“Hah, faked you!”

My brother used to chuck this out at me, along with the accompanying waggy finger in my face whenever he pulled a fast one on me. I was about six when he told me that I could grow rocks…y’know, like plants. All I had to do is bury a rock, water it, and the next day I’d have a pile of newborn rocks. Totally believing him because, after all, he was ten, I found a cool rock, buried it in the dirt, and dutifully watered it.

I barely slept that night because I was so excited to see how many new rocks would be born because of my efforts. I raced out early the next morning to find a huge pile of glistening rocks. Excitedly hopping on one foot, then the other, it was all I could talk about over breakfast until my sister – who was a god-like creature because at fifteen, she knew EVERYTHING – rolled her eyes and belted out the truth.

There is no such thing as growing rocks.

My brother had lied like a cheap rug, and made me feel like a Class-A Idiot. Predictably, he grabbed his stomach and laughed his fool head off, wagging his finger and yelling, “Hah, faked you!” Asshat.

But I see signs of this in publishing, and I’m not alone in this. Agent Kristin Nelson doesn’t like the great fake-out any more than I do because it’s just a rotten thing to do. I’m talking about the authors who, in an attempt to get their pages read asap, tell the agent or editor they have an offer on the table. Because there is a hint of an expiration date on a manuscript, we drop what we’re doing and quickly read it in order to see if we want it and can blackmail convince the author they’d much rather sign with us.

In most cases, I read a few pages and wish the authors luck in their new endeavors because, like Kristin, I’m suspicious they’re telling a hot one with the “I’ve been offered a contract.” In short, the writing simply isn’t there.

Not too long ago, an author did this “I gotta offer on the table,” so I hurriedly read the pages and loved it. I asked for the full. He wrote back to say he didn’t really have an offer, but was trying to find out if he had a good story or not. My enthusiasm convinced him he was on the right track. Thankyouverymuch, I’ll get back to writing now. And hey, remember my name because I’ll query you when I’m finished.

Slow. Burn.

Oh yes, I will remember his name.

So why do we allow ourselves to get suckered? Because there are times when it’s for real, and the author does have an offer on the table. I had an author write me for advice regarding an offer she’d received. We got to talking, and I asked what her story was about. One thing led to another, and I signed her because she writes like the wind has a fabulous story.

There is a lot of magic that happens in publishing and is the main reason I love this insane business so much. There is nothing cooler than watching a story you’ve massaged and worked on for months on end finally hit the stands. It’s like watching your kid go off to college, except there are no tears and achy heart.

Every day, something amazing happens with one or several of our authors, and I can only sit back and bless the Cosmic Muffin for our good fortune. For those those who waggle a finger and taunt, “Hah, faked you!”, I can guarantee they will be paid back in kind because the Cosmic Muffin loves karma and keeps a very big score card.

8 Responses to “Hah, faked you!”

  1. authorguy says:

    As if you don’t have enough slush to wade through.

  2. WHO on earth would do this to a publisher? Okay, maybe if you play poker as a hobby (or maybe if your book is about poker or risk-taking), you could try the “I’ve got an offer already” bluff, but if the book isn’t even finished yet, how-how-how big are your cojones? Karma holds a grudge, man.

  3. Frank Mazur says:

    Well, I can’t say I approve of those authors’ foolish tricks, but your brother, Lynn, wasn’t entirely wrong. What he might not have known at his young age is that the earliest rocks in the form of sand particles migrated inward from the Atlantic and Pacific shores, and as they did, took on enormous amounts of building block ingredients from soil nutrients so that they became what we know today as the Rocky Mountains. You believe this, right???

  4. Authorguy: I never call it slush because I think it’s such a derogatory word. I prefer to call it my goodie pile…because thar be gold in them thar goodies.

    Gayle: True that, sistah.

    Frank: Don’t make me hurt you, big guy.

  5. I can understand doubts about the quality of one’s work, but blatant lies followed by admitting such blatant lies and then believing they won’t affect a business relationship… that’s the quality of one’s ethics. And is much more difficult to fix.

  6. Laura W. says:

    I’m commenting on this post because you closed off comments in your previous post (about the rejection noob). Can I just say that I love your response? His response was definitely sarcastic and unwarranted, and I think you had every right to be a bit snarky. (And feel free to snark at me for commenting on the wrong post, but I just wanted to give you some virtual applause.)

    You technically CAN grow rocks…just not in your backyard with water. Lol. Your brother reminds me of young me fibbing to my own brother. “We adopted you from the aliens…and they might want to take you back one day.” “Catatonic means a tonic made out of cats. You can ask Mom if you don’t believe me.”

  7. Laura, you crack me up. Thank you for your comments. I had to close the comments due to the 3 sock puppets that became an irritant.

    Adopted from aliens…gotta love it.

  8. Laura W. says:

    “Sock puppets” — perfect! Ha!

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