So you can read my books

Saturday, March 29, 2014


"Hell is other people."

Jean-Paul Sarte wrote that a long time ago.
A good friend quoted it last night in an email.

Recently, she received a rejection from what she called an Uber-Agent.

The agent wrote that if my friend was too stupid to know how to change the formatting of her email then she was too stupid for the agent's time.


When I first started out, I got a similar reply, and I learned how to do it.

I wrote my friend how to change her format. It's a guy-thing.

We hear a friend tell of a problem, we tell how to fix it.

Counselor Rule #1: Listen beneath the words.

My friend is smart. She learned how to format all on her own, thank you very much. No. That wasn't the problem.

Most agents are just like us:

Overworked, underpaid, wondering how to pay the mounting bills in this harsh economy.

You really can't blame them for looking for new ways out of growing debt.

Counselor Rule #2: Cruelty is never personal.

Now, when your nose has just been broken by a bully, it's hard to convince your pain of that. But it's true.

Cruelty is all about some lack, some insecurity in the instigator of it.


The Uber-Agent did my friend a favor.

The cutting rejection was just the tip of the iceberg.

It implied that the agent took the ability to hurt without consequence as license to do so.

I certainly wouldn't want a business partnership with a sadist. I want a professional.

There is a reason we lock the doors when we leave home.

Not everyone is a crook. But they are out there.

Moral: Never wear a raw meat necklace in the jungle.

Counselor Rule #3 : Would you just shut up and do Rule #1.

My friend wrote me because she was beginning to believe that the world of agenting was harsh, greedy, and pain-inflicting.

Counselor Rule #4 : Sometimes the other person is right.

I agreed with my friend that sometimes business is a cold world of numbers. She was indeed right. I went further.

It just wasn't the world of agenting: the whole world was often that way.

Counselor Rule #5 : It is what is. What are you going to do now?

Resigning from the world is not an option.

Within you there is a path out of whatever jungle you find yourself.

Sign Post #1: See the jungle through the other person's eyes:

Mostly the world runs on self-interest.

The agent is not Mother Theresa. She wants to make a good living for her efforts. Just like we do.

You are merely one of the means to do so.

If you're not helping her put money into her pockets,

then the time she is using on you is taking money out of those same pockets.

Solution: Make yourself worth her time.

Learn your craft. Strive to grow daily. Accept assholes as the price of living.

Try not to become an asshole yourself.

Help the people you meet along the way. Become the change you want to see in the world.

Sign Post #2 : Remember Rule #2

It hardly ever is personal when someone hurts you.

It comes from the hurt within them. Look for that hurt. Try not to step on that sore toe ever again.

As long as it is honorable, dance whatever dance that takes.

Sign Post #3:

If you're heading in the wrong direction,

darting forward is certainly not going to get you to your desired destination any faster.

Sometimes harsh people are right in the wrong way. Look at your work. Could it be improved?

Of course it could.

Could you learn more about the busisness end of writing?

Of course you could.

Reading agents' blogs is like listening to Presidential Press Agents:

You are only hearing what they want you to hear.

Those blogs will give you a guide on how not to irritate the agents.

But the true skinny lies behind those curtains.

Sign Post #4: Go behind those curtains.

The blogs that will help you do that:

Two Books that will help you do that :


{In April 1938 F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote to his editor Maxwell Perkins, "What a time you’ve had with your sons, Max—Ernest gone to Spain, me gone to Hollywood, Tom Wolfe reverting to an artistic hill-billy."

As the sole literary editor with name recognition among students of American literature, Perkins remains permanently linked to Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Wolfe in literary history and literary myth.

Their relationships, lived largely by letters, play out in the 221 letters Matthew J. Bruccoli has assembled in this volume.

This collection documents the extent of the fatherly forbearance, attention, and encouragement the legendary Scribners editor gave to his authorial sons. The correspondence portrays his ability to juggle the requirements of his three geniuses.


Blake Snyder was a working, selling writer himself, so that gives the reader a true inside glimpse into what it's like, what it takes, and what to expect on the long road to screenwriting success.

Many screenwriting how-to books are written by people who have few or no real studio credits, so with this book you are getting the info direct from the source of a successful member of the Hollywood elite.

Synder starts out with a bang, describing how important a good title, pitch and concept are, and giving tons of useful advise for whipping those log lines into shape, {the best shape ever in fact, for as the author points out, many industry powerbrokers won't even look beyond a log it better be good. Very good}

He also gives an insider's look at the world of screenwriter's agents {which is not so different from the world of literary agents.}
I thought that if my friend felt as she did, then others out there in the blogverse probably did, too. I hope that today's post helped in some small way



  1. What a really helpful post this has been, Roland -- thank you for the wise advice and the links.

    Years ago I read a biography of Maxwell Perkins, and I've never forgotten the story it told of what publishing used to be like: a "gentleman's business" in which an editor had the freedom to work with a writer over years, if that's what it took to mold a book. Now publishing houses are run by conglomerates and decisions are made by the marketing department and seldom by even the best editors. Sigh. Times have changed.

