Saturday, May 12, 2012

Theft of Expectation

The last thing you expected was to come here today and get ruminations on Chassidic/Jewish teachings.  Stick with me, I'll keep it brief and you'll see how it's applicable to all of us.

This week was all about money and expectations.  We had several temper tantrums mostly aimed at Amazon usually from publishers but this week from agents.  They expected (erroneously) that they would feed at the trough forever but technology changed and now they are very close --if not already there--to being on the outside looking in.  My heart does not break for them.

When I went into a contractual relationship with an agent I had certain *expectations*--that they would READ the material in a timely fashion, respond to it, and then submit it to publishers in a timely fashion.  This rarely happened, so rare that I can only think of one agent who actually did this and that was Jane Dystel.  She deserves to be mentioned for that.

For an agent to take a writer on and not do the above is THEFT OF EXPECTATIONS.  If you knew it would take 9 months for the agent to not bother to read your novel or lose the manuscript under their sofa (all instances mentioned in this post will be actual incidents), you might not have signed on to be treated so shabbily.  This is the standard.  Now that writers have digital/independent publishing and the choice to not be abused, the former abusers are protesting loudly and flailing at everyone.

We won't talk about how they have been stealing us blind all these years--that's another kind of theft.

What does the reader expect from the writer?  ....Um, I'm not sure, but I'll say an entertaining, diverting or informational book.  That could mean many things to many people, but that probably covers the basics.

What does the writer expect from the reader?  Wow.  New thought.  That never entered the discussion

This is a contract.  For our purposes here you can't have 1 sided expectations.  To the dismay of our cousins across the pond win-win is still the optimal outcome.

If a reader expects the writer's best work, what does the writer expect?  To earn a life sustaining living, to be treated respectfully, and to have the work supported so that the audience grows.  A writer should not expect to be chastised, demeaned, or lectured to by a reader.  That's not polite no matter how their expectations may have been crushed.

That's really all I have to say about expectations.  You can think about it for yourself and see if it makes any sense to you.

Over 2000 years ago someone, seemingly a little on the arrogant side, approached Rabbi Hillel, a very great man.  He challenged Rabbi Hillel by saying something like "If Judaism is so great, can you explain it to me while standing on one foot?"  And Rabbi Hillel said "Sure!"  Then he stood on one foot and said "What is hateful to you do not do to others.  The rest is commentary, go study."

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