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Thursday, July 5, 2007

Have I Blacklisted Myself?

Here's an anonymous comment I received today: "As an editor in the industry, I feel compelled to comment. I hope you realize that, while you may not agree with some of the rejections you receive, and some of them probably are utter shit, that a lot of the time when someone is saying something vague or giving you extensive compliments and still rejecting, that it is because they are just not interested. Maybe they think, with a little attention from an editor, your work would sell -- but they might not be interested enough to be married to the project. They are also working with stacks upon stacks of submissions that continue to roll in, day after day. Enough so that they HAVE to have help from assistants and interns, who may not write the most descriptive decline but who are at least getting an answer to you. I certainly hope you haven't blacklisted yourself with this blog. It's a tricky industry and while you may see this as a place to air your frustrations about being rejected, it is also incredibly unprofessional to be posting the things you do. Especially since you do not black out the names of the people you are corresponding with." I thought we were just having some good clean fun. What do you think?


Anonymous said...

Now who's disingenouus? Good clean fun? If this were truly just good clean fun, you would black out the names of these editors. What you are really trying to blacken is their reputations. You think they are mean now, wait until they see their names on your blog.

I say, recognize good advice when you see it.

Writer, Rejected said...

Anon: Is that you? How am I blackening anyone's reputation? I am merely airing my drawer of dirty little rejections and poking some fun. Why shouldn't these be public? Why should they have to stay secret? I doubt the editors who wrote them think that they are bad. They have their own point of view, which is not mine. So, what's the big deal? I've heard through the grapevine that some of them (with good senses of humor) think it's funny. Not you, I'm

Anonymous said...

Since you asked, I think you're both right. You're having fun, but you're trying to give back some of the pain the rejections give you.

If I were your friend, I'd advise you not to sabotage your own career this way; some agents or editors might get pissed enough to spend some time figuring out who you are.

But I don't care about you. I can't believe any of the people who egg you and this blog on know you or care, or they'd try to stop you.

I wouldn't have commented, because you seem to get as much joy out of shooting your detractors down as you do insulting the rejections you get.

But you asked this time, so I'm answering. You might still do fine, like Gerard Jones. But you'll definitely burn some bridges while you have your "fun".

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that Writer, Rejected's tone is light-hearted. I've always wondered about the rejections in other writers' drawers, and I find WR's blog to be entertaining. Editors (like everyone else) shouldn't send out letters that they're ashamed of attaching their names to. So what if WR pokes fun at the letters? I find it dismaying that the not-so-subtle threat is that he will be blacklisted for naming names or poking fun. I hope he won't take the threats to heart.

Anonymous said...

I don't get it. Posting rejection letters and making funny comments is grounds for being blacklisted? Sounds like literary McCarthyism. Why so wigged out???

Anonymous said...

You sure do make people nervous, Oh Rejected One!!!! Is that about you or them? Maybe no one wants to get mistaken for you (disingenouuuus as you are) and therefore not included among the very few special and chosen sons who actually do get published.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Scary Person, keep "getting" your "jollies." (Why does everyone keep putting "fun" in quotation marks?) It doesn't look like any one is actually "knocking" on your "door," to "publish" "you." So, I don't think you really have to "worry" about being "blacklisted." Am I "right"?

Anonymous said...

voyeur is hostile.

Writer, Rejected said...

Believe me: I am no chosen son, and I've got little to lose, since (as has been pointed out) no one is hounding me to sign a book contract. I can't even get arrested and thrown into publishing jail. I highly doubt anyone cares who I am. Therefore, worry not about my career--or my soul. The aristocracy can fend for itself...unless you all care to join me in a little revolution? We can start by not being afraid and not giving away our power. Read some of the sycophantic posts on the editor/agent blogs to see what I mean.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure you're blacklisting yourself, but you're not being too savvy, either. For starters, you may piss off someone who may be in a position to hurt you someday. Second, the lit world is tiny. If enough people read this, put together who you are, and your name gets around...that's not so good.

