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Hate Mail Prelude

Author August 2011
Below is the first exchange I had with that author who sent me such evil hate email. A lot of you wanted to know why I had the exchange with him the first time around. So, I will add my thoughts in italics.
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Hello,

Thank you for submitting "[Titled Censored]" to The Edge of Propinquity semiprozine. I am sorry but this story does not meet our needs at this time.

Thank you,
Jennifer Brozek
Editor, The Edge of Propinquity
http://www.edgeofpropinquity.net/default.asp

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I submitted it to you about 30 minutes ago, did you even read it?

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(My thought: That's a nice email. Thanks. Of course I read it. Maybe I should give you a bit of an idea that I work very long hours and why I immediately rejected your story.)

As it happened, I did get home right then from a very late night out and had time to wind down. I did read it and the tone is very much not right for the Edge of Propinquity. I felt no reason to make you wait a few weeks while I worked through the rest of the queue when, upon one read over, I knew I would not accept the story. I always give every story a read through as soon as it arrives to make sure it meets the guidelines.

Thank you,
Jennifer Brozek

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Well its good to know it was read. I have the sneaking suspicion that alot of these magazines do not read many submissions, particularly if the writer submitting does not have a long list of publication credits to their name. Beginning writer, no pub credits, toss the story before reading, which is very offensive to the writer who labored on the story no matter how swamped the mag is with submissions. When I got a response from you in such a short time I had wondered if you might not have done this as well. I am glad to see it wasn't the case.

Cheers & Slainte
[Name Censored]

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(My thoughts: Wow. OK. Time to give this guy an education. So, he's really new. Better to help him out while he's young and stupid. Give him a chance of not alienating every editor he meets.)

Dear [Name Censored],

I have to disagree with you. Having been in the industry for a few years and read slush for several venues, I can tell you some things with certainty:

1. Unless you muffed the submission guidelines, your story is always read - at least in part. As editors, we know what it is that we need to look for in our submissions. Some stories are obvious "no" due to tone, topic or lack of technical skill (but even that can be worked with).

2. It is the editor's dream to find the -right- story. That is what we live for. We want to publish you (no matter what your publication history is or is not) if you have written what we want or need. I have published first time sales and rejected long time pro authors. It is the story that matter.

3. Despite what it may seem like, editors are a writer's best friend. They are not the enemy.

I understand it seems like a daunting path to get published but eventually you will if you continue to write, have patience and persevere.

Thanks,
Jennifer

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Thanks Jennifer for these words. They are encouraging. My situation is that I have always had a love for writing and for reading but never tried to make it a career, despite being told all my life that it was my talent and that I should try and make a go of it. Well now I am trying to make a go of it, with the hopes of eventually supporting myself as a fiction novelist (a starry-eyed dream perhaps?). I have written 300 pages of a first novel, and over the last two and a half months have starting sending my stories away for publication for the first time. I have limited myself to the pro-paying and semipro-paying markets at this time (ambitious?) and have received my share of rejections. This is particularly hard because I have been reading some of what I feel are really lackluster stories in some of these magazines (Not TEoP,) and the only reason I can see why they have been published is that they author has a long list of pub. credits to their name. I have had a story accepted recently in the pro-paying magazine Buzzy, and hopefully more acceptances to come. I have just finished writing a story specifically for TEoP, keeping in mind themes about a hidden legacy amid the mundane world, with elements of the supernatural. Unfortunately, the story ran over the word limit and stands at 7700 words rather than 6000. I have been trying to chop it down, but I feel that each bit is important to the overall story. I am wondering if the 6000 word limit is firm or if there are exceptions? If it is firm, then I will proceed to the chopping block, but may lose a few choice bits. Once again, thanks for your time and encouragement.

Cheers & Slainte,
[Name Censored]

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(My thoughts: That's one hell of a paragraph. But, it sounds like I got through to him. Go me! Oh, huh. Not going to engage in the criticism of other markets. Let's just see if this next story is any better than the first.)

Go ahead and send it on in, in the proper format, of course.

Thanks,
Jenn

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End result: It wasn't any better. I rejected it and this author's immediate response was: I am a horrible editor, a callous human being, and am a goalie against genuine substance. In essence, I am THE MAN and I must be put down.

Moral of the story: Some authors will only see editors as the bad guy and cannot be helped. They will bite the hand that attempts to feed them.

Comments

( 36 comments — Leave a comment )
R. K. MacPherson
Jul. 21st, 2011 11:17 pm (UTC)
Yeah...we discussed this. You were super nice.
It was fabulous that you went the extra few miles. We discussed his behavior amongst the Writers Block and determined that he got treated very well and that he is in for a painful learning curve.

Also, he's a twit. Manners count!
jennifer_brozek
Jul. 22nd, 2011 06:47 am (UTC)
Re: Yeah...we discussed this. You were super nice.
Thank you much. Manners DO count.
angelmcc
Jul. 21st, 2011 11:37 pm (UTC)
Such a shame. I've seen this with so many writers. They're impatient and overly sensitive to what they perceive as either criticism or praise. These faults are fixed over time as the writer perseveres and realizes what it means to be a professional writer.

