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.


11 thoughts on “Rejection is Hard, But There’s No Need To Get Personal

  1. Debora Boudreau

    WOW! Pretty unprofessional! We are living in a society where many feel entitled and just don’t understand that everything they do isn’t wonderful. I’m so sorry this happened to you. And I’m sorry that whoever did this isn’t grown up enough to understand you don’t always get what you want. You’ve been great to me Michelle!

  2. Molly

    You said it, Michelle–it’s always best to be a professional, in this business as in any other, if you want to be taken seriously. And “you don’t understand my genius” rants don’t accomplish that. Do we *think* those things when rejected? Sure, of course. But, as with most negative thoughts, they’re best kept to ourselves. 🙂 Thanks for the reminder that publishers get rejections and other disappointments too! Writers sometimes don’t realize that.

  3. William Topek

    Like most writers, I’ve received many, many rejections. I rarely took any of them personally. Usually I appreciated getting any kind of response because so many publishers and agents won’t even bother to do that. Art is a matter of personal taste, and if you don’t like my book, it makes sense to me you wouldn’t want to publish it. Granted, there are those in such industries who haven’t the courage to follow their own tastes, but that’s a different matter.

    The response you described was highly unprofessional. I’m not surprised you’d already decided to pass based on the query alone, as I’m willing to bet only truly bad writers pull that kind of crap.

    It’s also a good idea not to let strangers know they have the power to make you angry.

  4. Dean from Australia

    And the web is replete with resources for authors in preparing their work as well as preparing themselves for the process of submission.

    There really isn’t any excuse for a writer/author not to be well informed and thus prepared.

  5. LisainTO

    “The way people act has everything to do with them and nothing to do with me.”

    One of my friends recently reminded me of this and although it had nothing to do with writing or publishing, it is something that we can remember in our everyday lives. Good for you for shaking it off … like a polaroid picture. 🙂

  6. Beverly Cialone

    While being a writer is considered an “art”, yes, it’s also a business, and the majority of authors should always conduct themselves with the highest sense of professionalism. I applaud Michelle for her reaction to the angry author’s letter, just as I applaud her for this post to remind us to always conduct ourselves like the professional artists we are!

  7. Beverly Cialone

    Michelle has always done right by me, I am ALWAYS extolling her virtues as my editor/publisher, as well as just how extremely nice she is. Shame on whoever wrote that nasty email to her. I hope he or she realizes that they will never get anywhere by acting like that!

  8. Michelle

    Hey everyone, thank you very much for your kind words. Of course you would say that about me, we work together! But seriously, I want you to know that I didn’t post this to try to get some pats on the back or as some sort of pity party, but just to help us all remember to keep our collective chins up in this business. Rejection is the hardest part of my job – a part I really don’t like having to do. But I just simply can’t take on everything anymore.

    Now wish me luck, because I’m off to meet with a bookstore on stocking our print books!

  9. LisainTO

    I don’t work with you. However, I do know your character. I can assure everyone reading this post that Michelle would never look for a “pity party” when conducting business. Be mindful of her words and keep your chins up. She is indeed quite wise.

    Good luck with the bookstore!

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