Tuesday, January 24, 2012

When Your Agent Yells, "No!"

Just to be clear, I have a GREAT agent. And part of what makes her great is that she knows when to turn into a "No" machine.

I started thinking about this after I read about how all Hades broke loose when some YA authors responded with passion to what they saw as unfair reviews. (Link to the bru-ha-ha here.)

My agent, thankfully, saved me from myself multiple times when I felt tempted to defend my choices. Here's a sample of some of our conversations:

Me:  This reviewer thinks it's wrong that I didn't have my main character fight against slavery. But NOBODY fought against slavery in the ancient world (except slaves themselves, like Spartacus). I have the research to prove it.

Agent:  Doesn't matter. Don't respond.

Me:  But I verified this with an expert! He's written several books on ancient slavery and is a professor at...

Agent:  Doesn't matter. You. Can't. Respond.

Me:  But...

Agent:  NO!

Me:  (Crosses arms and pouts)


Me:  This one said she was only giving it two stars because she wanted to read a novel about Cleopatra instead of Cleopatra Selene. Shouldn't someone respectfully suggest that she read the description of the book before purchasing?

Agent:  No. Let. It. Go.

Me: But it's so unfair!

Agent:  Yup. Doesn't matter. The answer is still, "No."

Me:  But...

Agent: No, okay? N. O.   

Me:  (Crosses arms, pouts and taps foot)

Still Later

Me:  This reviewer said my book was well-written but only gave it one star because she's angry that I, as author, did not "judge" the "immorality" of the ancient world but only presented it as it was. In particular, she's outraged that my MC has no problem with her brother possibly having a same-sex affair.  That's outrageous!

Agent:  Agreed.

Me:  I absolutely should respond, shouldn't I?

Agent:  No, you shouldn't.  The review was a reflection of the reviewer and not of the book, which she complimented.

Me:  Still, I should...

Agent:  No! Do you hear me? No! 

Me:  But...

Agent: NO!

Me: (Starts to cross arms but is overcome and curls into fetal position instead)

So, you see why I appreciate my agent so much. Thank goodness she is such a "No-it-All!"


Gilly said...

Well, I think you get kudos for discussing it with your agent before repsonding. It's like your subconscious knew you shouldn't and asked for help.

That whole brouhaha was so interesting to me. It really made me think about my own place in the reader/writer/blogger spectrum. It made me think about the reviews I write and just what it is I really do on my blog.

Jessi E. said...

It sounds great that you have an agent to play the heavy when you need her to! :)

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

@Gilly--I think that bru-ha-ha got us ALL thinking about that spectrum!

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

@Jessi E.--yes, thank goodness for level-headed agents!

Tracy Barrett said...

Don't you hate when someone gives a book one star on Amazon because even though they loved the book, there was an issue with the delivery or the book's condition?

Yay for your agent, and yay for you for consulting her before answering!

Kara said...

Wow, what an AMAZING agent you have? ;) It's also good advice to us...um...less experienced authors to NOT ENGAGE THE CRAZY.

Anonymous said...

Someone is paying???? those idiot reviewers???? No, surely, they are just writing for the fun of it....they enjoy pretending to have any sense and like inflicting their values on the past. Sorry you had to read them. (please tell me they were SLJ reviewers)

Anonymous said...

Freudian slip: I meant Please tell me they are NOT SLJ reviewers, or BL for that matter.

Jessica Leader said...

Hee hee! I can totally understand your feeling het up about these redunkulous objections, but your telling is very funny. Also to remember: people who read these reviews will likely be able to separate the reviewer from the reviewed. And hey, people care enough to talk, which is great!

Irene Latham said...

I get the whole not responding to the negative stuff. I mean why spend valuable brain power/time on negativity? But. What about good reviews? I always want to say, oh, I love you love you love you for loving my book! But isn't that kind of creepy too? Curious: would your agent say "no" to that as well? (I confess to trying both responses... still not sure.)

Karen Strong said...

You have a smart agent. :) I know it must be hard though biting your tongue. But the aftermath just isn't worth it.

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

@Tracy-yes that seems so unfair! The stars/review should relate to the book not to the service in purchasing the book!

@Kara--yes, she is pretty awesome! ;-)

@Diane--no it wasn't SLJ, but the first one came from a respected journal which completely floored me.

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

@Irene--Yes, it's ALL weird. I once responded to a wonderful review and felt really creepy afterward!

@Karen--exactly. The aftermath isn't worth it but it sure is hard in those first few moments!

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

@Jessica--thanks for commenting. I'm sure you had similar moments with your wonderful book!

Juliette said...

Well done for resisting! That thing about slavery is one of my biggest pet peeves in reviews of ancient-world-set fiction (it came up a lot regarding Doctor Who a couple of years ago. Because obviously, in a 45 minutes episode about a volcano, our characters should take time out to have a historically inaccurate debate about slavery! Argh!)

N.B. I'm not saying slavery isn't wrong or anything! Just that no one in the ancient world thought it was.

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

Juliette, thanks for confirming that--it drives me crazy when people project a modern sensibility onto an ancient reality that was, in truth, ugly and harsh!