Thursday, June 28, 2012

Authors Behaving Badly Part II: Oh My GOD! Who is this diva!? And how did I end up here?...

I'd like to start by giving a special thank you to everyone who responded so positively to my last post. You are all right, when you say that I should not have wasted my time with that impolite author, and that my time would have been better spent with someone who would be more receptive to help. Unfortunately, I don't always know how people will react. Though there are often signs of the evil ego monster within popping out with ready tentacles, sometimes people do surprise me. So I make the decision to give my time on a case by case basis, when I have something to say. Even if in the back of my mind I know that it may not go well, I can still sleep at night knowing that the author did not fail because I failed her. As a person in the business with some knowledge to share, I often feel like I have a duty to say something to nudge people in the right direction. Actually, I'm like this with everything... my family and friends can attest to my pesty opinionated ways. ;) Sometimes it's welcome, sometimes it isn't... and that the way it is.

Now to more Author's behaving badly. As I was writing the prior post, my mind kept going back to one of the first writers I ever worked with. She was friend who used to be semi famous at one point in her younger version, and she carried this sense of entitlement with her thereafter even though it is no longer, if ever, warranted. This friend is an author, whom I met years back when I was writing my first book. We shared manuscripts and helped each other out. When I started agenting, she was one of the first people to submit work to me. Knowing her work and being a friend, naturally I took her on right away.

She wanted me to represent (sell) a novel that I had not read yet. Now let me preface this by telling you that when I first started agenting, Chuck Sambucchino featured me on his Writer's Digest blog. Because of Chuck's introduction and other things that I was working on, I was quickly flooded with 200 queries per day for a while. It was a lot of work, and it was all so new. Needless to say, I was busy and overwhelmed. So when my friend submitted her 'new' manuscript to me, it took me a while to read it. When I say a while I mean a few weeks, which by any standards is not long at all. Sometimes it takes a year for us to get to a manuscript because of the crazy volume.

The day after I got the said manuscript, the client sent me a message asking if I'd had a chance to start reading the manuscript. I responded that I had not, and that it would probably be a few days. After a few days she called me to see what I thought of the manuscript. I apologized to her and explained that I had not had a chance to get started on it yet because of all of the submissions that I was going through and other things that I was working on. She was a bit put off by this, and reminded me that I had agreed to read it and had told her that I would read it in a few days. After patiently telling her that I would do my best, we ended the call.

A week later, I had started the manuscript but had not finished it yet. When I started reading it, to my surprise, the manuscript was sub par and just not ready for publishing. So I started making comments to the ms as I went along to try to help her fix it. Of course, this meant that the reading was going even slower than usual because I was now putting together a critique, if not editing her work. I was about half way through when I received her e-mail inquiring as to the status again. I did not respond right away because I was diligently making head way. When I responded I told her that the ms would need editing. She was not happy to say the least. Upon reading the e-mail she called my office and left a 'not so nice' message with my assistant, basically saying that I should have been done by now and why would she need editing when she herself helps others edit their work for a living!

Yikes! "Seriously?" I asked Alexis at the time, who said that the client was rude to her. I called her back right away and said, "What's going on? Why are you so upset?" I said a couple of things about Alexis' reaction to her attitude that she did not acknowledge at all and instead went right into telling me how to manage my time! She said that I should have been able to read the full manuscript in three seatings of about an hour each.

I took a deep breath and explained to her about all of the work that I was putting into her manuscript and that I had bypassed all of the submissions and other manuscripts in queue to be read so that I could speed up her process. I also explained that I wasn't speed reading her novel, that fantasy novel of this length (about 115K words) normally takes about 8 hours without the comments/edits.

The only part of her response worth repeating, so that you know how far she actually took this, is "Just remember Marisa, I'm the talent, and you're working for me..."

Oh My GOD! Who is this diva!? and how did I end up here?...

Well, if you know anything about me, by now I have smoke coming out of my ears. This time I didn't even bother with the deep cleansing breath. This time I just calmly said to her. "I completely understand how you feel now. And I want you to know that I have finished reading your manuscript." At hearing this was happily says, "Oh finally!"

Ignoring the comment and feeling more resolute I added, "So I have good news and bad news." Without giving her a chance to say anything I continued, "The book needs editing, but with the comments I made for you on the draft you should be able to fix it, and have a good book."

Still clueless that she'd behaved so poorly with me and my assistant, she says, "Great, that's all you needed to do." (What?!) "So what's the bad news?" Her complete lack of awareness and egocentrism gave me that little extra kick to not even buffer the blow for her. "I will not be representing this book or you as your agent," I finally said.

Believe it or not, she was shocked. Especially when I explained the reasons to her. In a nice way I told her that our personalities would not work well together and that I didn't appreciate her attitude toward my assistant, me, or her disregard for my time. I told her that my goal was to work with clients who understand the business and appreciate my efforts, skills, and opinion.

After this incident she has begged for me to read her work again, and to take her on as a client several times. Unfortunately, now I know her true colors and the bridge had burned to the ground. It's not going to happen.

