Wednesday, August 13, 2008

On Professionalism

Breakfast in Bed,
Mary Cassatt,
o/c, 1897.

Like everyone else, I follow agent blogs to educate myself about professional perspectives on the industry.

Lately, several agents -- particularly those who have faced the writerly hordes at the recent spate of conventions -- have voiced some rather pointed complaints.

1. Unprofessional dress: Should a writer show up for a pitch appointment in sweats, agents are not impressed. While they do not suggest one needs to dig out the girdle and pearls, business casual makes a better impression.

Slob is not the new black.

2. Unprofessional approach: Agents are not impressed -- no matter how laid-back their blogging style -- when they receive a query letter beginning Yo, Dude. Ranks the writer right down there with To Whom It May Concern, queries copied to 45 other agents, and pictures of nudes or the family dog. Neither are they titivated to receive queries text style: thnx and LOL.

Chummy is not the new black either.

3. Unprofessional behaviour: According to Dear Author, a few writers continue to be convinced that they can threaten and abuse readers should any fail to provide less than OMG, best EVAH reviews -- and some publishers have resorted to a CYA clause as a result.

Publishing is business, and these are not the best ways to take care of it.

But since this is my blog, I am relieved and delighted to announce the MacDuffian arrival -- and latest addition to the Clan -- of Baby Katherine.


haunted author said...

Thanks for this post. I am soooo tired of "chummy slob"- I would imagine agents would be as well.

I didn't respond last wek, but wanted to let you know that your blog on charectors' habits has been thought provoking for me. I really didn't have hobbies for my main charetors and I beleive this will add quite a bit of depth to them. Thanks!

Bernita said...

~beams at Haunted~
Posts are merely my opinion and pov, but am always happy if they help!

Ric said...

Hark! Another Grandchild! Wonderful news.

At what point, with the advent of the Internet and cell phones, did the general population lose their common sense?

Sneakers at church, flip-flops at funerals, no formality in greeting perfect strangers.

Was only a matter of time until this casualness bled over into all manner of things.

Carla said...

Congratulations on the arrival of baby Katherine!

Gabriele C. said...

Congrats on the new arrival.

What I don't get is that there are people who still care about writing or reading Amazon reviews. They sucked even before the last scandal, and it doesn't look like ever getting better. But maybe it's me not reading much romancethat I rely on review blogs. And no author can tamper with those - not that Fantasy, SciFi or Historical Fiction writers are prone to do that in the first place. Romance seems to produce a certain sub-species of bitches, and not the smart ones. ;)

Bernita said...

It certainly is, Ric, thank you.
People seem not to care or are unable to see how such conduct may be perceived. Which does not say much for their ability to put themselves in character's shoes.

Thank you, Carla. It was an anxious 48 hours but looks like she's out of the woods.

Gabriele, thank you.
"Romance seems to produce a certain sub-species of bitches" - one is justified in thinking that at times.

writtenwyrdd said...

"...not the new black." LOL and amen. I imagine that you might get away with jeans at a conference, but I would think a blouse and slacks for women at the very least. And being all chummy with someone you have never met is never appropriate. Ever. Because you don't know if you are being offensive or not.

What bugs me more than anything else, though is that people ignore my introducing myself by my full first name (I loathe the y-ending nickname form) and they go ahead and shorten it without asking. Rrrr. I refer to people as sir or ma'am unless they have given me permission to use their first name; I do not call anyone honey or dear; and I expect the same respect.

writtenwyrdd said...

Oh, sorry, in my ranting I forgot to offer congratulations on the grandbaby. That is truly great news.

laughingwolf said...

welcome, katherine!

in blogs/emails w/friends, i use abbreviations so i can move more quickly to the next ones... but in anything 'official', it's back to the at-least-semi-formal

great post, again....

Robyn said...

All the best to you and your (now extended!) family. I love that picture; brings back sweet memories.

I am beginning to think text-speak is the first horseman of the apocalypse. Srsly.

ChrisEldin said...

Congratulations for your great news!!!! I hope you'll post some photos!

