Monday, December 08, 2008


I'm in an incredibly grumpy mood right now, just to let you know.

In case we haven't gone over this before (and we have, if you read the archives):

It is not appropriate to do the following:
  1. Send a query letter to an agent, at some unspecified point of time.
  2. Wait some amount of time. (presumably)
  3. Call the agent during dinnertime and say the following sentence, in an obnoxious tone of voice, "I sent you a letter and I didn't know what to do next, so I called you. Do you want my book?"
I work from home. Most times I won't answer my cell phone for business calls after 6pm, unless it says "Restricted Call", because many editors work late and their caller id is blocked. Which this call did. I do not appreciate people who call and do what I outlined above. I do not appreciate people calling outside of business hours, unless we have already set up a time to chat. Please keep this in mind.

Additionally, in this day and age, it is NEVER appropriate to call an agent to pitch them a query for an unpublished novel over the phone. Unless you're Stephen King. And Stephen King knows better than that.


Heather! said...

I don't mean to laugh at your expense, but oh my. I guess even if you were even vaguely interested you can check said "author" off your list. Now I'm just curious how you ended that convo!

Elissa M said...

I am amazed at how dumb some folks can be, and yet, not really surprised. I'd be willing to bet the query wasn't all that great anyway (because statistically most queries aren't).

Kristine Overbrook said...

The truly sad part is that there are many writers that are too new, naive and excited to understand that normal etiquette rules apply.

Their excitement is understandable, as is your irritation at having so many newbies making the same mistakes.

Hopefully, they will read and learn. But unless others do the same before calling...

I'd like to know too, when confronted with such a call do you firmly let them know they've made a mistake, educating said caller? Or do you growl and hang up as I've done to so many telemarketers?

NewGuyDave said...

Colleen Lindsay over at FinePrint Literary Management had this sort of thing happen at 9pm on Thanksgiving by some guy named David from Toronto, Canada. Maybe it's the same guy and he only learned to block his number.

There should seriously be some way to filter people like this from existing. Where is natural selection when you need it?

Jenny Rappaport said...

No, this was a woman, this time.

I generally act really polite, and explain how to go to the website and send a query through e-mail, and get them off the phone as fast as possible.

I don't mind talking to people, most times, but people should learn when it's appropriate to call and when it's note

Ann Victor said...

Kristine, you said it well. I tend to growl at telemarketers too! :)

Kathleen Peacock said...

On the plus side (because I'm selfish), she makes the rest of us look a little better.

Jodi Meadows said...

FWIW, I'm a fan of anyone who can follow the guidelines.

(Maybe we should stop calling them guidelines (too close to suggestions for some people, obviously) and start calling them rules. Just a thought.)

Justus M. Bowman said...

"I do not appreciate people calling outside of business hours, unless we have already set up a time to chat."

Even in your anger, you sound reasonable and approachable. I never considered calling an agent. Now your number is posted all over my mansion. Kidding, kidding!

Ryan Field said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BJ said...

Mr. Field said:
"But that was always done during normal business hours...9-5...Monday through Friday."

Ah, but 9-5 isn't at the same time all over the world. Some people might just forget to factor in the time difference. And as for the Canadian who phoned an agent on Thanksgiving -- not every Canadian keeps up with American Thanksgiving, as we've already gone through ours.

That said, in these days of e-mail and the Interweb, there is really no reason to call an agent you haven't already had contact with.

Lisa Iriarte said...

All I can hope is that mistakes like that make the rest of us look extra good! :) I'm kidding. Well, maybe.

But seriously, even when I was a total newbie, the concept of phoning an agent at any time never occurred to me. If you are trying to break into a new career, you research it. It doesn't matter what the career move is. It seems like I'm reading about similar mistakes being made on a number of agents' websites. I could see it happening rarely, but this sounds like a common occurrence. About how frequently does this happen to you?

lotusloq said...

Some people are so clueless. The problem is that the people who do this sort of thing will most likely never read your blog. I'm so sorry for all the clodhoppers out there ruining the peace of your down time. Here's hoping it doesn't shut your openness down for the rest of us.

FIONA said...

I'll bet the caller thought she would get an answering machine.

Perhaps HS and college English teachers should teach how to, and how not to, submit work for publication.

I know the information is out there for anyone who is willing to look for it, but the average person really does not know the first thing about publishing.

Of course, bad manners are not restricted to the publishing industry.

acereporter73 said...

Perhaps there is a small amount of fun to arise from such an incident.

How about a new writing contest?

For the most deceptively polite response that can be used to dismiss such people?

Winner gets a warm fuzzy feeling inside?

RichardDeanStarr said...

Well, I suppose I'll open myself up to a well-deserved lambasting. I'm guilty of calling an agent :sigh: I've probably become inappropriately comfortable with just picking up the phone, the way people do with me as both a writer and editor. It’s also not much of a defense, but I happen to have developed a dislike of email. I didn't used to, but it seems to have become a mechanism people use to be rude to others and say things in a way they would never think of doing over the phone or face-to-face. I don’t believe I’ve ever called someone during dinner, however, at least not knowingly. Nor do I block my number. I’d like to think I’m not one of the people Jenny is referring to in her post, but if I am, well, I suppose I shall consider myself an idiot (albeit temporarily) and hope I can be forgiven for my momentary, stress-related lapse in sanity. I certainly hope I don’t have an obnoxious tone of voice, though. That would be…well, obnoxious--something I try very hard not to be.

chrysanthemumpromise said...

Even as a novice to the rules of the publishing world, I know that is definitely NOT appropriate.

People are silly.

Jodi Meadows said...


Depends what you called an agent for. If you called to query for a book, well, don't do that again. There are appropriate and inappropriate times to call an agent.

If you're uncomfortable with email, plenty of agents still accept paper queries.

RichardDeanStarr said...

Although I regret my actions in this instance, at least to a certain degree, I’ve found that there are no hard and fast rules about calling anyone--as opposed to emailing or writing them using surface mail. I’ve personally sold to some of the toughest markets out there by trying non-traditional approaches. When you get right down to it, this business can be as much about interpersonal relationships as it can talent, whether people like to accept that idea or not. I think following the commonly accepted methods of handling these things is always wise--but it doesn’t hurt to try something different once in a while, either. Even now, I welcome phone calls from established writers for projects I’m editing. With a licensed character anthology like MORE TALES OF ZORRO, that can, and does, amount to a surprising number of calls. Of course, that’s not to say I wouldn’t welcome a call from an unpublished writer. How I felt about it would depend entirely upon the caller’s demeanor. Obviously, arrogance is a major turn-off; so is rudeness. Confidence I don’t have a problem with, because without it people have little chance of succeeding in the arts.

Jenny Rappaport said...

Richard, it wasn't you.

You were fine calling. We talked business. It's a different thing than calling about a query, but it's hard to explain the exact subtlety right now.

I still have to look at your stuff, but I must sleep now. =)

RichardDeanStarr said...

I'm glad to know it wasn't me, I really am.

I get about 200 emails a day, and while many of them don't need to be read or replied to immediately (i.e. newsletters, RSS feeds, etc.), a healthy (or unhealthy, depending upon your point of view) number of them do need attention right away. So when you say you’re backed up by hundreds of emails, I do empathize. Completely. The same thing for sleep--I don’t get nearly enough of it.

Thanks for letting me know. I have no doubt you’ll get to me when you can, and that’s perfectly fine by me. :)