Friday, November 03, 2006

The Giving of Gifts

When your boss makes a sale, does expect her client to send her a gift? Flowers, perhaps? A bottle of champagne? Something more expensive if it was a big sale?

No. We expect our fifteen percent. Actually we take it, because the publisher writes us a check and then we cut a smaller check to send to the author. It's part of the author/agent relationship and it's written into the publishing contract under the agency clause.

Gifts are actually sort of annoying. A lot usually come in at Christmas time, from authors on our client list who haven't written anything for a while and from publishing houses. This is a problem when they are gift baskets that contain fruit or something else that expires, because very often, the agent isn't in the office on Dember 24-25 and so the package might sit on the desk until January 2nd. Once I went in on December 23rd or so to handle the mail while my old boss was away, and I called her up because we'd gotten this huge gift package from some offer that contained a lot of different types of fruit and candy. She said, "Well, I'm not coming in to pick it up, so just take it home and eat it or whatever. Oh, and remember to tell me what it contained so I can write a thank you note." A lot of the items were unkosher and therefore went uneaten by me. Waste of money.

32 comments:

Kimber An said...

From what I've read, you can't go wrong with gift certificates for Starbucks. Agents drink a lot of caffeine. Second, choose an agent who will be well-mannered enough to thank you.

Anonymous said...

Any gift should be appreciated. It's the thought that counts.

kate said...

Yeah, but - working in a different profession, mind you - there does seem to be a difference between a gift of appreciation and a gift with strings - or expectations - attached. Even if your intentions are good, just be careful to step back and take a look at how it might be received. No one wants to feel bribed by a giant box of yummy Harry & David snackage.

Kimber An said...

Hmmm, cynicism is such a sad disease which eats away at the heart.

kate said...

Lucky for me I've been heartless for years now!

Anonymous said...

Great, now I'm craving pears.

ello said...

Your office must be small. In my old office, the vultures would have descended en masse, maiming the unknowing good samaritan that offered to share the basket's contents. It's how I got my glass eye...

delilah said...

Just curious: If the "Gift" basket/certificate is sent to the agent as a thank you, is the agent supposed to send a thank-you for the thank-you?

A quick email acknowledging that it arrived is more than adequate if you ask me.

But you didn't, did you . . . ask me?

kate said...

Once I had a sales rep call me DAILY and say, "Did you get that thing I sent you? I think you're really going to like it! I think you're going to LOVE IT!" and, like, days later I get a Starbucks gift card, which I actually did really like, but I was so exasperated by that point I didn't feel like being thanked for the thank-you gift and so I just waited for the inevitable "DID YOU GET IT YET?" call that followed later the same day.

Maria said...

I see the holiday moodiness, I mean mood, is upon us already...

Luna said...

I sent my agent a card when she sold my first book and it was appreciated, but I did ask her first if it would get shuffled in with the query mail and/or if it would be annoying to her to have to handle one more piece of postal material.

Anonymous said...

You're too young to be so rude about gifts. Or maybe it's because you're young.

Anonymous said...

In a world filled with people who victimize children, pummel their elders, and horribly murder innocents, please take a moment and give thanks that there was one person on this Earth who thought well enough of another to bestow a kindness. It's such a precious commodity these days, we sometimes forget to cherish it.

Kimber An said...

Beautifully stated, anonymous.

Mrs. Brain Bomb said...

Coffee is always welcomed with lovin' arms at the agency I'm at. One client brought in a very lovely bouquet that fit in perfectly but he was very familiar with the office and the agent. And anything we can eat that makes our butts wider but that's if the writer is familiar with the vibe of the office. Every place is probably different.

writtenwyrdd said...

I would think, if you can't control the urge, that a simple thank you note would at least be easily dealt with.

I wonder, though...Are these loathed as much as the fruit fly baskets, Rejecter ma'am?

Kim said...

Isn't it the thought that counts? It's not like the sender was being a total boob on purpose - they thought they were being nice. Ok - maybe fruit basket's not the best gift, but there are worse ones. Coulda been a chia pet.

BuffySquirrel said...

I think we have to make up our minds if we want Rejecter to be honest or just play nice. If it's play nice, I won't bother reading. I can get nice anywhere I go, with varying degrees of sincerity. Here I hope to get honest. It's more helpful.

CMonster said...

The thought that counts? It doesn't count in writing, in query letters, in engineering bridges OR in trying to be nice. It's not as if it's an unforgivable sin in the niceness category, but if you care enough to give a gift, you should care enough to find out if it would actually be appreciated.

Goblin said...

To echo Buffysquirrel: Yah. Would the people who don't like this blog please just stop reading it and go away?

I find Miss Rejecter very entertaining and informative, and I don't want her browbeaten into being milquetoast.

Keep roaring, Miss Rejecter.

Anonymous said...

I thought Rejecter was a guy? Didn't he say he had a Bah Mitzvah?