And this sentence, Bernita, from your post below is sublime:
and the sky never blue, day after day -- the sky always a bowl of surly yellow like an old bruise and the sun a smear in the yellow haze.

Travis Erwin said...

How come nothing is ever billed as the new red, green or white?

Bernita said...

Thank you, Written.
During the time when I often had a babe in arms and a couple hanging on either leg, I was always taken aback to be addressed as "Miss."

"and they go ahead and shorten it without asking" - hate that, trying to be chummy and end up being condescending.It's faux friendly and, with some, manipulative, imho.

Lw, thank you. You know when casual is appropriate.

Thank you, Robyn. One can almost feel the little warm body from that picture.
~grins~ Me 2.

A double thank you, Chris. No photos - am not one of those grandmothers.
The little one's 4 x great-grandmother was Katherine from Kinsale.

Bernita said...

because, I suppose, Travis, that those colours are not considered true "chic."

December/Stacia said...

A baby!! How wonderful! Congratulations and best wishes to the whole family!! (When was she born? Do we share a birthday?)

I've never understood the idea of pitching an agent while wearing sweats. Or of doing anything but excercising while wearing sweats, fankly; they are singularly unflattering. I get that it's a conference and you want to be comfortable, and publishing is less formal than some industries, but geez, don't you want to make a good impression?

raine said...

I'm all for casual, but common sense is even more important. I wonder what would make someone wear something like that to a pitch appointment, or what they were thinking? To show the agent they were laid back and didn't care?

Congrats on the new ba-bee! Hope all are well. :)

December/Stacia said...

Oh, and Written? Totally love you. I do the same thing. I don't address strangers by their first names (unless I have no choice or in the obvious; I didn't call my BFF's new boyfriend Mr. X when I met him but youknow what I mean) and I don't appreciate them addressing me so. It's not belittling yourself to call someone Mr/s.; it's affording them and yourself dignity.

Bernita said...

Tahnk you!
Not quite, December, she was born the 6th.

Even though I know they come in all colours,I keep getting this image of something all gray and smelly!

Doesn't look like they thought at all, Raine. More than one agent has expressed distaste.
Thank you. She is a premie but all seems to be. Now.

Whirlochre said...

In this age of slobby informality when you can almost eat the contents of your shopping trolley as you wheel it to the checkout in your underpants, it's good to know the principles of polite decorum still count for something.

Assumed chumminess is so awfully selfish and rude and I'm surprised agents don't arm themselves with baseball bats.

Meanwhile — congratulations on your new addition.

Ello said...

Bernita! What wonderful news! Congratulations! I am so happy for you. What an exciting time!

Gabriele C. said...

Writtenwyrd, that's so an issue with me as well. My name is Gabriele, not Gaby, Gab, Gabe or whatever.

I accept Gab as short form in the one chat room I attend because I know it's a pest to type Gabriele every time. But I do prefer being asked first. And in spoken form, I don't see any problem with more syllables. ;)

Bernita said...

Rude it certainly is, Whirl. Thank you.

Ello, thank you.She has been yearned for.

"Gabriele" is a lovely name and I don't see why anyone should need - or want - to shorten it.

Sarah Hina said...

Baby Katherine will be very lucky in her grandma. I've always loved that name. Such strength, and femininity.

And born on my b-day, too! :)

Congratulations, Bernita!!

spyscribbler said...

Katherine is one of my top two favorite names! Don't we get a picture? Please?

BernardL said...

After decades of Twilight Zone encounters with customers, I realize life is often stranger than fiction. However, I think publishing agents should get a sense of humor instead of outrage. It's all about the writing... according to their mantra. 'Yo Dude' or the Avant Guarde dresser could be the next Stephen King. :)

Grandkids are the greatest. No responsibility, and we can watch them torture our most deserving offspring. :)

Bernita said...

"Such strength, and femininity"
Thank you, Sarah!
Same b-day augurs well.
(now "Sarah" has always been one of my favourite names.)

