Nathan Bransford, Author


Monday, October 6, 2008

Unsolicited Drop-ins

This kinnnnnnda should go without saying, but even if you live next door to an agency do not stop by to drop off an unsolicited query or manuscript or ask to speak with an agent. If you saw some of the e-mails I get you'd know there's no way I'm coming out of my office.






71 comments:

M Clement Hall said...

The thought of "dropping-by" in San Francisco has its attractions!

Marilyn Peake said...

LOL. Did that happen??

Totally off-topic, earlier today I discovered this video of a monkey working as a waiter:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9zyErZNhq0
I seem to remember monkeys being mentioned on this blog a couple of weeks ago.

sl said...

I would assume that the majority of your clients do not live in the bay area. But if you did pick up a client in the area, would you be inclined to have business lunches every so often? Or do you prefer to do most of your business via telephone/computer?

I'm just curious.

Nathan Bransford said...

sl-

I definitely meet up with clients when they're in the area! One of the perks of being in SF.

And yes, this really happened.

Sophie W. said...

Dear Lord, that's enough to make me want to carry mace in my backpack and never leave the house. How does someone get it into their head that this kind of behavior is okay?!

bryan russell said...

"Hi Mr. Brampton. I'm here because I want you to sell my book to Random House. I was going to mail you the manuscript, but it weighs fifty-nine pounds. It sure costs a lot to mail a fifty-nine pound package, let me tell you. So I decided to bring it in myself. It's out here, in the wheelbarrow. I'll just sit over here in this chair while you start reading it. Actually, I took two whole weeks off work, so I can be here every day. And I know you said you liked 12pt font, but the office supply store didn't have enough paper for that, so I figured 6pt font was good enough. I brought gramma's reading glasses just in case. Here's a knife so you can cut the twine around the first bundle."

Jeanie W said...

That's creepy. Was this querier someone who follows your blog?

I suppose one of the dangers of frequent blogging is that people you don't know can get an unrealistic sense of familiarity. You are wise to define clear boundaries.

Anonymous said...

Nathan, I am so curious as to what is in those queries that would stop you coming out of your office @#$?

I remember reading somewhere else in your blog that people made inappropriate references to your cuteness. Do you think that this sort of thing might stop if you took down the picture of yourself?

Elyssa Papa said...

Oh god. Just when you think the world can't get any stranger, it does.

I'm assuming that this person was told a firm no when asked to see you. Or I hope he/she was.

Lupina said...

That feels very close to stalking to me. I trust the "neighbor's" dropped-off ms went into the circular file? Did he/she ask to borrow a cup of sugar and a DVD of The Hills as well?

Abi said...

whoa...talk about crossing boundaries! Lock your doors Nathan, lock your doors.

Dee Carney said...

The fact that you have to post this tickles me pink and leaves me horrified at the same time. Yikes!!

Margaret Yang said...

LOL, Bryan Russell! Where's that screen cleaner when I need it?

moonrat said...

ohhh my god. BEEN. THERE.

Elissa M said...

I imagine the person in question is simply clueless rather than dangerous. But ya never know... like abi said: lock your doors.

Lady Glamis said...

Quite scary. Good luck getting home tonight.

Brian Jay Jones said...

Caaaaaandygram.

janeyolen said...

When I was an editor, I was regularly stalked by overeager writers. So I fellowfeel for you, Nathan.

But I also understand the anxiety that brings out the stalking instinct in otherwise quiet and non-dangerous individuals aka writers. They are told by writers' magazines and author's own stories that one must make one's own luck. And what could be luckier than living near an agent or passing and editor or famous writer in the grocery aisles.

Jane

Jeanne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris said...

Gosh darn stalkers...They're so inconvenient. Just once I'd like a stalker who took the time to make a regular appointment just like everyone else. Just because you're psychotic doesn't mean the rules don't apply to you. Jeez! :)

Good thing you took those karate classes, right, Nathan? Finished that kickboxing course too, right?(Just play along and the stalker will get nervous. Don't thank me now.)

JES said...

I know you don't have an assistant/minion (er, or have things changed?). But please tell me someone can't simply walk into your building, look you up on the directory by the elevators or whatever, and then enter your office without having to run a gantlet of some kind.

You know what you need? A life-size inflatable s*x toy. Just leave it propped alongside your desk; whenever someone comes in unexpectedly, push your chair back and act all flustered. Bet you'd see some fancy back-pedaling then.