Also, you're advertising the fact that at least one of your projects is fundamentally flawed. More than one rejection has said that your writing is good but they "can't connect", which is major code for flat/disinteresting characters. If one person said that, it would be chalked up to a matter of taste. The fact that so many rejections are saying the same thing means it really is a problem you should be worried about...and something that would make me reluctant to take you on, were I an agent/editor.

It sounds like you do have writing talent worth nurturing, but maybe your time would be better spent sharpening your characters and making them more engaging and easier to connect with instead of sour grapesing it up on a blog.

The Quoibler said...

What I find most interesting about this whole dialogue is that it begs the question:

"Is blogging detrimental to one's career?"

I don't have the answer, but I can say that it proves the power of a) the Internet and b) the written word.

Long live freedom of speech, I say!


Writer, Rejected said...

Guess what, Serious Anonymous? I *am* rewriting my novel and it's really coming along well! Thanks for asking. I think it's funny that people assume that if you maintain a blog, you must do NO OTHER ACTIVITY all day long. In fact, I do a whole lot of stuff; I write stories and essays and other projects, and I send them out as submissions and proof my publications. I even get paid for one of the things I do all day long, so I can eat and pay the electricity bills (to write more blog entries, of course). On an entirely separate note, though: Thanks to THE QUOIBLER for steady support! Let Freedom Ring, my friend.

Victoria Masters said...

I love seeing the rejection notes- they let ME know that I'm not the only person getting rejected!

Any time ANYONE emails something they should understand that it becomes "public"- anyone could be at the end of the email address! The same is true of a blog- anyone can read an unrestricted blog.

I wouldn't be slanderous on a public blog if I were you- but all you are doing is posting letters and emails (not marked confidential) that you receive.

More power to you for being brave enough to expose the ups AND downs of being a writer!

Anonymous said...

I don't get it - are editor's egos so fragile that they can't withstand a little good-natured fun? How pathetic is that? I thought writers were supposed to be the thin-skinned ones.

Oh and another thing: I thought so many of these editors were SO swamped with work that they can barely compose a genuine rejection letter or read a manuscript. And yet they are going to use their crack detective skills to track down WR's real identity? Pish-posh.

Huzzah, WR! Blog on!

Anonymous said...

"I thought writers were supposed to be the thin-skinned ones."

Yes, but you're not taking into account the fact that many, many, many lit agents/editors are either failed writers, or wannabe writers who never had the guts to go for it fully.

But it's not about thin-skinness and crack detective skills. All WR needs is one petty rejecter to put a name to a blog and spread the word for her to get labeled "difficult". Getting signed/published is hard enough with a clean slate, why dirty yours up?

I'm just saying, it wouldn't be a bad idea for WR 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.

Anonymous said...

I feel compelled to comment, since there are multiple anonymous comments and I am the original commenter (whose words are in red up there). I should've come up with an anonymous codename to distinguish myself.

There have been some good responses to supplement my original comment but allow me to explain -- I see nothing wrong with your blog on a venting level. You're a writer, you get rejected, you want to air some of your frustraton. That's not a problem. But yes, not blacking out the names COULD cause problems for you. It's not that agents/editors are ashamed of their rejections. It's just that it is unprofessional and while you might not be "kinda crazy" or full of "sour grapes" you do come off as such, or at the very least a bit difficult and ignorant of the publishing industry, and no editor wants to work with someone like that. It might not be true of you, but its the impression you give. And all it takes is for one editor or assistant with a good memory to recognize the details in their decline or to go back to their decline files (some editors keep all declines in one big word document) and do a Ctrl+F and you might not be as anonymous anymore. It's very hard to be published. You have to be good, true, but you also have to fight against the current market (you might be good but will you sell right now), the agent/editor's personal taste, the other books on a house's/agent's list, and your own revision needs. Declines are a fact of life and this blog doesn't come across as a writer's simple need to vent. It comes across as bitter, indignant and a little entitled -- and I'm not saying you don't have the right to SOME of those feelings (feeling entitled when you have no right to be is a good way to fuck yourself), but that you should know how it could affect your writing career. You may not be blacklisting yourself per say, as one person wrote, but you're certainly not helping yourself. These agents/editors aren't concerned with you tarnishing their reputation -- they don't need to. They have strong reputations based on their work and their current professional relationships...but again, no one wants to work with someone who comes across as being difficult and ignorant, and while you may not be those things, that is the air that this blog gives off from a publishing perspective.

