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- Mikhail Bulgakov

Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Calling Agents

All right.  I'll bite.  Let's talk about something publisher-y.  Or agent-esque.  Whichever you prefer.

Let's start with a "for instance."  Suppose you get a weird bill in the mail from your dentist charging you $2000 for something your dental insurance was supposed to cover.  What's the first thing that you do?

Or, as another hypothetical, what would you do if the contractor who was supposed to fix your roof sent you an e-mail outlining him doing almost the exact opposite of what you asked him to.  What would be your first recourse?

Suppose your cable went out, even though you paid your cable bill on time this month.  Options?

Am I getting too obtuse?  What was your answer to each of these?  If you're like me, it was, "Pick up the god-damned phone!"  (Maybe "send an e-mail" on the second one.  But only if you're super passive.)

And if you're a pretend make-believe author like me, a little light just went off in the back of your head, too, going, "Ah, I know what he's talking about."  For the benefit of everyone else, I'll just tell you.  For some reason agents, editors, and publishing professionals in general insist on a strict, "Don't-Ever-Fucking-Call-Me-Or-I'll-Blackball-You-From-The-Industry" rule.  As a baseline.  Sometimes their threats are worse.  Like calling the police on you if you have the gall to show up at their office.  Because if you show up at their office or try to call them on Alexander Graham Bell's prize fucking invention, you're some kind of lunatic born with neither common sense nor a mother to beat the common sense into them.

Here's the thing: you might think I'm exagerrating, even just a scoche, but I'm not.  These people take these things DEAD SERIOUSLY.  Now, I'll be honest, I'm a by-the-book kind of guy, I'm even a pretty passive guy, and I let life wash over me and take the path of least resistance.  So, no, I don't call agents on the phone.  Mostly because they all have this crazy insistence that you don't.  And I understand WHY they say not to call, because they don't want to talk to every Tom, Dick, and Harry, let alone every Lee Harvey, John Wayne, or Jack the. 

So, okay.  I get it.  You have your little rule.  No phone calls unless you're a client.  That's fine.  I have little rules I have to follow at work that piss people off, too.  (They're called HIPAA.)  But here's what truly aggravates me: the way they normalize it.  And then WHINE about it.

I probably shouldn't name names.  I certainly won't name names.  But I follow A LOT of industry blogs and websites.  And, almost inevitably, every couple of weeks, if not sooner, comes the post about THE CRAZY ASSHOLE WHO THOUGHT HE COULD CALL ME!  ME, OUT WHOSE ASS THE SUN DOTH SHINE!  No, I'm exaggerating this time.  I can admit it. 

Look guys: get a grip.  Human beings in general...and business people IN one another.  It's something we're taught to do.  I don't know about you, but I was raised to believe that doing business face-to-face was best, and then by phone was second best, and then by correspondence was third best, and then by e-mail was the least preferable.  (This was before texting and tweeting.  I assuming those get the bottom of the barrel now when teachers and moms are telling their kids this stuff.)

Yeah, I know, I get it.  You have your special little rule about no-callsies.  I don't do it.  Because, as I mentioned before, I follow the industry pretty closely and I get that this is a pattern.  But when you act like everyone should just know that, or, worse, infer that, you know what you sound like?  I won't leave that hypothetical, you sound like an asshole.  The expectation is that professionals will talk to one another.  (That, by the way, is called professional courtesy.)  And I get that in your mind, and in your not-altogether-unfounded worldview, I'm not a professional yet worthy of talking to because I haven't yet passed through your hallowed gates (which I can't do until you let me in...but I digress) but NOBODY ELSE SEES IT THAT WAY.

Here endeth the rant.


  1. I have an agent and do talk to her on the phone quite regularely. And I know that she spends even more time on the phone with publishers. So my question to you is, why does an unagented person need to call an agent? Why do you even want to call an agent for that matter?

    None of your examples are even remotely relevent. Those types of problems are the types of phone calls agents do make, when they talk to their clients and publishers. If you are seeking an agent, the only thing that matters is your writing so you should write not call.

    1. Hey, Kate, thanks for commenting.

      I understand that agents don't wish to be called, so I don't call them, but that's an INDUSTRY standard. What bothers me is the prevalent condescension in the agenting community that ther industry-specific standard is some kind of universal rule that everyone should know.

      If I was trying to get a plumber, buy new insurance, order a wedding DJ, or get ahold of my congressman I would do it by cold call. And these are all business people or professionals. In fact, I would go so far as to say that cold calling is the standard, and agents are a very specific exception to a universal rule.

      I'll give you another example from a different walk of life. When I was in the army, it was a very specific little quirk that enlisted Soldiers take offense to being called "sir" or "ma'am" because they're not officers. But they all knew damn well when they went to a restaurant or a store they were going to get called "sir" or "ma'am" because that was the way the rest of the world works.

      Just food for thought. Thanks for another perspective!


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