Sunday, November 27, 2005

Never Write Scripts

Not the movie kind.  The ones in your head or that you write on a blog or tell your friends.  The best reason not to do this is because you are always wrong.

On Friday my editor called me.  I was surprised to hear from him as it was a long weekend and he doesn’t call me socially.  We chatted for a few minutes about Thanksgiving and even then I was writing a script in my head:  he was calling me to tell me they weren’t going to offer me another contract.  Again I was wrong.

The reason he was calling me was to tell me that he was leaving the publishing company. Not because he was moving on to a new job, but because he’d had it with the business.  He said he hated to use the term burned out but that’s what he was. I was stunned.  I told him I understood and I do.  He worked too much and he wanted a life.  He doesn’t know what he’ll do but whatever it is won’t be in publishing.

I asked him if this was the reason I hadn’t been offered a contract.  He said no.  It was because they wanted to see how Dame performed.  I know that can’t be the reason because Dame has done her performance by now.  If he’d been staying on he would’ve pushed for a new contract (if that’s what he wanted) but it wasn’t up to him, since he was leaving, to make deals.

This coming week he was going to sit down with the head of the company and talk about what authors should be with what editors.  That doesn’t say anything about my situation.

What worries me is the new book, Too Darn Hot, which will be published in June.  Even if a new contract hadn’t come my way, this editor would’ve still been on top of things and moved the book as much as possible.  As the book is finished and there’s nothing for a new editor to do on it, it’ll lie there like a lox.  Unless there’s a new contract and then it’ll be different.  At the moment my book is an orphan.

When I called my agent and told her he was leaving she said, “This is very bad news.”  Then she said she was very close with the head of the company and she’d call that person on Monday.

This doesn’t put paid to my earlier anxieties as everything I worried about still applies and in fact adds to my worries.  Who will my new editor be, if I’m going to have one?

Not to insult anyone, but this editor is the last of a certain breed…a gentleman and a man of experience.  I don’t know for sure, but I’d say he’s in his early fifties.  He mentioned the possiblitity of one editor and I asked how old the person was.  Twenty-nine.

I know any editor is probably going to be younger than I, but twenty-nine?  He/she could be even younger, not only at this publishing house but almost everywhere.  I’m not saying an editor of that age has to be horrible, in fact I know that someone so young could be the best editor I’ve ever had.  Still, it gives me pause.

So that’s it.  The next step will be hearing from my agent after she talks to the head of the company. 

I’m going to try to use this extension of my “vacation” to enjoy myself.  I’ll also allow my mind to be open to new ideas.  I won’t search but I’ll be open.

So, as you’ve already gathered, the moral of this story is, thinking you know all the possibilities is stupid and useless and makes you a bigger asshole than you already are.

Pardon me while I stand in the corner.


Hollowbone Crone said...

Your second to the last paragraph is one of the best reasons I can think of not to have an editor who isn't solidly into maturity. Not that youth doesn't have talent, it's knowing what to do with it that takes time.

I fear this bodes ill for anything that is not shallow and bearing the coroporate stamp of approval, based of course, on what youth thinks has commercial appeal. If the ads on TV offer any reliable foreshadowing, we may be in for the literary equivalent of the ubiquitous close ups of toilet bowls, scrubbed by happy white women who haven't yet gone missing to unnamed murderers in places with exotic names.

I'm really sorry this happened.

Anonymous said...

Sandra, I'm a first-time reader of your blog--arrived through a link of an old favorite, GalleyCat--and I have been looking through your archives with interest.

I thoroughly sympathize with your anxiety about whether or not your publishers will offer you a new contract. However, I wonder whether you realize how far you've gone in making sure that they do NOT do so. In one post or another, you've insulted the art department, the copyeditor, your own editor, and the company itself. You haven't restrained yourself to making specific substantive complaints, either, but have gone on to imply nasty things about intelligence, general competence, and so on.

In other words, you've gone some distance towards making yourself look like what editors call a nightmare author, the kind of person who makes coming into work every day a burden rather than a pleasure.