Thank you, Natasha. It IS a nice name, I think.No pictures yet,but they tell me she is a pretty baby.

Hee, Bernard! I have sometimes referred to grandkids as "grandmother's revenge!"

writtenwyrdd said...

My mother used to smile at us and say, "I hope you have kids just like you." Her revenge came true for my neice. I thwarted her by having none, heh.

Lana Gramlich said...

Congrats on Katherine! :)

Jon M said...

Personally, I always turninto a gibbering wreck when I approach an agent (even my own!)I don't think I could be too 'pally'

And I always try for smart casual when meeting said people.

New babies are the best thing, congratulations!

sex scenes at starbucks said...

A BABY! Nothing greater in the world. Congrats and enjoy!

I actually take exception to the "business casual" rule. I feel I'm an entertainer, to an extent, and as such, I want to push that image. I'm not very conservative, nor is my writing, so I try to present myself as I really am. I kinda got that confirmed at WorldCon, what with mucho tattoos, green hair, backless leopard body suits...and this was at a big-time publisher's party.

That said, all the pub folks I've met seem a conservative lot, being Eastcoasters. So my writing better be damn good.

Steve Malley said...

I'm with Seinfeld-- sweats in public is like saying you give up.

Congratulations on new Clan addition.

Dave F. said...

A Katherine, a wee Katy, a sparkling Kathy, an adorable Kat, congratulations and best wishes.

Bernita said...

Written, I imagine she's happy just the same.

Thank you, Lana and Jon and SS.

Jon, am afraid I would take inane to a new level no matter what I wore.

They do say Eastcoasters are an uptight lot, Betsy.

Thank you, Steve.Either have given up or are excessively absentminded.

Dave, that is so sweet. Thank you.

MissWrite said...

LOL@slob is not the new black, and all the rest.

Big congrats on the new arrival too!

Barbara Martin said...

It's a shame writers have to be reminded that when they are pitching their books, that they are conducting a business interview. If they arrive in sweats, etc., what do they wear to their 9 to 5 day job? (rhetorical)
Thanks Bernita for posting this as a reminder to those out there.

Suzanne Perazzini said...

Congratulations on the new baby in the family. There's nothing like a baby to increase family morale.

To a large degree, we are our image and we all know that publishers and agents are influenced by how we look as in every other area of life. Statistics show that those who are well-presented are more successful in life. Unfortunately those who are attractive also have more success. We can't do much about what we were born with but we can do the most possible with it and come off polished and professional. It's a game we have to play if we want to be a part of this society.

Bernita said...

Tami,Barbara and Suzanne, thank you for your good wishes!

The concept that publishing is business continues to escape a few people apparently.
Maybe the convention "partay" atmosphere seduced them into thinking it didn't matter in some venues.

Chumplet said...

Congratulations on the new arrival!

After a year of commenting on agent blogs, I'm going to have to work hard to refrain from starting off with, "Hey! Chumplet here!"

Bernita said...

Sandra, thank you.
I know - especially to those with the friendly and casual tone!

StarvingWriteNow said...

Congrats! Can we all call you Granny now?

Maybe this is a "duh" for me, but why would anyone try to act chummy/slobby with a person you're supposed to be impressing? Isn't that common sense? Or has common sense gone by the wayside yet again?

Bernita said...

Thank you, Beth.
Sounds "old," doesn't it?

Common sense is never common - or so they say.

SzélsőFa said...

Congratulations on the arrival of a new baby.
Katherine is a great name - to me, it suggests peace, strength and dignity.

Bernita said...

"peace, strength and dignity" - that sounds like a good fairy's wish at her cradle!
Thank you, Szelsofa.

Charles Gramlich said...

Katherine, Cool.

I tend to dress casually but not like a slob. AT least so it seems to me. I would be unlikely to wear a tie to an agent meeting, however.

Angie said...

Hey, congrats on the baby! :D

Angie, who's been travelling again

Bernita said...

As long as it's not a t-shirt with "Show me your tits," I imagine you look just fine, Charles!

Thank you, Angie.