P.S. Best to warn your co-workers if you actually decide to do this.

clindsay said...

Wait, WHUT? Tell me someone didn't really do this to you.

Anonymous said...

I certainly would never go into your place of business, but it's okay if I stand around outside and watch you go in and out and follow you to lunch and just happen to run into you there and drop my manuscript on the floor "by mistake" and then comment that you look remarkably like this agent on a blog I follow religiously and then slip my query into your pocket, right?

That's okay, right?

clindsay said...

Okay, come to think of it...when I worked in the old Random House building at 201 East 50th in NYC, the security was, shall we say, less than fabulous. One day this oddly dressed fellow showed up in my office doorway, waving a brown paper wrapped package. Having only worked there six weeks, I didn't yet know everyone and I assumed he was someone who was supposed to be in the building. Imagine my surprise when he walked in, handed me his manuscript and asked me if I would read it. Right then. He'd wait. No problem.

I was kind of flabbergasted. I informed him that I was actually in marketing, not editorial. He then asked me which floor the editors were on.

That's when I called security.

benwah said...

Last spring I went out to SF to visit my brother. Prior to hopping the airplane I queried Nathan with the hope that he would request a partial. My mind had already scripted the scene where I hand delivered these pages along with a bottle of Maker's Mark. (Bribe? What's a bribe?)

Of course, I woke up to find that Nathan had passed on my project, and I drank the Maker's myself as a consolation prize.

For some reason I have a mental image of Nathan's "pop-in" author as John Cusack with the boom box over his head.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

I've been to San Fran. I know whereof you speak.

Stay safe even if it means others start calling you Hermit. You can tell them your name's really Herman and you had a great career in the Disco Era.

Scott said...

I bet the person simply thought he or she were being ambitious. Then again, I didn't see him or her or hear his or her heavy breathing.

I'm extremely careful of how I contact anyone in the industry because I've seen and heard the stories, but I never really saw an indiscretion as anything other than a rookie mistake.

Recently I sent a screenplay agent I had spoken with who had somehow vanished on me a gift of my new book. I included a simple handwritten note to make it clear it was a gift and to let her know I was still working.

And you know what? I'm still worried I crossed a line.

Jan said...

Oh darn, my hubby and I have a two hour lay-over in SF this Sunday. Guess seeing Nathan is out of the question now!

It is from 8-10pm on a Sunday night though so you'll probably be just arriving be in the office anyway :)

He he, the nerve of some people thinking that they can just pull you away from you email and blog!

Maris Bosquet said...

I ran into that when I was editing pet books. It was a little like the neighbor banging on your back door while you're in the bathroom--and the bathroom's outer wall abuts the stoop where the neighbor is standing.

Eric said...

This whole post has me imagining some overweight dude in a Yahoo Serious t-shirt pounding on the glass door of an agency shouting, NATHAN NATHAN I AM GUESSING YOU HAVE NOT YET GOTTEN TO MY E-MAIL, HERE IS MY NEW MANUSCRIPT IT IS CALLED HARRY POTTER AND THE CRISIS ON WALL STREET, NATHAN WHY WON'T YOU COME OUT NATHAN PERHAPS I WILL JUST LEAVE IT HERE THEN

A Paperback Writer said...

Nathan,
You need to hire a retired junior high school teacher as security.

Just where do you think you're going, young man? Did you get permission to bring in that manuscript? Really? Let me see the letter. Just as I thought; you don't have one.
No, I'm sorry; you'll have to go back. Don't give me any excuses; just go. NOW!

Trust me; it would work.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear. When I had a home office, people did it all the time. What surprised me was that sometimes they were professionals themselves. They should have known better.

LiteraryMouse said...

What if we lure you out of your office with a carefully laid trail of chocolates. We can do that, right? Right?

JimCripps said...

Brian Jay Jones apropos comment, "Candygram." Perfect. Just imagine it,

knockknock
"Who is it?"
"Candygram."
"I didn't order a candygram."
"Florist."
"No, I'm allergic, thank you."
pause
"Manuscript."
"Oh!Okay!!"

Adaora A. said...

I'm amazed. Did they even sweeten the deal with some good drink? Just kidding! That's pretty incredible that people would think it's OK to just 'drop-in' like an old friend (or a client) and drop their stuff like that. I don't know whether to be embarassed for them or if I should offer to send them an ettiquette package/

Furious D said...