(And here's my new codename)
~Editor, Advising

Anonymous said...

Also, in response to one comment that was made:

Yes, some editors fall into the category of "those who can't write, edit" but not all of them are bitter about it. Some people just make better editors than they do writers. They are better at seeing the issues in someone else's writing and help them to correct those problems than they are at actually getting the words out onto paper from scratch. Though to be fair, most editors have to be at least fairly gifted in the writing department, given that they job comes with so much required writing.
~Editor, Advising

Writer, Rejected said...

You may not believe this, Editor, Advising, but I'm actually a peach

(BTW, contrary to your opinions, my book tour was a success, people in publshing like to work with me, and I am generally known for my charm and good humor.)

Anonymous said...

Dear Editor, Advising:

Where oh where is your sense of humor? Do you really think WR is "bitter and indignant" or "kinda crazy," as opposed to an amusing writer poking fun at a sometimes disappointing industry? Is anyone actually being hurt by WR's using names? It seems like a little bit of fun lampooning, with no actual victim.

Do you mean to suggest that editors are so petty and mean that they would actually hold a grudge and blackball a book that they thought was marketable, just to punish a writer who had once blogged about them? Perhaps you'll play the Nancy Drew role and uncover the Big Secret and defend the good names of editors everywhere.

It's too bad you can't also monitor emails and lunchtime gossip at the water cooler.

Anonymous said...

Mercury Retrograde wrote, "Do you mean to suggest that editors are so petty and mean that they would actually hold a grudge and blackball a book that they thought was marketable, just to punish a writer who had once blogged about them?"

That's a little bit like asking whether your purse will get stolen if you leave it in your shopping cart while you search for an item in another aisle.

Maybe it will, maybe it won't. Why risk it?

I've read numerous comments on this blog. I've read lots of very good arguments for WR to black out the names of the editors, and not a single argument, good, bad, or indifferent, for leaving the names.

So, WR, allow me to pose a question: why do you leave them unblacked?

Anonymous said...

You are KILLING the fun of this blog.

Anonymous said...

I think this blog would be more fun without the names. Then we wouldn't be subjected to the endless debates about whether WR is killing her career or whether she's a mean or bitter person or whether editors have a sense of humor.

There are many, many ridicule blogs that do not name the person being ridiculed, or name them only by first name, and they are still funny.

Anonymous said...

"So, WR, allow me to pose a question: why do you leave them unblacked?"

F for reading comprehension.

As stated numerous times, by numerous people on this blog, Writer Rejected has nothing to lose and isn't going to get published because of the market anyway. Lack of interest in good literary fiction. Lack of interest.

Editors aren't really going to care about this blog in the long run. It's a joke (and funny), but that's about all in the long run. Someone who has been pushed out of the business, for good reasons or bad, is trying to point out that something is wrong with business. Get it? Editors don't need your protection. They haven't done anything wrong. Just their jobs. They probably laugh at this blog and shake their heads. They seem sad enough about the state of the business if you read the letters carefully. They are probably on Writer Rejected's side.

Most of the letters actually seem pretty decent, too, and they seem sorry to have to reject...again and again...good writers, instead of working with them to make their book publishable. So why should these people be mad at Writer Rejected? And why shouldn't Writer Rejected get to post them with the names of the rejecters on them? Who is it harming? For me, personally, I have been rejected by some of these people, and it helps to see what the letters say to another writer. I feel like I'm in a community.