Of course, if you're John Grisham or Dan Brown, you can be as nightmarish as you like, and it won't affect your contract. But if your numbers are only mediocre, then you've put yourself in a bit of a fix: you're now in a position where your publishers are looking for an excuse to drop you, rather than fighting for the chance to keep you on. In other words, if your sales aren't strong enough to overcome all the other negatives involved in dealing with you, then you may indeed be looking for a new publisher soon.

Yes, it's wonderful for your readers, and your fellow writers, to be able to read your honest thoughts on this blog. But some measure of diplomacy is usually necessary in order to maintain business relationships. In throwing away the diplomacy, you've also done serious damage to the relationship itself.

Sandra Scoppettone said...

I've been published for many years and by many different publishers. Everyone knows I'm not a nightmare to work with.

If there's any nightmare around it's anyone who leaves a comment anonymously.

Get some guts and write something with your own name. Gee whiz...maybe you're from my current publishing house. I'm shaking.

Anonymous said...

"I'm shaking"?

Come on Sandra, surely there's no need to get overly dramatic here.

I think Anonymous hits the mark in his/ her post and is fully entitled to his/ her opinion just as you are.

That said, I can think of several of my colleagues in book publishing-- all under 30 years old-- who I would be privileged to have work on my book, were I an author. To judge an editor's capability based on their age is unfair.

Sandra Scoppettone said...

Are you the same anonymous gutless wonder who posted above? I can't help thinking you are as you have no sense of humor.

"I'm shaking"?

"Come on Sandra, surely there's no need to get overly dramatic here."

If you can't see sarcasm when you're looking at it you're in big trouble.

"I think Anonymous hits the mark in his/ her post and is fully entitled to his/ her opinion just as you are."

Nobody is entitled to an opinion who posts anonymously. And that post had the smell of a threat. So say others as well as I.

"I can think of several of my colleagues in book publishing-- all under 30 years old-- who I would be privileged to have work on my book, were I an author."

But you aren't an author. Hoist by your own petard.

"To judge an editor's capability based on their age is unfair."

What I said is this: I’m not saying an editor of that age has to be horrible, in fact I know that someone so young could be the best editor I’ve ever had.

Learn to read and sign your name or go away.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sandra, anonymous nightmare here again.

I'm sorry that my comments made you so angry. They were not intended as a veiled threat, nor as any sort of attack. I thought that it might be genuinely helpful to give you an idea of how your posts might be construed by someone looking at things from the publishing side of the fence. Not having worked with you personally, I'm in no position to judge whether or not you're pleasant to work with. I merely wanted to convey the impression I got from reading your posts; again, sorry if that wasn't entirely clear.

As for the nightmarish nature of my anonymity, I freely confess to some cowardice in the matter: I am employed in book publishing (although not at Random House) and would hate to put myself in a position where I'd risk retribution from your agent or from you. Perhaps it's this anonymity which keeps you from evaluating my comments on their own merits and forces you to fall back on the assumption that they're the result of some personal grudge.

I understand that it's somewhat unfair for me to snipe anonymously, but since that's the only way I feel safe in expressing my opinion, that's how I decided to play it. Since I don't feel comfortable leveling the playing field by revealing myself, in future I'll refrain from commenting on your blog, and I'll leave you with the last word on the matter.

I'm sure you won't miss me.

Gutlessly yours,

Martha O'Connor said...

Hi Sandra,
I just wanted to tell you I'm very sorry to hear this. While I've never worked with Joe Blades, I have heard wonderful things about him from many people. Hope things go well for you. Martha

Anonymous said...

Sandra, Sandra, Sandra...

Oh my goodness. Are you crazy, or just suicidal? As it is, you've managed to piss off a number of people in the publishing industry.

I'm an author, not a publisher or an agent, but even I know how small and close knit the publishing community is. You never, never, never, burn any bridges because someone you piss off now, may indead become your new editor sometime in the future. And like elephants, they never forget an insult.

I know a woman who published several books, then managed to piss off several important editors. The only way she could get published again was by changing her name. I certainly hope you don't have to go through that.

And while I'm sorry your editor is leaving, it's NOT the end of the world.

Happy to leave my name,

Sandra Scoppettone said...

I have no intentions of ever again responding to anyone who is anonymous. I don't suffer cowards gladly.

Anonymous said...

