occasionally wonders how my agent is doing on some such, I can understand sending a polite email along the lines of, "Have you had a chance to look at my new novel yet?" when it seems like things are moving slowly, but when she seems a little slow I know it's only because she's out doing her job on behalf of her other clients. She has to prioritize; if she couldn't, she wouldn't be much of an agent.

Having said that, I do think there are agents who could be better about communicating with their clients, even to the extent of a quick email: "I haven't forgotten about you, and hope to get to you sometime in the next couple of weeks. I'll let you know if there's a hitch in that plan."

Not suggesting in any way that you have this problem, just that I've seen agents who are poor communicators.

Jenny Rappaport said...

Anon #2, no offense taken or given, I hope. =)

I try not to be one of those agents, but I do warn people in advance that I move slowly, due to a number of factors. I always read e-mails, and I try to deal with them as quickly as I can. I try to get back to people when they call me, but sometimes things come up. And I try to keep my authors updated on where their books are, plus I pass along the comments from the editors who have rejected their books. I'm not perfect, and I'm sure I've screwed up along the way, but I'm trying.

KingM said...

Ooh, one other thing. I think it's silly when people criticize an agent for keeping a blog. People used to criticize Miss Snark about this all the time, and it was annoying.

I'm a writer (and in fact, should be writing at this very moment) and I find my blog a good way to keep my mind working when I'm stuck on something. It's not that big of a time waster, really. If I wanted to cut out something, I should go for TV or computer games, or just plain surfing.

And why can't agents have other interests and hobbies, anyway? What does that have to do with being a good agent?

Ben S. D. said...

First of all - and by far most importantly - I'm glad to hear your mother will be all right.

Secondly, unless they believed it was the correct way to do things (which would be weird), firing anyone via e-mail is just plain cowardly. It's not just rude, it's basically saying: "I know this will sound bad if I SAY it, so I'll just write it and avoid any possible response. Heck, I can just delete any response!" Even if they think they can't get you on the phone, that's still no excuse.

Lastly, as one of your clients, I have no illusions and neither should anyone else. From the start, I think I've realized that I'm hardly your only focus on any given day, and if there's nothing to say...well, there's nothing to say. Being self-employed, I'm WELL aware of the concept of time budgeting, and when you work from home, the common belief is that you don't do anything. "Oh, you work from HOME? Wow, that must be AWESEOME! Get up late, have a nice workout, visit some friends, etc, etc etc."

Yeah, right. People pay me for that. I know you work from home, Jenny, and I know you have other clients AND other responsibilities as a normal human being. Anybody who sees it otherwise lives in an agent/client fantasy land or simply needs constant confirmation of the relationship. The way I see it, if something happens - good or bad - I'll hear about it. I don't need to know that yes, such-and-such project is still out with editors. Why would ANYBODY need that e-mail on a weekly basis?

Anonymous 2- Basically, I understand what you're saying, but a writer's dark thought processes are inevitable. Doesn't mean this should have any impact on logic and reality; we should KNOW they're just silly concerns.

Gina Black said...

My bones hurt just looking at that car! My best to your Mom. Glad she is going to be fine. Accidents are *very* traumatic. She should take it easy (and get good chiropractic or phys therapy). That's from one Mom to another. ;)

As for clients who break up with you at one of life's bad moments? Timing is everything. Sometimes you can control it. Sometimes you can't. I'm still not good at taking the deep breath and moving on, but sometimes that's all we can do.

BTW--thanks for the mention of Nodame Cantabile many blogs back. I'm enjoying them so far, not the least because I recently returned from a trip to Japan.

Sheryl Nantus said...

first, I'm glad your mother is fine - and hopefully being pampered as she gets back to full health!

as for the rest... it's all about perspective. Some of us have it, some don't. Those that do understand that Real Life happens and you can either whine and kvetch about it or deal with it.

and, as if it needed saying - family must ALWAYS come first. You do the right thing and to heck with the rest!

rhienelleth said...

Thank goodness your Mom's ok! Scary stuff, and very emotionally draining.

