The publishing business is a multi-billion dollar industry that still manages to be small, insular and somewhat incestuous. Indeed, that is one of the reasons I love it. The biggest publishers and agencies are primarily based in
And so much of this gossip hurts. Recently, at a writers’ conference attended by many perspective authors looking to find out if they needed an agent and the ways they could benefit from having one, one of our agency’s clients gossiped about how ineffective our agency was in some very specific ways. He was speaking to a large audience of people who were truly there to learn. It so happened that in the next room was one of our senior agents who was horrified to hear these unprofessional (to say nothing about untrue) comments. And of course, when our agent reported back to us after the conference there was enormous shock, unhappiness and disappointment among our staff – especially because we had worked so hard for this particular client over the years.
Mean-spirited gossip is, indeed, destructive and in a business as small as ours it hurts the person responsible for it more than anyone else. That writer, or editor or agent is noted for what they say and colleagues tend to avoid future serious dealings with someone they can’t trust will be discreet and professional behind their backs. I try to encourage our staff – all wonderful, very able agents and support people – to be caring and careful of what they say and how they comport themselves – especially at writers’ conferences where so many aspiring authors are eager to learn about our wonderful business.
I do admit, however, that having had more than one unfortunate experience with the kind of gossip that flies in these venues, I am less likely to attend these gatherings (to which I am invited often) than I was in the past. This is truly unfortunate as I love to teach people about the business I have worked in for so long and help writers become successful. I would much rather follow a constructive path than be confronted by this kind of destructive, hurtful behavior and so I stay in my office and conduct my business from there.
And so, I pray that those of you reading this will stop and think the next time you are tempted to gossip about an editor or an agent who is only trying to help move you and your career forward. Know how your words and behavior will affect the person you are talking about. Also be aware that, because of the very small business we operate in, this kind of behavior will most likely adversely affect your future in the publishing world.