Tuesday, May 12, 2009

My Attitude

I apologize if my attitude of late has seemed surly, frustrated or even angry at times. I recently received a very kind email from a reader who was concerned that Agentfail had started to get me down and that I was spending too much time trying to respond and calm the detractors. She shared a personal experience of her own and really implored me not to waste my time on those who would never listen, namely the trolls and even those authors who had valid complaints, but expressed them in such a harsh and bitter way.

My concern has never been those who, let’s say, I felt were far over the top. The poster, for example, who repeatedly calls for names and seems to ignore my answer or those who have sunk to simply repeating themselves over and over again. I couldn't care less about those in the same way I couldn't care less about the ridiculously angry and, frankly, crazy emails I get (and share with you in reply to my rejection letters). Who I do care about, however, are those authors who were frightened off by Agentfail and are frightened off by the attitudes of some of these authors. My posts trying to explain why agents do certain things and those that might be in response to Agentfail are for those authors. I also care about those who have real complaints and Agentfail stories (which I did address in another post). In the end, by seemingly responding to the detractors I’m hoping that what I’m doing is teaching others, those who are willing to listen.

I think it’s human nature that we find it easier to listen to the negative and not embrace the positive. I’m very happy I did Agentfail and have no regrets about doing so. It created a wonderful and a horrible discourse within the publishing community in general. In the end, as with everything, people will take away from it what they want to hear. I have learned a lot from the blog, I have changed policies based on this blog, and I have definitely rethought the way I do things and continue to rethink the way I do things. I think Agentfail reached a lot of people and a lot of agents who are doing the same.

So, if I’ve been surly it has nothing to do or little to do with Agentfail. The truth is that sometimes I’m just a surly person, and whether you want it or not, by reading this blog on a daily basis you are going to, at times, see all my personalities shine through. You’ll see fun Jessica, snarky Jessica, surly Jessica, but hopefully, more often than not, you’ll see business Jessica.

Jessica

43 comments:

brionywilliamson said...

Long time lurker, first time commenter - I just wanted to say that I love reading your blog! If I ever get published (if I ever finish a novel), it will be because of the wonderful advice that I've read in blogs like yours.

So, thanks :)

Yunaleska said...

At the end of the day, I'm glad you're ok. Learning is good! As is this blog :)

The Writers Canvas said...

This blog and your informative posts are terrific, Jessica. It's hard to wrap my mind around the reason some authors go beyond being the squeaky wheel and become the fingernails-on-chalkboard, rude personas.

I'm continually impressed at your professionalism and look forward to your blog posts each day.

And I'll share a funny moment here--you were even gracious and professional when someone carrying big clunky luggage accidentally thumped it into you while checking into the Marriott in RWA San Fran last year. *guilty luggage gal* I almost introduced myself but figured a, "Hi, I just attacked you with my luggage" wouldn't be the best intro. Still, you were gracious and professional. No luggage wars broke out :)

Keep up the great work :)

Elaine

magolla said...

Great blog! Keep it up, J! Everything is subjective. And finding the right agent has to do with timing, luck and a fantastic story. The odds of us writers finding that magic combo is tough, we need to put on our big girl panties and write the next story. Who knows what will happen then.
:-)
Also, the weather might be messing with you if you've seen a lot of gloom and rain. I know it irritates me. Plus Mercury is in retrograde . . . again, and it puts everyone on edge. Summer and sunshine will be here soon enough, along with half-day Fridays.

Scott said...

Keep up the blogging. It's a source of great information.

Negative people exist to challenge the eternally optimistic. Without the negative people, Utopia would exist, and what fun would that be? The Optimists of the world would be bored and suddenly realize that the glass is not half full, but half empty. The Negative Nellies keep us (the Positive People) in check!

S

DebraLSchubert said...

Jessica, Like all of us, you're allowed your moods. I only post on my blog a few times a week, so they are generally cheery posts. If I did it on a daily basis like you do, people might not find me quite so charming. (Ha!) Thanks for letting your personality shine through, and for teaching us much along the way. Your professionalism and love of all things publishing is an ongoing inspiration. Namaste.

Jennifer McKenzie said...

Huh. Maybe it's because I've been reading your blog for a long time, but I didn't think you were all that surly.
I did get the feeling Agentfail brought out some uncomfortable stuff.
Frankly, I wrote it off as a sign of the times. The economy is scary. People are more desperate, more stressed. "The Contract" has more riding on it and is less secure.
This blog is one of the best sources of business info on the blogosphere.
I guess I just like it when you're surly. LOL.

Rick Daley said...