I read several agent blogs, and someone else I read was 'fired' via e-mail a few weeks ago. She talked about how much it hurt and how difficult it is not to take something like that personally. Like many of the other commenters, I find it absolutely unfathomable that someone would do this! I wish the author in question had paused to consider how they would feel if their agent had sent them an e-mail saying they no longer wished to represent them. E-mail is so impersonal, and I'm sure that's one of the reasons people continue to use it for uncomfortable things. God forbid you have to look someone in the eye while being rude, or even having any sort of confrontational dialogue.

What people often forget is that e-mail, unlike a conversation, is forever. My husband had a terrible rift with his first martial arts teacher that involved some e-mail exchanges. Years later, the teacher in question was telling people lies about what 'really' happened, including allowing a couple of individuals to read edited versions of the e-mails. Too bad for him, Mark kept all of those exchanges, and was able to produce the actual e-mails as proof of his side.

Cathy in AK said...

I hope your mom recovers quickly, and that you and the family take care of yourselves as well.

If I ever become as needy as some writers I've been reading about I hope someone smacks me in the head and tells me before I screw up. We're an anxious bunch, we writers, but there's no excuse for rudeness.

Perhaps you're better off without this one.

Cara King said...

So sorry your mother was hurt, and glad to hear she wasn't hurt worse! And your poor car. (I too know the joys of having a car that no one wants to steal!)

Here's hoping your mother feels better very soon, and also hoping that folks finally clue in that it's not really cool to use email to propose, to break up, or to fire someone. :-)


Jodi Meadows said...

I'm sooo glad your mother is all right. What a scary thing.

You know, we hear horror stories about agents sometimes, how they don't email their clients back and are always too busy to talk to them, but I wonder how many of these stories come from writers who forget that agents are people too.

Zany Mom said...

Glad to hear that your mom is okay. That is the most important thing.

And I hear ya regarding the me-me-me clients.

A while back, my son was diagnosed with leukemia. I, too, lost a bunch of clients because (gasp!) I had to spend 10 days with my 2 yr old in the hospital where he had transfusions and reactions and fevers and was pumped full of chemo.

And surprisingly it wasn't the clients who arrived at my office and found a note on the door (the ones I couldn't reach by phone). It was the ones who needed mundane things that easily could have waited. And I did start returning phone calls from the hospital room.

For some people unless you're available 24/7/365, they go somewhere else. Long ago I decided I can't be everything to all people. My family comes first. Period.

I no longer work Saturdays. Too bad. I don't work past 5:30. Again, too bad. My kids are far more important than business. Period.

Have some chocolate and kick back. Don't waste energy on these people. They're not worth it.

The Grump said...

Hope your mom continues to recover.

December/Stacia said...

Oh, dear! I'm glad your Mom is okay, Jenny, and sorry that you're having to deal with other problems on top of it.

Anonymous said...

Call me Anonymous 3. I'm a literary agent as well, at an agency in NYC. I hope your mother recovers quickly.

A few things I wanted to mention from my own experience:
1. Two of my clients have fired me via email. It was not cowardly, and the best way to handle it. Phoning to fire an agent will only lead to a difficult conversation, which would be the very definition of "impolite." And how is email different from a hard copy (which both my clients sent as well as the email)?
2. I do believe that writers are "the end all be all of our existence"--at least, professionally. Agenting is a service business. You are paid 15% to serve ones clients. If you are not giving your clients the proper service, they have every reason to look elsewhere. A restaurant would not have any business if it consistently treated its customers like annoyances.
3. While I was on vacation this summer, I told all of my clients they could email me at my personal address in case of emergency. One of them chose to--and the reason she did was far from emergency. I was annoyed for about 10 minutes, and then I let it go. I did not hold it against her. I moved on with my life. I certainly did not blog about it.

Anonymous said...

I once got upset because I never got a response from an agent on a submissions packet. Almost two years later I hear she was in a major accident, almost died and was just starting to take new clients again. I felt horrible for being mad in the first place. I was very glad to learn that lesson very early in my career.

I hope everything smooths out for your mother.

