Pub Rants

Something Learned In 6 Years In The Biz

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STATUS: It’s ten minutes to midnight and I’m now going to leave the office. Needless to say, there were quite a few things that needed to be taken care of before I left town. Normally it’s not quite so silly that I’m here until midnight. Just one of those flukes.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? nothing at the moment

So reading Molly’s interview got me thinking about what will I know in another 23 years from now. Since I’ll be in my 60s, I guess I might have my fingers crossed for retirement. Big smile there.

But I do know one thing I’ve learned over the course of the 6 years I’ve been running my agency and that is this. Life is too short to deal with crazy editors.

Early in my career, I did a negotiation with an editor who thought that the best way to get her way was to simply yell at me–loudly. So loud I had to hold the phone at arm’s length.

Since this was early on, I didn’t hang up on her although I should have. After that bit of nastiness where I did finally get the editor to talk like an normal person the very next day and the deal concluded, I decided that I would never put up with that again—nor would I ever submit to that editor again (which I haven’t).

And I haven’t had to deal with anything similar until just this year and even then, I still can’t believe it. This time I didn’t put up with it.

Because as Molly points out (although she was talking in the context of problematic author clients and not editors), the deal is ultimately not worth the drain on your energy nor does it remotely create a sense that as an agent, you’ve done the best by that book—either in the negotiation or placing the author with the right editor if you know what I mean.

Life is just too short.

I’m on a plane all tomorrow and honestly, with the Maui Writers Conference going on, I’m not sure I’ll be blogging for the rest of the week but we’ll see.

18 Responses

  1. Anonymous said:

    I have to post anonymously this time because I work with one editor who doesn’t scream, but he’s really a very nasty person. But I need him right now, so I put up with it. I know life is too short, and I hope to not be working with this lunatic for very long…but sometimes you have to do certain things for the sake of a career…and that’s what I’m doing now 🙂

  2. Julie Weathers said:

    I hope you have time to enjoy Hawaii at least a little.

    I’m glad you said this about dealing with editors. I am not the diva type, but I really don’t respond well to being yelled at. I assume most discussions with the editor would be with the agent and not me, but I wouldn’t want my agent to be abused on my behalf.

  3. theeatdown said:

    I’m jealous, too! Maui is awesome. I’ve only been once. But I completely agree that life is too short to deal with those types of people. I think they’re in every industry.

    Bring me back a lei!

  4. L.C.McCabe said:


    I have a similar maxim on a refrigerator magnet:

    “Life is too short to drink bad wine.”

    Having respect for yourself and your clients is honorable and not putting up with egotistical tirades shows demonstrates that principle.

    Have a safe and pleasant trip.

  5. Anonymous said:

    The lesson you have distilled from your experience and Molly’s interview is SO important. We all recognize the instinctive truth of it, but forget in the heat of “real life.” As authors — especially newbie ones — there is a temptation to put up with anythign to see that debut in print, but we need to remember that we may (with luck) be in business a long time. Do we really want to be with an agent who scares us? With a house or an editor that intimidates us? Fit and focus — that’s what I say, the fit of your co-professionals and a shared focus are more important than fat advance checks.

  6. The one and only REAL Meg Kelso said:

    Hi Kristin,

    My name is Meg Kelso and I am a freelance writer. I’ve been reading your blog and I appreciate the time you take to help aspiring writers like myself.

    I just have two questions, can you suggest an Atlanta based literary agent? And, would the same agency that represents book authors also represent that same author in an attempt to become syndicated Erma Bombeck-style?

    Thanks in advance for your time and effort,


  7. Arovell said:

    The Maui Writers Conference. That has to be fascinating. The cultural diversity and tension I’ve heard Hawaii is full of has to just be inspiring. Not to mention the natural environment.

  8. Andrew said:

    Had a similar experience in the academic world. You’re right, life’s too short – and I love teaching too much to ever retire, so I left. Live in a trailer in New Mexico, teach at a small college with a cool chairman, have one wife and sixteen dogs – and I’m happy.

    Have fun in Maui!

  9. Nancy said:

    Aloha Kristin:
    I’ve looked at that Maui Writer’s Conference dozens of times, but being on the east coast it’s a long flight and not a cheap one. I’d love to hear your first hand opinion on what level writer the MWC is best suited for.

    Can’t wait to hear about the trip.

  10. Madison said:

    Yelling at you? How unprofessional. Glad you haven’t given them any more business. I wouldn’t either.

    Hope the confrence goes great and the weather stays sunny!

  11. K. M. Walton said:

    It is fascinating how some human beings choose to behave, isn’t it? What boggles my mind is when people think they have the right to yell or degrade or insult other people. There is no excuse for it, ever. Ever, never ever.

    I just watched The Last Lecture again today at my LA department meeting (I teach 6th grade LA & I’m a YA novelest) and boy did Randy Pausch get it right. I truly believe that if every person on the planet watched his talk and took it to heart…well, let’s just say the world would be a far kinder place, with far less yelling.

  12. Linnea said:

    I’m sure your clients will thank you for not putting up with that. After those bozos were done yelling at you they’d probably start yelling at your author.
    I had a boss who once phoned me at my desk and yelled at me. I hung up on him. He never did it again.