Saturday, July 7, 2007

Future Ass Bite?

One anonymous commenter has written: "I'm just saying, it wouldn't be a bad idea for Writer, Rejected to black out specifics on the rejection letters, specific names and agencies, keep it anonymous. Form rejection letters from lit mags are different, that's not as damaging, but calling people out by name on a blog? Yeah, I won't lie, that will come back to bite you in the ass. Trust me, I've worked at both lit agencies and publishing houses...writers have been rejected for far, far less." What about publishing's long history of wooing bad boys and slutty girls? Are editors and agents really as touchy (vindictive) as this insider implies? Or do you think if the project is good enough, the buyer won't care who the writer is? (Think: O.J. + Judith Regan=If I Did It, Here's How....)


Anonymous said...

You're missing something crucial in your last point, there - celebrity. Regan was willing to publish the OJ book because it was guaranteed to make money off his notoriety/infamy. Publishing houses will woo bad boys and girls, but only if they have an inherent market value. My own house pursued a well-known and notoriously difficult celebutant for her memoirs because they knew that the big buckets of cash they'd make off the book would offset the migraine caused by having to deal with her. Keeping a blog o' sour grapes does not make you a bad girl/notorious celeb that would sell books. Even becoming a blogosphere celeb will not help you as much anymore. One of my co-editors passed on a few books recently that were done by well-known bloggers, because those kinds of books (see: Washingtonienne) tend to crash and burn, and never ever make back their advance, so fewer houses are bidding on them.

So it's not about a project being "good enough", it's about a project being "marketable enough". If you're already a household name guaranteed to sell a million copies, then yeah, the editor will put aside personal feelings and snap it up. I know I have in the past. But in today's sketchy book climate, when even a brilliant work of literature can have trouble selling, no one's going to want to gamble on a no-name author who already has the air of "difficult" about them, because difficult/unpersonable authors don't do well on book tours and interviews, and thus don't sell their product well.

Trust me, I'm in this world, I see it every day. You are absolutely shooting yourself in the foot with what you're doing here. I'm not saying shut down the blog and stop posting letters, I'm just saying have some courtesy, black out people's names and contact info (e-mail, phone numbers). Leave the agency but black out the agent. Or hell, if you're adamant about naming names then you could always swing the other way, and have the balls to print the entire letter, including your name and contact info. At least that way you won't look so hypocritical by maintaining your privacy while eroding the privacy of others. That would be a stand that I and most other editors could respect. But the way you're doing it now is very rude and unprofessional and you're not doing yourself any favors. It would be a shame to see a talented writer have to work harder than necessary to get published based on a few unwise internet decisions.

Writer, Rejected said...

Dude: Let me get this straight: you *would* publish a murderer if it would make you money, but you *wouldn't* publish a good work of literary fiction if the author had published a blog exposing you?

Marva said...

It sure looks like it. However, I'll bet a thousand small presses out there wouldn't worry about such things.

Anonymous may be trying to be helpful, though. Trying to give what she/he feels is a friendly warning. Take it as a kind gesture. It will do your karma a world of good.

Anonymous said...

Would I personally publish a murderer? No. I do draw the line somewhere. But would my publishing house publish a murderer if it would make them money? Hell yes. This is a business, and the old romantic notion of ars gratia artis is long, long dead. No matter how well-written a book may be, if a publishing house doesn't think it will sell, it will likely not be published.

But here's another problem - good works of literary fiction are, believe it or not, a dime a dozen. I reject dozens of near-flawless manuscripts a week. Books that are clever, engaging, well-written, and even marketable. Why? Because there's simply a limit to the amount of books I can take on at a time. It's a bit like adopting a cat or dog from a shelter...they're all adorable and they all clearly need good homes, but one simply cannot take every stray home or they'd be overrun, and it's not healthy for the animals either because they wouldn't get the attention they need.
So good books get rejected. All the time. For no good reason. And let me tell you, nothing is more heartbreaking than having to send out a rejection letter for no good reason, having to say "Sorry - your book is great but I can't help you at this time." The best we can ever hope for is that maybe one of our colleagues at another house will have better luck fitting another gem onto their roster.

