Friday, March 07, 2008

I have a stalker.

I know I'm supposed to be on hiatus, but I had to write about this.

An unsolicited author came into our offices looking for me. I have no idea how he got my name--I'd never met him before. But he came in asking for me by name and carrying his unsolicited manuscript (which, incidentally, is a kind of book I have never acquired and my company has never published).

My savvy assistant told him I was out of the office (I wasn't) and then endured this guy for 40 minutes while he talked her ear off about how his project was going to save society. When she finally convinced him that waiting around for me wasn't going to do any good, he left. But not before asking how long it would be before someone was in touch with him.

"It's hard to say," my assistant told him. "Editors are really busy."

Apparently, he called the next day and asked to speak to me. My assistant, bless her heart, let him know I was unavailable. He wanted to know if there was any feedback on his manuscript yet; she said no (after all, only one day had gone by). He asked if agented manuscripts got priority or something.

Yes, she told him.

Now he has somehow learned my direct line. I have had 3 (three) long phone messages from him today about his book and how it's going to change the world.

I'm a little afraid, but things like this do happen. My friend Nikki, for example, told us a story about how back when she was an assistant her boss had an in-person visitor who came to see her. It turned out to be an ex con who had sent her a proposal while he was in prison. She had rejected the proposal, and now that he was out of jail he had come in person... to thank her for looking at it. But that story might, in theory, have ended differently.

Sadly, all the below advice is really only helpful to the kinds of people who don't inform themselves by doing research. If you're reading this blog, I'm sure you know all this already. But nevertheless. In case you, Mr. Crazy Slush Man, happen upon this blog, here are some general guidelines that might help you with your publication pursuit.

Rules for Not Making Editors Hate You

1) Never show up in person at a publishing company. Ever. Not unless a real person (and not an imaginary person in your head) has specifically made a date with you and asked you to come in for a meeting. Even if you are just well-meaning and happen to be in the neighborhood to drop something off, seeing an editor will make that editor feel incredibly awkward and more likely to hate you and your project. We lead crazed, frazzled existences and we don't like having to meet with people we are not expecting. Ever. None of us.

2) Don't call on the phone. Ever. Two reasons--1) The phone is bad for us, because we can't choose the timing. If you email us, we can address your issue thoughtfully and when we have time to. Plus the phone is super awkward--I always feel backed up against the wall when someone I'm not expecting to talk to is on the phone. 2) The phone is bad for you. If you get us on the phone and ask for the status and we didn't like it, we're going to have to reject it right there, on the phone with you. Also, maybe we were thinking "maybe" about your project, but now, since you've forced us to talk to you on the phone, we're suddenly thinking "no." Just. Don't. Call.

3) Do you have an agent? Then never, ever be personally in touch with me. The I start to feel double teamed, and on top of that, I begin to question the relationship you have with your agent. The only time I should have any contact with an agented author before a contract is signed is AFTER I tell the agent I like the project and the agent and I arrange a mutually agreeable meeting or phone call. The author should never be involved in this.

4) Know what I acquire. If you send me your manuscript and it has nothing to do with what I edit, why should I do you the courtesy of wasting my very precious free time responding to you? Seriously. There are literally thousands of hard-working people who want to get published and have done the footwork. You are not special. You wanna get published, you do it too.

5) Do not harrass my assistant. Ever. Her job is very hard. I've been there, honey. Just because she's as smart and savvy as she is does not mean she should have to deal with you and your mental issues.

6) Do not follow up the next day. Do not follow up the next week. You may follow up one month after you've submitted, but do so politely and in as unoffensive a way as possible. I'm softer toward the "I just wanted to make sure all my materials were in order and to see if there was any other information you might need" approach. The "Why haven't you looked at my manuscript yet? It's been over a month" approach? Yeah, not a favorite of mine, actually.

7) Do not leave me lengthy voicemails (although I suppose if you're calling at all I should just direct you back to #2). I just delete them without listening.

