Pub Rants

Relentlessly Nice

 14 Comments |  Share This:    

Sometimes I regret growing up in Missouri where I was relentlessly taught to be nice.

It means that when I’m sitting across the table from a would-be writer at a writers’ conference who’s pitching me the most outlandish novel (you name it)/memoir-about-being-abducted-by-aliens/nonfiction-project-I-don’t-even-remotely-represent, I haven’t the heart to say that it stinks or “are you on drugs,” or even politely, “no thank you.”

Stomp on their dream why don’t you.

The nice person in me will take the coward’s way out and do the rejection by letter/email because it’s just easier. (And trust me, I’m not the only agent who falls into this trap.)

Oh to be a brusque New Yorker or to be able to channel Miss Snark for five minutes. (As an aside, I bet she’s a real sweet gal in person; it’s a whole different ball game when you get to remain anonymous). I might actually save the writers some postage.

Which is why I started this blog. I’m finally going to talk about what’s on my mind. Nicely of course! (Some habits are hard to break.)

To indulge in some polite rants so maybe, just maybe, I’ll get up my gumption to say what needs to be said to a writer in person.

And if not, I’ll actually get to say it on my blog. Feel like I’m growing…

14 Responses

  1. stay_c said:

    I found your blog through Kelly Parra. I love reading what agents have to say and am thrilled as well that you’ve decided to blog. I hope you enjoy it as well.

    And, you’re right about Miss Snark. She is much sweeter than she appears. I’ve emailed her twice with questions that haven’t ever been posted to her blog, but she decided to respond by email.

    Perfect examples of voice.

  2. Allison Brennan said:

    Oh, to have had you four years ago! (and Miss Snark and all the other agents and editors who, anonymously or not, give their advice to the struggling unpublished writers.)

    Seriously, I think you and the others are doing a great service to the unpublished or unagented. I look forward to reading your words of wisdom.

  3. TomG said:

    Great new web page! Very smart design and the blog is an appreciated insight for the un-agented.

    Thanks for taking on the time consuming role of blog host – especially a relentlessly nice one. Most have an axe to grind, and grind, and grind . . . I appreciate your blog already.

  4. Michelle said:

    You know, I’ve often wondered whether pitch sessions are a waste of everyone’s time. Maybe it would be better if authors submitted a page of their writing in advance and then agents could choose which people they’d like to meet with. You might have a really nervous person who is a brilliant writer versus a schmooze who couldn’t write her way out of a box. Hard to say.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts on the industry!

  5. Anonymous said:

    Personal Growth is a funny thing. It is measured by the lack of it done by the people around you. If you can’t change the people around you, then change the people around you.
    J. Mack

  6. Eldheni said:

    You are so right about our Missouri upbringing. I am from Warrensburg…
    famous for its statue of a coonhound, Old Drum, and reared on ‘be nice’ and ‘if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all’.

    I can imagine this is a very hard line to walk in your business.

    Wonderful blog. I am enjoying seeing the business through your eyes.

    Stay nice…

  7. Anonymous said:

    What’s wrong with relentlessly nice.
    Maybe one day, the manuscript you missed but nicely rejected, might belong to a person who will remember you one day and when, they find they basically dislike their gruff and brusque New York agent, will remember your courtesy and decide they’d probably like you better.

    Gratuitous mean is just a nice way of saying that a person is rude.
    You wish you were rude?
    Nuhhhh somehow I don’t think its all its cracked up to be.

  8. Blowing Shit Up With Gas said:

    You wrote, “Sometimes I regret growing up in Missouri where I was relentlessly taught to be nice.”

    That’s an absolutely fascinating statement to me, especially as I’ve been referring to myself as a “reformed Midwesterner” lately. After reading your comments, I have to wonder whether all of the mischief I pulled off as a youngster in Missouri was a direct rebellion against this weird ideological truism you’ve brought up. They did drill that into our heads, didn’t they?

    Fundamentally speaking, I’ve always been a “nice guy” at heart — never mean spirited, anyway. But, growing up, I was also one hell of a bastard on wheels.

    I’m anticipating shopping around for an agent who might want to read some of these stories. (That’s how I stumbled across your blog.) After leaving Missouri so many years ago, I was always surprised to hear how my friends and co-workers (on the East Coast) begged to hear all of my “Tales of the Midwest.” So, I started writing them down (and even blogging them lately).

    This is starting to sound like a pitch, I realize. Perhaps that’s because I subconsciously have in mind that you’re an agent. However, it’s not meant that way. Looks like you’re more into sci-fi and fantasy, right? And, besides, I’m still plugging away at my manuscript.

    But, if that “relentlessly nice” thing starts to bother you, feel free to drop by my blog and see how much of a complete screw-up a guy from Missouri could be. Hopefully, I’ve outgrown most of that by now.