Heard it Through the Grapevine

(Repost)I’ve been extra busy lately, what with all the holiday activities, and I haven’t been preparing my blogs in advance like I normally do. So yesterday I was sitting at my desk pondering the 177 emails in my box, and the manuscripts that needed reading, and the proposals I’m preparing for submissions, and amidst all that I began to wonder what the heck I was going to blog about today.

Right about then the phone rang and it was a client needing help with an issue. She was a bit, shall we say, freaked out. So I listened to her venting for a while and then I was quiet for a moment, and then I said, “I’m so glad you called because now I know what to blog about tomorrow.” (My client totally appreciated her problem being reduced to blog fodder.)

So what had happened was that somebody had been talking with my client and telling her, “You should be doing this” and “You’d better be doing that” and “You’ll never sell any books if you don’t do XYZ” and basically totally confusing her and filling her head with crazy worries. This person claimed to know about publishing but actually knows nothing about the area of publishing my client is involved in. So my client is near panic, thinking the world is about to end and her career is over before it’s even started and everything is just all wrong. I had to get her back on track and remind her that her editor, her publicist, and her agent (me) are all guiding her and giving her good advice, and that she doesn’t need to worry about so-called “advice” given by people who know nothing about CBA non-fiction publishing.

So I wanted to make this point to you: Do your best to get your information from good sources, i.e. people actually working in the business. When you hear things from other sources, don’t take it as gospel and try not to let it make you crazy or upset. Search out the truth.

Another example from this week: A client was worried that somehow I was keeping her out of the loop, that I wasn’t communicating properly with her, because her friend had made an erroneous assumption about something and put doubts in my client’s mind about my communication practices. I reviewed with my client the actual series of events, all backed up in writing by emails, and assured her that her doubts were unfounded and that her friend had made the wrong assumption. Once again I was put in the position of having to explain how things work and tell a client that unfortunately, someone gave her wrong information.

These are situations where an author was worried by listening to someone who isn’t qualified to give publishing advice.

The great thing here is that in both cases, my clients came straight to me with their confusion/panic/frustration. Hallelujah. They did exactly the right thing, and I was able to help them understand what was wrong about what they’d been told.

Please: Be wary of people giving you publishing advice when they are not qualified to do so. If you question what you’re hearing, check it out as soon as you can with a professional who knows what they’re talking about. If you have an agent, talk to them!

Has this ever happened to you? Have you worried about things you’d heard, only to find out later that it wasn’t true? Have you been given bad info or believed any of the myths about publishing?

© 2010 Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent

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  • Nerine Dorman

    >I know that end-of-year "everything is happening at the same time" feeling all too well. Good luck with your deadlines!

    What I've learned in the publishing industry is that there are numerous ways to skin the cat and no one way is 100% perfect.

    The trick is to make sure that when you do place your trust in a publisher or agent that you're not getting suckered into a bad relationship.

    This is why I tell everyone: Go to Preditors and Editors, follow up on Writers Beware, run a search on Absolute Write forums. See what the general buzz is about something before making a decision.

    And if it smells bad, it probably isn't wholesome. As they say, no agent is better than a bad agent…

  • Mariya Koleva

    >Quite accurate! That applies to all spheres of life and business, of course. It seems there are some people who specialise in "giving free advice" without any proper preparation. I believe they simply want to be someone and like the feeling they get when freaking out someone else. Sadly, a lot of people are like that. After all, "he who can does, he who cannot teaches."

  • Project Savior

    >There is no clear path to success, but the clear path to failure is to try and please everybody.
    The same holds true if you take everybody's advice. Even experts will have different advise, often contradictory, for the same problem.

  • vvdenman.com

    >There are so many sources of advice for writers. Sometimes it's hard to know which ones to listen to. At least I've figured out that I should pay attention to this blog. :)

  • Sheila Cull

    >Worry? I'm Irish Catholic and Jewish. Worry is my middle name.

    And great post, fun reading.

  • Wendy Paine Miller

    >I find sometimes I navigate my way through by using the process of elimination. I’m careful about who I go to for advice. And if people give it unsolicited, I take it with a grain of salt.

    I’m thankful for the way you communicate.

    ~ Wendy

  • Richard Mabry

    >Good advice (from a trustworthy source). During my years of medical practice, I can't tell you how many times I had to disabuse patients of notions they got from such trusted medical sources as someone's site on the Internet that was hawking a particular nostrum or technique, or from well-meaning friends relating the experiences of their brother-in-law's uncle.

    My mother taught this to me at an early age. She was talking about people saying bad things about me. But the might as well have been discussing questionable advice. "Consider the source."

  • Tim of Angle

    >"Have you worried about things you'd heard, only to find out later that it wasn't true?"

    Every time I read a newspaper. That's why I don't read newspapers any more.

  • OneBigHappy

    >Good advice for life in general.

  • Barbara’s Spot on the Blog

    >Fear can be very contagious. If I hear a person giving an opinion that has a heavy OMG vibe I try my best to hold back and not go with it.

    It's like that feeling you get when you read an email that says someone has accessed your bank account and you don't realize at first it's just spam.

    Fear and freak out. They eliminate our ability to stay calm and think logically.

  • Mary DeMuth

    >I've had to counsel people in the same situation, particularly about worry in promotion. The key is to do what fits you and, as you said, communicate with the people directly involved in the project.

  • arbraun

    >I've had people tell me that the best time to query an agent was spring and fall. But I did my homework and found out that agents are always looking for great books.

  • Heather Sunseri

    >Great advice, Rachelle! I'm super thankful for agents and publishing professionals who thake the time to blog and communicate helpful advice to writers and therefore take some of the "freaking out" out of the writing world.

  • Sharon A. Lavy

    >Thank you once again for your excellent advice.

