03 January 2009

Rejection Letters--Some Random and Not So Random Musings

If you're an author who is trying to sell your work, you are more familiar with rejection letters than you'd like to be. I know I am. Search around the blogosphere and you'll find all kinds of comforting advice for authors who are piling up rejections: "its a badge of honor," "it shows you are working," "look at all the famous authors who got stupid rejection letters" and so on. Bottom line is that, as working authors, we all have to learn to deal with rejection in our own way, and, if we can't deal with it professionally, we're in the wrong business.

Now, let me switch hats. What responsibilities do editors have for helping authors get over (or get fewer) rejections? For many editors, the answer is "none." What matters to them is the bottom line, not the author's ego. No so for E-spec editors. We can't provide individual critiques for every rejection (which some, but not all, authors would consider helpful). In a past post (see August 5, 2008 post), I talked about why Electric Spec generally uses form rejections (a form that we believe is kinder than many other 'zines). As we've also mentioned in the past, one of the reasons we started the blog is give advice that we can't give on an individual basis. We don't expect everyone to agree with the advice, and, in fact, we enjoy different points of view in the blog comments.

However, it seems worth reminding people that replying to rejection letters with outrage or incredulity is a bad idea. Bets put it well in her December 20, 2007 post:

And especially, especially don't send us a snotty response to a rejection. Now, I am terrible with names, so I won't remember you if you sent us a snotty reply. (I can't speak for my fellow editors--Lesley seems to have one of those steel-trap minds, and Dave is a lawyer--take what significance from that as you will.) Also, our office is the Internet and various restaurants in Boulder, so we don't have a "black-balled" bulletin board. However, my experience is that a surly attitude often matches sub-par writing, so if you're angry with an editor, you might take a fresh look at your own writing. Might you instead be angry with yourself? Next to parenting, writing is the most difficult endeavour I've ever embarked upon, so you're not alone in your frustration.


lesleylsmith said...

I can't say I totally agree that the folks that respond to rejections necessarily are bad writers. One thing authors need to keep in mind is your story may be great but it may just not be right for our 'zine.

lesleylsmith said...

It's never a good idea to be unprofessional in your chosen profession, however. I assume folks who send us stories are writers.