Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Strange adventures in publishing

I've just completed an odd experience in the Getting It promotion front. There is an American legal practice-related on-line journal, which I won't name any more precisely than I already have, that occurred to me as a possible vehicle for discussing the novel, which does after all arguably provide a window of sorts into what being a young lawyer at a big firm is like.

I sent the editor at this journal a copy of the book, and then (on Monday, August 9) sent her an e-mail. She replied the same day: "Can we talk Wednesday sometime? I'm out til then." We then agreed that she'd call me at 12:30 on Wednesday, August 11.

The day went by, however, without any such call. But not to worry, she replied that night. "OK, sorry I missed you. Wound up in a meeting that went long. I'll try you tomorrow after 3:30/4 pm, if that's ok."

But of course no call transpired the next day either.

I waited a couple of weeks to get back to her, and promptly after I did so heard back from her (on August 30) as follows:

"Maybe we can talk after Labor Day? I’m sorry about this delay but we’ve been swamped and I’ve had my hands full w/ the daily, our redesign project, other Web matters, and endless meetings. It won’t ease up for a while. I’m not sure if it merits a feature, some type of interview perhaps. But I should focus on it a bit more and then we should talk."

Needless to say, I suspected a brush-off, and all the more so after Labor Day passed with no word from her. But how hard is it to say by e-mail that "this doesn't work for us," or even the time-honored classic, "don't call us, we'll call you." Hard to see what one gains by NOT using those more standard brush-off techniques (or even simply not answering). So I figured who knows, and there's nothing to lose, why not keep trying after a suitably long delay.

So last week I tried again, and once more I heard back promptly (last Thursday) as follows:

"Thanks. I really am so sorry, I keep forgetting and I keep having to deal w/ too many other things. I’m travelling again tomorrow /Friday. So, do push me next week, Wednesday is the best day to try and talk b/c Monday and Tuesday are mostly meetings."

Well, today was the indicated Wednesday, so I tried again. Left a message in the morning, was out for a while, then called back with the view that I wouldn't leave a message. But to my surprise, and evidently from her voice to hers, I reached her this time.

Oh, we really can't do anything right now, she said. We just don't have the staff. We're shorthanded these days. There's a lot of pressing stuff that we have to do, and we're behind. Maybe it will change if we hire someone soon, but we just can't devote the resources to it right now.

Needless to say, it seems doubtful that she possessed any new information today that she didn't already have last Thursday. And I gather that this is not a unique experience on my part, but rather her standard operating procedure.

One way of asking the question that occurs to me would be: Why does she use this brushoff technique, rather than alternative ones that don't unduly raise hopes and waste everyone's time? What could she possibly gain by doing it this way, instead of being more forthright up front? It's not like any of this was in person. I could understand wanting to avoid delivering the thumb's down in a face to face meeting, but in an e-mail correspondence??

Another way of asking the question would be: How does a person whose management and communication skills are so deficient become the editor of an on-line journal with a readership larger than five? And can't her bosses do better in a down economy?

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