No need to apologize. You're human. You are allowed to express emotions and opinions. I don't think you've posted anything unprofessional on this blog. Subjective, thought provoking...Sure. But we need that.

If we become too sensitive to allow an honest discourse, then the dialogue loses its value.

Kimber An said...

Well, I think your recent posts have been challenging and educational. I've learned and been encouraged a lot. If you didn't put much heart into your posts, they would be boring.

B.E. Sanderson said...

If you were surly, it must've gone right past me. Of course, if you were always hearts and fluffy bunnies, I'd wonder if you were a pod-person. Thank goodness you aren't. Yours is the first blog I read every morning, and for the past few years, it's been a pleasure. Keep up the good work, Jessica. And thank you.

PurpleClover said...

You are a source of great information and your blog is valuable to those of us that read it with the hopes of some day being pub'd. We all get into a dark place (personally I've been in a bad mood and I can see it coming out in my posts and comments as well as emails to friends and family) and it seems like no one sees where we are coming from. All your points have been good.

I'm just keep trying to accept that people will not always agree with me (losers!) and if I keep responding to those that want an argument or to stir the pot, I'm just feeding them what they want (attention). So my only advice is don't let people get to you so much that it effects your whole outlook or ruins your day/week/month. Because lord knows they won't contribute to your blood pressure medication when the time comes...hehehe.

Oh and we all appreciate snarky (and some of us actually like snarky). Keep on keeping on.

PurpleClover said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
PurpleClover said...

Oh and the fact that you dedicated an entire post to this screams how professional and level-headed you really are. No one should think you're perfect and when you admit it openly it gives people a new found respect.

This is all something everyone wants to see in their agent.

L-Plate Author said...

You've missed one off...honest Jessica. That's the reason I read your blog. We can all moan about how hard it is to get published, recession time or not.

And like others have mentioned, I never noticed when you were surly.

I've been following for a while now and am glad to have found your blog.

Mel

Scott said...

Jessica,
If people get nasty with you, I think you have every right to give it right back. You are in the business of selling books. You've been around the block a million times and know what will sell and what won't. From that standpoint, I don't think you need to say 'sorry' about anything.

I think the biggest problem with writers is that they can't separate themselves from their work. If you decline to represent someone's project, all you're saying is that you don't believe you can sell the book. That's it! It's not a rejection of the person. Although feedback is nice, it's not your job or your obligation to provide it.

As long as things are kept on a professional level, I really don't see where people should get all bent out of shape.

The truth is that there are only so many publishing slots, if you will, out there. How many thousands of manuscripts are there for each one of those slots?

The fact that you take the time to write this blog indicates that you do care. I think you, Nathan and a few others go way above the call of duty. I really appreciate it.

Aimless Writer said...

I've been reading this blog for..has it been years now? And never felt you were surly. I think you've stayed very professional at all times.
I don't know what some people expect from agents. All these agents, on their blogs or other places on the net, are amazing pools of knowledge for which we should all be grateful.

Christina said...

Hahaha...surly? I thought you've been incredibly nice actually! You are probably the only (if not one of the only) agent who has taken the time to continue to explain Agentfail and the problems that it brought to light in a calm, understanding voice to us newbie writers.
So thank you. It’s seriously appreciated.

Vivi Anna said...

You do a great service to the industry Jessica. This stuff needs to be discussed. Too long has this industry been so hush-hush and secretive. Authors need to know the real facts of what goes on. Let's take off the rose-colored glasses and SEE what really goes on in the industry and what authors need to do to get published and stay published.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget, Jessica--Agentfail wasn't supposed to be directed at you...you just provided the sounding board. I think an exchange of ideas is healthy, and writers were able to get a lot of pent-up frustration out in the open. Thanks for the great blog!

Haste yee back ;-) said...

snarky Jessica, surly Jessica, business Jessica, LOL after readin' a little Bella Andre... is there a naked Jessica? Please!

Haste yee back ;-)

Rosemary said...

Jessica,
First, I am thrilled and proud to have my work represented by Bookends (shout out to Ferocious K here).

Putting Agentfail out there was a brave move; it's one thing to deal with criticism, but to invite it in such a public way is quite another, and I admire you for that.

Few of us would be willing to open ourselves up to that kind of criticism. (Teacherfail? No thanks. Or how about Mommyfail? Now there's a thought.)

Most of us just do our best every day, and we like to think people appreciate it. Sometimes they don't.

You're doing right by your writers. You're doing right my the many who turn to this blog for information and advice.

For what it's worth.

Craven said...

