Friday, May 28, 2010

You Get What You Pay For

(From FFW Small Markets, May 30, 2010)

I read a blog recently by a well-known blogger who advises people about scams. She writes and has traversed the writing environment for many years. Like me and others with busy writing schedules, she has limited time to offer free advice to email queries. But someone asked her to read over his chapters and see if they had merit. She was intrigued with the subject and offered to look it over.
A week went by. She reached a moment when she could study the material, but upon checking her email found a scathing message from that author, fussing about her taking so long to reply.

A day doesn't go by that someone doesn't ask me to review their work, connect them with an agent, or locate a publisher that suits their needs. As much as I'd like to fulfill all these requests, there aren't enough hours in the day!

Yet people periodically get angry at me for not "giving back" to the writing community.

I can list a half dozen online individuals who experience the same daily dilemma. I imagine that well-known authors receive those same pleas on an exponentially greater basis.

We go to conferences and beg agents and publishers for attention. That's fine. They attend conferences for that purpose, so the etiquette is correct for you to step in and get bold. Seek those opportunities. They are designed specifically for those seeking a hand up in the business.

We all like to think we have a chance for an Oprah moment: playing those long odds of mailing a manuscript to someone with connections, in hopes that he reads it, is overwhelmed and places your book in the hands of someone important. It's like winning the lottery, but we can hope, right?

Sure we can . . . however . . .

When those people we solicit do not respond, or do not reply quickly, or do not reply with the decision we hoped for, we have no right to say one negative word. Same goes for pitching an agent or a publisher. While it would be nice to receive a well-thought out response, that person isn't getting compensated for the time it takes to read, edit and type out the email or letter. Multiply those few moments you think they can afford to sacrifice, times ten or more per day. Suddenly they've lost half a day of income.

But if you pay an editor for a critique, you darn well expect it. If you are asking for a favor or soliciting attention without compensating the individual on the other end, don't get upset if you hear nothing in reply. You get what you pay for. Just realize it and keep on keeping on.

Let's say someone does come to your aid. That's fantastic. But at the same time, know that many others did not hear back about their similar requests. Be happy when someone replies. Understand when they don't.


Sharon K. Mayhew said...

I read the post you are talking about. It's funny (odd) when people think they are entitled to complete strangers time and talents. Both of you give to the writing posts and newsletters. I am sure there are other things you both do for writers....Thanks, Hope!

Karen Lange said...

Everyone is busy, and you just can't get to everything. If I figure out how to get more hours out of the day, I'll let you know:)
Happy weekend!

Anne R. Allen said...

I read the post you're talking about, and I'm not surprised that you attract these needy newbies, too. I'm only a minor advice blogger, but even I sometimes get those odd requests for free reads.

The requests usually have two things in common: 1) a childish sense of entitlement 2)bad grammar and spelling.

My feeling is these are people who haven't yet learned the basics about writing and publishing and think they can skip the preliminaries and use you to leapfrog over their peers. The kindest thing is to refer them to a few basic writing books/blogs/communities and never, ever engage them in dialog. Once they have a "relationship" with you, they will think you owe them, which is what happened to the super-helpful watchdog blogger you mention. The last thing she deserves is a guilt trip.

Covnitkepr1 said...

I’ve enjoyed looking over your blog. I came across it through another blog I follow, and I’m glad I did. I am now a follower of yours as well. Feel free to look over my blog and perhaps become one as well.

Donna Volkenannt said...

Hi Hope,

From the first time I worked up enough courage to join a critique group about 15 years ago, I've discovered two basic types of writers -- Givers and Takers.

At critique groups I've belonged to most writers show up every week, whether they get to read or not, and they give helpful critiques. But there are a few writers who show up only when it's their turn to read or they arrive with the maximum amount of pages and get angry when they do not get to read them all. They give minimal critiques to other writers because they only care about what they've written. Those are the Takers.

I visit your blog regularly and have found promising markets and sound writing advice. So, to me you are a Giver -- someone who gives back to the writing community almost daily.

The writer who got upset about not getting a quick enough response to his request for free advice sounds like a classic Taker who believes his time and work are more important than enyone else's.

So, I agree with your advice (once again that you are giving free advice writers) and I thank you for it. You are a Giver with a capital "G."

Donna Volkenannt