It's understandable that the writer's name is blocked out. The writer here (as always) is the vulnerable one, in danger of seeming like a failure. This is the position that many good writers find themselves in lately.

You don't have to have sympathy. And you don't have to join the party or the revolution, as the blog says, but you can certainly understand the impulse.

Anonymous said...

I'm kinda sick of having to clarify for people who feel the need to pull certain choice phrases from my comments and ignore others, but ok I'll bite one final time.

Writer, Rejected may not be blacklisted but this blog certainly isn't going to HELP. From an editorial standpoint, if I knew who WR was and received a submission from him/her I would be hesitant to take their project on unless the writing was absolutely spectacular. Editors are hesitant enough to take chances on debut authors whose writing needs work. By posting these decline letters in such a way, WR is giving the impression that s/he doesn’t take criticism very well. Now, for all any of us know, s/he could be fantastic with revisions, but if you react this way to your decline letters, how will you react to my editorial letters if I take on your work? You may not agree with everything the declines say, and again, some of them may be ludicrous, but they are giving you their professional reaction and maybe they think you need to do more work and maybe they just aren’t interested, but that doesn’t mean they deserve to have their letters portrayed as villainous and critiqued for amusement’s sake. This type of blog and the fact that WR doesn't black out names shows me, as an editor in the publishing industry, that this is an author who doesn't know how to act professionally and who raises a red flag in my mind as someone who HAS THE POTENTIAL to be difficult to work with. No editor is going to take a chance on someone like that unless there is A LOT of incentive (i.e. the work is stunning or they think it will sell well). Think about it this way, WR – how would you feel if those same agents/editors posted YOUR work on their website or blog as an example of what not to submit to them? Or just for mere amusement? You may think there is something wrong with the submission process from your end, but from our end it is equally as frustrating – mainly because of the sheer amount of crap that we see every day (read Editorial Anonymous’s blog if you don’t understand). So judge not lest ye be judged…we editors could tell our fair share of stories about you authors too, but if we do, we don’t include names because (again) it is unprofessional.

And again - editors/agents don't have to worry about their reputations being tarnished. That's not the point when I say WR should black out the names. My point is that it is just unprofessional and there are websites that handle this type of venting so much better. I understand you want a system of accountability like the teacher-rating sites, but one has nothing to do with the other and writers who wish to published should not think of themselves as "customers rating services that they paid for." Sure it's good to know who the duds are before you spend money on postage, but in that case, post information on who the scam agents/houses are, who to stay away from, etc. etc. Don't go after the legitimate professionals. Their bosses, colleagues and track record will keep them in check and it's not your place to try and do so. If they are messing up, acting unprofessionally or generally don't know what they are talking about, they will not succeed in the industry. And if they're succeeding in the industry, it’s a pretty sure bet that they know at least enough to find projects that work in the market.

And maybe I missed something in earlier posts, but who is to say that WR has been pushed out of the industry? Maybe s/he just needs to rework their stuff or write something fresh and new. Maybe the next query will land him/her an agent and/or a deal. I would just hate to see him/her miss an opportunity because the one agent who believed in him/her found out s/he was posting things like this on the web.

~Editor, Advising

Anonymous said...

