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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Hostile Much?

Concerning the post entitled Urban Legend?, editor, rejecting said...

"We wouldn't treat writers like monkeys if you didn't act like monkeys. No means no. A rejection doesn't mean "try again later" or "revise and resubmit" or "we're just not a good fit", it means you're not good enough. When you get a rejection, suck it up and try someone else, keep trying until you find someone with low enough standards to take you on, but for the love of god don't keep pestering someone who's already had to wade through your dreck once...that's just cruel."

Yowzer. Touched a nerve. Plus, here's a question. If we suck so bad, why write a letter that implies something else and then expect us to get your secret "you suck" code? I think a simple, You are not good enough for us, but good luck would be refeshing and at the very least honest.
What do writers think? Would you rather be treated like a monkey or be told the truth?


The Quoibler said...

I'm thinking this ongoing debate could easily (and entertainingly) solved with a Pay-Per-View (or perhaps YouTube) steel cage, no holds barred match.

"In this corner, wearing an outfit made entirely of recycled rejection letters is Writer, Rejected... And in this corner, angrily ripping up unread manuscripts and hyped up on caffeine is Editor, Rejected..."

Hey, we could all blow off a little steam and maybe even make a few bucks in the process.


Anonymous said...

Personally, I'd rather be sending my work to an editor who doesn't hate his job :)

Kathryn Magendie said...

Lawd! Wow.

Well, I never re-send to an agent, unless I do it on accident. I mean, I try to keep track of everyone I query, but who is perfect? Sometimes things happen.

As for submitting stories and essays, I don't submit the same story to an editor twice unless they ask for it, or if they ask me to "send something else" that's what I do-send something else.
But there was one place where I submitted a short story over a year ago, and since then I re-wrote the short story pretty significantly - so I did re-send it, with a note saying it was a re-written re-send to give them the option to ignore it. As well, I sent it to one of those places where there is only a rumor writers are actually published, so figured "what do I have to lose? I'm one in five thousand-plus." *laughing*

On the whole, I try never to repeat a submission of the same material to the same editor/agent.

As for what that editor said - *sigh* I can get their frustration, but at the same time -I agree, if the editor/agent thinks the work sucks, why not just say it in so many words....get this: I received another writer's rejection letter from an agent--it was awful -pretty much said her writing wasn't good and her story wasn't any better....So, I asked him to send my rejection - and waited with nervous horror what mine would say--luckily, it said..."you are certainly a talented writer, but I don't think I can sell that story." That's what I usually get on that novel--good writer, story not sellable. But, I took him for his word, for he certainly didn't hold out any words on the other poor writer.

I do editor work, so I can see both sides - however, I'm a different kind of editor, I guess-because I'm also a writer,and I was a writer before I began editing. I never wanted to be an editor, never thought I would be--and it just accidentally happened and I happen to be pretty good at it. That said, my editing is small taters-I edit for an ezine and I freelance edit novels and the like.

I'd rather be told the truth. It hurts, but at least I know where I stand.

Behind all this are humans -and humans for the most part don't want to hurt other human's feelings--or to crush their hopes and dreams -- so, in that way, I can understand the rejections that are softened; however, I think most of the time, the agent/editor just finds it easier to send a form letter and be done with it.

I'm rambling! *laugh*

Anonymous said...

Just a question: if you got several rejection letters saying, "Although your persistence is admirable, I just don't think you have a career in writing," would you keep at it? Or just find some other house to submit to.

Also, editors and agents tend to ask for more submissions outright. So why is it so hard to discern the fact that they don't want to see any more of your work?

Anonymous said...

See now, I don't agree with everything Editor, Rejecting said. A rejection doesn't necessarily mean "you suck." Sometimes it CAN mean "we're not a good fit" or "I don't think this particular piece is good enough." Rejection letters shouldn't be a sign that "you suck" because they are objective. Maybe you're not right for that house, or that editor, or you don't meet their standards. Or again, maybe that piece is not representing you the way you think it should. But most editors don't mean "you suck and should never write again" when they are rejecting. And any editor who DOES write something like that DESERVES to be posted on this blog.

