Monday, August 2, 2010

Be a Good Sport

Post by Jenny

My older son’s baseball team didn’t win a game this season. They lost some close ones, some blowouts, and some games they should have won. It was a frustrating experience, but the boys showed amazing character. They went out and played hard every time. They didn’t quit. And they didn’t turn on each other. Even more impressively, neither did the parents or coaches. It’s impressive because adults often seem to feel entitled to indulge in poor sportsmanship. Judging from industry blogs (such as this recent post by agent Jessica Faust), writers are no exception.

So, a quiz: Aspiring Author is looking for agency representation. She does her research and finds the perfect Agent, a match surely made in publishing heaven. She crafts a personalized query letter and sends it per submission guidelines. Then—in a day, a week, a month—the unthinkable happens. She receives a rejection from Agent. Aspiring Author is floored. Obviously, Agent wouldn’t recognize a bestseller if it was hand-delivered by Hemingway’s ghost. Aspiring Author (who now suffers from major Hurt Feelings) should:

a) Immediately call the agency, ask to speak to Agent, and, when the request is denied, berate the receptionist until s/he hangs up;
b) Take her case to Twitter. “Agnt sux bcuz…”
c) Write a blog titled “Top 10 Reasons Agent is Not Qualified to Carry My Book Bag;”
d) Create a Claymation video depicting Agent being flattened under her slush pile. Post it on YouTube;
e) Reject the rejection in a reply email. Throw in some mild profanity. Ignore spelling and grammar—agents don’t care about that stuff, anyway;
f) Resubmit from a different email address every day for as long as humanly possible; or
g) Be a good sport. Understand that virtually every writer gets rejected many, many times. Vent in private. Cry a little. Eat too much chocolate. Then get back on the horse and start querying elsewhere.

The answer, of course, is “g.” (I know none of you would even consider doing otherwise. But everyone knows someone who knows someone…) Yes, there are bad agents out there, and any unethical behavior should be exposed ASAP. But, remember—the best way for a writer to trash his/her reputation is to publicly trash someone else’s.

Does anyone have a story of a writer behaving badly? (Names should be changed to protect the insolent.)


Kay said...

I'm a pessimist. I consider "agent querying" a way to collect rejections, but then, the subject matter of my manuscripts is off the beaten track.

Eric W. Trant said...

I coach my son's soccer team. He's 9, and we're in Dallas, which is a soccer hub for the midwest.

Anyway, last season we scored 2 goals the entire season.

Yes, 2 goals. Typical scores were 14-0, 8-0, 12-0, 7-0, 4-2 (our close game), and so forth.

Some of the boys quit. One parent refused to let his son play goalie (my son plays goalie, I don't know why people don't like that position).

Our last game, not all of the boys showed up. We had our after-party, and I told the boys and parents:

Look, we had a tough season. You may never have another season this tough, but you might. We did something, though, and we showed our boys something.

When it gets tough, you keep your head on your shoulders and keep it held up. You shake hands and practice better, harder, different. You try new attacks. Some work. Some fail.

But you never quit. The boys who quit, I'm glad they didn't make this last game. I don't want quitters on my team. Stay home.

The boys who showed up, they became something better than champions. They became fighters.

They stepped into battle knowing they'd get beat. They fought anyway, and fought hard, and lost big, but swung all the way down to the mat.

Folks, you can't stop someone like that. Not ever. These boys are warriors, every last one of them.

That's how I feel every time I get a rejection letter. It's just a shot to the chin. Take it. Swing back, and keep fighting, but don't quit and walk away defeated.

As Randall Tex Cobb said during the worst defeat in boxing history, the fight that made Howard Cosell swear off boxing coverage: "Bring on the buzzsaw, baby."

- Eric

Eric W. Trant said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephanie Faris said...

Usually an agent rejection is a good're looking for that right fit. If an agent says no, it's because you aren't the right fit for doesn't mean there isn't an agent out there somewhere who would be perfect for you. So you just have to go find that agent!

Patricia Stoltey said...

Oh, yes. A blogger friend apparently banged his head against the wall and while in a daze, blogged about an agent's rejection letter comments. He named the agent. It was a moment of temporary insanity, I'm sure, but it was a serious mistake. We really must vent at home, behind closed doors, where no one can see or hear.

Jenny S. said...

Kay and Stephanie, a friend once told me she was proud of my rejections because it meant I was trying. I think of that when I get frustrated with my own "collection."

Eric, I feel your pain. Sounds like you made the most of some character-building opportunities.

Pat, thanks for sharing. Blogs and email have made temporary insanity so much more dangerous than it used to be.

Happy writing!

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