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How to get yourself blacklisted

28 July 2016

From In the Inbox:

A man named David Benjamin was unhappy an agent rejected him. He wrote a bitter blog post.

I’m providing this because I want you to know that people like this exist. Agents frequently have to protect themselves from this kind of abuse. The industry is small and agents pass this kind of thing on to each other. Note that this is not his first bitter post about an agent who rejected him.

. . . .

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Link to the rest at In the Inbox and thanks to Suzie for the tip.

PG’s initial reaction is, of course, that this guy should self-publish his ms and see how readers feel about it.

His second reaction comes from long legal experience with hundreds of clients and would-be clients. If a prospective client is someone who has hired and fired several attorneys before coming to PG, PG’s reaction is that even his unique PG-magic is unlikely to satisfy this particular client.

In some cases, this may be unfair to the prospective client, but every time PG has broken this informal rule, he has regretted doing so. On one memorable occasion, the local police had to drag a client out of his office.

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53 Comments to “How to get yourself blacklisted”

  1. Holy cow. I’ll bet this guy yells at waiters when his steak is a little undercooked.

    I’ve had bad experiences with literary agents before, but no good can come from smearing someone on the internet, where your content lives FOREVER. This guy is as clueless as teenagers posting nude pictures of themselves on social media.

  2. Sigh.

    Feel that? I sense the presence of Streisand in the Force.

  3. 1) Rude remarks about the appearance of someone (at least twice) as well as the companion “Hotlips” for his own wife are one dead giveaway. Makes you wonder where he would rate in a Mr. America contest.

    2) Lack of imagination. Do you think any of his blog readers find this sort of thing attractive? No? Me, neither. I’m only surprised the post rose to the level of discoverability to make it here.

    3) On the third hand… his basic rant is not without merit. If you’re on the receiving end, I’m sure it’s no fun. But the selection process so described is, of course, pretty bogus. (But then, most of us aren’t interested in the end result, either (trad publishing).)

    • Oh, I agree that this guy is a first-class jerk. (Idiot, probable misogynist, a few other things not suitable for a family blog.)

      But, wow. Just wow. This is something that I hadn’t heard about trad-pub yet. Paying someone fifty bucks to listen to you for ten minutes trying to convince them to take your money, please, please, pretty please?

      PG’s comment is apt – I’ve had something like that from the other side (the boss’s brother-in-law’s cousin that’s been fired from a dozen jobs already, and I was low man on the totem pole and ended up interviewing him). I don’t know his policy – but most lawyers will give you at least a few minutes gratis to explain your problem enough for them to decide whether to take your case on.

      • I thought it was a great demonstration of the idiocy of dealing with agents in the modern era. And proves he can write well.

        Sure, mostly likely no agent will ever want to talk to him again. But he’ll be better off without them.

      • I suspect the amount people pay increases the real jerk to just innocent sucker ratio as the fee increases.

        So, if it’s $50 for ten minutes, you probably are going to encounter about 1 real nasty jerk for every 30 nice struggling writers who are just foolish enough to think they have to pay to get noticed.

        At $100 for ten minutes, your probably have almost 1-10 jerk ratio. Of course, the higher fee probably makes the “agent” more willing to put up with it.

        I suspect at about $1,000 the jerk ratio gets up to about 1-1.

        While I certainly don’t approve of this writer’s nasty and self-destructive rant, I would say the real problem is charging writers for a seriously dubious service. People get really angry when they feel ripped off, but for some reason, angry people often seek it out.

        • The ‘pay to chat’ may be there to weed out the ones that aren’t really committed to the whole thing. Or she has enough on her plate that this was her fee for him wasting her time.

          If she is a ‘real’ agent that does actually ‘work’ for her money, that $50 may have paid for her to check him out and decide whether his attitude was worth a mere 15% of what his book might make. (Looks like she made the right choice from where I’m sitting.)

          On the other hand, she may have noticed how he rates those that reject him and was trying for the high score.

        • The way most conferences work, the conference makes the money from the authors at these pitches, not the agents. The agents go for a weekend and volunteer their time.

    • Calling your significant other by a pet name makes you a misogynist now? Well I don’t need to tell you what I think ‘Wow, just wow’ signifies.

      And his supposed unprofessional comments on her appearance indicated the pressure she’s under.

      But you’ve gotta find that misogyny, don’t you? Look under every rock till you do. I vaguely recall a time when accusing someone of holding half the human race in contempt actually carried some weight, rather than being a go-to insult.

      • Karen (whose comment you replied to and who noted the pet name) didn’t call him a misogynist.

        Reality Observer noted he may be a “probable misogynist.”

        The guy definitely does pepper his criticisms with sniping descriptions of appearances, such as:

        Alice, in her photo, has an endearingly schoolmarmish aspect — vaguely reminiscent of those pioneer pedagogues who ventured to the Plains in the 1880s to run little red schoolhouses, to stand her ground against loutish farmboys and take under her wing the incipient Laura Ingalls Wilders of the great American diaspora.