I encountered an agent who wouldn't come out of their office even though I had an appointment.

When I was in college in Toronto there was a lot of interest in people with comedy writing experience. I got in contact with one of the agencies looking for comedy writers, a pretty big player at the time, and made an appointment to see an agent.

I arrive at the office, and the receptionist wouldn't undo the chain on the door, I had to slide my writing samples through the gap. Apparently she refused to believe that I had an appointment.

That agency went belly up about a year later. Not enough clients. I wonder why.

nomadshan said...

Okay, there are stones, and there are cojones, and then there are giant globes of titanium. I'm surprised that person could walk with those.

Ulysses said...

I can see how this can happen. The process of acquiring an agent has certain similarities to applying for a job. Certainly, when applying for a job, dropping by in person is not discouraged.

HOWEVER, one other point of similarity between the job and agent hunt is that neither should be approached without prior research. Although the prohibition against drop-ins is not often mentioned explicitly, even minimal research will discover the correct way to approach an agent and drop-ins are not mentioned anywhere.

Once again, it's a case of people reading the blog not needing to be told, and the people needing to be told not reading the blog. All we can do is offer you our sympathies and the sincere hope that they didn't try to sell you anything.

Deaf Brown Trash Punk said...

HEY DONT WORRY MAN. I'm not gonna visit you, cos I hate speaking to strangers and I get really shy.

Thank god for EMAILS

Marilyn Peake said...

This discussion reminds me of Steven Spielberg in his early years, trying to break into film:
http://www.snopes.com/movies/other/spielberg.asp

Annalee said...

oooh, creepy.

I seem to recall Patrick Nielsen Hayden telling a story once about someone showing up at his office in costume to pitch a project to him. As someone who always dresses up at cons and works at a renaissance fair, all I could think was "why would someone think that was ok?"

Lorelei Armstrong said...

I have my first-ever book signing in San Francisco in ten days. I promise I won't stop by. I'll wave from Alexander's.

Lizz Huerta said...

has this happened more than once? you need to get a slingshot.

Anonymous said...

Paperback Writer is correct. I have been a junior high teacher. We are effective and the world needs more of us! :-)

spinregina said...

This drop in came via email, from a DJ who was employed by a company that went bankrupt. They were supposed to supply the music for an event I was managing...when they went bankrupt I went with another company; he tracked me down, and voila...(this is long, so skip it if you don't have time.)
Dear xx,
As per our phone chat, here is my contact info and a resume.
I’m self-employed full-time in the music and entertainment industry.
I also have a great deal of special event and PR experience, 10 years of education with a Communication Degree and Music Diploma. With an encyclopedic knowledge of music, I am an excellent, fun and personable DJ.
I am probably one of the very few DJ’s in the industry who is a real musician and fully self-employed in music. Not an easy task in this day and age (ask anyone how much music they or their kids have illegally downloaded or copied, my industry is being robbed $700 million a year in Canada alone). Not to be dramatic but with my background and aptitude, I am fully a living example of someone who’s career is stolen by this situation.
Thus I do count on these shows to make a living and DJ’ing is not just a side job for me. Plus I enjoy it. I’m do have to express that I’m a little upset at this situation with the show on Sat night. I had this
booked on my calendar for several months and there was a contract.
I’m an independent contractor.
Despite the situation with xx, we did contact you and try to honour the contract. Yet it was just given to xx.
I have performed 3 booked weddings and at the Terry Fox Run with brilliant results since this has happened to us. (Illustrating that we as DJ’s being honourable, good business people and not leaving these folks in the lurch....tho their deposits were frozen by the bank....we paid ourselves from the balance).
I still feel this should be my show. If you want I can talk to
Fusion and explain the situation and see if I can work it out with them.
I do appreciate your offer to do other events and please contact me for future shows.
Thanks & Best Regards,xx


Yikes. Thank god he doesn't have my address.

Anonymous said...

Dish the dirt dude... Don't hold back.

Before the internet I imagine that happened more frequently. Probably left a pile of never read or rejected manuscripts in the corner and oh so politely asked the person to try to slip theirs in under all the rest and laughed when they tumbled to the floor and the person picked them up.

Its a dog eat dog world.

I send bizarre query letters to agents occasionally just for laughs. Its therapuetic.

