Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Anyone who was on twitter today knows what went down and does not need specifics explained to them. If you don't know, I apologize--you won't find specifics here, because I care less about the incident itself and more of its existence as further evidence of a common problem.

I've talked before about how published authors are not better than unpublished authors, and published authors who act like unpub'd ones aren't worth their time make me sick.

Well, here we are. And I realize this is a post that won't win me any fans.

Publishing is not a hierarchy.

Unagented authors are not at the bottom.

Agented authors are not above them.

Agents are not above them.

Editors are not above them.

Publishing is made of a series of symbiotic relationships. Everyone is necessary to EVERYONE. Agents need editors. Editors need agented writers. Writers need editors. Agents need unagented writers. Publishing needs my agent. It needs some other agent who isn't my agent. It needs the editors at FSG and the editors at Simon Pulse and the editors at the indie press you haven't heard of. It needs me. It needs you.

You are important.

You don't have to suck up to anyone.

If you see someone abusing a position of authority, you do not have to go along with it. You can speak up. You should speak up.

You are not insignificant.

But you are responsible for everything you say.

Take responsibility. Speak up. Take risks.

As A Softer World put it, be the trouble you want to see in the world.


Amy Lukavics said...

"You are important. You don't have to suck up to anyone." I love yews, Hannah.

Saundra Mitchell said...

You're 100% awesome, Hannah, and thank you for saying all of this. It needed saying.

Kaitlin Ward said...

Thanks, Hannah, this is a really great post because sometimes it's really, really hard to feel this way. But it is always important to speak up when something is wrong.

Amanda J. said...

True story. Thanks for spelling it out for everyone. The publishing business wouldn't be what it is without everyone that's in it, though people tend to think you can cut out the agent and skip to the editor. And sometimes that works, but let's face it not many people get pulled out of a publisher's slush, because it's a busy business.

Thanks Hannah! Keep speaking your mind, even if some people don't like it. :)

M.J. Horton said...

I love this. Thank you. And it sucks that people still see it as a hierarchy.

Sarah said...

I think a lot of unagented authors are just afraid to get a black mark on their record. I think it's an irrational fear, but when the passion of wanting to get your book published is strong enough, some writers will comply and be silent to anything.

Thanks for posting. You're a saint.

Becca said...

Love this! Thanks for posting.

Myra said...

110% awesome.

hannah said...

While I don't advocate being silent (obviously), there is a difference--in this particular case--between participating and not participating. I've seen a LOT of writer quick to participate in writer-bashing with the agents who tend to do that, and it tends to make me a little ill. We should be looking out for each other.

And yes, the writer in this case behaved stupidly and irrationally, and we would have been foolish to defend him, but we would be heartless to mock him as a group. That's not how our community should be behaving.

hannah said...

Thank you, Myra. I owe it all to you--wouldn't have had the courage to post if you hadn't.

Kirsten Hubbard said...

you are truly wiser than your age, Hannah.
great post.

hannah said...

Thank you, Kirsten. :)

Debra Driza said...

I <333 you, Hannah. Amazing post, and so true! Thanks for this!

Anonymous said...

*snuggles Hannah*

Michelle Schusterman said...

Hannah - this is the other side of the issue that was really bugging me. You put it better than I ever could have. Excellent, excellent post.

hannah said...

Thank you, Michelle. I think your views on this issue have been really interesting and insightful.

Rachele Alpine said...

True, true....great thoughts!

Krista Ashe said...

Great post, Hannah. And yes, it should be a symbotic relationship. What concerned me was the fact of putting the guys name out there to "let other agents and pubs know what kind of person he is". The idea that there could be blackballing of some kind is disturbing. There's a whole "big brother" mentality out there on Twitter, message boards, blogs, etc. You can't say this, you can't say that, or you'll ruin your career. It could be an exaggerated scenario...I certainly hope so.

But thanks for standing up and voice your opinion while trying to calm the unagented, agented and on sub peeps nerves!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post, Hannah.

hannah said...

No problem, sugar.

Regan Leigh said...

Word. Very nicely done, Hannah. :)

clindsay said...

Hi Hannah!

I'm assuming you're talking about my posting Patrick Roscoe's loony diatribe on my blog.

You are completely entitled to your opinion, and I welcome hearing it.

We can agree to disagree on this for one. I treat everyone with the utmost professionalism. Up until the moment that they no longer extend me the same courtesy. At that point, they are no longer a potential business acquaintance; they have become someone who is violently invading my space, even if it's simply a virtual space, and at that point I fight back. It's as simple as that.

It has nothing at all to do with my being in a position of power. I'm not. No new agent is. We barely make ends meet for the first few years. We give up our weekends and our evenings for free in order to give feedback and help to new writers. (And I spend a considerable amount of time giving of my time and energy to writers for zero compensation, as you well know.) Writers who believe that agents are in a position of power are deluding themselves and agents cannot be held responsible for the veracity of what a writer chooses to believe.

I am *particularly* not in a position of power over Patrick Roscoe as an agent because I had already rejected him (on the basis of his query alone) before he chose to attack me.

And make no mistake - letters like that *are* an attack. It was the same as if he had walked into our offices and started shouting at me to my face.

When someone attacks me? I fight back. Period.

All the best,


hannah said...


Thanks for the responding.

You have EVERY right to respond to a letter attacking you, and I agree with your assessment of his letter. I would never try to take that right from anyone.