What makes me sad is that this person burned a bridge.

You went above and beyond the call of duty to try to educate him. You treated him with professional respect.

He's still got a long row to hoe if this is where he's at. Let's hope he sticks with it long enough to look back on this exchange with an embarrassed laugh.

marlowe1
Jul. 22nd, 2011 01:28 am (UTC)
Based on these emails and the other one, I hope he just gives up already because there are too many of these guys out there with their horrible prose and their sense of entitlement.
jennifer_brozek
Jul. 22nd, 2011 06:48 am (UTC)
I have to admit, the writing was pretty bad.
jennifer_brozek
Jul. 22nd, 2011 06:48 am (UTC)
I would like to think he learned something in retrospect but I'm not going to count on it.
talvinm
Jul. 21st, 2011 11:53 pm (UTC)
Dear Author,

Do not give up your dayjob in Reality TV.

You're so close to the big-time, it's obvious.

mikandra
Jul. 22nd, 2011 12:06 am (UTC)
Perhaps I'm a little jaded, but after fifteen years in online bookselling, I've learnt that defensive difficult customers are never, ever worth it. Ever. Some people wish to equate difficult with discerning, but although discerning customers can be difficult, they always show you the money before they start being difficult, but that aside.

To me 'did you even read it' is hyper-defensive, and I would have ignored the email and saved myself the elevated blood pressure of dealing with what followed.

I think it's quite amazing the time you spent explaining your work to him, but in my sad experience, this sort of effort is wasted on these people.

One might hope that eventually this guy gets some sense thwacked into him, but while he's at the defensive stage, I don't think he is reasy to learn anything.
jennifer_brozek
Jul. 22nd, 2011 06:50 am (UTC)
You know, though, for everyone who still flies off the handle, I still hope for that author who suddenly gets it. I was once young and stupid, too... though, not that stupid.
oneminutemonkey
Jul. 22nd, 2011 12:08 am (UTC)
Yup. Egotistical and delusional. Just what every editor wants to find in their mailbox. That's the sort of mentality that just can't be worked with, and which will hopefully result in them forever blocking themselves from any success.
jennifer_brozek
Jul. 22nd, 2011 06:50 am (UTC)
Or, maybe a miracle will happen and he'll realize he was rude and unprofessional?
joycemocha
Jul. 22nd, 2011 12:09 am (UTC)
This whole sad exchange is far too reminiscent of discussions I've had with particular students. As a middle school special education teacher I think I see the evolution of this mindset amongst certain kids who argue with any attempt to work with them to edit and improve their writing (not all of these kids are special ed, btw).

Most of my work is remedial, with some talented but reluctant writers, and then there are the kids who are just plain off the wall (usually with ADHD or mild emotional disturbances, sometimes other issues). Part of what I do is to meet in conference with the kids while we discuss how they can improve a specific assignment, either one I've given or one they are working on for another class. My goal is to get them to write something understandable while preserving their unique voices.

Many kids cooperate. But there are those who respond like this guy, and think their words are golden. Etc. They usually aren't bad writers; they just generally have issues with organizing their thoughts, too much exposition or too little exposition. They resist suggestions or encouragement to follow a line of thought further.

It's not unlikely that they continue to think they're superb writers because there is a kernel of quality there. But they resist the assistance to improve, and rather than focus on improving themselves, they lash out at others.

So sorry you've gotten this from one of that ilk.
jennifer_brozek
Jul. 22nd, 2011 06:51 am (UTC)
And yet, sometimes they do learn.
joycemocha
Jul. 22nd, 2011 03:16 pm (UTC)
Now you know why middle school teachers can be so tough sometimes....
anghara
Jul. 22nd, 2011 12:24 am (UTC)
I remember doing a writers' workshop critique at a con a few years ago - me and another pro one-on-one with an aspiring writer who had turned in, well, a pastiche of every B-movie you've ever seen growing up (yes, complete with giant ants). Both the pros - independently - we live in DIFFERENT CITIES and we certainly didn't get together beforehand to "get our stories straight" - told him the same thing - that this needed some serious rethinkng if he wanted to publish.

We both saw his eyes glaze over as he listened and nodded politely and then thanked us and got up and left, clutching his execrable manuscript. Which he was going to do NOTHING about, that was painfully obvious, because, well, BOTH of the professional writers who had critiqued his precious work were obviously idiots who didn't know anything at all.

Sometimes it is just not worth knocking at what is obviously a closed mind.
jennifer_brozek
Jul. 22nd, 2011 06:52 am (UTC)
I've seen that happen a number of times at writer workshops. It's kind of sad.
fixnwrtr
Jul. 22nd, 2011 01:51 am (UTC)
This young man obviously has a chip on his shoulder and, being new to the game, is determined to see the problem as the editor and not his own. He takes every rejection personally and is looking for reasons to blame everyone but himself. He's not willing to work or learn, as evidenced by his tone. He's young. He won't get published no matter how old he gets unless and until he begins to see the problem as his in fitting the submission qualifications and not the editors. It's a common failing and one I've seen many times before as an editor.