As the Anonymous who posted at 10:48AM today (no, I am not the same Anonymous as the one before me), I'd like to say here that I would have been happy to leave my name, but did not do so as a courtesy to Joe, who I have had the pleasure of working with. I admire and respect his work greatly. And I somehow find it unsettling that the news of his departure broke first, courtesy of your blog, and not through more official means.

Whether or not you choose to view not leaving my name as cowardly is your own business, and I know you won't bother to reply since I'm not going to leave my name again here.

Thank you, Michele, for pointing out that this industry is small and close-knit. I never meant for my words to come across as a threat--and am sorry Sandra that you chose to read it that way.

Anonymous said...

Can't we all just get along? As an unpublished wanna-be what I've learned today is that the publishing business is small, everyone seems to know one another and no one is shy with an opinion. It looks like a return to junior high. Note to self: never write about editors, agents or other writers- sense of humor limited.

Anonymous said...

I kind of wanted to leave an Anonymous post because it seems to make everyone twitchy and I'm an instigator.

Maria said...

Came here from Miss Snark's site. I read through the entire post and I didn't think it was dangerous to your publishing health. I wondered why Miss Snark found you to be so whiny. I caught the humor as well as the line about the young editor that could be your best editor ever. I also caught line about you keeping an open mind. I know what lesson Snark is trying to convey--don't get a reputation and be grateful to have a contact, because they can disappear. I don't think your post was a good example to use to teach the lesson. :>)

Tami P said...

Okay, okay, I read all the hullabaloo over on Miss Snark's site on this issue, and here now too. I just don't see it. I don't see where she said anything particularly HORRIBLE. OMG everyone just chill out. I doubt she just committed professional suicide.

Ya'all do make me laugh sometimes though. *hand to head* oh, the horror of it all.

As a matter of fact, Ms. Scoppetoone was really pointing out her own goof of assuming one thing about the original call, then having it be something else. And then again, her own trepidation over very reasonable fears concerning her future life with said publisher. These are things lots of writers feel, and know about under the same circumstances.

I don't think her worry over the age of her new editor is going to really cause him/her any sleepless nights. In fact, perhaps, and even a 'here's hoping' for you Ms. Scoppettone, the two of them will laugh over it a few years from now.

Richard said...

Sandra, not to tinkle all over you, but I think everyone knows you are are a terrific writer who has more than paid her dues. Anyone in publishing more mature and experienced than the anonymous twits who've commented here would know that you are merely stating the obvious...Sheesh.

Amelia Elias said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Amelia Elias said...

Gak! Clicked the wrong button and my comment vanished.

So, again... I don't understand the big deal about this post either.

Janice Seagraves said...

Hi Sandra,

pardon me but if you don't like a...Oh I just noticed you don't allow anoymous comment anymore.

Sorry, you already took care of it.

And good for you! That'll learn them!

By the way it is a free contry and you can write what ever you darn well want to write on your blog!

And if you don't like what some else wrote that's what the delete key is for.


As Bjorn said...

Everybody has a different approach, don't they? I suspect that anonymous is always a little bit right and a little bit wrong. Every brush I've had with the publishing industry has been just like this whole thing (post and comments). I heard in the mid 1980s about how great a guy Joe Blades was from Shannon Keith Kelley, but he never did anything for any writers I know. I'm sure he was good for you. And now someone else will either be good or do a crappy job for you. I remember when I realized all the ballplayers in baseball were younger than me. Oh well. I guess we will all age and croak in the next few years. Something to look forward to, apparently. I too had a real problem with people coming anonymously to my blog and leaving nasty comments, but after turning that off I eventually decided I rather enjoyed the bout with the anonymous. And it is true that often people will tell you things they wouldn't to your face and sometimes that can be helpful. I don't know. Maybe growing a thick skin is good. Or maybe being passionately moved by the a-holes is the way to go. I enjoyed your being pissed off, though I didn't think they weren't saying things that were probably at least partially true. And I always doubt it when people tell you how great you are and you've paid your dues. It is probably sincere, but it may be a little syncophantic. But, hey, what do I know anyway? Good luck with your work, that is publishing and selling. I'm sure that as far as the writing itself goes you don't need luck.