But I think it should have been handled privately. And I've seen a lot of people mention good reasons for why it should be handled that way. Names are not individual, and who knows if someone who shares that writer's name might have had his reputation tarnished by this. We don't know the writer's mental state, and even a stable person does not deserve public ridicule when he sends what he assumes to be a private email.

You did not need to respect that writer privately, but I don't think that making a private matter public was the right choice in this instance.

That being said, my post was mostly addressed to writers. They're most of my readership, and I know a lot of them are afraid to say anything when they disagree with something an agent does. It's one of the unspoken social rules in publishing--writers can't say anything contrary to an agent--and I think it's a tremendous shame, and I wanted to use this as a sounding board for that.

Thanks again,


Sage said...

Hannah, you are a beautiful person all over :)

hannah said...

Sage, I am positively crazy about you.

Rachel (_rachelsimon) said...

Hannah, I admire you so much for your outspokenness.

clindsay said...

Hannah -

I wish more writers would just stand up and say what they feel in a thoughtful way - even if it's something we may disagree with. I think they would find that most of us respect your right to speak your mind as long as it doesn't become a personal attack. I read your blog precisely BECAUSE you speak your mind, actually.

I'd like to also point out that one of the reasons I was so angry at Patrick Roscoe was that he not only insulted me, he insulted every single one of my clients.

At that point he lost the right to my respect. And the right to his privacy since by no stretch of the imagination could either of those letters be considered 'professional correspondence'.

All the best,


hannah said...


I guess that's the core of where our opinions differ.

The other day, my mom mentioned to me that she and my boyfriend had emailed back and forth talking about college. Nothing important. She said, "It was a good conversation--I'll show you what I wrote to him, but I can't show you what he emailed me."

He didn't email her back anything secret, but my mother has never ONCE shown an email someone wrote her to someone else without permission. And anyone who knows me knows I want nothing more than to be like my mom!

The emails you received were inexcusable, period. But I don't believe that it justifies sharing personal--if, indeed, no longer professional--correspondence.

Thanks again. I appreciate your honesty and willingness to talk about this.


clindsay said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
clindsay said...

Why can't Blogger do threaded comments? So annoying.

inkspatters said...

Great post, Hannah. I love how down to earth you are.

Anonymous said...

You rock, Hannah.

Another possible reason for not trying to destroy someone's career over an email or two:

Have you ever written an email from a library computer and wondered later that night if you'd signed out?

Ever have a roommate play a practical joke when he or she found your unattended laptop?

Ever been married to any of my ex-wives?

Yahoo and Hotmail have estimated several thousand cases of email abuse daily. Just a thought...

hannah said...

That's true, Anon. I've never had an ex-wife, but they don't sound very nice, as a rule.

M. said...

I'm still figuring out what I think of the whole thing, but chief among my reactions is - taken aback. There is no question that the response the writer made to the form rejection was unfortunate on multiple levels,
to me, his messages almost had something of a feel of the aspiring contestants in the audition rounds of reality shows that are not only deluded about the level of their talent, but give the impression they may have mental health issues going on as well. I have no knowledge about this particular writer, but my discomfort with how the online deluge mushroomed - haiku contest attached to a person's actual full name? - is because it feels like a colossally imbalanced situation if there is any possibility the rejected writer is dealing with health challenges. (I repeat: I have NO CLUE whether it's the case or not).

Wouldn't it be wise - or even, kind - to allow for this possibility before publishing names involved? Wouldn't the educational benefit (learning how NOT to correspond in the publishing world) have been achieved by sharing the messages without name attached?

I'm confuzzled about it all so I'd welcome thoughts.

suzie townsend said...

um...I just want to state for the record, I am technically an ex-wife, and I am plenty nice. :)

You. Are. Fabulous.


hannah said...

as a rule! as a rule! *grins*

(and you didn't wear the dress so it doesn't count. obviously.)

Nadine said...

This was an awesome post. I don't have twitter so I had no idea what you were talking about, but I just want to say how awesome it is how you are so open about everything and aren't afraid to speak your mind.

I admire you.

Leila said...

Great post, Hannah. *applauds*

Kara said...

Great post. Wish I had some of your balls ;)

Arlaina said...

Whoa- looks like I need to check yer blog more often...

Misty said...

Came a little late to the party but so happy I made it.
In a nut shell, I see that some writer really showed his ass when he let his ego trump his business sense. Likewise, I see that an agent ended up showing some ass as well by including the writer's name in a public flogging. Okay, so, oops and oops.

What I'm planning on taking from this is more important than just the mistakes. It's the point that, damn, folks...we're all equals here and we all need each other to make this hairy, publishing machine work. Professionalism and respect for one another has to be firing on deeper levels than just 'what can you do for me'. Likewise, let's keep in mind that no one gets to use anybody's head as a foot stool and nobody should volunteer for the position of an ottoman.
These were fabulous mistakes that led to heightened awareness. Love it. These should be party favors at every event.

Robby said...

I'm one of those people who has no idea what went down today. Damn that school thing.
Regardless, I love you. As always, you are great.

hannah said...

Love you too, gorgeous.

Meghan Ward said...

Great post, Hannah. I wasn't on Twitter today, but I'm glad you wrote this.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden said...

Sure, he's a human being. So's the agent. She was polite and professional. She did nothing wrong. He came back with behavior that's not only bad, but has a strong tendency to be habitual.

If you want to identify with the guy whose first response to mild frustration was to become verbally abusive, and who followed that up with more abuse, that's your look-out.

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