8) Do not make me take time out of my day to blog angrily because I'm SO STEAMED about how you've annoyed me and my assistant when I should, in fact, be finishing my catalog copy edits.

Sorry. Rant over. I know that none of the people reading this need to read it, but please direct all your crazy friends to this page.

35 comments:

Nathan Bransford said...

This has happened to me as well, and it's so incredibly unnerving. Ugh, sorry about this.

moonrat said...

me too, nathan. me too.

Precie said...

Ack, moonie! So sorry about the crazy stalker. Stay safe!!

Kelsey said...

You do need a vacation.

Nancy Matson said...

Ewwwww. Be careful out there. This story gives me the heebie jeebies.

pjd said...

I have some comments on this, but rather than post them here I'll print out this blog, write them down on the printout, and then drop by your office to discuss.

'K?

Conduit said...

Was his name Rupert Pupkin by any chance?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KDl0bTPYqVY

Joking aside, play it safe.

The Anti-Wife said...

Does that mean I should cancel my plane tickets to New York and San Francisco and not make any more copies of my 1,500 page manuscript about George Bush winning 39 gold medals at the next olympics and being made president for life and putting all his relatives on his cabinet and into high government positions and then dropping nuclear bombs on all countries except Canada but saving us by using his genius to build a shield to protect us from the harmful rays and ..... well that's enough about Chapter 1 and I don't want to give away any more of the plot so I'll just see you and Nathan soon!

ChristineEldin said...

Ugh. I hope there are security cameras around.

Bernita said...

Oh dear. Oh dear. Oh dear.
Three strikes.
I hope Robert has a policy.
I don't blame you for feeling a little afraid.

Helen said...

You definitely need a vacation after that.

Merry Monteleone said...

Oy, I'm so sorry moonrat, that has to be unnerving... carry pepper spray, perhaps Robert can rig a mote in the office - you know, direct yon crazy author onto platform A, pull lever, and they become aligator food... that sounds fun.

Froog said...

Well, at least you have a really cool assistant.

Do you ever bring the Rally Monkey into the office? I'm sure he'd have a really good line in putdowns for loony callers.

Enjoy your hols!

Editorial Anonymous said...

My deepest sympathies. What editor hasn't endured these things?
Society needs to figure out some other pursuit that will attract the crazy and megalomaniacal away from publishing.

Josephine Damian said...

AW: Good one... but the bit about "W" makes his family reign supreme rings too true.. I heard he's pushing for bro Jeb to be older McCain's Veep. Scary.

Speaking of scary, how the heck does the stalker get through the door to your office? Isn't there a reception area - with a hopefully watchful receptionist trained in stalking behavior to ward off these MS hawking nit wits and give them the heave ho?

Jennifer L. Griffith said...

CREEPY!

I had a similar situation happen about five years ago. I'd met this man as part of a large group in a city about 75 miles from where I live (a VERY small town--pop 1500).
I have a "gift card line" that features my poetry that was sold in a store in that city at the time. A few days after my brief encounter with this man, I started to hear stories from people who worked on Main Street about a man asking for directions to my home or my phone number. He traveld over 75 miles to my town and walked from business to business, asking people if they knew me. He presented himself as a pastor and said he wanted to help me further my card business.

PRAISE God no one really knows where I live. BUT one naive person did give him my cell phone number. That man called me and said that God told him I was supposed to marry him. He said, "I read all of your cards (poetry) and feel like I know you."

I told him that God did not tell me that he was to be my husband. I asked him to never call me again.

The following week, I received a 10 page, handwritten (letter??) in my PO Box that was so VILE, I almost threw up. He thought to “inspire my writing” through sharing his own with me. (Yes, that’s what he said.)

I burned the letter and changed my cell phone number. I rarely tell people how to get to the SECLUDED cabin where I live. (Too isolated for anyone to hear a cry for help.)

Your situation is more difficult. You can hardly hide your place of employment. I pray for your protection and that this man will DISAPPEAR!! (and get help)

Have a wonderful, restful vacation!