However, my colleagues and I have actually discussed this issue recently. It is INCREDIBLY annoying to receive submissions over and over and over again from the same person who we then have to continue rejecting over and over and over again. Unless we ask for a revision or to see another project, don't send one. Blind, ignorant persistance will only annoy us, which doesn't help you get published. In fact, it may push a normally good editor to want to write a "you suck" letter just to get the monkey (sorry, had to say it) off their back.

(and just to note that Editor, Rejecting is a separate person than Editor, Advising. Damn derivative codenames.)

Anonymous said...

Why not be honest? That's easy...because frankly editors fear that hurting a fragile writer's ego might result in said writer storming into our office with an Uzi, or sending us an anthrax-laced manuscript. So we try to couch our rejections in a way that won't overly rile the monkeys.

Janny said...

"It is INCREDIBLY annoying to receive submissions over and over and over again from the same person who we then have to continue rejecting over and over and over again. Unless we ask for a revision or to see another project, don't send one. Blind, ignorant persistance will only annoy us, which doesn't help you get published. In fact, it may push a normally good editor to want to write a "you suck" letter just to get the monkey (sorry, had to say it) off their back."


I understand how this can apply to a revision of a rejected work...but to additional projects as well? Is that REALLY what you mean here?

I mean, if it is, and you truly can tell from one selection from one writer that that writer's entire body of work is going to leave you cold...that's truly amazing.

(A little unbelievable, but amazing.)

But if you're truly troubled and bothered by all that messy perseverance on the part of certain writers, then you need to do something different in the way you're dealing with them.

Either have two different form letters on hand, telling us whether you want us to send something else or not...or quit attending conferences and speaking engagements, writing blogs and articles, and serving on panels where you encourage perseverance in all of us aspiring authors.

Say "feel free to submit again," or "your work does not appear to match well with us." Say it kindly. But say it. Differentiate.
Don't blame the writer for "blind, ignorant persistence" merely because he or she can't read your mind.


Mary Witzl said...

I like the truth, and I tend to take it straight. Yes, it stings and it makes me angry for a few days, then I get over it and get back to writing, incorporating whatever I have derived from the honest opinion that was given to me.

In the end, the whole world can reject me, but I will continue to write because that is what I do.

Anonymous said...

What this whole debate suggests is that those who screen a writer's work are not necessarily the best, most articulate, clearest, precise writers themselves. Janny is right. Why can't editors be polite with precision, rather than polite with ambiguity? Certainly there are ways to do that without causing Uzi-carrying writers to storm their offices. Maybe take lessons from college professors who have to fail their students. Frankly, I was a book slush pile reader right out of college and I found it so depressing rejecting everyone that I lasted two, maybe three months before returning to graduate school, where I ended up as an editor of a journal and treated all submissions with respect, knowing what goes into them. Editors have to somewhat enjoy the power of it all, despite their sense of being beleaguered by an infestation of writers who are not necessarily worse writers than they are, apparently, given the obvious difficulties many are having getting an accurate message across.

Eileen said...

I'm not editor advising, nor do I know who they are, but I do know from talking to my agent that many writers send the same novel over and over with small or minor changes. So I don't think as was listed earlier that the editor is saying never send me anything again, but rather if I tell you it's not the story for me don't change the character's name, move the setting to NY and re-submit. It's still the same story. This would annoy me too and I'm one of the monkeys.

Anonymous said...

OK: time to weigh in. I'm a former editor (an am still one, in a freelance capacity), and I'm also an author. So I, like some others, am on both sides of the fence here. (A neat trick, actually, if you're tall enough. Ah ha ha.) I've been reading this blog for a while, and I'd like to join this particular conversation because, as an editor, I myself encountered such persistence. And yes, janny, it involved multiple different submissions. And yet, still, I agree with editor, advising, and to some degree, kathryn, that such a situation can become quite...distressing.

