3 Ways to Embarrass Your Editor or Agent

Nobody likes to embarrass themselves. Except for maybe some reality TV personalities. They seem to thrive on it.

But the rest of us, not so much. And editors and agents even less so.

When do the likes of us get embarrassed? When we realize a word was left out of the second page of an otherwise-excellent novel. (Seriously, I recently started a friend’s published novel; and there it was! Unbelievable!) When a book hits the bestseller list and is suddenly out of stock—everywhere. (This happened to me, once. But once was enough.) When we don’t notice the food stain on our shirt right before giving a keynote address. (Why is spaghetti always on the menu before I speak?)

And, occasionally, editors and agents are embarrassed by their authors and clients, which is never something you want to do. How does it happen? Here are three ways to embarrass an agent or editor:

  1. Abuse social media.

When you sign an agency or publishing agreement, you become a public figure of sorts; and you are the curator of your brand or byline. So don’t go on social media and call people out or share cringe-worthy content. Sure, I know you feel strongly about various issues; but remember you want people of widely differing viewpoints to find you, engage with you, read your work, and not be turned away by ill-considered rants or inappropriate posts.

  1. Fail to consult and inform.

Sure, your agent or editor said she wasn’t interested in your Sasquatch romance novel; but that doesn’t mean you should self-publish it. Publishing (and the agent-client relationship) is a partnership; and it’s an embarrassment to be pitching you or publishing you as, say, a successor to Nicholas Sparks and then discover your slasher series on Amazon.

  1. Reject critiques and edits.

One of the reasons it often takes me months of back-and-forth before offering to represent someone is because, in addition to helping a writer hone a book proposal to a beautiful sheen, I want to gauge how he or she responds to suggestions. I don’t want to get to the point where a client of mine is working with an editor and balking at valid points and careful edits. Editing always involves plenty of give-and-take, of course; but a writer who gets too prickly about accepting critiques and edits can embarrass the people who have championed him or her.

Is that fair? Are there other ways you’ve known a writer (yourself or someone besides Bob Hostetler) to embarrass himself, an editor, or an agent?

24 Responses to 3 Ways to Embarrass Your Editor or Agent

  1. Avatar
    Tuvia Pollack August 7, 2019 at 3:18 am #

    I know that Swedish author Fredrik Bachman, whose debut novel is about to become a Hollywood movie starring Tom Hanks, is well known for always arguing and moving from publisher to publisher. He gave aspiring authors the advice “not to give in” and “always insist on your dream.” I think that’s an embarassing way to think of it. He may have succeeded, but he is rather the exception than the rule. Also, his initial international success has probably made him more able to “flex muscles” in negotiations. Most writers don’t have that leverage. He writes great books, though.

    It is also slightly embarassing to always be the first commentator, so I’d like to point out that I’m in Israel, and there’s a time difference. When Americans are just waking up and haven’t yet noticed the blog, I’m already on my third coffee of the day.

    • Bob Hostetler
      Bob Hostetler August 7, 2019 at 8:02 am #

      Don’t be embarrassed by being the first to comment, Tuvia. It just means you’re leading the pack.

  2. Avatar
    Janine Rosche August 7, 2019 at 5:14 am #

    Going rogue should be one. Like the TWO times I went rogue and entered Faithpitch without clearing it with my agent. Both times it put her in an awkward spot since we were on submission.
    (I was lucky in that the second time it led to my book deal, but still, I should’ve checked with her first).

    And Bob, I’ll still embarrass you even if you aren’t my agent….

    • Bob Hostetler
      Bob Hostetler August 7, 2019 at 8:03 am #

      Well, “going rogue” is kinda what I meant by #2 above. And please feel free to be as embarrassing as you want to be, Janine, especially since you’re Tamela’s client!

  3. Avatar
    Cathy Primer Krafve August 7, 2019 at 5:44 am #

    I’m printing this one and tacking it on the wall behind my computer screen, Bob. Great advice!

  4. Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser August 7, 2019 at 6:57 am #

    Since you didn’t want “Sasquatch In Space”
    I self-published under pseudonym;
    I should have told you, face-to-face,
    but hey, is it not all win-win?
    I know you said, “Stick with your brand!”
    but “Canadian Zombies” have left me weary,
    so polite, with outstretched helping hand
    and a manner much like Timothy Leary.
    And really, what is in a name?
    We might, here, add some extra zing,
    and let the readers play a game
    as with Richard Bachman and Stephen King.
    Besides, do you REALLY think Bethany will buy
    “The Seven Amish Samurai”?

    • Bob Hostetler
      Bob Hostetler August 7, 2019 at 8:04 am #

      Gotta admit, I kinda like “Sasquatch in Space.” AND “The Seven Amish Samurai.”

    • Avatar
      claire o'sullivan August 7, 2019 at 11:35 am #

      Andrew –

      always a great giggle

      prayers for you!

  5. Avatar
    Brennan S. McPherson August 7, 2019 at 7:58 am #

    I know an author (definitely not me! woofta! though the author will remain unnamed) who edited (in red ink) the editing letter they received from an accomplished editor, and sent it back to the editor. That author is successful, in a worldly sense, but greatly lacking in humility and professionalism.

