Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Missed Opportunity

Posted by Lorna

Northgate Yesterday I needed to go to the Hallmark Store to get some cards. The closest store to me is in a rundown plaza that's slated for demo. That little plaza was the first to be built in the Rochester suburbs. It was wonderful! There was a Scrantoms (a stationery store that sold BOOKS!), a Grants, Woolworth's, McCurdy's (the local version of Macy's at the time), JC Penney, a Wegmans, a Fanny Farmer Candy store, and lots more. But then came the Malls . . . and most of the plazas started a slow, painful decline.

As it happens, many of the plazas did survive after a few rough years, and now they're back on top. All but my local plaza. For years, the neighbors have been fighting against a giant Walmart taking the space, and they've just about run out of options.

It's clear to me the current owners of the plaza want to sell. They've done virtually nothing to encourage small businesses to take over the unrented space, including painting the entire plaza an ugly gray, and doing absolutely no maintenance on the place for years. (Imagine a HUGE parking lot without one lick of paint to designate parking spaces.)

But somehow, that little Hallmark store, and a number of other small businesses, seem to be thriving. They didn't give up, and they have a steady customer base despite all the empty unrented space. But man, what a missed opportunity.

Another missed opportunity reared it's head yesterday. A writer friend of mine came to me for advice. She gets rejection after rejection with the same wording: Well written, but not exciting. I've given her the same advice for at least three other manuscripts. "Take out anything that doesn't move the story forward." This time she vows she'll do just that. Will she? I doubt it.

Earlier this year, when my agent was looking for someone to write a proposal for a cozy series, I contacted this person to ask if she'd like to give it a try. "No, no. I'm too busy with my OWN book," she said with disdain, so I asked three other friends. They all wrote wonderful proposals, and two of them got picked up by the publisher.

Window Three months later, Ms. "I'm too busy" came back to me and said she was now ready to write that proposal. Too late. The jobs were gone. She was miffed. "Can't you just tell your agent I'm ready and she can find me something, too?" No. She'd missed that window of opportunity. And the book she wouldn't put aside has now had many agent rejections.

In retrospect, I'm glad she was too busy--I don't think she'd have gotten the contract anyway. She's too inflexible (as evidenced by the number of unsold manuscripts stuffed in her closet). She's missed many opportunities at a sale because she wasn't willing to listen to or trust anyone's judgment but her own. (We're talking agents and editors here.)

I used to feel sorry for her, but now . . . well, I guess I do still feel sorry, but it's for the opportunities she might have seized and lost because she knew better than everyone around her.

Have you ever met someone like my writer friend?