As a literary agent, I can only speak from personal experience here and I know that there are as many opinions on this as there are grains of sand. But to put my (admittedly subjective)thoughts out there: first off, I think this blog is A GOOD THING. Frankly, it doesn't matter whether the aim is to vent or change the industry or simply to get published. It's interesting enough, debate is always healthy and I'm pretty certain that the legions of the rejected will draw comfort in a There-Despite-The-Grace-of-God-Also-Go-I manner rather than hurl themselves off a cliff. However.... Last week my office received 273 unsolicited submissions by post, roughly 90% of which were fiction. We have an employee whose job it is to do a first trawl through that pile (which this week fills three large mail sacks). Often enough, he will arrange for those sacks to be delivered to his apartment where he works on them further over the week-end. He has no other job. At the end of each week, he will send us a list of recommendations for titles to be looked at further, which generally consist of between 5 and 10 books in every 200-500 submisssions. The hard reality is, however, that none of our seven staff, myself included, has time to read during work hours - as we are busy sending out submissions, drafting and checking contracts, sorting out publicity tours, meeting foreign publishers or film people et al - which means that we then have to evaluate the best of the unsolicited material at week-ends and in the evenings, and to balance doing so against the demands of our partners, children and friends. That said, I am a firm believer in the fact that the cream always rises, and that great - or even just good - work stands out. But like everyone else in this business I also know that I regularly turn down work which goes on to sell, and sometimes to sell for huge amounts of money. That's fine (although it may occasionally rankle) as we all know that this business is about mapping one's own personal taste onto the wider background of a market which is itself always in a constant state of flux. This is a gambler's business, after all, and all we can do is to set our hares running. That said, about 2 to 3 times a year we will take something on that comes to us unsolicited - unannounced, knocking randomly on the door - and some of our best clients have come to us that way. Two such authors have won the leading national literary fiction prizes of their publication years; and another has become a big household name in the commercial fiction arena. So it happens, believe me. And I know that I have turned down people who have done just as well with other agents and publishers and, in the main, have no problem with that. But the flip-side is that in a few weeks' time we shall probably have to send all 273 of the writers who kindly sent material in last week a rejection letter. We will probably send each of those 273 writers a polite rejection letter which is carefully written so as not to invite its recipient to enter into a dialogue with us. We are not, and cannot purport to be, a writing school and thus to engage in that sort of editorial debate would be to the detriment of our existing clients. A handful of unsolicited writers will, however, receive an individual letter which will offer some advice, encouragement or suggestions. And very, very rarely, as this week-end, I will sit down as I did on Friday night with a typescript of a novel fulsomely recommended by our reader and finish it, as I just have, and know that I am looking at pure gold. This was novel which brought me alive, which spoke to me on some deep, deep level, and so well-written and all-round good that I now find myself utterly frustrated in a nail-biting sort of way to discover that its author is away and cannot be contacted for a week. But that feeling of discovery, and unalloyed joy, is why we are all in this business - lightning can strike us all

Anonymous said...

As a writer who's trying to get published, I'm horrified by the lack of professionalism of this blog. There is absolutely no need to include the names of the agents. Many publishers have now gone to a "we'll contact you only if we're interested" policy, meaning you generally don't hear anything and don't receive any personal feedback. I would imagine agents might instigate similar policies if their signed rejection letters are held up to ridicule and disdain. I find it particularly hard to understand why WR does this when she receives a response that could be helpful to her writing. If I were an agent or a publisher, I would never work with someone like her. Certainly "charm" and "good humor" are not what come to mind from this blog.

Anonymous said...

you are creating polarization which means you're making people take sides. Hence, you're going to piss some people off, but there are going to be some other people who will defend you who maybe wouldn't have even taken the time to read your work otherwise. This is a common trick in politics. Not that I think you're doing a trick. But you notice that even creepy politicians tend to still stick around and we all wonder - how does this guy still have any support?!!!? It is because he created polarization. So, the short version (which I never seem to be able to do!) is that you'll be fine. Do what you want.

sootfoot5 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I thought this was an interesting discussion till the final comment. What a pity that good advice is being ignored, or worse still, derided and met with foul language.

The blog would still be effective, even with names blacked out, so I don't understand why that advice has been disregarded. Still it's your literary funeral.

(Fellow writer - not related to any editor or agent visiting this blog)

Writer, Rejected said...

Yes, that is both the joy and pain of blogging. Freedom of speech sometimes evolves to the highest level of thought and sometimes devolves to the lowest level of speech. I guess it's kind of like a 12-step program, you have to take what's useful and productive and leave the rest.

