4/14/2010

Thoughts on the ... Sardine Industry

So ... yesterday was weird.

I really wanted to keep names and specifics out of yesterday's post, but the comment section got all kinds of crazy and it's fair for everyone to have a say. Thanks to you ALL for your comments and I'm glad you felt free to share here.

The reason I posted was partly because of the Bonehead that wrote the letter, but MOSTLY for all of you who contacted me when you saw my tweet and told me you were afraid to speak up. I counted, and before I even wrote the post I had over 20 direct messages and emails. After the post? Almost 40 more. And they're still coming.

Some of you are calling me brave for speaking up. Thank you - but you should know I was terrified - and also this:

I'm agented. I'm contracted for two books in more than one country. I'm slated for publication.

I'm not querying. I'm not on submission.

It was a whole lot easier for me to speak out than it would have been for some of you.

Some of you are apologizing. Please don't. If this incident had happened a year ago, there's no way I would have felt comfortable writing these posts or even tweeting about it in an ambiguous way.

Power and influence may or may not have been used against the Bonehead in a bullying way - it all depends on your personal perception. (See comments from yesterday's post for many examples.)

But what I couldn't stomach was the consequence of people in the ... sardine industry who didn't feel free to speak their minds because they feared retribution from others in the ... sardine industry.

Let's cut the crap.

Writers who care about how they are perceived do things like Tweet Responsibly, Read Agent Blogs For Information and Go To Conferences Without Pushing Their Manuscripts Under Toilet Stalls.

These are the writers who will most likely follow the rules each agent sets forth for submitting queries/partials/fulls. These are the writers who will wait the appropriate amount of time - maybe longer - before making status queries to agents about their work. They will not harass agents. They will not call them on the telephone. They will not send mugs of candy or other wildly outrageous gifts because they understand BOUNDARIES. They understand the rules.

But one of the rules is not - Be Too Afraid For The Future Of Your Career To Speak Up When You Perceive An Injustice.

I was surprised, honestly, floored, when so many people I respect in this business both commented on yesterday's post and emailed me privately.

There are amazing agents, editors and authors out there. As long as writers don't act like a Bonehead and post something hurtful or nasty mean when they have an opinion, professionals will respect it. (If they even see it. 'Cause, you know, they're busy and stuff.)

Again, it all comes down to thoughtfully considering things. If you're one of the unagented/unpublished writers out there who was so worried yesterday, know - please, please - know that a class act is a class act, and as long as you behave accordingly, the people you want to be associated with won't judge you for speaking your mind.

I love my job. And I love the people I work with - every opinion and every thought.

Because what you have to say matters.

Also, please check out these posts from Kirsten Hubbard, Saundra Mitchell and Hannah Mosk. I so appreciate these women and their willingness to speak up.

17 comments:

  1. I missed yesterday's uproar, which I'm grateful for. No one that I follow was in any way being rude to anyone, and I appreciate that. But good for you for speaking up. I respect that, I really do.

    I'm only sorry that people have to be afraid to stand up for others. It's a shame.

    Also, I think the Internet affords this false sense of anonymity. (I don't wander around handind out half nekkid Spartacus pics, yet I share them on Twitter.) So people are meaner than they would ever be in real life. I think we all need to remember how the words we speak, online or in person, have ramifications. Even the Bible talks about the tongue, and the immense damage it can do. I think, it's safe to say, that extends to the words we type on the keyboard as well.

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  2. Again, well said. The greatest lesson here is "respect." Respect yourself and others and act in ways you won't later regret.

    RESPECT 101: It's something we all need a refresher course in from time to time.

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  3. I couldn't agree more. Regardless of which side of the publishing door we're on it's all about respect. That line should never be crossed. Nor should we ever be afraid to speak our minds respectfully. You deserve a deep bow for your bravery and for reminding us to show a bit of our own, repsectfully. ;)

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  4. How nice to come across this and your previous post today. A friend and I have been discussing this event with immense disgust since it unfolded, and it was cathartic to see someone state a relatable opinion so eloquently.