What this person failed to understand is that, no matter who you are, your agent is your partner. She or he will help you, guide you, share information, and when your work is ready, sell it for you. In the mean time, the agent isn't really working for you. Yes, your agent is accountable for her actions, but it doesn't mean that you get to boss them around or make demands. If that were the case, you'd be paying us on an hourly basis for all of the hours spent on your work. But you're not. When we sell the book we both earn money. This is something that many people fail to understand. Shows like Entourage and others showing how movies stars treat their agents are very misleading. That isn't always the reality, especially in publishing.

 The moral of this lengthy story? In short, as my mother used to tell me, "always treat people the way you'd want to be treated". Appreciate their work, their time, their feelings. No one owes you anything, and you must earn what you get... and even then, it's no excuse to behave badly.

Happy behaving!


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Authors Behaving Badly: How authors miss opportunities to learn and connect

The other day my Agency received a query that was, lets say, subpar. It was lacking in format, skill, and organization. The author did not follow any of the rules for writing a good Query letter. It included marketing plan information, and failed to tell us the genre and word count of the manuscript. Not to mention that the plot was barely comprehensible within all the self-proclaiming accolades and an endorsement from Chloe, the manager of a Barns & Noble. 

My Agents declined this query by telling the author that his story is not what we are looking for at this time. Naturally, this clever author wrote back a two page e-mail about how short sighted agents are and that our agency is typical, and callous, etc, etc, etc.... sigh

This made me unhappy on multiple levels. First let me say that we at the Corvisiero Literary Agency seriously, and often to a fault, try to help authors as much as possible. Unfortunately, given the volume of queries that we receive, it isn't possible to tell every single author exactly why they are declined and how to fix the shortcomings. So it is inevitable that not everyone will be satisfied. 

However, once in a while, someone comes along with an inferiority complex and upon rejection they go beyond the, "I'll get this published with out you" disgruntled response. This week we had one of these such incidents... The author wrote back a fairly obnoxious letter addressed to me personally... so naturally I had to respond. 

...Well, I didn't have to, and most of my colleagues and clients think that I'm crazy for taking the time to address these things, but I guess that this is part of what makes me. I like to help people. So I wrote the following response:

Dear John,

It has come to my attention that your story was declined by our agency because it does not fit our list. When an agency says this to you, it simply means that we either are not looking for your type of story at this time because they are not selling, or because we have too many of them, or it means that we don't like how you presented it- meaning that the story itself did not sound interesting. I am personally writing to you because you and I had previously communicated, and after seeing this, I am honestly upset that my agents failed to notice that from your query and that you received such generic response.

Unfortunately, when we work with thousands of stories, it is sometimes difficult to provide as much feedback to each deserving author. I'm sorry about that. I think that your skill has potential and that the story could be interesting. And given different circumstances, I would have liked to read your work. However, after reading your e-mail I have to say that I'm dejected by the disparaging tone of response. I'm sorry that you are disappointed, but publishing is a tough business and we as the readers of your work, and the people who will enthusiastically sell that work, have to choose things to represent that truly touch us, appeal to us, and capture our interest. Reading thousands of manuscripts per year otherwise would be torture! Also, there are several books out or about to be released with a common theme (from what we gathered from your query) in the market. So that's the reason why would not it add you to our list. 

On another note, your query also lacked the formalities of standard query letters. The format made it difficult to assess the value of your story or understand the plot and genre from what you wrote. Your blurb sounds like a synopsis and it is difficult to understand. You also don't have a catch phrase, a genre, or word count. I'm sorry to say that your query letter will not help you get this book represented. You're right about the marketing comment, but wrong to have included all of that info in your letter. The query letter is not a proposal. And no one will pay any attention to Chloe from Barns & Noble's comments even if she thinks that you are the new Stephen King. Choose the words carefully. Remember that less is more. If you go to,, and my blog you will find lots of tips and workshops available that will help you work on this. I hope that this is helpful to you. 

Best of Luck!

So how would you react if you received this letter? Would you be satisfied with the answer? Would you go look up the suggested resources? Would you ask how you could change your letter to make this more interesting? Would you take advantage of having the agent's ear and ask if you could fix it and resubmit it? Would you appreciate that the agent took the time to read all of the correspondence and replied to you even though you were so rude to her without knowing that she hadn't even been the one to decline your work? 

I guess I'm still too gullible, because these are the sort of responses I expected. Instead, I received an even longer e-mail from this 'gentleman' with disparaging words and commentary about how he is so much smarter than agents and that all we have to do is decide to sell something to actually sell it, and that we don't have to love the book!

These are the only 2 out of 27 bullet point comments that I had the patience to read in this letter before responding to him, this time with a much shorter response which basically told him that he has too much time on his hands, and that he should better utilize that time to learn to write a query letter. 

Alright, alright... this time I wasn't polite at all... I also told him, "get off your high horse, it has stiff legs and it will get you NO where." 

Then I marked him as Spam. So he will never get a chance to resubmit to our agency again. Although this should be as satisfying as 'defriending' someone on Facebook, it wasn't. It was bitter sweet. 