Sometimes the problem is the editor having a bad day and sometimes it's not a good fit. It's hard to have this level of involvement with every writer submitting a story and impossible to sustain. You did the right thing. He needs to learn. You do not have to be the one to teach him. He's not ready to listen.

jennifer_brozek
Jul. 22nd, 2011 06:53 am (UTC)
But at least I tried at first. I always try until you prove to me that it isn't worth the effort.
therobbergirl
Jul. 22nd, 2011 02:13 am (UTC)

I think he got his hopes up. There was an email exchange that made him think you'd somehow just automatically accept his new piece. When you didn't, he was knocked down. Rather than admit that he was wrong to take the exchange that way or even that was wrong to think you two had formed a friendship, he went back to his default defensiveness and tried to knock you down in return.

jennifer_brozek
Jul. 22nd, 2011 06:53 am (UTC)
Yes. And that is why I don't usually do personalize rejections.
kmarkhoover
Jul. 22nd, 2011 02:26 am (UTC)
To be honest? I think your one mistake was trying to educate this clown in the first place after he sent the "Did you read my AWESOME story?" letter.

I know you meant well, and as a writer myself we always want to pay forward. But, meh, hindsight is always 20/20. I probably would have tried to help him out myself under these same circumstances. It's just so frustrating when you have to engage someone like this who is so obviously NOT ready for prime time.

Sorry this had to happen to you. But it's a good object lesson for the rest of us. :(
jennifer_brozek
Jul. 22nd, 2011 06:54 am (UTC)
If you can't be good, be a good lesson of what not to do. :)
thunderpigeon
Jul. 22nd, 2011 03:18 am (UTC)
I'm struggling to explain why I think it's great that you tried to help this guy, even though this particular asshole turned out not to be worth the trouble... but...on behalf of all struggling writers, and everybody who ever was at that point in our careers...thank you.
thunderpigeon
Jul. 22nd, 2011 03:38 am (UTC)
I'm not going to go into detail about where this guy went wrong, because I think that's been done plenty already, but the thing that makes me have a little bit of sympathy for the guy, despite it all, is knowing that a. Every aspiring writer has been told how brilliant his/her work is, by somebody who really means it, b. Everybody has read something in a professional journal and thought, "How the hell did that get in there?" and c. It takes a while to figure out how many other people are out there who write, and how many other brilliant writers you're competing with whenever you send work to a good journal.

That said, Jennifer, I think you handled this beautifully.
jennifer_brozek
Jul. 22nd, 2011 06:54 am (UTC)
Thank you. I appreciate it.
sargon999
Jul. 22nd, 2011 05:30 am (UTC)
You put your hand out and tried, more than a lot of editors would do. The guy sounds very young, probably college-aged, and you can't tell guys that age anything because they know it all. Sigh. I read this and think "was I ever that bad? I hope not."
jennifer_brozek
Jul. 22nd, 2011 06:55 am (UTC)
I tell you, I will remember his name for a long time to come... and not for the right reasons. :)
jongibbs
Jul. 22nd, 2011 11:39 am (UTC)
Totally unrelated, I know, but I love your icon :)
jongibbs
Jul. 22nd, 2011 11:38 am (UTC)
I hope you never let the actions of a few idiots deter you from offering helpful advice to obvious newbies :)
jennifer_brozek
Jul. 22nd, 2011 05:39 pm (UTC)
I'm too much of a pedagogue to stop helping newbies.
pingback_bot
Jul. 22nd, 2011 01:33 pm (UTC)
Interesting posts about writing – w/e July 22nd 2011
User jongibbs referenced to your post from Interesting posts about writing – w/e July 22nd 2011 saying: [...] writing from the last week: Hate Mail Prelude [How to alienate an editor without even trying] [...]
mutive
Jul. 22nd, 2011 02:25 pm (UTC)
Wow...that was an incredibly kindly response on your part. (I honestly can't imagine ever asking an editor why they rejected me. In general, I assume that either a) the story wasn't as good as some of the others that were submitted, or b) the story wasn't as right as some of the others that were submitted.)

I agree that the author in question is in for a long and painful learning curve...
jennifer_brozek
Jul. 22nd, 2011 05:37 pm (UTC)
Most authors are very polite about their request. Those authors get a more detailed response.
paulhaines
Jul. 23rd, 2011 04:29 am (UTC)
Beautiful!
jennifer_brozek
Jul. 23rd, 2011 06:53 am (UTC)
Glad you think so. :)
pingback_bot
Jul. 23rd, 2011 04:33 pm (UTC)
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User petermball referenced to your post from No title saying: [...] when editors reject you. Even the prelude [...]
( 36 comments — Leave a comment )