Show me three great pieces of literature from the last three years and I'll never do it again. which segways into the petrified forest of blogs writer wannabees leave dotting the net of nots.

I think the right strategy is the artists write and the merchants sell. Good writers good merchants makes for a healthy industry. There are no shortcuts.

Dr. Suess was rejected 27 times and they have sold 200 million worth of that stuff. So.....

Can anyone really cherry pick literature.
Hmmm...

Hang in there Nathan.

Anonymous said...

the makings of a novel...

(everyone in the theater: duck!)

Stacey said...

I suppose when authors get really desperate, they don't think straight.

I'm glad they weren't more crazy so we still have Nathan around to write in his blog...although he has been awfully quiet today throughout this conversation.

(Panicking) Nathan...are you still alive?

TerriRainer said...

I'm guessing it would be a bad idea to stalk an agent, keeping out of sight, of course, since "dropping in" doesn't work well for you?

Just a thought, no plans on stalking any agents, but it's good to know your thoughts on these things.

:) Terri

Blu said...

Are you cute? Hmmm, let me see...

You know, you are kinda cute! I'm cute too. Isn't that a game changer? I can drop in, can't I? With my stilettos on...

Stephanie said...

Editors always talk about being chased into bathrooms at conferences and authors shoving manuscripts under bathroom stall doors. But try to explain this to someone in sales. They say the aggressor always gets what he/she wants. It just doesn't work in the publishing industry.

Marilyn Peake said...

I’m wondering if being at the right place at the right time makes a huge difference as to what’s acceptable behavior. I was watching a televised show of Book Expo America a couple of years ago. At one point, as the commentators were pausing, a young man ran up to a famous film director who was leaving the conference and handed him something. The film director paused, looked surprised; then smiled and said, "Sure, I’ll be happy to take a look at it. I’ll read it on the plane."

Just_Me said...

This didn't inspire a novel, but it showed up in my writing groups prompt for the week. We had to write a query letter that was also a marriage proposal... inspired by this story at pubrants

http://pubrants.blogspot.com/2008/04/whats-in-typo.html

Frank Cole said...

Ah, but I already booked my flight!

denese said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeanne said...

Okay- I commented yesterday but took it down because I mentioned that my my friends have warned me to stop posting pictures of my children on my blog because they are worried about stalkers. I think it's crazy. Then, I had a twinge of fear and removed my comment. But, after thinking about it a little longer I'm back to my original feeling. I'm not afraid that blogging will encourage stalkers. At least not for someone like me who has nothing to offer- unilike Nathan.
However, I this post is funny. I'm sorry. It's also scary. But, Nathan has a way of making light of the situation. I would probably be really freaked out, take down my blog (so I wouldn't encourage stalkers.)
Don't take your page down- it's too interesting. In my next life I want to be a writer. I enjoy all your great tips.

j

Anonymous said...

I'm going to play devil's advocate here. Perhaps the person thought your office was like other businesses. I know I can drop off my electic bill at our electric company. I can drop something off at the cable company. Were they attempting to talk to you or simply drop off a piece of business correspondence at a place of business?

nona said...

When I had my Western Wear store in Arizona (yes, I really did) I used to get letters stamped "State Penitentiary" from inmates trying to sell me hitched horsehair.

I went back to Chicago and got a paralegal certificate and that’s when the fun really started. I used to have to hand-deliver documents to various law offices all over town and I’d have to say that in half the offices I delivered to, the receptionist was behind bullet-proof glass.

Then the calls started at my own office, right around Christmas time, with the psycho who wanted the attorney’s cell number and wouldn’t stop calling. I did Worker’s Comp and this guy was brain damaged from a work-related car wreck and he was off his meds. Then there was time the Psych Ward called and warned the attorney I was working for that they were holding a guy who still had a grudge against my boss because he had lost his case several years ago, and that legally they could only keep him for a few days and then they would have to let him loose, and that we should “plan accordingly.”

One day around Halloween I asked my boss what he was going to be for Halloween and he said, “An attorney. For me it’s Halloween every day.”

But for your garden variety publishing industry psychos the junior high teacher as bodyguard sounds just about as good as any:

“What all you doin’ in here, boy? Ain’t I done told you not to show up widout a ‘pointment? Now go on and get outta here ‘fore I call yo daddy. You don’t want me to go there, boy. I know yo daddy done beat the tar outta you the last time this happened.”

Cat said...

