I don’t like to complain. I don’t.
But this one is kind of funny.
For as long as it was in development I had been looking forward to the new Curtis Brown website like a kid waiting for Santa Claus.
Why? Submission procedures online. Bios. Specifically my bio.
I was dreaming… DREAMING about the moment I could just refer one of the many time-consuming query calls I get every day to the website. Finally, finally I would be able to say: “Have you checked the website? No? Curtisbrown.com. Everything you need. Bye bye. No, really, go to the website, I’m… no… website… I’m hanging up now.”
Better yet, I changed my voicemail message to mention the website. Here’s what it says:
“Hi, you’ve reached Nathan Bransford blah blah blah (paraphrasing!), if you are INTERESTED IN SUBMITTING A PROJECT FOR REPRESENTATION OR IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS, PLEASE VISIT OUR WEBSITE, CURTISBROWN.COM.” (I don’t actually shout, I restrained myself.)
Problem solved, right?
Nope. Problem not solved. People just breeze right through the message. I get these voicemails constantly: “Hi, I’m so and so from such and such place (for some reason they always say where they’re calling from) and I’m looking for a literary agent.” Some people just call back later.
Foiled. Better yet, I don’t think I can make it any clearer, but I’m open to ideas in the comments section.
I don’t think this post will cure the problem, but…. just wanted to share. Happy Monday!
On your voice mail leave the cell phone number of your least favorite competitor or that old gym teacher you hated. If you have more than one deserving person maybe you can rotate the different numbers or make it into some kind of contest. I think one of your prior blogs mentioned a contest you didn’t actually have. Don’t you think it’s about time that you did.
Laura Martone says
Cool, Wendy. Now, I have another reason to move to Australia!
Ooh – if we're giving vmail suggestions, how 'bout this – "if you're not a client, bugger off. If you are, wtf are you doing call this line?" 🙂
People choose phone over web and email and such? Insanity.
Make this minor change and see if it works.
"Hi, you've reached Nathan Bransford blah blah blah (paraphrasing!), if you are INTERESTED IN SUBMITTING A PROJECT FOR REPRESENTATION OR IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS, PLEASE hang up and VISIT OUR WEBSITE, CURTISBROWN.COM." (I don't actually shout, I restrained myself.)
Marilyn Peake says
Ah ha! I’ve got it. You could have voice recognition software that will interact with the caller. It could sound like HAL from 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, and use some of HAL’s famous lines … with copyright permission, of course. A conversation might go something like this:
Phone Answering Machine: "Hi, you’ve reached Nathan Bransford. Well, not really Nathan Bransford – just me, his phone. Call me Dave; you’ll see why if you keep talking. Are you calling to ask questions about how to submit a manuscript? Sorry, but answers to those questions can be found on my website or blog. I’m going to hang up now."
Caller: "Oh, hi, Dave. I have one hundred questions I’d really like to discuss with you. I’m not big on reading. Here’s the first question …"
Phone Answering Machine: "OK, I’m going to hang up now."
Caller: "But …"
Phone Answering Machine … Wait for it: "You may question my decision to hang up by simply asking, 'Are you sure you want to do that, Dave?'"
Caller (quoting HAL without knowing it): "Are you sure you want to do that, Dave?"
Phone Answering Machine: "Yes." Followed by insane laughter and sound of phone hanging up.
If nothing else, this method could provide hours of amusement … and you could add new phone voices from various movies and books, change things up a bit from time to time. 🙂
Laura Martone says
I love it, Marilyn! Although Nathan seems too nice and professional to do something so wacky, I find it terribly amusing. And what fun he could have!
Keren David says
Someone mentioned that JK Rowling didn't contact agents by email – it was the mid 90s. Hard to remember, but hardly anyone had email!
If you are contacting me regarding representation, press 1.
Where 1 leads you to one of those text-to-voice synthesisers which is set up to read the website 🙂
Marilyn Peake says
I was the person who mentioned J.K. Rowling. She still doesn't have an email address and describes herself as not being Internet savvy. Last I read, she was also writing her manuscripts in longhand, not on computer or even typewriter.
Lydia Sharp says
I don't have any suggestions for you, but this blog post did prompt me to check out the new site. Impressive.
Whoa! People can call and leave you a message?! How cool is that! I'll clue my literary pals in to this, yeah!
