Monday, January 13, 2014

Authors Behaving Badly Part III: Good luck with your project and the bridges you're burning!

The other day I received an e-mail from a writer who is 100% sure that his project is the next blockbuster project for Stephen Spielberg. He sent me a long explanation of the reasons why he couldn't get the project onto Stephen's desk... 

I admit that I liked his initiative, some of the things he said, and the fact that the story is about time travel... one of my favorite things to read, write, watch and even discuss. So of course, I told him to send it to me for review and then we would chat. I mean really, how can I possibly pass up a project that Spielberg is 'craving'!? So much potential right? 

Well, when I received the project (sent 5 times complete with cast, music scores, and FBI warnings) and read it, I was disappointed to say the least. 

In short, the synopsis, which wasn't even properly translated into English, basically described a time travel story about a man who transforms his classic vehicle into a time machine and accidentally goes back to the exact time when he made the one mistake that he believes ruined his life. 

What a lucky coincidence for the time traveler! 

I read on and realized that the rest of the story in the first installment of the trilogy is about the protagonist choosing the right girl to take to the dance. After he makes the right decision, he's of course still stuck in the past and has to figure out how to replicate the results of the time jump to get back to his present time. When he finally gets home, he realizes that his whole life has been fixed! He then soon finds out that something terrible will happen to his daughter in the future... and so begins the sequel... Gees, does this sound familiar? 

So I responded to this sweet author telling him that I regret to have to pass on this project because it sounds too much like Back To the Future and it is unfortunately not unique enough. I also included what I thought would be encouraging words and praise for his efforts, and some tips on putting the package together. 

To say that this author was pissed off by my rejection is like saying that Niagra Falls is dripping water. 

I've been a literary agent for a number of years now. I've seen my share of disappointed queriers, but the response I received from him floored me. 

I've always been an avid reader and probably watch more movies than the books I read. I would like to think that I know the difference between a good story and one that .... lets just say is neither unique nor well written. 

I will not post his ridiculous full response here for many reasons. I will however share a redacted version (redactions are in black) of the relevant part.

"It’s seems to me that you have misunderstood me all the way down !

Since you don't have a clue of [XXX] neither of who the hell you’re talking with, Mrs. CORVISIERO, let me tell you this, Madam:
I am the F*****G screenwriter/director who got the last F*****G project his currently working on, [really? Then why is he looking for an agent who can get his work to Spielberg's desk?] to be done with… [terrible actress], her [XXX]  and, last but not least, the ‘[someone I never heard of] himself, in partnership with [XXX]  (France) and [XXX]  (that has been recently sold by [XXX]  to [XXX]  , what allowed [XXX]  .);  For your info, Mrs. CORVISIERO, the aforesaid F*****G project, which called ‘'[Title that I've seen on two books and at least one movie in the last 10 years]’, is expected to bring the international box office down;
Just in case you got 15 minutes of your ‘precious’ time to waste, Mrs. CORVISIERO, here I send you a copy of the 57-script entitled ‘[overused title again -- as if I want to read anything he wrote now]’,"

With my connections in my hometown, [XXX]  (which means to [XXX]  what Beverly Hills means to North America) and in Paris (where, unlike Hollywood, you ain’t need to be represented by an agent to get your talent considered by the biggest names in the trade, such as Canal Plus/Studio Canal (which is the biggest French network and film company, also present in Hollywood…),
it only took me a couple of weeks to get my project considered as it deserves to be…   

I’m really disappointed in you, Mrs. CORVISIERO !
I saw a video of you on Youtube [ ],
and I think it’s such a shame that an agent, what’s more a lawyer, as beautiful, as smart and as clever
than you look to be, Madam, be also that… DUMB n’ STUPID !" 

I'll stop there. *Taking a deep cleansing breath* 

The rest of the e-mail was a lengthy version of Spielberg's bio sprinkled with unfounded rumors about what he's 'craving,' quotes from trade publications, and some more poorly written nonsense about me loosing the 'opportunity of a lifetime' in equally dysfunctional phrasing and format. He didn't even get punctuation right. 

Here's a Tip folks: If you want a literary agent to take your insults seriously, you sure as hell better have that e-mail be creative, well written, well formatted, and use spotless punctuation. If you want to insult a lawyer, add in reliable facts... I'm just saying. 

This nimrod did neither. 

I can't say I'm surprised by this reaction. I probably should have seen the hints of instability in his prior e-mails and his lack of formality. So, my bad on that. But he personally insulted me and was out of line on so many levels that I had to at least send him a quick response. 

I'm not mad at him either, but business is business, and authors need to behave in a professional manner.  If I don't think I can sell someone's work, I will tell them. I would think that authors would prefer honesty over wasted time, and appreciate a candid response so that they can improve their work. I understand that it is difficult to deal with rejection, no matter how nicely it's presented. But believe me when I tell you that no agent takes rejecting work lightly.

It's okay to disagree with an agent's opinion and to be disappointed, but it isn't fair to retaliate in reaction to an unwanted result. It may make the author feel better for about five minutes, but the bridge isn't only burned... It's friggen demolished.

In case you're interested in my response... Here's what I sent him:

"Dear [His name], 
In my response to your query, I told you that in my opinion the project is not unique enough because the description resonates with Back to the Future 'all the way down'. Clearly you haven't learned to give people credence for their opinions. Your response really says nothing for your aptitude and professionalism.
I'm happy to hear that your connections will get this project off the ground for you. It seems that you didn't even need to bother with a 'dumb n' stupid' agent like myself, who doesn't know anything about stories.  Just remember that name dropping and the ability to disparage does not a good writer make. 
Good luck with your project and all the bridges you're burning on your way to 'success'. For your sake, I hope that your good luck is as abundant as your ego. You're going to need it."

After sending this e-mail, I blocked him as spam. I never want to read another word from him again. I don't mean to sound indifferent. In fact, it saddens me when colleagues or other professionals share things about clients or potential clients, or even other colleagues in a critical manner.

I always prefer to share things that are constructive and positive, but once in a while even these types of story sharing have some value.

Here's to Nimrod, and hopping that his project gets to Spielberg's desk and proves me wrong!

If it ever does, I'd be happy to print this post on recycled paper, put it in my mouth, chew thoroughly and swallow it... I will not even take an antacid to help me deal with it.

But that will never happen.