Etiquette versus Intentions

I’ve run into a bit of a dilemma.

One of the people I’ve have shared my novel with locally is convinced “I’m ready for publication” (her words). A good feeling, right?

Yes…and no.

When she sent me her feedback on my novel, she said she’d be happy to speak with her writing friends to get me some agent recommendations and referrals.

That was kind of her, but I wanted more information on who these people were before she did anything. So I simply thanked her for the feedback and waited until our next meeting a few days later so we could discuss it in person. That’s when I found out she had already started talking me up to her friends.

And I was upset. I didn’t know who these people were, what they wrote, who they were agented by. Since this woman doesn’t write commercial fiction, I question her evaluation of my work in the first place, and wondered if her contacts would even be relevant to me.

Her help, while generous of her to offer, rubbed me the wrong way. We went from her offering to contact people on my behalf to her doing so without bothering to secure my permission.

I explained to her my reservations, and naturally she was offended. Said that she was only trying help. Didn’t I know that networking is how things were done these days?

Ugg. Yes, I’m not an idiot.

But for me the problem was etiquette. She should have asked. I should have the opportunity to ask questions and have them answered as to whom she wanted to approach. It is my work, so ultimately, I should have a say in what she does on my behalf. Right?

However, she was so certain that because her intentions were good, that she was doing me a favor, I shouldn’t have a problem.

But I do. I’m really close to querying this novel again. I feel I am at a delicate place, and any step forward with this project needs to be deliberate and well thought out.

Because I’m half this woman’s age, because she’s been agented twice before (most recently the early 1990’s even though no publications resulted from these arrangements) she feels she’s qualified to dictate to me what I should do. I joined the writing group she was in for feedback – not a self-elected mentor. I also think part of my aggravation stems from her motherly “I know better” attitude. Drives me crazy since some of her info is way out of date for today’s marketplace.

She wants to help, and I’m grateful for it. But she also jumped the gun (since I’m still collecting feedback and making edits) and went over my head. She thinks my objections have to do with me being “afraid of success” when really my concerns stem from a breach in etiquette, trust, and respect of me and my work.

Etiquette versus (admittedly good) Intentions.

Who is right? Am I blowing this out of proportion?
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13 thoughts on “Etiquette versus Intentions

  1. Laura Marcella says:

    If I were in your shoes, I'd want her to ask before doing anything, too! But to her it wasn't an etiquette thing because she thought she was doing something nice (it's probably something she wouldn't mind someone doing for her and that's why she thought it was a good idea).

    I don't think anyone is right or wrong here because someone else in your shoes might have liked what she did. But you would rather be consulted first before someone started talking about your project to potential agents and publishers. That's totally okay; it's your work and you should have say in all parts of it! You let her know how you feel about it, that you appreciate the gesture but in the future would like to be consulted first, and that's all you can do at this point.

  2. Lori M. Lee says:

    I would have been annoyed and wanted it discussed with me first. However, I really don't think she'll be able to see it that way because she honestly meant it to help. Unfortunately, when people realize their help isn't helpful, they typically get defensive and then you're left feeling ungrateful and that SUCKS.

    I think I agree with Laura though about how there's nothing to be done here except to let her know how you feel, which you did. Did you at least get information on who she had spoken to about your project?

  3. Bluestocking says:

    Thanks, gals! She definitely knows how I feel at this point and we have a month till our next meeting. So I'm kinda trying to take a break from the whole thing. As to who she talked to, I only got vague information and nothing like genre, experience, agent etc. Now she thinks I'm afraid to let things happen so (I think) she won't do anything until I ask her to. And at this point, I'm not sure I want to go there…

  4. L. says:

    Busybodies with good intentions… 😦

    Just wanted to wish you luck in finding a peaceful resolution. And who knows, maybe something will pan out from it.

  5. JEFritz says:

    I think you're right. Good intentions or no, she overstepped her bounds and there was nothing wrong with you telling her so.

    It's good that you have a month until your next meeting. I hope she'll be calmer about the whole thing and more respectful of your choices.

  6. Steph Schmidt says:

    Sounds like a busybody who wants to ride on the coat tails of others. If her advice isn't all that helpful I would slowly exit using her to review my work.

    Hopefully none of the authors and agents she reached out to think worse of you for it.

  7. Sher A. Hart says:

    More than anything else, I would be worried if an editor or agent saw this post and decided you don't take well to suggestions and help. If this woman sees this post, you'll have made one enemy too many. She might circulate it. Negativism towards those who try to help you is such a big no-no in the publishing world, you might want to remove this post. Sorry, but I fear for your future if you start off this way.

  8. Susan Kaye Quinn says:

    The most important thing to straighten out is your communications with her (assuming you still want to be in the crit group with her?). Everyone makes honest mistakes, and no one can force you to do anything you don't want re: submitting a MS. The agent/writer relationship isn't so delicate as to be damaged because someone gushed about your work, so I wouldn't worry about that part. Hopefully you can make your concerns clear, and she can (graciously) accept that she goofed a bit, and you can patch things up. At least I hope so! 🙂 #goodluck

  9. Bluestocking says:

    L. – Things are definitely peaceful right now. I hope it stays that way.

    JEFritz – I think she gets it, or will at least let me get used to the idea 🙂

    Steph – She only contacted her writer friends – no editors or agents as yet, which I'm glad for.

    Sher – Thank you for your perspective! This is exactly why I posted this, because I did not know if I was blowing this out of proportion or not. I don't think it's negative to relay situation that myself and potentially others may face at some point. Nor do I think I'm demonstrating “I'm not open to suggestions” simply because I'm questioning the etiquette of a situation. You're right that publishing is a small world, but if we are all so afraid to question the actions of others, that won't do us any good either. I do appreciate your concern though.

  10. Bluestocking says:

    Thanks Susan! I do think I can continue to work with her, so long as I'm clearer than I have been about the ground rules. I do think her enthusiasm about my project is what led to all this. So on the one hand I can't be too upset. But it does make me question the best way to handle it…

  11. Shizuka says:

    I see both sides of the coin.

    One — you're protective of your work and want to shepherd it. Not have it hijacked. And it's especially galling because she was offended when you explained your feelings.

    But she didn't submit to agents or do anything crazy like that. She just spoke to some of her writer friends for agent suggestions. It's up to you whether you contact these agents at all.

    What she did probably wasn't useful at all since she didn't consider specifics of genre, etc. But it doesn't seem harmful.

    The bigger questions — maybe she's not the right person to seek feedback from? If she doesn't write commercial fiction and her market info is way out of date maybe you're better off with a group that's more closely aligned to your interests?

  12. Gail Shepherd says:

    I think the best thing to do, Bluestocking, is just thank her politely for her help, tell her you're not ready to query right yet, but that you may call upon her in future. I don't think she can have done you any harm, either. Always best in these situations to believe the best of the other person, behave with generosity, and hold your ground. So I'm mostly agreeing with Shizuka's perspective.

  13. Elizabeth Twist says:

    The situation is yucky, but it sounds like you know what's best for your book. That's a good thing? I think that's a good thing. I am not sure I would call the intentions of this woman “good.” Trying to tell someone their business is condescending, not generous.

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