It so easy to spot an angry mob, what with all the screaming and burning torches. It's easy to think it's the whole village because the the mob is all you see. But tucked away quitely in their homes are the majority of villagers, keeping their nose to the grindstone, not wishing harm on anyone.

I think the angry mob has had the stage long enough. It's time to move on. I love your blog and pass by everyday to learn a little. Keep them coming.

Bill Greer said...

Jessica,

It's impossible to write a daily blog without your personality emerging, and that's a good thing. Spending your days doing something you love will engender joy, frustration, humor, and insight. When you mix the daily blog with something you enjoy, the result is that the rest of us get to see a real person struggling with these emotions.

What does any writer want from an agent? A real person who loves her job and who will ride that roller coaster of emotions with us. If you weren't surly at times, it would mean you didn't care. Add in the honesty, the urge to educate, the eagerness to learn from your own blog, and the humility to admit that publicly, and it leaves me with the impression that all your clients are lucky people indeed.

Keep up the good work and fight the good fight.

Haste yee back ;-) said...

After I sent my post, I had an epiphany... YEP, a CALENDER for 2010, featuring the Playboy/girls of bloggin' Literary Agents. Tasteful, but provocative poses... (and not just the young ones of y'all)!

All proceeds going to a charity of your choice. I'd buy a dozen.

Okay, I'll stop epiphanizing now.

Haste yee back ;-)

Kate Douglas said...

LOL...reading your post and all the comments, I realize I am SUCH a Pollyanna...for one thing, I just don't read the negative stuff, and while I've read all your posts, I didn't pick up surly at all.

Guess I'll go back to playing ostrich and stick my head back in the sand, but all news that informs us more about the industry we choose to participate in is good news, as far as I'm concerned. It's part of the package that makes writing and the publishing industry so utterly fascinating.

Anonymous said...

Yet another lurker here (I’d suggest we form a Lurkers Anonymous group but we’d probably all hang around not saying anything). It’s amazing how differently people interpret the same words.

I am one of those writers for whom you are concerned. I sent my first real batch of queries on queryfail day, and followed the discussions through all the vitriol and finger-pointing. The more I read blogs like yours, the more my knowledge of publishing evolved. When I started, I immediately formed opinions about agents in general and some agents in particular, but I continued to read industry posts to educate myself. The more I read, the more I learned. Agentfail was a key component in that education. So was Nathan Bransford’s Agent for a Day (I zoned out in the first query. The first one. And that’s not even the hard part of the job).

You are performing exactly the service you set out to provide.

I’ve never thought about your mental state (sorry if I should have), and took from your writing that you are savvy, adaptable and committed (if only you took my genre!). All the empathizers are clearly very nice people, but I can’t help but think they may be missing the point of some of your posts, which aren’t really about you (no offense intended, empathizers. As I said, you’re all very kind).

Henri said...

Personally, I skipped Agent Fail. I don't know why so many blogging agents were talking about it. Let me know when Agent Success comes on. That might be more interesting.

EilisFlynn said...

You never struck me as being cranky -- honest and forthright, but not cranky!

Jeannie Lin said...

Another lurker here.

I just wanted to say that one of the principles I held close to my heart while teaching high school was that the vocal, rowdy students were never the majority. But, man can those two clowns make enough noise to fill a classroom! The students who were happy with the class weren't standing on chairs and yelling at me that they loved what I did. They had their heads down busily doing classwork and writing lab reports.

You strike me as someone who, like me, has developed a pretty thick skin. But still, I thought I'd lift my head up from writing and revising and stand on my chair to shout that your blog has been a fabulous resource for me on my agent hunt and a great window into the publishing world in general.

Thanks for being willing to put yourself out there, knowing there's a lot of snapping turtles in this ocean.

Melanie Avila said...

Jessica, I read this blog every day and I haven't noticed anything amiss in your posts. I love the advice you give and the way you give it -- if your delivery has changed because of agent fail, I hadn't noticed.

Keep up the good luck!

Teresa said...

Hi, Jessica,

I've been lurking for a while and only recently started posting.

It shocks me that people can say that agents want writers to fail. There are so many agents taking time out of their busy schedules to write informative blogs on how to submit queries and the publishing industry as a whole. Back in the old days, boys and girls, you had the Writer's Market and conventions.

Jessica, I have not seen a bad attitude on your part in any of your posts, and I've browsed through quite a few of your past posts.

My first novel wasn't rejected because of bad agents or bad editors, my first novel had structural problems inherent to a new writer. I understand that now, and I’m so glad that novel was rejected. Instead of wasting my time pointing my finger at the failings of agents and editors, I took classes and worked on learning the craft of writing so that I could eliminate my own failings as a writer.

