Tuesday, July 19, 2011

This is when lawyer veneer comes in handy

You may not know this, but one of the first lessons lawyers learn in law school is how to respond to really, really great news with no more than a coolly cocked eyebrow.  It's basically a Power Point Perry Mason montage.

This isn't the first time I've gotten someone to confess on the stand, and it won't be the last.  Haven't cracked a smile yet, not gonna start now.
So when I get a (rare) positive email from a literary type, I'm fairly good at resisting the happy-dance urge.  And yet, you don't want to go overboard with stoicism. It's a fine line between seeming aloof-but-interested and just plain aloof. 

Luckily in my most recent case, I happened to be gchatting with Lulu when the (hopefully) good news arrived, and she suggested a very nice response.  (When LawyerGirl Powers fail, consult a PRGirl.)  But what would I have done if Lulu hadn't been online?

I imagine I'm not the only one who has this question, so I figured I'd throw it out there for my fellow travelers in BlogLand.  Let's create a cheat sheet (in law school we called them "outlines") for other amateurs attempting to find an agent or get published so we can all be a little more Perry Mason-ish.

**Keep in mind, you don't need to be published or even at the point where you've been asked these questions to throw out suggested answers.  Sometimes it's best to be prepared for good news as well as bad.** 

You hear, "Interesting concept, but I have concerns with X.  Would you consider a rewrite and resubmit?"

You say, ________________________________

What if you don't know what exactly they mean by "concerns with X"?  How do you ask them politely to elaborate?

You say, ________________________________

What if they had problems with X, Y and Z, but you're only willing to consider changing X and Y?  How do you figure out if they'd be amenable to that, or if perhaps you're not yet clear on their problem with Z?

You say, ________________________________

And what all of the above goes splendidly, and you hear, "Good news!  We're offering you representation/publication," but you then decide that maybe this agent/publication/publishing house isn't for you?

You say, ________________________________

Any suggestions (or more questions you'd like to hear potential answer for)?


  1. I've actually don't the last one, the publishing house wasn't for me. But ya know what? You collect your good news, give them the bad news, and move on. The experience is invaluable, and that doesn't mean it's over. One pub. house I turned away told me I'd never get a better offer. Trust me, their offer wasn't great. But I walked away anyway, and I don't regret it.
    Let it be known that I did do a lot of hopping up and down, crying, and pouting through the whole experience. I'm not good at being stoic. Not at all.

  2. "Interesting concept, but I have concerns with X. Would you consider a rewrite and resubmit?"
    Would you consider resumbitting that pickle up your butt?
    Hmmm... and I wonder why I don't get further in this world! I'm with Emily, stoic isn't something I'm intimate with. Pickles, on the other hand...

  3. Emily - wow, it sounds like they weren't very graceful with you. That's really too bad.

    Cathy - haha, yeah, that might not be the best approach. Let's assume that you were amenable to changing X, how would you tactfully respond without sounding too eager?

  4. [Snort]... outlines=cheat sheets... love.

    So. True.

  5. 1- Funny you want rewrites, when Thomas Pynchon read it he thought it was perfect as is, weird.

    2-What did you see that Tom didn't?

    3-I can see a valid point on a few of those items, but the others ones are the ones that are pretty much going to guarantee my Pulitzer; at least that is what Johnathan Dee said over coffee last week, but what would he know?

    3-I think I have better odds of making it big in Hollywood.