Tuesday, September 22, 2009

If You Don't Have Something Good To Say

I am not one of those people that believes in hiding the truth or sugar coating things. I have always found that we can only improve if someone tells us the truth, even if the truth hurts. This goes for critiques I give and for responses to submissions. With that said, writers need to remember that great line from Sense and Sensibility. The youngest girl is told to talk about the weather if she has something negative she wants to say about someone.

I bring this up for those writers that want to reply to responses after being rejected by an author or editor. While rejection letters are always tough to deal with, it is something that "goes with the job" of being a writer. Editors and agents know what they are looking for within their own house and sometimes the story is just not going to work.

Here is the catch though. If you get a rejection, it is not something to be taken personally. The comment is about the writing and how the writing just doesn't fit with that person. But, replying back to the editor or agent with a negative comment, trying to get "the last word" in will not get you anywhere.

I actually had someone a while ago that sent me an email after I had rejected them. The comment said that they were already in consideration by the Oprah Book Club and several "much more established" agencies and wanted to tell me how I was making the biggest mistake of my career. This author went on to say that they would personally drive to my agency and hand deliver an autographed copy of their best seller.

Does this make me want to re-think my decision? Did this person really think that I was going to write back and say, "Oh, I am sorry about the response and you are right, I need to re-think this. In fact, I should just sign you without reading it!" Absolutely not. In fact, this confirms for me I made the right decision. This person is far from ready to be a professional writer.

And by the way, I am still waiting for that book from that author (smile).



  1. Scott,

    you see a lot of agents mention (often as an aside)on their blogs about negative and unprofessional responses to rejection.

    Recent events make me wonder if this is more common now than in the past. I was talking with some friends about the bad behavior celebrities show, and wondering if its simply an indication of that celebrities are spoiled or if it's an indication of the mood of society in general. The recent incidents I talked with friends about were: (1) Michael Jordan's hall of fame induction speech where he lashed out at every person who'd ever slighted him, (2) Serena Williams outburst at a lineswoman at the US Open, and (3) Kanye West's bizarre tirade telling Taylor Swift she shouldn't have won the award she was trying to accept at that moment.

    All these incidents show a lack of understanding of something everyone learns as a child: there is a time and place for everything.

    All of these people could have done these things--just not at that time and that place. Jordan should rant against slights with friends at his home, not in an acceptance speech. If Serena Williams wants to whine to Venus about how that lineswoman deserves the ball shoved down her throat, that should happen in their Florida mansion, not on the tennis court. And Kanye....don't even get me started.

    There seems to be a real lack of understanding that while these people's feelings are valid, the place they choose to express them are not. Professionalism--well, heck, let's be fair, it's not even professionalism. It's really being a grown up--requires that we behave appropriately at the right times. We don't say our every feeling every time we feel it. We speak with appropriate tone and are respectful to others.

    This author could have written you that same letter. What she never should have done was sent it. I hope more people act like grown ups, like professionals.

  2. People (and lots of them writers) crack me up every single day!

  3. Wow. The weirdness continues. Poor Scott.
    Public manners seem to have headed south fast. I used to work some special events at a large hotel on weekends for extra money. It was all too common for people to stop me as I walked past their table and demand a second dinner, or several extra bottles of wine, even though we had been told to limit the amount for each table.
    Many people would become openly angry or demanding, insisting that they could see there were places that had not been used, and therefore, they "KNEW there were extra meals, wine, etc., in the kitchen."
    Apart from the varied financial arrangements made by the bridal couple, I was always taken aback by this greedy behavior at what must have been the wedding of a friend. One meal always contained plenty of food for an adult. I always wanted to ask them if they came to share in the happiness of the couple, or to see how much free stuff they could grab.
    I simply do not remember this kind of behavior at the many eweddings I attended as a child or young adult.
    And this in front of a whole table of other guests! That was the most alarming aspect of the whole deal. No shame whatsoever. Sign of the times?
    I await the reception of this author's marvelous novel. Long wait I suspect.