Anonymous said...

I like your blog. I do not have a lit journal, but if I did, I wouldn't blacklist you for talking about rejection on the Internet. I think anyone who did would be really thin-skinned.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Unknown said...

Since I have three blogs myself (two literary + one travel blog) and since I post my rejections in my literary blog (Blue Mosaic Me), I have to disagree with a lot of posts here.

First, honestly, editors/agents don't give a shit what rejected writers think about them, mostly because these writers aren't making them money and they aren't showing up in their journals. Since they reject close to 99% of all manuscripts, they would find thousands of writers complaining about them if they bothered to look up angry rejected writers all day long, something most don't do, unless they're masochistic.

Two, editors/agents know that rejection is the name of the game, and they know it's not personal, so few will take it personally when you complain about it in your own blog. Now, if you write them back a nasty response, then you'll be burning bridges. Otherwise, they're WAY too busy to google you, unless they're consumed by curiosity or regret, in which case, let them suffer a little bit. Writers have it much worse. . .

Three, though they're definitely the exception, I've actually had several agents and editors write me after they read what I wrote in my literary blog, in part because I was honest but in no way malicious. One agent asked to see a novel manuscript he'd initially turned down; and one editor actually apologized to me after he read my complaint about his journal. Again, if I'd been a douchebag in my entries, this wouldn't have happened. But there's a way to be honest while still being emotionally real.

4. If a blog isn't the right place to lament about the difficulty of getting published, then where in the hell IS the right place?

5. Few if any agents have time or interest to read blogs. They're already slammed with things they're trying to sell, not things they've decided are unsellable.

6. If an editor is so petty that he blacklists you after you demonstrate frustration about this industry, then I promise you that that editor is either insecure or vindictive, and both cases, there would be little or no chance for you anyway. Insecure editors are the first ones to publish a marquee name in their journal and let the aspiring writers die silent death. These editors think they need big names to legitimate their journal. Self-confident editors will take a chance. And vindictive editors/agents would never have given you a fair shake anyway. So, for all of the rest of the editors, your chances are basically unaffected. And those are the only editors you have any hope of erupting into the literary world with anyway.

Sorry, a bit long-winded, but I've thought about this a lot in the past three years. By the way, my first literary blog has been going strong + my best print pubs have happened in the past year or so. So, thus far, my success has been pretty good + I haven't seen any negative consequences of my blog so far. I'll let you know if that changes.

Here are the literary blogs, if you want to see what I mean. . .

The Oceanside Animals said...

Interesting thread. Over on my blog, I'm not blacking out my name, so why should I black out the names of the agents/publishers? I will blur addresses and phone numbers, etc., if the letter comes from what I think is someone's home (as in the case of small press magazines) but so far that's all I've been doing. Maybe it's because I'm not planning to hunt for an agent or a publisher anymore, but I don't feel particularly concerned about burning any bridges; the bridges are so heavily fortified and guarded I doubt I would be getting over them anyway. (I also don't think I ridicule the writers of the letters, but then, from what I've seen, neither do you.)

Nevard W Tellalian said...

OKEY DOKEY then! just found your wonderful blog TONIGHT. lord have mercy, how did i manage to BREATHE without this gem of a thang? i'm just SAYING.
1)i read "anonymous"

2)had to look above, because i couldn't remember how to spell anonymous.

3)have taken a nice look at your civilized "rules of the game"

4)i would like to call "anon." a bad name.

5)i'm attempting to discover some civilized, literary, etc., words to describe "anon"

6)nope. got no words. no words here, sparky.

7)would love to be nice, and often can be heard MOURNING the loss of "nice".

8)nope. afraid we simply can't muster up any ol' "nice" for the brick brained "anonymous"

insert potty mouth.

i just love you. i DO,and will follow you by golly.
will you follow me, even though i can't seem to capitalize, and refer to myself in the ....well, you i'm the queen mum or sumptin'?