Now, I wouldn't NOT publish your book based solely on your blog, no. But the decisions on what to take/not take are often very arbitrary because there are a lot of high-quality manuscripts to choose from. That's what I think you don't understand about the industry...we don't sit about praying for a good manuscript to come to us - they do come to us, in droves, and we can pick and choose based on any number of mundane criteria. Having a good manuscript is not enough, you have to have a fair amount of luck, too. So let's say I have two good manuscripts to choose between, both equally marketable, but one is written by someone who maintains a blog that regularly posts the contact info and names of other editors and agents...that's going to make my decision much easier. I just do not understand why you would want to handicap yourself in this way. Getting a good manuscript published is difficult enough, no need to make it harder on yourself. I don't know - maybe you enjoy a challenge.

Writer, Rejected said...

Marva: My karma??(Repeat: condones publishing a murderer and paying lots of money vs. rejection-letter blogger) But I do dig what you said about small presses. Very good point and probably the way to go. Thanks for posting and for spreading some kindness around.

Writer, Rejected said...

I get your point, Anon. And I appreciate your opinion, here. Let's go drink Mojitos on the beach and quit this bad, bad business. What do you say? (Either way, it's too late to be up.)

Anonymous said...

Believe me, I consider quitting this bad, bad business every time I have to write a rejection letter to an undeserving author. It sucks almost as much for us eds as it does for you writers...almost.

(The authors who deserve their rejection and more, though, those letters are rather fun to compose...alas, I don't see as many of those at the editing house as I did when I was assisting at an agency, where people would submit their "It's like DaVinci Code, but with ninjas!" monstrosities.)

Anyway, best of luck.

E said...

Aw, now. Don't go making nice. This editor is not your friend. S/he says if people knew who you were you'd never get published in this town, but you should out yourself anyway. S/he says no one is publishing literary fiction anyway, but somehow your blog is making your odds worse than zero? Makes no sense.

Anonymous said...

Since when is the contact information of editors and agents so confidential and prized? You guys must really hate that guy who runs -- you know, that huge website with the contact information of just about every person on earth relevant to the publishing industry? And what about all those books that come out every year that contain all that info? Including the one written by an agent?

Give me a break.

mercury retrograde said...

Anonymous tries, in his(?) avuncular way to "protect" Writer Rejected from decreasing his already admittedly slim odds of getting published. But is it realy "help" when coupled with the threat that WR should either shut up or risk REALLY never being published? Does WR's posting of rejection letters actually seem that menacing? Or is it the fear of what he might post next? It can't be his little funny remarks, can it? I think of him as benign. I read his postings before bed, so that I fall asleep with a little smile.

Anonymous said...

Different anonymous person here.

I didn't read the first anonymous as saying that WR should stop writing this blog - simply that she should stop exposing the names of the authors of these letters. I frankly can't understand why WR resists this good advice, unless this is a blog about revenge rather than blowing off steam as she claims.

Maybe I'm wrong, but that's how it appears. And if it appears this way to me, that's probably how it appears to many editors, too. (I am neither editor nor writer.) When you are looking for a job (or looking to sell work you've already done), appearances matter a great deal. It may not be fair, but that's the way the world turns.

So why would an editor who has lots and lots of manuscripts to choose from decide to do business with an author who (it seems to the editor) is cultivating an adversarial relationship?

Anonymous said...

I agree with one of the anonymouses up there about that great website that makes all agent/editor contact information available at the click of a mouse. Has saved me mucho time.

Writer, Rejected said...

Listen, all these anonymice are very bothersome and confusing. Wouldn't you say? (I just went to a blog where you couldn't leave an anonymous message; I thought that was radical.) Anyway, please start giving yourselves cute little names here, if you'd be so kind.

But I agree with anonymous and anonymous above. Gerard Jones is a diabolical genius.

hisgirlfriday said...


"anonymice" as plural for anonymous is one of the funniest things I've seen in weeks.

FAE said...

First anonymous editor back again, just wanted to clarify a few things. Well, first of all, I'm a female...making the "he" assumption is almost always wrong in this industry, the majority of editors and agents nowadays are female. Go girl power.

Second, please don't misconstrue anything I said as a threat, I really am trying to be helpful. Whether I succeed is of course a matter of opinion. I never said "Writer, Rejected, you'll never work in this town again, muahaha!" The truth is, a lot of my peers are not particularly internet-savvy, so none of the editors in charge of passing/not passing on your work may never know about this blog.

On the other hand, editors and agents are prone to bouts of vanity and self-Googling, and might well turn up their entries here. And maybe it won't prevent another editor from working with you, but it will certainly burn your bridge for every editor and agent named here, and why would you want any burned bridges? Why would you want that handicap? That's what I don't understand. Plenty of writers are published by people who rejected them a few times. I was rejected from Zoetrope and Michigan Quarterly Review three and four times respectively before they finally accepted stories from me. Rejections are rarely personal, and rarely absolute as far as never wanting to hear from the author again. But the writer can certainly make it personal, and make the editor never want to look over anything they do in the future, and this blog is a good way to do that.

