Opinions & Thoughts

Rejection is Hard, But There’s No Need To Get Personal

Recently I discovered an email malfunction whereby several manuscript submissions had been lost in cyberspace since last summer. We had closed submissions shortly after that, but these folks never got a proper response to their submission. Couple that with the fact that another couple books had been on the back burner waiting for a response, and I was feeling pretty bad about going back to these authors with a response. But I did, I felt really bad and wanted to make it right.

I emailed all the authors. In most cases, the authors had moved on and had self published – a good choice. Others were still interested in having us read over the query.

For some of those that were left, I could tell that the book was simply not for us – for many reasons. In the case of one book, I knew we weren’t going to take it on just from the query. I read over the first part of the book to give it a fair shot and then sent a very polite and probably too-nice rejection back to the author.

What I got in return was a very poorly crafted email lambasting me for unfair practices, accusing me of not reading the book, calling me something I try very hard not to be and being generally mad at me for making a judgement call which in the author’s opinion was not correct. It was full of grammatical errors – obviously written in anger. It was actually the first time that I’ve received that kind of note back from a rejection – all the others before have been quite professional.

Oh boy. I sure wish that author had written that note and then decided to wait 30 minutes before hitting the send button. I think they would have decided against sending it. All they accomplished was to vent their anger to someone who doesn’t care (or matter to them), making themselves look unprofessional, sloppy and immature. And it made me think about the next time I send a rejection letter. I’ll just say no and that’s it. Why bother with niceties like “I wish you all the best in your writing career…”?

Listen, I know rejection is hard. No, I’m not a writer. But I get rejected all the time. Bookstores won’t carry a book. The terms I get offered aren’t as good as those for the Big Six. A distributor doesn’t answer. Reviewers hate a book. Could you imagine me sending a note back to one of them telling them the things this author said to me? Rejection happens to all of us. But business is about shaking it off and making the decision to keep going. And to keep our anger and hurt out of professional communication. Heck, go to the bathroom and cry or smash a pillow against the wall. But an angry note written in haste won’t do a thing to help one’s cause.

The blogosphere is replete with stories of authors gone crazy. I guess I can consider myself inducted into this world now. By writing this, I’m not trying to call out anyone. I sincerely hope that this post reminds all of us (author, publisher, or otherwise) to conduct ourselves with grace and professionalism – even in the face of rejection.

The Ongoing Debate on the Value of Ebooks

Ai carumba, I am so tired of the debate on either side of how ebooks are good/bad, creating jobs/killing bookstores, good/bad for the environment. As a publisher of primarily digital books, my time, effort and soul is poured into creating books, most of which come out as digital only formats. I have been looked down upon by the literati – those who ‘love the smell of the paper and glue’ and shunned by local bookstores who think of them as cheap and ugly.

Now the latest argument is that ebooks erode our values – as touted by the talented Jonathan Franzen. He – along with others – state that the lack of permanence of ebooks represents societal demise, where nothing we own can be trusted. True, much of what we used to consider our own is now ‘licensed’ – music, movies, now books. Many lament that their art doesn’t sit upon the wall or a shelf, ready to be gazed upon and pulled out to view when we want to – like 50 years from now.

My problem with this permanence sentiment is that it is a very narrow, mostly western view of recent history only. For the majority of history, most of our art and stories have never had permanence. It has been played out and told as stories passed down by generations in the form of words and hand gestures, both of which lack the ‘permanence’ that printed matter has. I’m not saying that art shouldn’t have permanence, without it we wouldn’t know about Shakespeare’s talents or Dante’s story. But this view that the sky is falling because we have ebooks is a narrow one and one that lacks the full vision of what ebooks are doing for many people.

First and foremost, ebooks have opened up the door for many authors to publish their books. Sure some of them aren’t so good, but many are, and it’s a wonderful thing that they are getting read, even if by just a few people. Almost equally important is what technology has enabled for readers. No longer are books relegated to those who can afford them, but can be shared among friends for almost next to nothing. Case in point is a $24.95 print book which can be shared by many for $4.99. In a world where we are titillated by apps, movies, television, isn’t it nice that we might be reading more – regardless of what we’re reading it on?

When I first got started in this business, I had a lot of preset notions to overcome and a lot of ignorance on what ebooks were. I was kind of hoping we were past all that? I guess not. But the latest argument in the anti-ebook debate about the lack of permanence of our societal e-stories is just wrong. The stories told by countless generations of first nations peoples and tribal cultures around the world are not any less relevant and meaningful than the stories we write on paper. According to those mentioned above, these stories are less valuable than our paper ones because the words might change from generation to generation.

I don’t know what your answers are, but I believe that we can’t really own anything, permanence doesn’t exist and the desire to keep things such is a fruitless venture. Live in the now, that’s all we have. The words we read in this now, no matter what they’re printed on remain imprinted in our memories and on our hearts. That’s what important. That we had the experience of those stories. And thanks to ebooks, we have more of those experiences and those stories.

Happy, Happy Days to All!

This is a time of year for reflection, for family, for friends, for fun, for food, for remembering, for giving thanks. For me, here at ireadiwrite Publishing, this is a time to thank three sets of people.

The first set of thanks goes to the tremendous, wonderful authors with whom I am terribly privileged to work. They provide undying sources of friendship, support, frustration, and a huge amount of talent. Each one of them holds a special place in my heart, from the first author, who wrote the very first book released by us, to the most recent – who provides a source of inspiration to many around the world. The ones in between are each special in their own way, with each one of their books marking a special event for me. I hope they all know how special they are. I also credit the authors who stayed for a while and then went their own way. I wish them nothing but success in their careers. The ones who’ve stayed have seen the downs and now fortunately – the many ups. We are a family, we have disagreements, we have moments of being in each other’s heads. We have grown together and we’re now reaping the benefits. Thank you – you’ve all inspired me, made me jealous of you and made me admire the tremendous talent you each have.

My next shout out goes to the many editors, beta readers, proofreaders, reviewers, booksellers, bloggers, technical advisers and designers who I’ve had the pleasure of working with. Some have come and gone and others have stayed longer. Some I’ve only met online and others are as close as family. You have contributed in a real sense to the growth of this company and made our books better than ever. Thank you.

But my biggest thank you goes to the many, many thousands of readers who have bought and read our books. Some are friends and family of the authors, but the vast majority are strangers who’ve come across a book by an unknown author, a small press and have taken a chance on them. They’ve spread the word via social media sites and reviews. They’ve been kind and critical, honest and sometimes overwhelmingly supportive. But they are all valuable – and have brought so much to the table. They are what keeps me going – what keeps all of us going. Thank you for your wonderful support. It means more than you know.

So, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa and a Joyful Holiday season to all who celebrate at this time of year. May we all enjoy ourselves, remember those lost to us and be thankful for what we have.