Two weeks ago, the same day that my new novel BONE CANYON came out, a complete stranger sent me an email on Facebook asking me to recommend him to my agent:
Hi Lee: Need to ask a question. Do you have an agent, order you publish yourself? If you have an agent, can you refer me to him/her. I have completed a novel, 60,000 words. If I send a cold-call query to an agent, I get a polite response. If I send a query to an agent with a recommendation, I get feedback. So far, feedback has said my manuscript is “well written.” But that doesn’t mean they will represent it. Asking for your input and a recommendation to your agent. Thank you, Ben
I didn’t reply…because I was very busy promoting my book and I really didn’t want to deal with his request. Two days later, I got another note.
I sent you the above message. Would love to get a response.
I didn’t reply to that one, either. The next day, I got an email through my website:
I left you a message on your Facebook page but never heard back from you. Can you read it and respond?”
This time I responded. I said: “I am represented by an agent and no, I will not recommend you to her. What an outrageous and inappropriate request to make of a complete stranger. Why would I do that? I don’t know you and I don’t know your work. And no, I don’t want to read your book. Here’s a blog post I wrote on the subject.”
He wrote back on Facebook:
You’re an asshole.
Then he followed up with an email saying:
What an asshole you are. I won’t expand because I don’t want to hear your pompous diatribe. So I’ll leave it at that.
From screenwriter Josh Olson who, in his great 2009 piece in The Village Voice, said it best when dealing with a person like you:
“At this point, you should walk away, firm in your conviction that I’m a dick. But if you’re interested in growing as a human being and recognizing that it is, in fact, you who are the dick in this situation, please read on. Yes. That’s right. I called you a dick. Because you created this situation. You put me in this spot where my only option is to acquiesce to your demands or be the bad guy. That, my friend, is the very definition of a dick move.”
Here’s the rest of his wonderful essay on guys like you:https://www.villagevoice.com/…/i-will-not-read-your…/
Your emails to me make it very clear why you’ve had no success finding an agent or getting published. You might want to rethink your approach going forward. Good luck!
Ben responded immediately:
You are still an asshole.
A bad guy.
I am very secure in my writing. Based on past experiences, I am very secure calling you the above names. You made your position know. I get it. But you are pretty insecure otherwise it seems. Now asshole just walk away. Take a frickin hike.
Five minutes later, he added:
From now on, just send me or people like me a one or two sentence response saying you are in no position to read a manuscript and offer recommednations. That’s all you need to do. But you make an asshole case out of it trying to shame people. It shows you are pretty insecure or at least very petty. You need to rethink your approach to dealing with well-intended writers.
Now I’d had enough. Here’s what I wrote:
Wow, are you full of yourself. Let’s recap, Ben. You sent a note on Facebook to an author you don’t know (or, apparently, don’t know anything about). You began by asking this question:
” Do you have an agent, order you publish yourself? ”
If you’d done even the most basic research about me, you’d know the answer to that question, that I am a #1 New York Times bestselling author who has been published by Penguin Putnam, St. Martin’s Press, Random House, etc. But that was too much work for you. And if you’d ever opened one of my books, which I’m sure you haven’t, not only would you know if I have an agent or not, you’d also know their names, since I thank them in my acknowledgments. So, strike #1 for laziness, poor research and a complete lack of professionalism. (Add poor-proofreading: “order” instead of “or do” in your dashed-off, “cold call” email)
You went on to ask: “If you have an agent, can you refer me to him/her.”
You are now asking a complete stranger to make a personal recommendation, leveraging their hard-earned reputation and hard-won personal relationships, on your behalf… a huge ask, even for someone who actually knows me or even, at the minimum, my work. But you don’t acknowledge that. You think it’s nothing. So, strike #2 for ignorance and rudeness. (Add poor proofreading: you forgot to add a question mark to the end of your question, which again underscores the unprofessional, dashed-off nature of your “cold call”).