It made me sad actually, because this author, with a potentially good story, is wasting his time on fighting back the decline letters instead of learning from the feedback. This means that he will have a very hard time selling his work, or even getting it read, simply because he is too proud to take a step back and reconsider his query letter. He looks down upon and resents agents, and does not understand the business. His inflexible attitude and bad behavior are his proverbial horse. 

In my case, it's just as well, because clearly he is not the type of person I want to work with. And I'm not alone in this thinking. In fact, not many of my colleagues would have bothered to reply at all. But I am who I am, and I hope that one day my feedback will help someone get that right agent or that big deal. 

My advice to you is to learn from anyone qualified who is willing to help. Don't get caught up in your feelings of rejection. Use every contact as an opportunity to move forward. Your goal is not to get even, or to get the last word in. Your goal is to get published... that's when you get the last word! ;)

All my best,

Monday, June 11, 2012

It's in the Details: Mastering the little things to hook the big fish

You've heard the expression, "It's in the details." Although it is important to see the big picture and to have set goals, I find that the details to getting a novel published are just as important, and often more difficult, for authors to master.

The details I'm referring to are the things that many authors don't know anything about before they set out to write a novel...things like writing a query letter, researching and pitching to an agent, finalizing their manuscript, preparing their synopsis or proposal, following etiquette in all of the above, etc.

How do authors learn how to do and prepare all of these things to get their work noticed and published? The answer is dedication, skill, and research. They can read multiple books on each one, attend conferences, join writer's critique and networking groups, hire a consultant, etc. All of these methods are good and should not be ignored as sources of great value. 

In order to help authors with their preparation process, I have started offering workshops and coaching sessions at Literary Powerhouse Consulting. Last month I offered a video chat Query Critique workshop, during which we read author's pre-submitted query letters and critiqued them. We engaged in several very fruitful discussions about the issues as they came up, and the participants were able to ask questions and provide input as we went along. Four of my agents in training also participated and provided some wonderful insights! Overall it was a great success. So much so, that I'm already planing the next one.

This week we are offering the HOW TO FIND AND KEEP THE RIGHT LITERARY AGENT Workshop. This workshop will also be an interactive video chat, where we will go through everything from when one should start submitting their work, to how to get the work ready, how to research agents, what agents do, to how to get their attention, and much more. This workshop will be a key opportunity for writers not only to learn a great deal of information, but to learn it directly from literary agents.

Due to high demand, I will be scheduling these two workshops again in the near future. They will be listed in the Events/Workshop Calendar on the LitPow and Corvisiero Literary Agency sites. I have a number of other very useful workshops in mind that will teach authors everything they need to know before submitting their work to an agent or editor for consideration. We call these workshops the "IT'S IN THE DETAILS SERIES," and promise to post their descriptions on the website as soon as possible. I will make announcements when they are up, or you can check in periodically. 

I do hope that you make the time to check these out, and continue to learn as much about the publishing industry as you do about your writing! 

Happy Learning!

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Corvisiero Hierarchy

Our new Literary Agency is flourishing. Our staff has grown since March and we plan on more expansions as everyone finds their place and are ready to take on more active roles. You may have read that we have created a new hierarchy that is unique in the industry. We now have a position called Agent Apprentice. The Agent Apprentice position is one step below that of the Jr. Agent. Both positions mean that the Agent is in training. The only difference is that an Apprentice is not representing his or her own clients just yet. We have also been fortunate enough to be joined by three wonderful interns who are so clever, industrious, skilled and hardworking that I'm sure will do very well as Agents soon.

Thanks to a lot of hard work, excellent prospects, and a magnificent staff, I am happy to say that things are starting to work like a well oiled machine. We have reviewed and responded to many many queries, taken on some wonderful new talent, sold many books; and we are in the process of pitching many clients and reviewing lots of manuscripts.

If you submitted a manuscript to us since March, or to me before that, and have not heard back yet, that is probably good news. It means that your work is still being considered. It may also mean that it was lost to spam or during the transition from the L. Perkins Agency to the new agency. If you submitted before March and have not heard back from us at all, you may want to resubmit your work. Please take a look at our submission guidelines before ever sending in your work to make sure that the agent you want to target is taking queries. For more information about our growing staff and our clients, please visit our website at Corvisiero Literary Agency.

We are also offering occasional workshops through Literary Powerhouse Consulting, so be sure to check those out. I'm teaching a few myself! You can still sign up for the "How to Find and Keep the Right Literary Agent" Workshop by e-mailing us or follow the instructions on the site.

If you haven't already, you should join the LitPow Writer's Network Group. My staff from the agency and from LitPow are there on a daily basis, and host genre specific Live Chats almost weekly. This week we had a Romance Writer's chat with more than 700 comments! Next week we're hosting the YA Thursday Chat. See the Workshop and Events Schedule on the LitPow site. We'd love for you to join us.

So that's all for updates... for now. Next blog post will be a substantive one about Publishing Contracts...

Happy writing and reading!