When manners don’t matter?

There’s an interesting rant/argument/brawl going on at AbsoluteWrite at the moment. In a nutshell, an agent who leads a well-known agency with lots of major success to her credit, posted the email query and dialogue of one unfortunate writer who started querying as to the status of his/her manuscript after it had been requested by her agency. As you can guess, people have come out on both sides of the argument, pointing out that emails are meant to be kept secret and the public flogging of this writer (the agent did cut out the novel in question and his/her name) is just not professional.

The most vocal supporter, of course, happens to be a writer who is represented by said agent. She’s posted on AW and now taken to her blog for her own rant against the hapless author who dared to ask where his/her work was in the queue *after* it had been requested by the agency. Her position, from what I can gather, is that agents owe nothing to the writers even if they ask for further chapters or partials or fulls or anything.

Hurm. As Rorschach would say.

I don’t have a dog in this fight, since I’m currently not looking for an agent. I’m pretty thrilled to have two books coming out with Samhain Publishing and would be darned happy to stay as one of their stable ponies for the future. But what does concern me here is the apparent lack of manners that’s being shown on all sides.

When I started writing (well, aside from my epic “Be Kinder to a Binder”, written and published when I was in 5th grade) computers were still in their infancy and the idea of emails were still rather new. It did hold, for the most part, that if I sent an email that it was meant to be the same as a private letter, between thee and me. And even if it went to a company,  I considered the correspondence to be private.

Now here comes a literary agent who feels that it’s no violation of this unspoken agreement of privacy to post emails between an author and her representative. Even if the person in question was wrong, and I don’t think anyone will ever know the full story, since we’re only getting one side of it, it still doesn’t justify putting personal correspondence out there on the net for all to see. That author is going to have a heck of a time submitting elsewhere, if ever. I wouldn’t blame him/her for retiring from writing altogether, after this violation.

I just don’t know what happened to good manners and civility. Toss the jerk’s manuscript if you want, but what’s the point of posting his/her emails on your blog? To embarass the poor person publically? To flaunt that you have the power over the mass of authors clamoring for your representation?

Maybe I’m just an old fogy who figures that manners DO still matter and that this was wrong, even if the guy/girl were being annoying.



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