Saturday, August 07, 2010

Respect your editors and publishers

I've been working as an editor for more than a decade now, and there are some behaviors I've seen from writers that I consider disgusting. I'm not talking about not following guidelines, although that happens a lot. I've never edited anything that accepts horror, and yet I'm constantly inundated by it. I'm talking about things like sending nasty letters to an editor after they've rejected your work, trying to sell reprints as originals, slandering editors or publishers because they didn't want to accept your work, and anything else that might be similar.

It might seem hard to believe that writers can act this way, but they can, and believe me, they do! I used to comment on every piece I rejected, but at least once or twice a month I'd get a nasty e-mail back from a disgruntled author, and because of that, I rarely comment on author's work anymore, and that's a bad thing for authors. Feedback from an editor can be a real help to an aspiring writer, but because of a few childish people, fewer and fewer editors are giving feedback anymore.

In a sense, editors and publishers are something like a writer's employers and they should be treated as such. Most people aren't going to call their boss a jerk because their boss wasn't happy with their performance, but since the internet isn't face to face, people seem to have a lot more courage to act like fools.

One thing that writers don't seem to realize is that editors talk to one another, and if someone is misbehaving, there's a good chance that other editors will find out. If your work is rejected, and you're not happy with the rejection, then feel free to write a nasty rant to the publisher...but DON'T SEND IT!!!

Never try to sell first rights to a story that has already been published. It's simply a form of dishonesty, and no one likes dishonest people, plus when you get caught, a lot of other editors will find out, and it could end your career.

And whatever you do, don't go around posting nasty things about editors or publishers because they've rejected your work. You look foolish when you do it, and there's a good chance that other publishers and editors will read your rants, and they'll be much less likely to want to work with you...


Keith said...

One thing I value greatly is editor feedback. Some editors give some good insights as to why the rejected my story and I have changed what I write and how I write it over the years due to comments in rejection slips.
I remember a NASA engineer saying that you don't learn much from a successful launch. You learn much more from a failure.
When I next submit, feel free to rip into me and the story. I will go away and sulk, but I will be a better writer because of it.

Keith said...

Out of 131 rejects I have received a half dozen nasty or stupid ones. The editor might have been in a bad mood, or hungry or something. I remember being puzzled as to what I had done to rouse them to such comments. These were for stories that sold soon afterward without modification. Perhaps I was overly sensitive to the "you should take a course in writing before you submit again" sort of comments.

I have also been the subject of what was obviously a canned response that referred to flaws in the story. I was puzzled since comment seemed at a mismatch to my story. I think that this might have been a copy and paste that went wrong. The editor may have had a stock list of frequently used reasons for rejection and copied the wrong one.

I once received a personal rejection from Mariam Zimmer Bradley five years after she died. I felt this was uncalled for.

When I first started submitting, back in the 1960s, the editors would sell your name to "Famous Writer's School" and you would receive their junk mail, sometimes before the rejection letter. As a teenager, I took great offense at this. I regret that I stopped submitting after collecting rejection slips for a few years. I think that I would have figured out how to write a story that sells if I had stuck to it. I think that my youthful perspective would have made for better stories than my current jaded view of the world.

J Alan Erwine said...

I try my best to be polite in my rejections, although there are definitely times when I'd like to say that someone needs to take a writing course...but that's not my place to judge that.