Try telling folks exactly what to leave you in a message so that they follow directions for an end that you can live with: It is important that you tell me exactly when you looked at the website so that I know how to respond to your call, or please register at the website and call back, or Choose option 1 if you are a client, option 2 if you need my web address (and leave no option to leave a message).
Oh so sad to be helping you get more distant from me….
BookEnds, LLC says
Easy, you just don't return the calls and Caller ID certainly helps choose which ones to pick up in the first place.
If they get through anyway, I interrupt to say I don't take phone pitches and they should look at the web site. Click.
Stephanie Faris says
I work in tech support. We have a help desk in place and all calls are supposed to go to the help desk, where a ticket is placed and the next available tech person grabs it. My voicemail message clearly states, "If you need technical support, please call…" with the phone number. Still they keep calling. They call and I direct them to the other phone number over and over, and still they call.
Just wanted you to know you aren't alone. The truth is, idiocy exists in every outlet…and you may get the majority of people to listen but there will always be a percentage who do things their way. I'm guessing they're hoping their name might stand out (in a good way) if they speak to you personally.
Marilyn, that was pretty funny. I think you've got a real idea there. What about one with Darth Vader? Lex Luther?
Or since it's Nathan….Dick Cheney. Or maybe that would be just too scary.
Etiquette Bitch says
Can you start your vm greeting with: "Please listen to this entire message…" and then state that you do not/will not accept queries (or requests for representation) over the phone.
Does your vm system have a "vacation" outgoing message option? This makes it so the caller MUST listen to the entire outgoing message and can't hit # or 0 to skip it. May be worth a try.
It's not complaining. You're simply stating a fact.
s.w. vaughn says
I don't have any suggestions for you, alas. Some people just won't listen, no matter how many times you tell them something.
But that's a fantastic idea for a voicemail message. I'm totally going to paraphrase on mine:
"Hi, you've reached blah blah blah message thank you."
Add the following to your voicemail:
Calls to query me will not be returned. I must save my limited phone time for my writers. If you'd like to become one of my writers, please go to my website and follow the directions….Thank you and have a nice day!
~Sia McKye~ says
You could always say, "Attention, Attention…
Nathan, sad to say,it isn't going to matter what you say, there will always be those that won't listen or do what you say. They're convinced if they can just speak with you magic will happen…
Lady Glamis says
Yes, I think you're preaching to the choir here, but it's always good to complain! Liana has a great suggestion… unlisted number maybe? Haha. 😀
Say in your voicemail that you will not offer representation to anybody who has not memorized the entire CB website and can recite it backwards. In Swahili.
Hey Nathan, I know you don't want people to leave messages about queries, but how would you feel about people who just called to chat?
You know, maybe a regular poster on the blog. Someone who might want to talk about…..the weather (hot!) or maybe…….lunch.
No one in particular, of course, just a hypothetical question. Although perhaps a hypothetical someone who noticed they do not have your phone number.
Hypothetical people are scary. Just sayin'.
Ink. I hear you. I really do. But hypothetical people need to eat lunch too.
I guess I was surprised because it never occurred to me to cold call an agent. It doesn't seem like you'd accomplish much, except annoy the potential agent. Maybe that's just me. I'm more of an e-mail kinda gal anyway. If I can avoid the phone, I will!
Martha Ramirez says
Yeah, I never heard of anyone calling to query an agent. Everyone knows that agents all have certain requirements regarding queries. I never heard of one who invites phone queries.
Definetely mention "If you are inquiring about queries or submissions I do NOT accept phone queries. Please visit CurtisBrown.com for mor info."
Martha Ramirez says
oops…Definitely! 🙂 Hope you find a resolution, Nathan.
I am off of work and it is so fun to be wicked that I have more suggestions for you!
Use one of those automated systems that take you through menu after menu after menu of options until the caller is so fed up that s/he hangs up.
Embed subliminal messages in your voicemail prompt that make people feel very cautious about leaving you messages…music in the background playing "The Fool on the Hill," a backwards recording of John Lenon saying, "Your query is dead."
Get my pomeranian to bark for your message and no one will ever call you.
Who calls an agent personally? That's so psycho. Either have a dedicated number forward to CB's home office, or cancel the number altogether and only share your personal number with those you want to call you.
Short of that, thank them for calling and say you do not accept voice mails about business and refer them to the website where, if need be, they can access you via email. Unfortunately there will always be those who think they need to be aggressive to get their career going, so don't expect miracles.
sex scenes at starbucks says
Guard your mobile number for clients, coworkers, friends and family.