Ello said...

Poor Moonie! Why don't you send me his info, and I'll take care of him for you. (cracks knuckles)

;o)

cyn said...

this is scary! i hope you got a good description of the guy. and he doesn't know what you look like, so if random crazy asks for you by name, say NO, i'm not her.

be careful and take care of yourself, MR!

Jill Myles said...

And this is why I have a pseudonym. :)

Shameless said...

I know how you feel. I've had people come into the office asking after me after hearing or seeing my news stories. I got stalking letters for a year when I worked in the UK, from this mad woman who loved my voice and thought I was her long last relative and was destined to join her "sun alliance", whatever that was! Cripes. Normally they go away. Sometimes it's just naive, simple souls. I hope your mum didn't give this guy your name! :-)

Demon Hunter said...

Sorry to hear this, Moon. That's scary and weird. I hope this guy gets the hint and tries to get an agent or some really good meds...

Anonymous said...

Your office needs a sniper. He'll pick off these nuts quickly, as they enter with their 9x12 envelopes.

Anonymous said...

I hope that Crazy Mr. Slush Pile Guy goes the way of all things and really soon now. Catch up and come back to us.

writtenwyrdd

Anonymous said...

I hope you gave your assistant a nice big bonus for fending this guy off for you.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry about your stalker. It sounds quite frightening. I know, of course, about your list of things that authors must never do; I've known for decades because they were the first things I found out. But I have a question for you. You would naturally refuse to read anything printed in white on black paper, so why do you expect us to?

Sarahlynn said...

Because paper is very different from a backlit screen.

Morgan Dempsey said...

The first thing I thought while reading this was "Wow, your assistant is really amazing."

The second thing I thought was... it's hard enough to get published as it is, why do people go out of their way to make it harder? (And not just for them, but for everyone involved!)

Hang in there.

Anonymous said...

On the other hand, you can be unnecessarily afraid of writers. I had an editor hide from me for a few years -- when all I wanted to do was introduce myself and shake her hand. I wanted to have a face to go with all those letters.

It wasn't until after the book was published that I actually got to meet her -- in the company of the marketing people. Did this make her feel safer? I don't know.

signed -- little old lady writer

roseinnewyork said...

This actually goes for agents too, with the exception that you can call to ask for submissions guidelines (but don't use that as a platform to pitch your book, especially in that I'm-going-to-cut-you-off-and-talk-until-you-hang-up way). I once hid behind a stack of boxes while the receptionist fended a crazy off....

Anonymous said...

Welcome to my world of corporate recruiting. This happens to us all the time. It is what it is...sorry for the over-used adage. But that's life. Like the blog though!

Bitty said...

When I worked for a newspaper, a normal looking guy came in, poured himself a cup of coffee outside the publisher's office, strolled into the advertising department, and stole the director's purse.

Was your receptionist asleep?

Great blog.

jonathandanz said...

Soooo...I should put that name change to Mr. Crazy Slushpile Guy on hold?

One of the not-so-quite-wonderful things about the Internets.

Tom Prete said...

Ah, a tiny glimpse into what it's like to be a newspaper editor -- *every day*. I can't begin to count all the letters and reports I received from people who had the best story ever that was going to change the whole world, or wanted me to pick up the most entertaining and informative column ever written, or warnings about the tentacled space worms that supposedly wore Winston Churchill like a meat overcoat. And many of these folks would come by in person to give me their weird tip or pitch, or check up on an old one.

Some good advice here, though. The most important lesson? Always respect and reward your assistants and receptionists.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes people think that being pushy is what will get their foot in the door. Too bad, they fail to see the poor soul they are pushing feels violated, harassed, and intruded upon.

Good for you, writing a blog to clear all that up.

Sadly, editors can't pick and choose who targets them, but atleast they have the choice to accept or reject.
Many Happy Days.. for you.

Lisa Kerr said...

I'm only a blogger and I've had similar situations. :/