    I am happily and competently represented. I don't feel that speaking out on Twitter or on the agent's blog would harm my chances at publication. My own problem is that I just haven't been willing to jump in there and engage in such a negative space. So, instead, I've been the bystander watching some dude get beaten up across the street. That the dude getting beaten up behaved like a complete tool is irrelevant, in my opinion. There are a lot of complete tools in this world. Ignore them, for God's sake, and they'll tool off some place else.

    Bad me. And, still, I don't feel like engaging. So, I thank you double.

    I also take acception to her comment on your previous post that she doesn't wield any particular power because she's a "newer" agent. She's quite candid about the flood of queries she receives, which should be more than enough evidence that she's got something others want, simply by the nature of her job. And that is power. More than enough.

    We're talking about the instigator of #queryfail, here. She's very much aware of the power in her on-line persona. If she's truly not, someone should check her for concussion.

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  5. Interesting happenings. I love that you take on these topics that other people are afraid to touch. I think that's kind of the definition of bravery, whether you want to wear the mantle or not :) I'm glad you spoke up.

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  6. Thanks again for commenting about this. I don't check twitter often enough and missed it until today when I noticed that a hash tag had been created for the purpose of posting haiku's written about the querying writer in question. A hashtag of his name. The haikus are not funny and they make me feel kind of light headed and sick to my stomach. I can't imagine how I would feel, even if I had made a bonehead move like he did, to discover that the Twitter-verse was ripping me apart in fairly inappropriate ways. I don't think permanent, global humiliation was an appropriate response. I know it would destroy me as a person.

    This person is not anonymous anymore. I can't even imagine the shame he must feel to read some of these things being written about him by people who don't know him and weren't involved. In five years, when he might have grown up a little and found his professional voice, it won't matter. There will still be a hashtag out there with his name on it where anyone who ever wants to give him a job, or agent him, or date him can search and uncover it all over again.

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  7. It's crazy-coincidental what I decided to blog about this evening, because I missed yesterday's twitterbath too. Your post on it was so graceful and well-written. It was wonderful of you to speak up for the un-pubbed and unagented too afraid to speak.

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  8. To be honest, I read the entire stream of comments in your previous post as middle-grade gestalt hive mind. A bit like when we were all girls in seventh grade and decided "Hey, let's pick on Janie today!"

    Cos, man, let me tell you - that's what all of you sounded like. A few of you were respectfully disagreeing, but a lot of your commenters actually made it a personal thing. It was a bit like watching a train wreck and the self-congratulatory tone of many of the comments made me ill.

    The simple fact of the matter is this: just because you and your commenters don't agree with something doesn't actually make it wrong.

    Shayla Morris

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  9. Doesn't mean it was right, either.

    Just saying.

    I count on my agent to be professional- discrete,protective, and wise, esp when it comes to making decisions.

    I think what concerned me most were the comments the involved agent left on various blogs defending herself.

    The man's email (which, yes, was inarguably tool-ish) was not an attack. It didn't require a call to arms. There was no need to "fight back."

    It's that whole tree in a forest thing.

    A simple delete and email block would have quickly and professionally solved the issue. I seriously ques her decision-making skills.

    He may have insulted her and her writers, sure. But had she not read his response, or had she just deleted after she'd read it, the world would not be aware of that, would they?

    Because I'm having issues with the fact that she was the one who allowed her writers to be insulted publically. Who didn't protect them. Who let the world see someone insult them. Unjustified insults that didn't deserve to see the light of day, may I add.

    How is that protecting your clients?

    To give his comments that sort of attention and legitimacy, and then not just allow but to actually be the one to post those insults about her own writers publically--

    that's concerning.

    But what I find most upsetting, besides her lack of remorse or sheer refusal to consider she may have been unprofessional or that there seems to be no repercussions for her behavior (queryfail, anyone?) or how this is once again pitting writers against writers and writers and The Industry, is her continued and insistent use of his name in her blog comments. Seems she's making damn sure she leaves a wide trail of name-smearing.