In my own case, the same author tried project after project after project AFTER PROJECT with us, and none were suitable. We rejected, rejected, rejected, REJECTED, but after a while it became rather awkward to send her the same old form letter, because we had gradually and unintentionally formed some kind of almost-relationship with her--simply based on the number of communications. And that relationship had showed us that she seemed to be an essentially very sweet and earnest person, not ignorant of the types of books we published, clearly painstaking (as in, to a degree far above average, sometimes bordering on...erm...crafting activity) in the creation of her submissions, assiduous in following our guidelines--and for all that, really, truly, not at all publishable.

So, then--partly because she was so obviously not one of our apparently deranged prison-inmate submitters who clearly had no idea whatsoever who we were or what we did--then, perhaps, we did the wrong thing. We began writing her non-form-letter rejections that were slightly kinder, but (in my opinion) still firm. We did this NOT because we wanted to encourage her, believe me. We did it because we have hearts and we felt bad for her. So, yes: I will acknowledge that this course may have instilled false hope. But please take me at my word when I say that we were not toying with her, were not trying to lead her on, were most assuredly NOT trying to encourage further submissions so that we could gather around them and point and cackle. What would have made us all happiest, I believe (her included, I imagine), would have been for her to share her creativity (which was, in fact, abundant) with her family and friends and to have found satisfaction in that.

Many of you are probably right--we should have been brutally honest from the very beginning, or at least from somewhere near the beginning. But when we weren't, it wasn't out of cruelty or for the sake of some sort of ego trip. Or even, if I do say so myself, because we were incapable of being "articulate, clear, precise writers." I don't feel I'm being condescending in saying it was an urge that stemmed from kindness and sympathy. In my experience, editors (including those who are writers, failed writers, and even not-at-all writers) tend to be creative and compassionate people who genuinely love books and words and communication. Most of my colleagues worked very, very hard for relatively pathetic pay because they loved these things so much. They had a deep desire to see talented authors succeed, and they did their best to fight for those authors when needed. I know this is only one editor's experience, but still--please don't tar us all with the same brush.

And here ends my very-much-longer-than-intended contribution! Well, almost. Writer, Rejected: I won't pretend to agree with every single word you publish on this blog, but I heartily enjoy both the subject and the debate, so thanks for making it available. And I say that with every brutally-honest, non-dithering, authorial-authorial bone in my body.

Anonymous said...

Oh, dear sweet jesus. Please also don't tar me with the "illiterate" brush because I have a typo 10 words into the above comment. I'll berate myself sufficiently, thanks.

Anonymous said...

Oh, fuck it, I quit. It's 4 A.M. here and "authorial-authorial" was supposed to be "authorial-editorial." And now everything else that I said may be discounted. AND I REALIZE THAT IT DOESN'T MATTER BUT I STILL CARE. Arggghh.

Good night.

Mike Beversluis said...

I'm getting this weird internet dating vibe, but perhaps I've said too much...

Writer, Rejected said...

In reverse order:

Mike B: Don't start sloppy hook-ups on my blog, man. This no (Unless you need it to be.)

Author-Editor Hybrid: Thanks for your thoughts. Happy to have you weigh in. Typos are encouraged here. So, no worries.

Anonymous: Monkeys don't have the thumbs for anthrax and uzis. But definitely beware coconuts lobbed at the head and banana peels.

Quoibsini: Only if you play Don King. Glad you keep coming back, my friend.

Anonymous said...

Now, this one is mean. Really mean. And stupid. Editors can't publish every piece that they consider "good enough." Sometimes there really is such a thing as "not a good fit." This misanthrope appears to have a distorted sense of his own importance. Plus he doesn't seem to "get" what it is that editors do.

Anonymous said...

Does anybody else think it's strange that editors are still called "editors" even though they don't edit? Also, does anybody else wonder how long it will be before another layer of bodies forms between author and book? Agents didn't exist until the past century. Do you think we'll soon have an agent- agentor- editor hierarchy? If that happens, will you be disappointed, or will you think it's a natural agent/editor-monkey process of evolution?
All I can say is this: a lot of bad books have been published this century, and I want to know who's responsible!


The ghost of Shakespeare or Dickens or some other author who would never make it today

Anonymous said...

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