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.