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.



  1. That's too bad. But it makes me think - maybe you'd be interested in reading my manuscript about a time-traveling dog named Mr. Peabooty and his glasses-wearing boy side-kick? They travel back to important times in history to help kids learn in a fun way. I sat next to James Cameron's agent's gardener's ex-wife's cousin last week, and she loved it. Said it was just what Cameron was looking to make after his fifth Avatar movie, and that she'd be make sure it got on Cameron's desk, or at least onto his property! Anyway, it could be the opportunity of a lifetime for you! Oh - I've been told that it's going to be really big in Bulgaria.


    1. OMG I will put down all pencils, step away from the keyboard, hold all calls, postpone all contracts, and disregard my reading queue until you get this to me! So amazing! ;)

      Funny that you brought up Avatar, because when I was reading this person's work I thought about the movie HOP with James Marsden. When the soon to be co-Easter Bunny character is looking for a job and goes for an interview, he tells the HR person that he is writing a novel about an ex Marine who is in a wheel chair and is asked to travel 5 years to another planet to finish his brother's work, and when he gets there he falls in love and liberates the blue indigenous people. She asks him, "Isn't that Avatar" and he responds, "No, this is much different"...

    2. Wait a minute... you can put down all pencils, step away from the keyboard, hold all calls, and postpone all contracts, but you CANNOT disregard your reading queue... at least not until you've read mine! lol

      But honestly, the human race amazes me more each day. I don't know why. You'd think one would become numb to this sort of behavior. Yet, I find myself in awe each time one of these, to use your word, nimrods opens his/her mouth with the Do You Know Who You're Talking To mindset, and forget that they reached out to you in the first place. Example: A wealthy woman hired me to photograph her son's wedding. She asked me my process. I told her. She then proceeded to attempt to change every single thing from layout, design, posings, group photos, etc. I called her to respectfully decline the opportunity. Guess what happened. Basically the same thing as here. She want on a complete insanity bust over the phone. At least you got to read it. I had to hear it. Ugh. Great response back to him, by the way. Good for you. Now... sleep with one eye open. :)

    3. LOL Dee Ann... I wouldn't dream of steeling one precious minute from a talented author and waste it on Mr. Nimrod. As to wealthy mommy dearest... well, the customer is always right, especially when they pay the bills. ;)

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  3. I'm a little shocked that you responded to him. Hopefully he lives far away. Scary actually.

  4. That's very sad. I'm guessing the writer is mentally ill. Wow, sorry you had to deal with that. I've even gotten random nutjobs like this come out of the woodwork in response to one of my books or blog postings from time to time. They're lonely, frustrated people who have either gone off their meds or need to get some prescribed to them, pronto!

    1. You're right no one in their right minds would have written the things this person wrote to me.

  5. Hey, I heartily endorse a little bridge burning. The trick is to wait till after you've crossed it. Not only does it prevent the enemy from following, but it lights up the night, and ensures you keep moving forward. ;)

  6. I should learn to ignore these things, but sometimes it's not easy to stay silent. I don't know how famous people do it.

  7. Additional insult to the rest of us writers is that he doesn't even realize how lucky he is that an agent took the time to read it and provide feedback, instead of a form rejection or no response at all.

    1. True. It isn't easy to find the time to give feedback. Many of my colleagues have an "if you don't hear back from me in 6 months, it means I'm not interested" policy. Although there are many of us who actually try to help authors, many of us just don't have the time to do so.

  8. I admire you for making an effort to communicate rationally with someone so irrational, but I have to say that this makes me very sad. I've read many times that it's the crazy folks like this who have made many agents decide to only send form rejections, or to use a 'no response means no' policy, even when it comes to requested material. And then it's all the authors who do their best to be polite and professional who end up paying for this, because they don't get any feedback. :(

    1. Wow, thank you for saying that. I just said the same thing (in different words) on another post.

  9. We have a guy like him in the writing guild If you had liked it and signed him on, he would have been a nightmare and given you a hard time down the line for one thing or another. If he knows so much, he ought to know that agents talk in their circle. Aside from this, I hope your year is off to a great start! Hugss:)

    1. Right?! I thought about it yesterday when I received another nutty e-mail from him with some really nasty stuff. He then proceeded to e-mail me again this morning with a new proposition. *shaking my head* As if! not happening. I'm not even answering him... I don't think. ;) Hugs back.

  10. That's beyond jerk. I *could* teach you how to add his email address to the spammers' lists. Hypothetically speaking, of course.

  11. I'm sorry. I'm almost speechless at such a terrible display of bad manners, Ms. M. Your reply was perfect: succinct and subtly smarmy. lol BTW, do you ever read the Chicken Soup for the Soul books? I have shorts in both Just Us Girls (Nov.) and Miracles Happen (Jan-last week, in fact). If you need a giggle...:) Karla B.