    Can you imagine that happening to you, as an editor? Shameful behavior on that author’s part, and I hope they read this and think about offering an apology to that editor.

  6. Avatar
    Linda Riggs Mayfield August 7, 2019 at 8:32 am #

    Bob, I empathized with both #2 and #3 and just shook my head at Janine’s comment. ;-D One of my professional hats is dissertation consultant/coach/editor. Years ago a client whose proposed data analysis design was so wonky it couldn’t possibly work went rogue on me after I gently explained the GIGO (Garbage In/Garbage Out) concept to her. (You can feed all kinds of numbers into a statistical data analysis program, but if the wrong data goes in for the analysis being run, the resulting data will be meaningless.) I included suggestions for fixing the problem.

    Instead of making the needed changes, she found a young man who claimed to be a statistician and hired him, at an hourly rate significantly higher than she paid me, to make sense out of her mishmash of qualitative and quantitative data. The young man conned her–his data interpretations might as well have been quoted from Dr. Seuss, but apparently he was quite convincing. He produced pages of impressive results which he explained to her in personal tutoring sessions (being paid by the hour) in esoteric statistical terms she couldn’t comprehend; but she was in awe of him and used his drivel in her dissertation anyway.

    I resigned. I told her I wasn’t able to understand his data analysis, therefore I couldn’t help her explain it in her results or analysis chapters or effectively edit those chapters for her (all true!), and we parted friends. Whew! I’m guessing the relationship can’t always be salvaged when a client goes rogue!

  7. Avatar
    Bryan Mitchell August 7, 2019 at 8:48 am #

    I can see how that could be embarrassing. I have to say though that some folks can’t help themselves on social media. Reservation and thoughtful commentary is always best.

  8. Avatar
    Roberta Sarver August 7, 2019 at 8:56 am #

    Bob, I look forward to the posts from Steve Laube’s agency to feed my mind and educate me about the publishing world. On Wednesdays they usually give me something to smile about. Today’s was helpful; thanks!

  9. Avatar
    J. Otis Ledbetter August 7, 2019 at 9:47 am #

    Now that’s good advice! Can I share this post?

  10. Avatar
    Holly August 7, 2019 at 10:31 am #

    I am self publishing a book and LOVE my editor, we can go back and forth, change points and my chapter comes out better for it. It is hard tho, the time it takes to re work and make the page flow again for me after I need to change. But it is worth it ….my book is going to be published VERY SOON!! Children’s story..so exciting..You are a blessing!!

  11. Avatar
    Kathleen Denly August 7, 2019 at 11:03 am #

    Great post. I always cringe when I see authors unleashing heated political rants on social media. I admit to having very strong views myself, but I resist the urge to blast them at people who have come to me not for politics but for the genre I write. Especially because I write fiction which most people use — at least in part — as a way to relax after dealing with a tough day (not that we don’t tackle tough issues in fiction). The last thing I think my readers want when they visit me online is to be hit in the face with my political opinions.

  12. Avatar
    claire o'sullivan August 7, 2019 at 11:32 am #

    Oh, Bob… I have fallen fast and hard in every area you just mentioned… ! Except one.

    1. Spaghetti, oh yep.
    2. Abusing social media (emoji right here of wide-eye & facepalm). While I add a hastag caveat I wonder… what about sharing the Word? I follow ‘most’ authors but not all, writing communities but not all. AND… last but the worst perhaps is the #politics caveat of same… FACEPALM again.
    3. Didn’t listen to an agent once and oh my. How dumb.
    4. Didn’t self-publish after that, but did go back and rework my MS.
    5. Words missing, a nice little plot hole, ugh yes, this has happened and how embarrassing for me!

    OK back to social media… halting politics…

  13. Avatar
    Maco Stewart August 7, 2019 at 6:44 pm #

    Like Kathleen, I have strong opinions, but I do not put them out there on social media. What’s the point? In the current tribal environment, people are only looking at the color of your warpaint, not at the substance of your reasoning. Aside from being an unapologetic, biblical Christian, where I stand on ephemeralities is anyone’s guess, and they may well guess wrong.

  14. Avatar
    Scoti Springfield Domeij August 7, 2019 at 9:12 pm #

    Oh the war stories I could tell…but the authors might recognize themselves. Bellylaughed at this: “and it’s an embarrassment to be pitching you or publishing you as, say, a successor to Nicholas Sparks and then discover your slasher series on Amazon.”

  15. Avatar
    Tony August 8, 2019 at 7:41 am #

    It’s a very thoughtful blog for the readers.

    It is interesting to read for me. I hope you will continue to write this type of blogs in future.

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  16. Avatar
    Lindsey Brackett August 8, 2019 at 10:10 am #

    See? It’s so good I’m not your client so I’m free to embarrass you anytime I want.

    P.S. I will go to my grave stating I had nothing to do with the Great Candy Snatch of FCWC 2019.


  1. Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 08-15-2019 | The Author Chronicles - August 15, 2019

    […] Kathryn Magendie discusses what to do when you lose your publisher, and Bob Hostetler shares 3 ways to embarrass your editor or agent (not good for career […]

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