Douglas said...

Permission to kick some butt on your behalf?

Kelly Swails said...

First off, glad your mom is okay. Cars can be replaced. Moms can't.

Secondly, you're better off without the client.

Thirdly, so what if you're blogging on "work time?" I've said it before and I'll say it again: this blog is directly related to your work. You're networking with the publishing community, you're providing a service for us writers who don't have agents yet, and you have a forum to vent your work frustrations so you can keep your sanity.

Jill said...

Jenny, I'm glad your mom is okay. And I'm sorry you are having to deal with unpleasantness with your clients. As a physical therapist, I've had patients that thought I should jump on their (what seemed to me at the time) small problem when I had several other patients waiting that I still needed to see. Most people are understanding, but it only takes one or two to make me wish I could clone myself.

I am old enough that I rarely let it get to me the way it did when I was younger. I know they are looking for a little power in an environment that gives them little. And I'm pretty sure that's how these clients feel.

But if I ever get an agent, I plan to be very nice to her/him.

I recommend a warm bath with candles and a glass of wine.

Karen Duvall said...

What an awful scare for you, Jenny. I remember when my mom was in a car accident similar to what your mother went through, and it was scary. It didn't help that I lived more than 3000 miles away when it happened.

[begin rant] I know what it's like to have clients who think they're "it" and I work with no one but them. Ha! I'm a graphic designer, so the playing field is different from yours, but there's still that mentality of "I want it NOW and I expect you to do whatever it takes to make it happen for ME." Sigh. I also know I'm good at what I do, as I'm sure you know you're good at what you do, so I don't let their petty demands get to me. If they go away, good riddance. There's no shortage of design clients, and I turn work away all the time. Life is too short to deal with demanding people who don't recognize a good thing when they have it. [end rant]

joycemocha said...

Oh. Dear. Jenny, I'm glad your mom is doing fine and I think that client is totally unreasonable.

I can understand your perspective completely and totally. Your position is very similar to mine as a special ed teacher, only I have a caseload, not a client list. Occasionally, I run into a parent who feels that their child must be first on my list at all times, damn those other kids I'm required to work with. I've been the recipient of very much the same sort of attack because I will point out that I have other students I must also deal with. It always seems that there are one or two people who must hog your entire time--and parents who don't understand why a teacher isn't willing to drop everything and work around the clock (off contract hours) for their child.

I appreciate the perspective of my sped director, who's straightforward about the reality that you can't work with everyone all the time, there's going to be one or two people where there will be personality conflicts. Such is life.

Chumplet said...

I had a 1990 Pontiac that was built like a tank. Although it didn't stop on a dime like my Honda, I felt safer if I happened to see a snowdrift or a tree speeding toward me.

Hope your mom heals quickly, and try not to dwell on selfish authors too much.

Kim said...

I'm sorry to hear your mom had an accident, but I'm glad she's ok (or mostly ok, as the case may be.) That's really the important thing in the end and if someone else to too selfish to see it that way... well... too bad for them. Crisis happen to all of us and sometimes you have to wait while someone else deals with their crisis. That's it. Too bad. Next person, please.

I've been going through a medical crisis with my husband - so I can see it from your POV. Just take care of you and the REALLY important stuff (like your mom) because clients may come and go but you have your mom once.

Hugs all around and I hope she's ready to deal with the Pike again real soon.

Jodi Meadows said...

Anonymous 3,

When a few clients become demanding and take time and focus away from the rest of the client list, isn't that even more than annoying? Should Jenny drop everything she's working on for her other 20 clients--so that she can take care of 5 who really just want their hands held because they're starting a new novel?

(I don't know if this was the case, of course, but according to the original post, it was definitely somethng that is Not An Emergency.)

And I can see maybe once freaking out about starting a new novel (or the Not An Emergency equivalent), because getting a shiny new agent is definitely a life-changing thing, but when it becomes common, I don't think that's treating those clients like annoyances. That's the clients treating the agent like their personal slave.

