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    Bridge Ladies Sometimes I think a meteor could strike the earth and wipe out mankind with the exception of my mother’s Bridge club — Roz, Bea, Bette, Rhoda, and Jackie — five Jewish octogenarians who continue to gather for lunch and Bridge on Mondays as they have for over fifty years. When I set out to learn about the women behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, and most of all the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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Count the Headlights On the Highway

A client accused me of being a tease today. It was warranted. I dropped a hint about some positive feedback for his project during my trip to LA. I think I might have said that they were creaming for it in my usual tasteful and delicate way. The last thing this writer needs, as he is polishing his manuscript for submission to publishers, is for me to dangle diamond studded carrots before his eyes.

Am I tease? I guess I wanted him to know that I was pitching his book, and that people seemed genuinely enthused so far as you can use the word genuine with respect to anything in LA. And I’m not going all negative on Hollywood. I’m not. But I put the Hollywood cart before the Publishing horse and it was a misstep.

I think it’s important to know what information to give your clients and when. They are not children, but there’s only so much a person can take. I also e-blurted it out because it’s fun to drop big Hollywood names. But again, stupid. It sets up unrealistic expectations. Though I’ve got to say, I would have never lasted 25 years in publishing if unrealistic expectations didn’t course through my veins.

Would you rather know more or less? Only concrete information or every nibble? Tell me everything or wake me up when it’s over? Straight up or with a twist?

26 Responses

  1. Get me the book contract first. It’s hard enough for us out here to get one of those. If the book is good enough for Hollywood, the people there will let you know soon enough.

  2. I am of the mind: Let my agent do her job. I trust her.
    What do I want to know? I fall in the middle of more or less. I don’t need every detail, and I know I can ask anything I want and usually get a response in a couple of hours.

  3. Wake me up when it’s over.

  4. It’s too bad that reporting the events of your life necessarily pulls along other people riding those events as well as yourself. Even if you and your readers are comfy with the pace and display of your life, the folks you interact with get paced and displayed with you. Ah, this has always been the problem. I made my novel a fantasy (even tho I never read ’em) because I wanted to disguise my characters from their sources.
    Writers peep around the corner at attention. Hey: you could become an agent for movie stars; they like press and anticipation.

  5. I like to know the little things, even if they don’t pan out. It helps for an exciting ride. My former agent used to tell me all the details, and once I had to write two additional chapters in 3 days because that’s what an editor wanted to see. It was a near-miss, but it was encouraging to hear about it anyway.

  6. 1) Never forget that we’re children. Needy, needy children.
    2) Never say ‘draft.’ Nothing we give you is a draft, because everything we give you is perfect. Say ‘manuscript.’
    3) Practice the ‘shit sandwich’ form of criticism. First a tasty hunk of bread: ‘You’re a genius. This is what Shakespeare -wanted- to write, but never did.’ Then move to the shit. ‘But readers are morons. They won’t understand your intent, when you start referring to Frederick as ‘Joseph’ halfway through the draft. They’ll think you need rising tension instead of 100 pages of Anastasia’s journal from the 16th century.’ Then finish with more bread. Favorable comparisons to famous writers is a plus. “After reading this, people aren’t gonna say you’re the next Harper Lee. They’re gonna say, ‘Harper -Who-?'”
    4) Underpromise and overdeliver. If an editor tells you she’ll know in a month, -you- know she’ll tell you in two months. So tell the shmuck of a writer it’ll be -three- months and thrill him by being one month early.
    5) Lie to us. The agent/author relationship is like a happy marriage: based on supportive falsehoods. Tell us you love us. Tell us nobody’s ever made you feel that way before. Shudder a little. Maybe weep.
    6) Don’t write blog posts about whether or not people skim; it makes us want to ask if they swallow.

  7. There’s this great little ditty in some classic musical (it might have been a third one about high school). It’s called, I Want It All. At least I think it is. Anyway, I sort of want both, as long as when you’re a tease, I’m allowed to posit wild improbabilities without being called hurtful words like “naive” or “stupid”.

  8. Even a tease manages to put out now and then.

  9. Straight up, with a twist of realistic expectations.

  10. My previous agent went with the under-information approach. For example, I’d ask, “Whom did you send the manuscript to?” and he’d say, “I’m not sure.” (And then he’d ask me to go through our correspondence and piece together the places he’d said he had sent it to or had thought about sending it to.)

    My next agent will own, and use, a spreadsheet.

  11. I would definitely want to know more. This business is hard enough as it is. Having someone pump a constant stream of hope in my veins would keep me invested and moving forward. (Hugs)Indigo

  12. When my husband and I were selling our house, we hired a friend to act as our Realtor (mistake). Whenever he conducted an open house, we never got any feedback at all—only that a few people had showed up. Eventually we signed with another Realtor, who kept us abreast of activity. Not down to what the prospective clients were wearing, but what they were looking for and whether or not they thought our house was a possibility for them. It relieved some anxiety and made us feel as though we were part of the discussion. I’m not fond of the mushroom treatment: being kept in the dark and fed shit.

  13. I’d like to know as much as possible. I understand that not everything would pan out, but I’d still love to know that I got close, even if I didn’t make it. It’s a lot more encouraging to get a lot of almosts than just to hear no. Bonus points if I get to find out what went wrong so that I can keep that in mind for next time, but the more almosts I have, the more I know I was at least on the right track.

  14. What August said.

    And I like mine dirty.

  15. My novel (which didn’t end up selling) got a rave response from a young editor which my agent shared with me. She said she didn’t usually do this for fear of giving false hope but she could tell I needed some encouragement. Of course it was a huge disappointment when said young editor wasn’t able to get support for the book in house. That said, as I picked myself up to get going on another book that letter helped me carry on. Your hopes are destined to be raised and dashed time and again in this business- if you can have something good to hold onto I think it helps.

  16. Are you saying that if my book was in the same room as George Clooney, and his eyes roamed in its general direction, and his hand maybe possibly brushed the cover… you’d consider not telling me???

    Say it ain’t so!

  17. I want to know every single crevice and nook and droplet and grain and whisper and hint. EVERYTHING.

    I have problems though.

  18. You’ve always been honest with me, and I guess that’s what I prefer, though I do like August. And I do need a little bit more gentleness.

  19. I’d want it all in all its salacious detail.

  20. I like my level of telling set at “burlesque”. Too much, and it turns into pole dancing. Not enough and it becomes Riverdance.

  21. I just got an agent in the fall and she tells me in curt, professional emails every time she sends it to a publisher… and then she gives a me a brief quote (of less than a sentence) of their response when they pass.

    So far, they keep passing. :/

    But I like knowing the names of the presses she’s sending to and when and how long they take to respond. I think that should be a minumum.

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