For years I was one of those dragon ladies outside the boss's door. My job was to keep everyone out and screen every call. I got a kick out of it (strange little power trip?). Once I even told a salesman to his face that my boss was out when in fact she was standing behind me, and another time I escorted by boss's business partner's new employee out of the building because they didn't recognize her (again she was standing right next to me). I hope you have a good dragon lady outside your door!

Will Entrekin said...

@Benwah:

My mental image was more Being John Malkovich John Cusack than Say Anything . . . John Cusack.

denese said...

OK. I deleted my post, but following jeanne's lead, I'll republish it.

I don't want to sound like a bumpkin, but Nathan, I am surprised by your post. It would seem to me that dropping off a manuscript at an agent's office would be, uh, normal and not at all creepy.

Maybe I've lived in Louisiana too long or something (well, I'm smart enough to know *that* to be true).

I can only imagine the many faux pas I've committed in this lifetime without knowing it…

ChrisEldin said...

Marilyn has a great idea: Send monkeys to you with manuscripts...
:-)

Meg Wiviott said...

Do some people just not think??

I just had an oven repair man here - my oven needs a new "mother board" or some such thing - but he told me to be sure I'm not using the oven when he comes back to repair it. He said there are countless times when he goes to someone's house to repair the oven and they've been using it! How can he repair the oven if it's 400 degrees??

It makes for a scary world.

Nathan Bransford said...

Denese-

Well, there are a couple of reasons why we publishing people get skittish about unsolicited drop-ins. For one, it's just simple politeness to arrange these types of things ahead of time. But most importantly, we are subject to a whole lot of hostility from a whole lot of unbalanced people, and that tends to make us paranoid.

And for the record, this person wasn't just dropping something off, they wanted to speak with me. I didn't come out of my office. If I were in another line of work I might not be as skittish, but not this one.

Stacey said...

He is alive! Phew!

Bella said...

Unbelievable... I must live in a bubble, because I would never have imagined!

Steppe said...

I could see myself handling that both ways depending on how I felt at the moment.

You have to trust your instincts.
There are very few white collar professions that don't give a serious going over to walk-ins.

On a good day I would have eye balled the perp with the trusty stare of death while listening; then read him the riot act.

On a bad day I would be peeking out the
drapes taking down his license number and swallowing a chill pill.

This would make good contest material.
Character X has to convince character Y against their will to do action Z.

Fictional response to an office interloper.

"Are you the guy who has been calling me at 2:05 am for the last five years?
(Throw in eye twitches and involuntary grimaces) Cause if you are today is your day. Brother!! Today is yorrrrrrr DAY!"

Hang tough dude.
This too shall pass.

Jeanne said...

I can totally see how being in a job like Nathan's could be "dangerous."

First off - think of the guy in "Sideways" with the 10,000 page story of his life that he was so stressed about having published. Someone pours their very complicated insides out onto paper and feels vulnerable, and wants validaton.

Then, I've got a few Mensa members in my extended family. The smartest people I will probably ever know. Also, people I would be freaked out to see in a dark alley- if they weren't my blood. In fact- maybe even then. You know the saying about "genius being close to insanity.."

So, hang in there Nathan. And I promise my Uncle (the weirdest one with the 160 IQ) isn't into writing- and will never bother you. He makes jewelry and goes to Roswell every year to commune with the Extra Terrestrials.

nona said...

I LOVE the movie "Sideways" but I hope to God I never become "Miles." "Jack" maybe, but never "Miles."

And for the slightly deranged and scary bodyguard I was channeling Dwight Yoakam as the abusive boyfriend "Doyle Hargraves" in the movie, "Sling Blade."

Get yourself an assistant like this Nathan, to run interference for you and you'll never have to worry again.

Wandering Chopsticks said...

Umm, this would be like when a reader, who had never ever commented before, emailed me to ask if she and her hubby could come over for dinner.

lone lawyer said...

I feel for you! I am an attorney who practices as a public defender, so I get whoever the court assigns to me. We live in a very small town, so a low profile is not possible. One day I walked out my back door and found one of my creepiest clients sitting in the back yard. I am pretty good at getting rid of people, but this one was tense. I have to be nice, I like having glass in my windows. However, boundaries must be set . . . and set them I did.

BTW, this client had a delusion that she was a groupie for a well-known 'boy' band and that each member of the band was the father of one of her kids . . .

Soldier on and have an escape plan!

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