  • Susan S

    >I think a lot of writers suffer from a similar deficit. We can be perfectly competent professionals in our day jobs and yet lose that confidence very quickly when someone who sounds authoritative begins saying something that contradicts what we believed to be true. The key (at least for me) is remembering that all my research (and knowledgeable contacts) means more than any single opinion – with the exception of one – and that if we hear something contradictory the best thing to do is just what your author did: call one of those valuable contacts or do some research and see whether concern is warranted.

  • Jean Ann Williams

    >You had me laughing on the recount of a client. I was shaking my head. That sounds like how I get once in a while.

    It just goes to show agents and editors have a huge job that includes working in Personal Relations.

    Great post!

  • Nikole Hahn

    >I know too many glory seekers who are more interested in hearing themselves talk and less interested in helping. I prefer getting my information from agents and publishers and reading about the market.

    I love reading author blogs just to see what they are thinking. With so many would-be writers writing about writing it's created a white noise so the good advice gets lost in it.

    Research is important to every writer.

  • T. Anne

    >There's so much information out there it can be overwhelming for someone new to the process. Lord knows I've made my share of mistakes. It helps having kind people like yourself steer writers in the right direction. thank you for your time and honesty.

  • Anna L. Walls

    >This is such great advice, and I'm glad you enumerated it. I haven't exactly had this kind of problem, but I once had a friend offer to help me get published. Not to belittle his offer, but he'd taken a writing course and thought he understood it all. I have one book published, and though I did it all bass-akwards, I'd done a lot of research in an effort to improve my writing, my platform, and my knowledge of the industry as a whole. When he made his offer, the first thing I thought of is "what are his qualifications" to help me along on this journey? So I asked. I mean, we went to the same high school over 30 years ago, but other than that, I hadn't been in his life, I honestly didn't know. He blew up – it nearly cost us our friendship. The subject has never been brought up again. I'm still searching for the perfect agent, and I will get published again – hopefully soon. However, doing homework didn't stop with graduation.

  • Ron and Jennie Dugan

    >My day job is in outside sales, and in these economic times, I'm way too vulnerable to the everybody-knows-my-job syndrome. Everybody thinks they understand Sales, until you get into it. I have no doubt it's the same with being an agent. You don't know what you don't know. And I'm always looking at, 'yes, that sounds good, but what it will it result in?' But I have to say, I'm impressed that your view is to get your authors back on track. You don't seem to respond defensively. You don't seem to get angry. I think that's very cool of you.

  • Beth

    >I've had people who know absolutely NOTHING about publishing or writing tell me that they know more than published writers, and that any books by them are filled with lies. I was stunned at that level of arrogance.

    It is so important to guard your heart by guarding your ears and be careful who you listen to. It will determine what you think, and as a man thinks, so is he. Works with writing as with everything else. It is good that your clients came directly to you.

  • Dave Cullen

    >Well said. I get astounded by the comments flying back on blogs frequently, particularly about this biz.

    I see so much advice doled out by people who clearly have no idea what they're talking about. Then I see the young writer thanking them, apparently accepting it as truth, and I gasp.

    This is a good site, and you link to several more. It's smart to start with a good source, and also a RELEVANT source, as you pointed out.

    We all have access to our piece of the picture. I don't know anything about romance, Christian, sci fi . . . many of the global rules still apply, but some don't. And I don't even know which.

    I'd be wary of anyone who makes any sort of global statements about what everyone must do–except for the basics, like you must write regularly if you want to be a writer, and you must get an agent if you want to write for the big publishers.

    (Even those have glaring exceptions: If you've been nominated for president, won a Nobel or starred in a $300 million film, you can get someone else to write the book for you, and go directly to the publisher. But then you probably don't need help from any of us. haha.)

  • B.E.T.

    >Great advice! Can't say I've ever had this happen to me. The only stuff I've ever heard about publishing has come from my own research. But I imagine that 'know it alls' preach this kind of confusion a lot. And i honestly hope I never get caught in it.

  • Debbie Dillon

    >That just goes to prove that ANYTHING can spark a blog post.
    Great advice – thank you so much for sharing it.
    Debbie

  • tahlianewland.com

    >A good reminder not to believe everything you hear and to check with those who do know.

    That's one of the reasons I'm so glad I have an agent, and a friend in publishing- I can check. I also make sure that I read who a blogger is, so I know what sort of experience they are coming from.

    In my blog I give my sources for info that comes to me from people who actually do know what they're talking about. I look for that in others as well. It's a bit of a safguard.

  • Melissa Jagears

    >I'm in that situation right now (without an agent to ask.)

    My crit partner is insisting that my WIP historical romance novel will never be accepted because I have a third POV (the villian). I think it works with the story and I just read a Love Inspired with a 3rd POV villian.

    But then, am I just being stubborn as a unpublished author and not adjusting for the best possible chance for my book to be accepted, wasting my writing time when I should be rewriting it to the strict rule of Hero/Heroine POV only?

    Or is my crit partner what this post considers not the best source for advice giving?

    Hopefully I can find someone in publishing to confirm or deny my crit partners' information, but when you don't have someone readily available to do so, it can drive you insane, not knowing if you should change according to the advice given or continue on with what your gut says, while knowing that you could be wasting your time. Sigh.

  • OtherRobert

    >A few years ago, I had someone tell me I could not, under any circumstances, include slapstick humor in horror and expect to be published. No one writes like that because no one has any interest in it. I came very close to having a panic attack as I trusted this person immensely. I sent that short story to one of my favorite publications and was convinced I would be blacklisted from every seeing anything in print there.

    Two days later, I received word that the story would be published in that magazine. The editor loved the slapstick approach and was happy to get some funny horror for once.

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