Authors, by the merits of their creativity, go to great lengths to present themselves in a professional manner – and shoot their own feetsies by playing games. I love games. You should see me trying play Pin the G-string on Antonio Banderas after a few of the beagle’s margaritas. Ah, good times.
Saturday’s conversation went something like this:
Me: Behler Publications [I didn’t bother saying my name since it was a Saturday, and who in their right mind works on Saturdays?]
Them: Yes, I’m Agent ABC, and I represent Brilliant Author. I’ve been going over your website and feel my client’s book is perfect for your house.
Me: Whoa, literary agents who make pitch calls on the weekend? [first red flag]
Them: Well, you’re working.
Me: Yes, that’s because I’m an idiot and have no life. None whatsoever. [second red flag]
Them: [obligatory chuckle] May I pitch you my client’s book? [third red flag, and it be smokin’]
Me: Um, what agency did you say you were with?
Them: Ahh, well, heh, heh, I’m not really a literary agent. Yet. But I’m planning on becoming one real soon.
Me: [mildly irritated] Then who are you?
Them: Well I’m calling for a friend of mine who wrote this really fabulous book. But I really am planning on being an agent.
Me: [Yes, and I’m planning on crowning myself Queen Pricey, the Great and Mighty] What’s the story about?
Them: blah, blah, blah, bippity, blah, blah [none of this is flipping up my Vicki Secrets]
The conversation took a rapid boat to Blunder Island. The man, who I think may actually be a co-author, was quite lovely and took my critiques very well considering I shot a canon through his heart. But I have to say this was a a painful and uncomfortable experience for me, and there will be no redemption for this individual, no matter how well he pulls himself up by the quill feathers. He committed my personal cardinal sin; he tried to put one over on me. If he’ll try it now, what’s to say he won’t try it again? What else is he lying about?
If you don’t have an agent, then don’t pretend to be the agent because we’ll ask. I’ve seen any number of flavors of this; a friend, or the author himself, makes up some literary agency name and fake-0-addy at the bottom of their signature line thinking this will make a difference with me.
The problem is that their insufficient query letter gives them away. Authors who play tricks that go splat don’t know enough about the industry to pull the wool over an editor’s eyes. Only the experienced can appreciate the author’s transparency, and we’ll sell tickets to watch these good folks stick in goo up to their necks.
Other author tricks that splat are:
Fluffing the bio. If you tell me you’re sporting a Pulitzer on your mantle [yes, this actually happened a few years back], then you’re a bonafide clod-hopping, disease-riddled bovine if you don’t think we won’t check.
Fluffing the promo plan. Now this is harder to ferret out because it’s based on what you’re gonna do, not what you’ve already done. I’ve had my knickers pulled down enough in this arena to pay close attention to the author’s platform. If an author tells me Stephen King and J.K. have agreed to write a foreword, yet the author sells tractors for a living, I’m going to be a tad suspicious. Yes, this really happened as well.
Edited to add:
Making up fake literary awards. That just came in with a query this morning. Don’t. Just. Don’t. We check these things.
Authors who reduce themselves to tricksies are shouting out “I SUCK!” They don’t know anything about the publishing industry and are trying to find the key to a nonexistent back door.
Take a breath. It’s ok if you don’t have an agent. Your best bet is to simply go on the strengths of your story and not try to gee-whiz me with fakery. After knocking around these here parts for a while, I’m relatively gee-whiz proof.