Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Dirty Business of Writing - Part II

We interrupt this blogpost to bring you a message from the author:  I was really grateful for all the positive support on my last couple of posts.  Thanks lovely writerly friends.  You've made blogging fun again. 

Now back to our scheduled programming....

A couple months back I read a really interesting blog from  You can read it here, but in short it is a response from an agent to the following question from a writer:

"What can we do to ensure that an actual agent sees my query? I’ve received rejection letters directly from assistants, therefore I know that the agent hasn’t seen my query or sample work. Perhaps the agent would have liked it, but if he or she wasn’t able to see it, then both the agent and I miss out on what could have been a wonderful opportunity."

The agent's response focused on something she called 'Assistant Attitude' and essentially warned writers never to underestimate the opinion of support staff in the industry.

It's a good post and I'd highly recommend reading it - especially if you've never worked in an assistant role yourself.  I'm lucky enough to have worked as a personal assistant one more than one occasion.  I'd not only agree with everything she says, but take it one step further:

You never know who's listening.  You never know who's watching.  Always conduct yourself as if the person who could make your career is on the other end of whatever you're dishing out.

On top of my experience as a Receiver of Assistant Attitude, I also used to work as a Recruitment Consultant.  Despite the fact that we were in competition with all the agencies in the city, all the Consultants knew each other - many of us worked together at various times.  We went to the same training conferences, attended the same client functions and shared countless contacts.

We talked.  And rarely about the good things.

In recruitment you're always on the lookout for the Freak in Sheep's Clothing.  No one wants to get saddled with Interviews-Well-But-Has-Anger-Issues Guy, or Cries-When-She-Doesn't-Get-Her-Way Lady. 

Why?  Because if I put Cries-When-She-Doesn't-Get-Her-Way Lady in a job and she causes problems, I look bad.  Client is unhappy and starts to question my judgement.  Friends of CWSDGHW Lady don't want to list with me because she's told them I'm a jerk. 

In short, no one wins.

So, we'd talk.  We'd warn each other - and on the occasions an alarm bell or two was ringing, we'd ask around. 

Discretion may be the better part of valor, but it ain't the currency of networking. 

If I apply this experience to the writing industry, that means if I'm obnoxious on twitter, sulky in an email, demand attention at a conference, or accuse an agent of something then other people in the industry are going to hear about it.  I'll be unfollowed, blocked, avoided or downright pilloried. 

This is business.  But sometimes business gets personal.  The way we writers handle ourselves in our online correspondence and networking says truckloads about what we're like to work with. 

So, next time you're tweeting, blogging, querying or commenting, I'd say Think It Through. 

Don't ever believe the comment you make to the Receptionist, or the 'funny' rant you let loose on your blog didn't get noticed. And the worse it was, the more people are fascinated with retelling it.

Stories will be told. Names will be mentioned.

Careers will be stopped in their tracks.

If you want to be part of the population of Publishing Town, suck it up and pretend you're a professional, even if you aren't.

Don't make this author's mistake.

Your Turn:  Have you seen something online (or in person) that gave someone a bad name?  Tell us about it - or better yet, post a link! 


  1. This is a great post Aimee. I agree writers should be mindful of what they say and how they say it - lest it bites them in the rear later. I read that post by Mary at kidlit. I agree with Mary's response. We should have more respect for Assistants. Its funny how we can trust the judgement of the agent to discover our masterpieces but not trust their ability to hire support staff. LOL

    Hey, I'm having a sleepover at my blog and I invited you.

  2. This is a wonderful post. A good reminder to "behave" as well. :)

  3. Oh my goodness... what a shocker.

    Calling a reviewer a liar...*faints in shock*

    I do feel sorry for the author in a way, getting a shock like that that 'someone' didn't like her work. Unfortunately that will happen. If you want people to love your work there will be people that hate, despise and cast your work into flames. Look at Twilight, Harry Potter and others. They are a world wide success. But some people would nearly burn them.

    anyway i agree. Be careful.

    I turned up for an interview two weeks ago, saw a lady with a clipboard asking to take people down to photocopy their paperwork, i assumed she was a support staff. THANK GOD i introduced myself and asked her name and shook her hand. Turns out that she was on the interview panel as well!!

    Need to be super careful and SUPER polite to all people in the industry. It's a game folks and you need to play it!


  4. Great post, Aimee. I have a sign pinned on my bulletin board that says "the Internet is the interview." It's easy to forget who's listening, or who can listen later, thanks to Google.

  5. Great post, Aimee. I always enjoy your posts, so I popped in to give you the Stylish Blogger & Versatile Blogger Awards. Stop by my blog at tomorrow after 4:30 AM central time to pick them up. Some goofy rules come with them, but I'm sure you'll figure it out.


  6. I saw that thread a while back (the author listing her own positive reviews in response to one mediocre one) and was pretty shocked. Personally, I think it's okay to engage in a little poking fun at ourselves or the industry by talking vaguely about rejection letters. But full-on rants are always bad. People can sense bitterness much better than they sense sarcasm online.

    Very good points. Thanks, Aimee!