Publishing doesn’t have technology at its heart: it has people. No matter what new printing and distribution methods and models emerge, publishing can only flourish while writers, editors and agents excel at their jobs.
When any one of those three fail to behave responsibly or sensibly, publishing suffers.
I’ve seen very few instances where editors or agents acted like idiots in public. Writers, on the other hand, seem to do so every other day* (and before you judge me as too harsh remember that I’m a writer too, and am responsible for more than my share of foolishness).
Yesterday, I read a story at Editorial Ass which made me cringe. The editor liked a writer’s proposal but felt it needed a little tweaking before she’d be able to sign him up. She discussed the changes that she’d like to see with the writer’s agent, and the agent saw no problem with them: so the editor offered to take the writer and his agent out to lunch, in order to discuss more fully the tweaks required.
Everything went swimmingly until, towards the end of lunch, the writer demanded to deal with someone who he perceived as being more important than the editor before him. Never mind that the editor had seen something that she liked in his work, and had been prepared to spend time working with him to get it good enough to sign up: he wanted someone more senior, and that was that.
The lunch was brought to a swift conclusion and the writer lost any possibility of a deal with that editor, or the publishing house that she worked for.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, agent Janet Reid got to hear about it and also blogged on the subject.
Agents don’t just exist to make deals: they advise their clients on the best way to proceed in all sorts of ways. If the author concerned had quietly asked his agent for advice before speaking out, he might still have a book deal on the table and an editor who was keen to spend the time to make his book the best that it could be.
(*I did find several examples of writerly venting to link to for this piece but felt that that would be too cruel. I must be mellowing as I age.)