I’ve read in your posts how you sometimes take the time to comment on a manuscript in your rejection letter to the author. That tells me you care about the writers and their stories. If they are so dense as to reject good advice, then they fail themselves.

Thank you for taking the time that you do to make it easier for all of us.

Anonymous said...

i haven't noticed any attitude, but maybe that's just me.

I'm always stunned that there is a new post everyday. Most "industry" bloggers only post a few times a week.

I hope I'm not a commentor that is negative. I've had some bad experiences in publishing, so I think I may rant a bit without realizing it sometimes. I'll have to change that.

I love this blog, though.

Anonymous said...

Jessica,

Unlike a lot of the other bloggers, I have noticed both your's and Nathan's blog have an underlying current of sadness, disappointment, and frankly a little bitterness. Perhaps you feel like David fighting Goliath, but you're not. Truly you have the upper hand, and thousands of supporters. The loud mouthes have no one to back them up, and no other way of changing things. The majority of the time when we agree we tend to keep quiet, it's when we disagree we make noise. Just remember for every hundred people who are upset over something, there are thousands that are content and remain silent. There is not a single occupation in this world that can make everyone happy 100% of the time, and no matter where you are at you will hear criticism. The internet just makes it easier for you to recieve complaints. Be glad they aren't walking into your office.

Thank-you for blogging, keep your chin up.

And please remember not to link all anons together. I think small complaints sound angrier coming from anons; probably because our brains tend to link them with another anon who was over the top angry.

Miss Lily said...

I think why the negative always bugs us is that we always want to defend out position or point and prove that the negative isn't true, that it is in fact human nature. As a teacher, I know I was taught to look more at the negative then the positive to improve yourself and your methods...so perhaps it's the teacher in you. ;)

I'm a lurker and don't post comments often to blogs, but I enjoy reading yours daily, moods or not. Should I ever finish my novel, I will be one of the smart queriers thanks to advice from people like you, Nathan, Janet. So keep up the good work and don't let the people with too much free time and not enough to complain about, get you down.

Diana said...

Thanks for the efforts you've made to create a safe place to talk about the author/agent relationship.

gringo said...

I haven't noticed any real change of tone in this weblog. Obviously, you're addressing the current situations between writers and agents, which have been less than stellar in some cases. Never the less, I wish to remind you that you are doing the writer a great service by maintaining and contributing to this weblog and by allowing participation.

Thank you.

The First Carol said...

Ahhh, so blogging has changed you and your policies. I like that. Now, I want to know, has it changed 'us?'

Melissa said...

Jessica,

I usually lurk around your blog, but let me tell you, if this is 'surly' then when you're happy kittens and unicorns must fall from the sky. You're one of the most even tempered, patient folks on the web!

Vic said...

Twice now in posts I've left a comment about my concerns with my agent. Once during agentfail, as a matter of fact.

I wasn't one of the general masses complaining about rejection times or anything else. I had genuine concerns. You gave me genuine, concerned responses, both times. It has given me the courage to move forward from my agent, feeling confident I'm doing so for the right reasons.

I've always found your blog interesting, forthright and educational. You provide serious writers with a fantastic resource.

There will always be the negative folk out there, the unprofessional writers with bitterness riding their shoulder. That is, well, the way it is.

Best wishes for you and yours.

Chumplet - Sandra Cormier said...

Surly? You? Sure, you seemed a little frustrated at times, but nowhere near surly.

In fact, I think you handle criticism admirably. You keep your cool through heated discussions. You remain helpful and informative. That's why I always check in although I'm 'between queries' at the moment.

Elissa M said...

I come down on the side with the folks that don't see the surly in you. It sort of frightens me. If you're surly, I'd hate to think what I am.

Anonymous said...

Unlike these other posts, I've noticed J does seem rather depressed of late...aren't we all, due to the doom and gloom in publishing? But maybe some anons take out their frustration at OTHER agents on you since you're an easy target...

Maybe you should take a break from the blogging routine, perhaps use guest bloggers more often? We all need to take a breather now and then...Keep up the good work!

DonWhite said...

I'm a first-time blogger. Your site is first class, meaning you must be a wonderful agent. No, I don't expect you would meet that qualification if you didn't send out rejection letters and make some people unhappy. When we, the published and unpublished, come to an agent such as you we have high hopes, but it should be possible to remain enlightened and friendly even though two people don't see eye to eye. Good luck to you. J. I love your site. I love the colors and the organization of your blog. Don White, alias Donald D'Bruce