You go on to say: “If I send a cold-call query to an agent, I get a polite response. If I send a query to an agent with a recommendation, I get feedback. “
So, you’re saying I should do this for someone I don’t know because my relationship with the agent will help get you feedback. In other words, you’ll get more attention from the agent because she feels a responsibility to me, the person who recommended you.
And you’re making that request with no acknowledgment whatsoever of the significance of what you are asking. And you don’t even ask politely. So, strike #3…for presumptuousness, ignorance and rudeness.
You go on to say: “Asking for your input and a recommendation to your agent.”
Now you are asking an author you don’t know, or even know anything about, to not only recommend you to his agent (twice, I might add), but now you also want him to give you feedback…another big ask. So, strike #4 for nagging, ignorance and rudeness.
And there wasn’t a single “please” in your entire cold-call email, a big strike #4, for having no common courtesy.
But you didn’t stop there. When I didn’t answer you immediately, because really, what could possibly be more important in my life than responding to a complete stranger, you asked me two days later to respond. When I didn’t, you then prodded me again, a day later, through my website:
“I left you a message on your Facebook page but never heard back from you. Can you read it and respond? Thank you”
You not only hit up a complete stranger for a big favor, you now had the chutzpah to insist on an immediate response… and to complain when you didn’t get one (and, once again, the word “please” seems to be missing entirely from your vocabulary…because the whole world owes you their time and attention).
I’m sure you have no idea how rude and inappropriate that is, but we’ll set that aside. This may come as a shock, but I have a few other things going on in my life (for example, if you’d done any research on me, you’d know I had a new book come out last week and have been busy doing scores of interviews every day). I have no obligation to you… certainly not to drop everything to engage with you.
But no, in your mind, there is nothing more important, more time-critical, than you and your needs…even to someone you don’t know and know nothing about.
And when I did respond, (“I am represented by an agent and no, I will not recommend you to her. What an outrageous and inappropriate request to make of a complete stranger. Why would I do that? I don’t know you and I don’t know your work. And no, I don’t want to read your book. Here’s a blog post I wrote on the subject…), your reply was:
“You’re an asshole.”
Amazing. And you have the gall to try to school me on how to behave? Your arrogance and cluelessness are astounding. You aren’t a “well-intended writer,” but you’re certainly an ill-prepared, impolite, and self-defeating one. You asked me for feedback. Well, now I’ll give some to you.
The proper response from you to my reply would have been an apology, an acknowledgement that what you were asking was out of line and ill-considered, and that you now realize that it was a foolish way to approach an author for advice…especially one you don’t know…and that now you know no better. That you don’t blame me for being irritated, you would be, too.
That might have led to something productive. Instead, you doubled down on ignorance and arrogance…and responded with a crude, childish insult that proved me right: You aren’t someone who deserves my help…or *any* successful author’s help.
No, Ben, I am not an asshole. What I am is a successful author, screenwriter, TV producer and publisher who is very busy…and doesn’t have much free time. Even so, over the last thirty years, I’ve taught and mentored writers across the United States and all over the world…in classrooms, in seminars, at conferences, and on-the-job. The difference between those writers and you is that they’re smarter, more professional, more polite, and a lot less full of themselves.
You’ve made many dumb, cringe-worthy mistakes in your interaction with me…and instead of responding now by telling me that I’m an ugly, smelly, talentless, creepy, petty, vindictive, Godless asshole, shithead, bastard, prick and overall terrible person, don’t respond to me at all. Instead, think of this as a learning experience and rethink your deeply flawed strategy of “cold calling” authors you don’t know (or know anything about) for help. You need a new approach….because your current one sucks…and works against you.
His reply was entirely predictable:
You really took all that time to write this. Wow I must have really got on your nerves. You are sick. You need help. Ask your therapist if this is logical.
As I said a simple two sentence reply at the beginning would have sufficed.
I’m not even going to read this
I’m just going to delete it
I don’t think Ben, with his attitude, is going to have much luck finding an agent or getting his book published.