The respect should go both ways. Agents should respect that writers are neurotic freaks. (And I believe if they don't already know this, they find out very quickly.) But writers should also respect that agents have an entire list of other clients, not to mention a personal life that sometimes involves catastrophes, and cannot hold hands all day long.

To use your restaurant analogy, the good and undemanding customers would leave and not come back if the serving staff was able to only pay attention to the loud and demanding group in the corner. And as an ex-waitress, I'd rather lose the obnoxious bunch than the people who smile and tip well. :)

Sabrina said...

So many have already said it, but I'm glad your mom wasn't seriously hurt, and I hope she (and you) feel better soon. I second Gina Black about the therapy. My sister was hit by a car a few months ago--not seriously hurt, no broken bones, but she was knocked over and scraped up--and she had to go to at least 8 physical therapy and massage sessions afterwards.

As for the rest, I suppose I can see where someone might want to use email to split with their agent, especially if that's the primary mode of communication between them, but being rude is never a good idea and never called for. Email at least gives you the opportunity to edit what you say, so it can be a polite and civil break. Oh well. To end on a positive note...

If I haven't said it before, congratulations on your wedding.

Anonymous said...

(Concerning Jodi Meadows response to Anon #3 --)

I completely understand what Anon #3 means when he/she says that clients are the business.

And no, agents should not have to babysit 2 demanding clients while ignoring their other 20.

But the AGENT needs to be clear about how they do business BEFORE they sign on a new writer.

Even stating, "Yes, I will try to return emails within a few days, but OTHERWISE I'll only check in on a monthy basis," puts the writer in the know. Then they aren't nearly as anxious.

Oftentimes agents barage a writer with emails in the first few weeks of representation and then go AWOL. The agent really is in the driver seat, here. They can set up their own rules as to how they go about business.

Unless the AGENT makes it clear -- once I get submissions in, I probably won't be contacting you until we hear any news from editors -- the writer, due to their altered expectations, ARE worried.

Agents need to understand a little information goes a long way. Sure, the agent has 20 other writers that they can earn a comission from. The writer only has one book.

My current agent made it clear that she is not a hand-holder. What a relief to know that upfront. Her lack of weekly or even monthy emails is her style of working. But I wouldn't have known that if she hadn't TOLD ME!

Tess said...

First, I'm so glad your mum is ok. How scary for everyone.

Second, those emails are unfortunately just more examples of how selfish our society has become, how it's expected, with the immediacy of email, that everything will be acted on/answered NOW. People seem to forget the basics of courtesy and the Golden Rule. I don't blame you for being so angry.

Ryan Field said...

Oh, Jenny. I was in crisis with a family memeber this summer, literally from Memorial Day until a week ago. I know what it's like to spend all night in the ER, and then all summer in the ICU.

But I must admit, the editors with whom I work were spectacular. They supported me and gave me all the time I needed to do what I had to do. I'm so sorry you had to experience this.

Dena said...

Sometimes it helps to vent.

I feel a lot of writers have a misunderstanding of how agents work, how much of a support staff they have, and how much they have on their plates at any given time.
Based on the comments, it sounds like this type of client expects a "corporate" situation; a small office couldn't possibly make them happy. So you're best rid of them, because they aren't going to change. You've validated their self worth, and now they can take on the world.

Hope your mom heals fast.

Shalanna said...

I'm coming in on this late, but I wanted to say I'm glad your mom wasn't hurt worse! And forget those "businesspeople" who act so badly. I saw a piece on CNN recently showing how corporations are having to send their new hires to a form of "charm school" to teach them how to act and how to dress for business, as they've been brought up by the "in your face" TV comedy shows that portray all sorts of awful behavior as "normal." These people need charm school! I broke my knee in July and I have had to tell several people point-blank that I'm not doing the volunteer work because I can't right now, and that my stamina is taking its sweet time about returning. They usually back off once they "get it." This was one way to find out who your true friends are and who was brought up in a barn, no? No . . . it's not worth it, of course (grin).

Let me know if you need to fill the hole left by that stupid client whose parting shot came by e-mail. Sheesh! *grin*

Oh, and belatedly--L'Shana Tovah 5768!