  2. Excellent tips for non-writing universes too. Very lucid, very helpful. Thank you.

  3. We are also hell to other people of course - some of us more so than others.
    Love your tips - and if only really listening was as easy as you make it sound.
    Hard, valuable, exhausting work. As is shutting my mouth.

  4. Excellent post, Roland. Good advice for every area in one's life.

    Hugs and chocolate,

  5. Helena:
    Yes, when Maxwell Perkins was an editor the publishing game, though a business, of course, possessed a certain humanity it lacks now. I guess every facet of our culture suffers from such a lack.

    I'm glad you enjoyed this post. :-)

    Listening beneath the surface and putting ourselves in the other person's position is helpful in many facets of our life as you say. I am glad to see you here.

    Elephant's Child:
    All of us are cast in roles in people's lives of which we are totally unaware usually. At least we get to pick our own lines! :-)

    Yes, true listening requires thinking along with hearing the words! Ouch. I don't want to think. :-)

    Never restrict your thoughts around here. They are all welcome. Have a great weekend.

  6. Hey, Sartre may have been having a bad day at the café. And I feel just like that when driving on the freeway.

    It's up to the writer to educate themselves, not many will hold our hand and guide us through.

    I subscribe to Writer Beware posts and read that more than the others. And, it's not just a 'guy thing' to want to fix problems, mothers have that inclination as well.

  7. Shelly:
    How like a man -- I was "talking" while you were commenting!

    I'm really happy that you got something out of this. Listening and seeing out of the other person's eyes can help us in so many ways. Now, to take my own advice! :-) Thanks for commenting.

  8. D.G.:
    Once again, just like a man I was blathering away while you were commenting!

    Sarte, being a philosopher of existentialism, had a dark view of life.

    He was awarded the 1964 Nobel Prize in Literature but refused it, saying that he always declined official honors and that

    "a writer should not allow himself to be turned into an institution"

    I know that writing can threaten to send me to an institution!

    When he was twelve, Sartre's mother remarried, and the family moved to La Rochelle, where he was frequently bullied. That could be where he first began to feel as he did about the human race.

    I feel like the human race is suicidal when I am on the highways!

    You're right: mothers do want to fix things and make them all better for those they love. :-)

  9. Roland, I've read several of Sartre's books, but didn't know about the bullying. His characters were sometimes dark too. Isn't he just saying writers shouldn't be like 'Disneyland', and sell themselves to the marketing machine. Unfortunately now, we don't have much choice.

  10. D.G.:
    Yes, bullying seems to have scarred so many all through history. It is one of the less pleasant universal traits of Man!

    Sigh: you're right. It seems in order to succeed and be able to support ourselves as writers we must play the game. :-(

  11. It changes things, once you learn that people who need to bully you are insecure, don't feel good about themselves, and like to stomp on you with their power, because they can. We are always responsible for our own reactions to people and situations. Your posts are so helpful, not only to writers, but to everyone. It is so good to see the time and care you put into them. And this in addition to books you write and the work you do so support yourself. Do you ever sleep?

  12. Sorry I was distracted by Bruce Campbell's awesomeness!

  13. Inger:
    It is so good to see you here! Mother explained bullies to me when I was young, though I complained that understanding them didn't make my broken nose hurt less!

    You are right: our last freedom is the freedom to choose what reaction will be ours to others' meanness.

    I'm glad you see that I try to make my posts applicable to everyone who hurts, not just writers. :-)

    My cancer surgeries have certainly taken their toll on my writing novels. Victor is complaining that it has been months since I put him in that carnival of the damned -- and would I please get him the sfumato out of it!!! :-)

    Right now my eyes are so heavy it is not funny. I will lie down for awhile, waiting for the next hospital to call. Whew!

    I love Bruce Campbell too! In my entertainment room is an autographed movie poster of ARMY OF DARKNESS with his autograph, Sam Raimi's, Bridget Fonda, and a few others. "Hail to the King, Baby!" ;-)

    I only watch BURN NOTICE for him -- all right, and for Fiona, too! I didn't realize until just recently that she was the young escort who danced tango with Pacino in SCENT OF A WOMAN.

    Sorry to hear that one of the earliest directors of DR. WHO just died at the age of 82. :-(

  14. I realy didn't know much of Derek Martinus work. I think I only saw Spearhead from Space wit the 3rd Doctor. That is the only problem of following a program that is 50 years old.

  15. David:
    Dr. Who is almost an old a franchise as James Bond! (CBS had a live hour long TV telecast of CASINO ROYALE in 1954!)

  16. Until lately, I haven't really consciously acknowledged that when someone attacks me, it's not personal. It's a difficult one for me, and your perspective is helpful. Thank you, Roland. I also like what you said about not wanting a sadistic business partner. Good point.

    Take care of yourself, Roland.

  17. Robyn:
    Sometimes it is indeed personal but mostly it stems from a lack and an emptiness in the attacker. It doesn't take away the hurt, of course.

    But you and I are wise enough to heal -- the bullies are eternally lacking and empty.

    I am trying to take care. My eyes are so heavy but I just had to reply to your kind comments. :-)