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's a matter of nice as it is a matter of being courteous. They aren't the same thing, necessarily. And no, it doesn't count in query letters or engineering bridges or whatver, because that's business. Yeesh... I thought I was cynical.

Honesty doesn't have to equal rudeness, you can be one without being the other. But don't confuse the two - they aren't the same either.

Craig Steffen said...

For those anonymous posters who said "but it's a nice gift, it's the thought that counts!".

That's not the point. It's the scale of the thing. If one client of an agency sent a gift basket, it's an annoyance to get rid of it. If, say, ten clients sent gift baskets, then one of the desk/tables in the office is now full of food that will never be eaten, and work space has been consequently severly cut down (this is New York, after all: SMALL offices).

I am not a writer, or in the publishing industry, but I would think that the signing of the first big contract with an agent or maybe the signing of a fat movie deal would be an occasion that would warrant a nice card saying "Thanks for all the hard work.". Otherwise, you're just creating noise and difficulty for the lowest person on the totem pole who has to carry the mail around and sort it.

Yes, one card would be fine. And if you (the author) decide that "I'm the exception, I'll write a NICE card that will be appreciated", rest assured that twenty others have done the same thing.

So if you're thinking of doing something "nice" make your go/no go decision as follows: If 200 people decided to do this same thing to me, would I be happy about it? Examples:

200 fruit baskets on your door step? NO

200 invitations to have lunch the next time that person is in town? NO

200 cards asking you how they like your manuscript and would you like the latest version instead of the one you have? NO

200 random holiday cards from people you don't know? Probably not

200 gift certificates to Borders or B&N? Possibly

It's a matter of SCALE, not how nice the individual item might be.

I went to a convention where Neil Gaiman was guest of honor a couple of years ago. Neil is incredibly sweet and generous with his time. It was a relatively small convention, 500 people or so. EVERY SINGLE TIME I was in the auditorium, Neil was at his table and there was a line to the door of people wanting to talk to him/have him sign something/take a phot with him.

I've wondered why when I write e-mail to someone famous, and I'm very polite and nice and I keep my message short, they don't respond. That's because they get FIVE THOUSAND messages a day just like that.

Here is a post in Neil Gaiman's blog which quotes his assistant about what not to send to your favorite author. It's not quite what we're discussing here, but it along a generally similar theme:

Mtanz said...

I agree with BuffySquirrel and Goblin: I like the Rejecter the way she is. I'd rather hear it straight, than nice.

Anonymous said...

From one anonymous idiot to another: It was Bat Mitzvah, and it's for girls.

Virginia Miss said...

I agree with buffysquirrel, stop beating rejecter up for being honest.

Besides - I think most people would agree that, although they always appreciate the generosity behind any gift, isn't it nicer when someone takes the time to find out what you'd really like?

Anonymous said...

You're too young to be so rude about gifts. Or maybe it's because you're young.

And you're apparently too naive--despite your implied advanced age--or too unlikely to get 200 gift baskets to understand that not all of those gifts are not given because the gifter is well-intentioned (half of them tend to be from people who aren't clients but still expect or want a piece of the agent's time) and that a thoughtless gift (something that's going to be an obvious burden to the agent or is just simply inappropriate) is worse than not sending anything at all. If it's a close friend or family member, sure, the worst variation of fruitcake will still be appreciated. But this is not primarily a personal relationship; it's a professional one.

The Rejecter was merely answering the question honestly, not complaining about gift-giving itself or complaining apropos of nothing. No need to be condescending simply because you don't like the answer.

Anonymous said...

quote:From one anonymous idiot to another: It was Bat Mitzvah, and it's for girls. end quote

If you're an idiot, speak for yourself. It was a typo, moron. I heard Bat Mitzvah's were for young men. I'm NOT Jewish so I don't know...or care, for that matter.

girldetective said...

Gifts are standard procedure in this industry. If you feel in a gift-giving mood, great. There's certainly no penalty for not giving your editor or agent a gift. Non-perishables are good, but you should know when your agent or editor is out of town, since you generally get an email to that effect before they take off on the (generally lengthy) holiday break.

Seriously, none of this is worth a lot of mental wrestling.

Don said...

A quick note from someone who's not Jewish, but who used to watch a lot of TV, there are Bar Mitzvahs (meaning son of the covenant and are for boys) and Bat Mitzvahs (meaning daughter of the conenant and are for girls). The former is very traditional and has a long history, the latter is a somewhat newer creation and is not recognized by more conservative Jews. A bah mitzvah sounds like something that would happen if you were Jewish but rather opposed to the religious side of things. One letter can make a huge difference.

Anonymous said...

Back to the anonymous idiot issue:

Bar Mitzvah = boys.

Bat Mitzvah = girls.

And I'm not Jewish either.

magz said...

Carry On, oh Rejector One. After all, it YOUR blog, which you choose to graciously share.

I'm rather suprised that not once; either jokingly or seriously did anyone mention Miss Snark's take on the perfect gift.. a crispy 20 dollar bill.