Thursday, May 15, 2014

Biting the Hand You Hope Will Feed You.

Last month, it was with no small amount of disbelief and horror that I read an article posted by one of my Facebook friends:

Why producers WILL NOT READ YOUR SCRIPT – shocking case study from one exec

Go ahead. Read it. I’ll wait.

Back yet? Holy schnikes, right?

I’ve been doing this writing thing for more than a few years, now, and yet I’m always stunned when I read about something like this. So far as shooting one’s self in the foot goes, I have to believe that this definitely ranks right up there as one of the more spectacular examples.

While you’d like to think this is an isolated case perpetrated by a single irate individual, the truth is that this is a pretty common occurrence, and it’s certainly not limited to Hollywood producers and hopeful screenwriters looking for that first break. Indeed, feel free to substitute “novelist” or “comic writer” or “comic artist” for “scriptwriter,” because some variant of this scenario happens a lot. As you sit there, reading this pithy little blog entry, someone somewhere is right this very minute cocking the virtual trigger of the gun which they then will use to shoot themselves in their own figurative foot.

Don’t be that person.

I’ve been witness to incidents similar to the one cited in the article, and on rare occasions I’ve even been asked by fans at conventions or signings if I would please read a manuscript they happen to have with them. If it’s a really special day, a fan will package their request with an explanation of how it’s so much more awesome than the drek my publisher usually casts upon an unsuspecting readership (Yes, including my own output with said publisher). That’s always a fun moment or two.

Unless I have a prior relationship with the person making such a request of me, I almost always politely decline in those situations, just as I gently eschew requests to discuss plots or story ideas. Such venues typically aren’t conducive to such conversations, anyway, as my attention usually is being divided by any number of people and activities. Instead, I try to offer alternatives such as writing classes or workshops if the convention is hosting such events, or joining a writers group at a local library, bookstore or college, or an online group. More often than not, I suggest forgoing the writing groups altogether and just go for broke by submitting stories to markets with open calls for submissions, so that they can (hopefully) get proper feedback from an actual editor.

Speaking for myself, I believe that just walking up to someone when there’s no prior relationship and making a demand on their time and effort is just plain rude. When people ask me about how to go about talking to an editor or agent in these situations, I advise that it's better to inquire about their guidelines and request their contact information so that a manuscript or proposal can be sent through the correct channels for consideration. That's how professionals do it.

But, let’s say for the sake of discussion that the “targeted” writer/editor/producer/whatever opts to honor such a request. Getting miffed at anything less than glowing feedback is—plainly and simply—doubling down on the aforementioned rudeness. That’s the sort of thing that gets you remembered, and not in the good way. Editors, agents, and writers talk to each other, after all, and they love to tell stories about their odd encounters with people looking for that “big break.”

Oh, and if you can really spice things up by insulting the very people you hope will one day write you a check—usually in some form of telling them they lack vision, or they wouldn’t know good writing if it bit them on their posterior—then one day you, too, can be the subject of blog postings like this one.

Don’t be that person.


Jane Turley said...

Well that link was a fun read! The writer must have been a comedy script writer as he sure has a knack for idiocy:D

Liane Spicer said...

Holy schmoly! What an ass!

One of the things I learned early (by reading agents' and editors' blogs) is that NO THANK YOU is the end of the conversation. Be grateful that this professional has taken the time to read your query/partial/manuscript or whatever, and furthermore, has taken the time to respond. Many don't respond, for this very same reason!