I Am The Gatekeeper

Wondering if there’s enough room in the budget to hire this guy as an assistant.

The proposal guidelines on our website are for authors, but no one seems to pay them any mind. Apparently there’s a rumor among authors that if they can skip the pesky proposal stage and cleverly navigate their way to an editor, that editor will not only be so impressed that he will immediately stop the presses and demand an immediate printing of their masterpiece, but also commit suicide immediately thereafter, because once they’ve felt the presence of such genius, all life is a pale disappointment

This means that these writers will try some innovative tricks to get past me to an editor. Here are my five favorites:

1. Brazen Confidence:  Authors will simply show up in person, unannounced with manuscript in hand, and demand to speak to an editor – sometimes even trying to walk over to the editorial offices. But I am impervious to their imperialist self-important vibes and have gotten into the practice of standing up when someone unfamiliar and unexpected opens our door. They may think I’m graciously receiving them and honoring their genius, but really I’m getting ready to tackle them if need be.

2. The Doctor’s Office: Many authors will call and try to make an “appointment” to meet with an editor. Denying them an appointment angers them, so I keep reminding them of the proposal guidelines. They counter by asking again for an appointment. And when I explain why we can’t take appointments, they’ll resort to the novel approach of asking me yet again. Amazingly, the third time they ask, it works and I set up a meeting. Of course I’m kidding. The answer is still no.

3. The Call-Back: Every now and then I’ll get someone who claims they were called by one of our editors and asked to call back to discuss their work. However, all of our editors have direct phone lines, so if they wanted to talk to someone, they wouldn’t have given them the main line. Oh, and a note to you authors: if one of the editors spoke to you about a book over five years ago and you’re just responding now, the statute of limitations has run out and you need to start over (i.e. – get cracking on that proposal).

4. The Savior: Some authors believe that because they just know that their book is going to save humanity, end wars, cure cancer, and make the Kardashians disappear forever*, that they have the right to “skip the line” and talk to someone in editorial. Here’s a revelation: everyone has an answer to the world’s problems nowadays– have you noticed the Facebook postings where someone who can’t calculate simple fractions suddenly feels confident enough to challenge national economists? Or what about those people who couldn’t even get elected secretary in their elementary school class commenting on presidential campaigns? We are a nation of self-proclaimed geniuses and experts! I’m sorry, but even God needs to submit a proposal.

5. The Life Story: There are countless memoir writers who feel that if they can tell me their story that I’ll patch them through to an editor out of guilt. In some cases, there are genuine heroes among this lot but in most cases, they’re not particularly amazing stories. I’m not trying to belittle what they’ve endured or their triumphs over personal setbacks, but right now there’s a cocaine-addicted child soldier in Sudan who was forced to witness the rapes and murders of his own family and who now has been given an automatic rifle and told to take out another family or risk having his limbs hacked off with a rusty machete. Tell that kid about being bullied in junior high and the damage that it did.

Long story short: have you seen the PROPOSAL GUIDELINES?

* If you really can make the Kardashians disappear forever without breaking the law, I will actually patch you through to an editor.

  1. jamie said:

    really enjoying your writing here. great fun to read!! thanks.

    • kylahfrazier said:

      Thanks Jamie! Very glad to hear it’s being enjoyed!

  2. You are a talented writer Kylah! I look forward to reading more.

    • kylahfrazier said:

      Thank you Cindy, more on the way!

  3. The people who do submit proposals are pretty much crazy in the same ways as the people you describe here, often.

    • kylahfrazier said:

      Haha! Well, they followed the rules. At least that much can be said for them, right?

  4. Love it. I confess, when in sales, I sometimes used the “I’m returning a call to…” gambit. Occasionally it even worked! The wonderful thing about having used these strategies is that I am well-prepared to block them—say, from the salespeople who claim that an appointment with them has been scheduled for me.

    • kylahfrazier said:

      Returning a call? That’s a sneaky one I’ll have to remember! Troublesome as those calls can be, I can’t deny their creativity and the fact that there was obviously some thought put into them.

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