So I consider this post a public service because, over the years I think that a lot of insanity could have been avoided if I’d paid closer attention to the signs that a future client (author) was crazy, if not borderline certifiable. So, for those of you who still struggle with knowing the difference or maybe you’re new to the industry, here are some tell-tail signs that you should run – far, far away – when one of these authors finds their way to your door.
1) This one is easy: check their email address. We’ve had authors with emails like email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org – ironically both of these folks were certifiable and, often, evil. As they say if it walks like a duck and says it’s a duck in email, go head and believe that it probably is.
2) Now, check their email. Is it written in all caps, or with no caps? How is the punctuation and grammar? No, I’m not stuck up, I work with writers, and I don’t think it’s asking to much to expect a professional email. People use the Internet too hastily these days, if you want to be taken seriously don’t give people an easy, legit reason to disregard you.
3) And lastly, check their sign off. “Forever yours with love and light,” or “Xoxo” are both are oddly intimate in a “I’d wear your skin if you’d let me” sort of way. Two lessons to be learned here, I’ve said it a thousand times, treat your book like a business, get a real email address and a professional signature. And, just don’t do that, I’m sure if you asked your friends would tell you they think it’s weird too.
4) “I’m not normally like this!” Right, ok so that’s sort of like Glenn Close saying she really loves bunnies. When someone says, “I know I sound needy but it’s a bad day, I’m not normally like this,” I can almost guarantee you, they probably almost always are and are just finally realizing most people don’t take it well.
5) When I call an author for a consult I expect them to pick up their phone at the appointed time. Occasionally though they won’t pick up the phone, instead they will let it go to voice mail to see who it is or all their technology is from 1980 and they still have an answering machine that let’s them screen calls. Screening only makes sense if you’re trying to dodge the Feds, creditors, or the crazy ass Glenn Close character from Fatal Attraction. If you have an appointment with someone, pick up the phone and stop pretending that aliens are listening in on your call. The only one who is listening is is the government and I can guarantee you they probably don’t care about your book. If you think they do, then we have even bigger problems.
6) “My life should be a movie.” I love that. Hell *my* life should be a movie but I doubt HBO will beat a path to my door to turn my ho-hum publicist life into a movie. I’m just saying, most of us aren’t that interesting and if you find someone who thinks they are, this should be a red flag.
7) “I’ve been burned by your kind before,” is not a challenge, it’s a warning. Don’t be a hero, don’t fight for the honor of our field thinking you can prove them wrong. This person will never be happy until they’re swimming in a pile of gold coins like some silly Disney movie. Tell them to hold their breath, Mickey is on his way with a personal delivery, and you wish them the best.
8) They have $10,000 to spend. I know, this is probably one of the toughest to shy away from, but in my years of experience the ones that start conversations with big money are almost always very high maintenance, or complete liars and are just looking to squeeze a bunch of free advice or connections out of you. An “open” budget is promising, “whatever it takes” can also be fun, but if they show up with big money practically tattooed on their forehead, it’s not worth it.
9) They immediately find a way to mention their attorney. Now don’t get me wrong, when you’re spending a lot of money there’s nothing wrong with having a legal professional review the contract, but it should not be a veiled threat. I’ve had Ramen for dinner and taken the bus to meetings at points in my career, and even then I wouldn’t have taken on a client that insisted on walking hand in hand with their attorney.
10) “I need to ask my husband/wife.” This is tricky, because despite the fact that I write about crazy relationships I do respect the bond of marriage, and if you’re lucky, you are a team, a good one. But if that’s the case then talk to them both from the beginning, so everyone is on the same page, because I can tell you from personal experience that there is nothing more mind-numbing than a spouse jumping in mid-campaign with stupid questions and crazy demands that inevitably poison your relationship with your client and degrade your good work. If the author at all implies at the beginning their spouse plays a role in the decision making, get friendly and join their team or bow out early.