To e: A) I never said "out yourself" in a malicious way, I just suggested the tack of doing this balls-to-the-wall as more likely to earn respect from even the named rejectors more than anonymously protecting yourself while sniping at others, but that the best course of action is to just black everything out, B) I didn't say we don't publish literary fiction, just that we don't publish unmarketable literary fiction. Plenty if lit fic gets published every year, but it is a tougher sell on the part of the author, the agent, the editor, everyone.

I'm really not trying to give veiled-threat "helpful" advice here. I'm not among the named editors here, I don't think I've ever seen WR's work myself. I'm finally at an editing level where I rarely have to send out rejections because manuscripts pass through an agent, two editorial assistants, and my personal assistant before they get to me, so I greenlight more than I pass on now. So I don't have any kind of axe to grind here. I just randomly came across this blog via, and we're having a slow few weeks at work (summer vacation: not just for college students) so I thought maybe I'd try to keep a writer who seems talented enough from shooting herself in the foot unnecessarily. But I've also learned over the years that writers are stubborn creatures (I myself was fairly difficult to work with during the publishing of my first and second novels - I actually burned through six agents over a span of 9 years), and you can only tell them so much before they go off to do what they want anyway. At least if this does hit the fan, I know that I tried to help, and if it didn't work, oh well.

Don't know how much more I'll comment on here - as I said, insert cliche about leading a horse to water here - but for sake of ease I'll go by FAE for first anonymous editor.

Editor, Advising said...

I just thought I'd post to say that I support FAE's comments 100%. As another editor in the biz, I agree with what she said throughout and also wanted to make one more comment:

The OJ book? Was cancelled and got Judith Reagan fired. So sure, Reagan was willing to publish the book but it was a poor move. Editors are people too and you do have to remember (as FAE said) that this is a business. In the end, it is all about money, whether we (authors, editors, agents, readers, etc) like it or not. It doesn't mean you won't be published because you write literary works of fiction -- it just means you might have to work a little harder or wait a little longer before you find the right fit. But to plug FAE's comments one more time, if you make it personal, you are taking a big chance of shooting yourself in the foot and screwing yourself or, at the very least, making things more difficult for yourself when they are already incredibly difficult.

Anonymous said...

Editors and agents, you really need to get up to speed with technology.

Self-Googling will not turn up your names posted on this blog, because they are not posted on this blog.

IMAGES (That's jpegs or gifs, you know, image files) of the rejection letters are posted.

Your name on these jpeg image files, as shown in the image of the form rejection letters, will NOT be "Googleable."

So get over yourself.

Anonymouse Rex
Syndicated columnist who has had enough editors' and agents imperial crap. Which is why she is SELF-SYNDICATED and has over two million readers. You fuckheads.

Editor, Advising said...

Anonymous Rex,

Who is the fuckhead that didn't take into account the fact that WR posts peoples' names in his blogs as well. If there is a jpg of Rosemary Ahern's decline letter and then WR says "Rosemary Ahern thinks my submissions was sexy but not sexy enough to represent" then YES, that is Googleable. And also, a name doesn't have to be Googleable to be found by that person. I'm an editor in the business, there are other editors on here too. I have shown my coworkers this site and I'm sure the other editors have too. And I'm sure those editors have shown their friends and those showed their friends. Sooner or later, someone is going to recognize a friends' name and bring it to their attention. I don't know how popular this blog is yet, but my comments were posted with the intention of giving worth advice to WR BEFORE something happens.

writer, lapsed said...

I'm coming to this strand a month + late, so who knows if anyone will answer, but I have a query: Why is it the default assumption of so many posters that Writer, Rejected is a hapless novice as to the ways of the Noble Publishing Industry, someone who needs to be told ("Trust me") exactly how it works? As enterprising as s/he seems to be in getting work out there--and clearly s/he has already been published, or won awards, or had some kind of success rather than just sitting around wishing s/he were one of Stephen King's offspring, it strikes me as overly patronizing of all those well-meaning if sleep-deprived editors to show Writer, Rejected The Way. Of course, I understand that editors need to vent, too, but let's own up to that, rather than hiding behind the I'm-Only-Saying-This-For-Your-Own-Good defense.

Anonymous said...

Ummm...editor advising...need I point out your typing errors? Or will I be blacklisted. Oh, I posted anon...oops.