I like reading Miss Snark’s agent blog, because she writes aboout slogging through manuscript submissions, and since I do that for a living too, I feel very productive reading her every morning, even when I’m actually not slogging through submissions and editing half a dozen picture books and two novels in varying stages of production at that particular moment. (Though for the most part I have been doing those things, which is why you haven’t read much here lately.) And I especially like Miss Snark when she addresses some wee itchy little tiny dustmite of a detail about writing or publishing or submissions etiquette that has always bothered me. Like business cards, and whether writers should give them to editors and agents, and vice versa. No, really, this preoccupies me way too much. Cards are swell and cards are dumb. And what the hell kind of opinion is that? Oh, I’LL TELL YOU.
So I have my cards that I use as a writer. Those are swell cards. 95% of the time I give them out to avoid having to scrawl my website urls on a napkin. I also have business cards for my job as an editor. And then I have the twenty thousand cards that people send me with their children’s book manuscripts. Often they are lovingly paper-clipped to the corner of the manuscript, which makes me feel even more like a shit for throwing them away when (and yes, it’s usually more “when” than “if”) I pass on the manuscript. I hope people don’t mind that I do this. I hope people aren’t under the impression that I organize them in a tiny file cabinet labeled People Who May or May Not Someday Write a Children’s Book My Company Can Publish Once I Contact Them at the Addresses and Phone Numbers Listed Herein and Discuss, At Length, the Various Strengths and Weaknesses of Their Writing. But unfortunately I will never have the time to do this, and neither does my assistant, who is very busy not existing.
I suppose it bums me out to get business cards this way because they imply a business relationship, and sadly, the relationship usually only lasts as long as it takes for me to read a three-page picture book manuscript. And then when I throw away their cards? It’s like I’m throwing away their WRITERLY DREAMS. That’s why I don’t like cards sometimes.
When I go to writer’s conferences as an editor, I do the same hemming and hawing Snark says she does when writers ask for her business card. I don’t love to give mine out because they have my work email address on them. My work address and phone number isn’t a guarded secret but my email is my kryptonite. If it were to get into the wrong hands it could CRIPPLE me. With CRAP. Or it would be like opening a huge twitching artery gushing “but WHY isn’t it right for your company?” and “I read this aloud to my sister-in-law’s Sunday School class and they loved it,” and so on, all over my office. You might need to read this to understand why it’s bad, but trust me, IT’S BAD. So when a writer asks me for a card, I usually give it to them and ask that they not email me, which of course makes me sound like a total pud, and that’s another reason why I don’t like cards sometimes.
Once I forgot to bring my cards to a writer’s conference where I was speaking. It didn’t seem like a big deal to me, since all the attendees had my contact information and everything they needed to know about sending a manuscript to me; it was printed on a nice tidy sheet in their folders. I figured I was off the hook; I’d simply say “I’m sorry, I forgot them,” when asked. But from the looks I got from a few people you’d think I’d stomped on their new sandals.
“No?” they’d say, their faces falling.
“Sorry,” I’d tell them. “But please feel free to send your story about the swimming pretzel to my attention.” I’d recite the address, or I’d point it out in my company’s catalog.
“Oh, but if I had your card…” they’d say, and their voices would trail off. And then I knew they wanted a trophy. I imagined a group of them gathering after the conference and comparing the cards they’d scored, stroking them to feel if the letters were embossed. I guess I can understand why some people do this. If someone wants to keep a three-and-a-half-by-two-inch token of hope tacked to their bulletin board, who am I to begrudge them?
It’s just weird that my name is on it.