        (Or, maybe she just told the poor girls that literature is a man’s world and they should go back home. Learn how to butcher hogs and block quilts, honey. )

        Or

        Romance fiction is — by even the loosest literary measure — crap. By her admission, Alice makes some of her nut marketing romance. Selling crap.

        Maybe I’m not being fair. Romance sells like porn. It’s easy reading — painfully predictable, salaciously vicarious. For every agent, romantic shlock is a cash cow that allows her to take on writing more complex, difficult, prickly and high-falutin.

        In a way, Alice’s kiss-off flatters me. She honors my integrity for not sinking to the easy buck of romance. I could conclude that Alice turned me down because I’m too time-consuming for her to figure out.

        Or

        Elizabeth is a young and lovely honey-blonde who got her B.A. in English Literature in Tallahassee at the alma mater of noted scholars Jameis Winston and Burt Reynolds.

        I was impressed with her list of favorite authors, because I recognized five of the 13 names and noticed that one (Daphne Du Maurier) is actually dead. My experience with agents as dewy as Ms. Copps is that they tend to prefer authors whose age and gender are close to their own.

        …told me, as briefly as possible, that my story’s “not a good fit” for Lizzie and the Corvainis Agency.

        Noting her affinity for “wit” and “tightness,” I decide that “fit” isn’t boilerplate after all. It’s double entendre.

        Call him what you will.

      • Whether Hotlips is a pet name for one’s wife or just a rhetorical gesture of contrast, it’s surely a bit unseemly. I know if I referred to my husband of 40 years in public as “Studmuffin”, he would not be amused.

        So I wouldn’t do it. Therefore he doesn’t get a lot of respect for the “pet name”. Esp. since it’s there to contrast with the unflattering physical portrait of the agent.

        I don’t think of this so much as a gender thing (though it has more sting against women). If the agent had been male, he could have come up with equivalent insults. It’s just that when those sorts of descriptions (regardless of gender) are the first thing out of the box, it doesn’t bode well for the rest of his objectivity.

        Easy insults imply unserious writing.

      • “a pear shaped girl in a formless frock”

        Frankly, this doesn’t bother me but I can see how it triggered others’ misogyny meter.

        • Reminds me of “a fat guy in a wrinkled suit.”

          • The problem with the quoted line–and what makes it misogynistic–is that, unlike your example of a wrinkled suit, he wasn’t implying that her appearance was unprofessional or sloppy. The implication in specifically stating a woman is wearing “a formless frock” which he also likens to a tent, is, “Her clothing was so loose-fitting so as to disallow me the chance of adequately viewing, judging, and either dismissing or ogling her body. She did not, as is her obligation as a woman, provide the opportunity for me, as is my right as a man, to judge her based on her sexual desirability.”

            And that’s why saying those negative things about her appearance is misogynistic rather than giving informative description of the person. Would he have said something negative about the agent’s appearance if it had been a man? Quite possibly, but it probably wouldn’t have held the implicit accusation that he didn’t have enough information to imagine the agent naked.

            I glanced at some of his other ‘rejection’ posts, and it seems like he has something negative to say about everyone, valid or not. So I think he’s misogynistic, but that’s just one facet among many of his jerkishness.

        • Didn’t mean to stir up the sparks, there, people…

          Maybe a better term would have been “borderline misanthrope” there. Not dealing with trad-pub, I tend to forget that the majority of agency employees are female. So, of course, attacking that subgroup would be largely attacking women.

          From other things that I later skimmed from him, he’s more of a gender-neutral jerk. My apologies for misidentification.

  4. At his website, Benjamin has seven such anti-agent screeds. Seven!

    Maybe the agent he excoriates here had read the previous six accounts and said to herself, “Okay, I have to sit through ten minutes with this boor–that’s part of the job–but I don’t have to pretend any enthusiasm.”

  5. It seems quite clear at this point that the agents are rallying the troops. He’ll regret it all soon enough because they’ll make sure of it. This kind of “I’m hurt and I’m going to make someone pay” is unprofessional behavior in my opinion.

    But I’ve known that most agents aren’t real professionals for a very long time. The great number of them are nothing but scam artists. I’ve known too many writers who’ve been scammed by them!

  6. *subtly refills PG’s glass with the GOOD wine* So, about this alleged client that had to be extricated from your office by cops… that’s the story I want to hear! 😀

  7. Wow, just wow.

    But he does bring to mind a movie I’ll mis-quote:

    “Where’s you learn to be such an A$$? You take a class or something?”

    “Oh no, sir. It’s a God-given gift!”

    (Extra points for those that remember that bad movie!)

    • Mannequin. Except I’m almost positive BJ was asking James Spader’s character where he learned to kiss @55.

      • You are correct on both points, I said, I mis-quoted it to fit this.