Don't answer the other phone; just screen messages.
Unless it's me calling. From Boulder. Looking for representation…
Laura Martone says
Oh, I'm totally with you. I much prefer email (or face-to-face) to phone calls. I've never liked the phone – even when I was a teenager. 🙂
I didn't mean any offense yesteday. I agree with you that cold-calling an agent seems like it would just annoy the potential agent – I'd never think to do it either. Guess I just couldn't believe that anyone would be surprised by such nervy behavior in the publishing world. There are always people who wholeheartedly think that rules do not apply to them – that when a website says "Do NOT call – email and snail mail queries ONLY," they say, "Oh, they must mean everybody else. And if everybody else sends emails and letters, won't I stand out for calling?"
Also, to be fair, some of those who call an agent probably do so because they haven't read all the guidelines – or they're of an "old school" mindset where calling is still more professional and immediate than emailing. Not an excuse, mind you, just a reason for why they do what they do. I mean, according to Marilyn, J.K. Rowling doesn't even have an email address. Wait, that can't be right!
Shennandoah Diaz says
I think if someone is truly committed to becoming a professional author, they would actively and consciously make the effort to listen and learn. Its amazing how many people don't. Of course, the ones that don't are almost impossible to stop.
The answer is to get someone else to answer your phone and deal with general message.
This person politely directs caller to website which has 'full' information, so much better than speaking to minion who (and this must be made clear) doesn't know anything. It is important that minion works hard on spiel to market the wisdom and benefits of going to website (obviously it is in minions best interest to do so).
I know about this because I am a minion in an office where people constantly ring up for information that is available in detail on the website. As a minion I have nothing to add; a measure of dumb sincerity and a eager desire to help usually convince quite painlessly and once people are trained….
Holy crap, lighten up, Nathan. Just take the darn phone calls. Don't you know that it's rude to not return people's phone calls?
After all, how long could it take per day to return these calls? An hour? Cowboy up, Nathan.
After all, I got my agent by cold calling him with a pitch.*
*Not a true statement.
The Hollywood Podcast says
I love your blog Nathan but this isn't that tough. Just follow Christopher M. Park's advice:
"On account of the high volume of submissions we receive, we (I) cannot discuss unsolicited submissions via phone. Please visit our website, curtisbrown.com, and follow the submission guidelines."
And maybe add something like:
"If this is an unsolicited submission your call will not be returned."
DuEwa Frazier says
I certainly hope your voicemail works, for your sanity and for all of us writers who follow the rules and DO NOT CALL AGENTS BY PHONE! For all the queries, partial and full ms I've sent out, spending money on postage, envelopes, etc. It would suck to hear that writers are NOW getting an agent by leaving a vm (lol)!!! Happy 4th and thanks for your informative yet humorous posts!
I laughed when I read this. It's nice to know I'm not professional plagued by stupid people.
My solution is simple, Leave the message but add the following: "Unfortunately, due to ever increasing schedule demands I am unable to return voicemails. Should you need immediate assistance please visit us at our website Curtisbrown.com."
Here's the sad part, you will actually need to spell out Curtisbrown.com.
You'll hear this on the line if you fail to do as suggested. "K-i-r-t, no wait. um.. C-e-r-t. No, that's cert." brief pause followed by lunatic screaming and an apoplexy. Sometime you can't cure stupid.
I'm with Mary and Amy on this one (i.e., people just wait for the beep and tune out the message; there's no cure for stupid). The only answer may be to resort to shock treatment. (No, not the electric kind, although that may seem desirable at moments of extreme frustration.)
Maybe record your brief intro followed by something unexpected like a doorbell sound. Then after you have their attention say, "After the beep you may leave a message for Nathan Bransford only if you are NOT looking for agent representation or wanting questions answered. Those are dealt with on our website, Curtisbrown.com, and such calls will not be returned."
Unlike Amy, however, I wouldn't spell it out. If they don't know your agency name they haven't done their homework and don't deserve you!
C St Cross says
In the investment biz we're required to include at the end of our vm blurb "Do not to leave any trade requests on this voicemail as any such orders will not be executed". Period. Haven't got a trade request via vm yet in 10+ years. Perhaps you can do something similar?
"Please do not leave any query or general info requests on this vm as all such requests will be duly ignored, and then we will all point and laugh in your general direction, you silly wee amateur you."