    It's very sad, the whole thing.

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  10. Well, I do apologize. I see she has removed her comment from your post,where she calls him by name again publically. I do hope she has done so on other blogs, however.

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  11. You're a good man, Charlie Brown. Except that you're a woman. And your name is Myra.

    See? No pot stirring. You're a lover, not a fighter. :)

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  12. It's been fascinating watching this whole thing unfold, and though the debate has gotten heated at some points, I still think it's an important debate to have.

    I blogged about it myself (linked to you as well, er...hope that's OK!) But I also agree that if I weren't already agented with a three-book deal, I probably would have thought twice about jumping into the fray.

    Great blog post, once again! And thanks for speaking up to start with.

    Tawna

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  13. So I'm completely out of the loop (as usual), but I went and read yesterday's blog and this topic of bullying is near and dear to my heart... we've had two teen suicides in our community in the last three weeks and our teens at church are reeling. I can't remember there being any other suicides here in the seven years I've been here. So, two back to back in the same school district has been a nightmare. All that to say... I wish we all cared for each other the way we SHOULD. I'm not perfect, but I would never forgive myself if I could have prevented such events. Cyberbullying, for that matter, is a real problem. I see it with teens, but am disappointed to know that adults do it, too. Good for you speaking up.

    I know I got off Twitter one night recently because some people's political beliefs led them to make some pretty abusive comments directed at those who think differently. It doesn't bother me to have people think differently than me, but the comments were so hateful that it hurt - even when they weren't directed specifically at me. They were issues I cared about. Anyway, instead of going off on them, I just got offline. :) (And even unfollowed a few...) It's actually taken me awhile to get back into the Twitter groove because of it.

    All that to say... Myra, one of your strengths is your ability to say it like it is with tact and grace. :) I've missed keeping up on your blog lately - life just got busy. Hope all is well in your life!

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  14. I just wanted to say that with these two posts you have made blogs worth reading again, for me. I am unpublished and seeking representation and have been following agents' blogs seeking information on the publishing industry. Yes, I found a lot of good stuff out there. Yet it is the second time within the past 6 weeks that I come across something like this, something that sickens me. So THANK YOU for speaking up and bringing back blogging to what it should be.

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  15. I enjoyed your posts on this subject.

    Blogging (and other internet tools) can be a hard balance to maintain at times. I don't object overwhelmingly to agents and publishers posting select extracts from queries. It's often valuable for those outside the industry to see the levels of stupidity and abuse.

    But file the serial numbers off, please.

    This particular incident has already made its way from agent blogs to a high-traffic editor's site, attracting new rounds of scorn and derision. The guy sounded like an ass, true, but could the point not have been made with his name left off?

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  16. No. I will not protect his name.

    You guys are writers. You're never going to have to work with him. Other people will take the brunt of his behavior.

    Every book the man has published has come out from a different house. I don't know how many agents he's had, but he's gone through at least a half-dozen editors, and worked with who knows how many people in production, sales, marketing, promotion, and other areas. I doubt he made it easy on them.

    Do you imagine he's never been told, privately and discreetly, that he's acting like a jerk? It has to have happened. Look how much effect it didn't have.

    I sincerely doubt that having people writing haiku about him put a dent in his self-regard. What it did do was let people blow off steam, send a clear signal that his behavior was unacceptable, and send a warning to anyone who might be thinking of working with him in the future.

    It's a delicate and privileged attitude to insist that "it's all about respect." Respect is important, but it's not the only value at stake. Sometimes what you do is all about self-defense and giving your colleagues fair warning. Sometimes it's all about blowing off steam and maintaining your sanity. Once in a while, it may even be all about bearing witness to the truth.

    He's abusive. I'm sorry if you think it's disruptive or unladylike to publicly talk about such things with names attached. I did try doing things your way when I was a girl, but I found I didn't like the way it worked out.

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