        Nice to see I’m not the only one to remember that silliness. 😉

        • Whoops, I missed the part where you said it was deliberate! You might appreciate my peace offering. I immediately thought of the “Hollywood” character from that movie when I saw this:

          Key & Peele – “Gremlins 2” Brainstorm

        • Felix J. Torres

          Oh, you have company.
          Enough people saw that delightful fluff that it got a sequel.

          They don’t really make that kind of clean fun romcom anymore.
          The 80’s was good for the genre. SPLASH. Weekend at Bernies. Night of the comet. Rocketeer. (Now they’re remaking it and, of course, the new rocketeer is female and black. No mention about her sexual preference or medical history yet. For some reason I’m thinking of SPRINGTIME FOR HITLER. 🙂 )

  8. On one hand, I can understand some of his frustration and the fact that yes, this likely was a junior agent who didn’t really want to be there. I’ve done this kind of thing at conferences a long time ago and it is stressful and can be sometimes baffling for the writer.

    But the comments on her appearance are sexist and nasty and creepy and that alone would lead me to steer clear of this guy if I were an agent.

    If’s he done so much writing and has so much backlogged, why not self-publish? Maybe he’ll find an audience.

    But comments like this on a public blog aren’t going to win him any friends– aside from *maybe* some fellow aspiring writers who also believe the NY literary machine is conspiring against them.

    • Perhaps he’s angry because he needs the ‘validation’ of the gatekeepers, so this is his ‘sour grapes’ moment.

      There are no gatekeepers to provide validation on D2D or Amazon.

      I must be twisted, I found his post very funny.

  9. Submitting work is much like fishing. A seasoned fisherman knows that if nothing is biting that day, it does no good to urinate in the river before going home.

  10. I sympathize with the agents who had to put up with this clearly obnoxious person.

    I agree that he needs to just self-pub. But then I worry he’s gonna go and insult every person who doesn’t give him a glowing 5 star review. I can just imagine the author comments now…oh my.

  11. Whatever else you can say about this guy, he can certainly write.

    • I don’t agree. I mean, sure, he can press keys on a keyboard and has a good vocabulary, but there’s no style in his words and phrasing and the overall personality shown through his words seems to be “holier-than-thou mixed with a tinge of someone who’d use the phrase Social Justice Warrior.” If this is how tediously his books read, I can understand the numerous rejections.

    • He really can’t. He thinks more is better. Too many adjectives, too many adverbs, most of which he doesn’t use properly (“salaciously vicarious”? really?). Too many affectations – who calls a dress a frock?

    • I found him highly amusing.

  12. “…this guy should self-publish…”

    The answer (antidote) to most of these issues.

  13. For some reason I read that post and thought of this:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nV7u1VBhWCE

    But instead he’s saying “I’m a WRITER, can’t you understand that?!?”

  14. I stopped at pear shaped; this self centered clown lost my interest there. I sympathize with the agent who had to spend 10 minutes with this jerk.

  15. I saw this on Facebook posted by Anne Allen plus at least another well known sci-fi author, and from what I’ve been able to gather, the blog post is a hit on Twitter for the nasty reasons listed hear in the comments.

    Honestly, I would never stoop that low to rant about someone in a close-knit community like that. It can and will come back to bit him in the buttocks big time.

  16. Who gets the $50?

    • I suspect the split on the take is something like the split between the call girl and the madam…

      OTOH, if the comments attributed to these very junior flunkies by the OP are accurate – they have hopes for rapid advancement in the business.

  17. I am no fan of these pay to play events. I can understand his frustration. But he’s mean. He gets off on being mean. It doesn’t cost a thing to be decent. Not even nice, which might be tough with his world view. In looking at his site, he’s been part of trad publishing before. Yet now, he’s not. His tone suggests to me a large part of the reason why he’s seeking representation.

    Yes, he can write. But he’s mean, and he lashes out. I don’t feel sorry for him. You get what you give, and this guy shovels out heaping piles of &*#$. Who wants to work with that? More trouble than it’s worth.

    • “But he’s mean, and he lashes out.”

      Thus the reason it costs him $50 for ten minutes of someone else’s time. (I’d charge him more!)

      We all saw this type when we were little — this was the kid that their mom tied a steak around his neck so the family dog would play with him.

  18. Love that he lifted straight from “Alice’s Restaurant” by Arlo Guthrie for his long and obnoxious diatribe. Pretty sure that violates some copyrights. Wonder what gems his books would have as well.

  19. Note to OP: self-publish something that sells lots of books and the agents will flock to you. By then you won’t care.

  20. I was impressed by the guy’s writing style and his sense of humor. I don’t see what the big deal is. People blog about everything in their lives these days. Why shouldn’t he be able to blog about two encounters he paid for? Why does that make him a jerk. I like him.

    Oops, I guess that means I’m blacklisted now, too. Oh, shucks.

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