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.
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.