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I Read What You Write on the Internet

As an author, an editor and a reviewer, I spend a lot of my life online. Everything I do is remote. Therefore, I have a lot of Google alerts set up. Every single time my name is mentioned, I eventually know about it. Ditto with a number of my projects.

The problem with this is that I often read things I'm probably not meant to see. The bigger problem with this is that I do, in fact, often read what you write on the internet. "You" means people I have reviewed or rejected. "What" is in regards to what "you" have said about me, personally, or the projects I am working on and/or may have just rejected you from. (Ditto goes for those I have just accepted but that is not what this post is about.)

I understand that less than stellar reviews hurt and rejections suck. I have been through both. But, I promise you that I have never sat back in my chair and thought, "Ok, whose life can I destroy today? I think I will set up Author X for a fall. This should be fun." I have never planned that. I dislike giving out less than 5 star reviews and rejections are the bane of my existence. However, these things…they do happen.

You, as an author, don't have control over this. What you do have control over is how you respond publicly to it. If I have two people who respond a rejection and one says, "Dammit. Rejected again. All right. Time for a polish and to send the story out again." While the other says, "Oh, God… I was rejected. My life is worthless. I don't think I'm going to leave my house for a week." Which one of these authors do you think I'm going to be comfortable working with again in the future? Which one of these authors do I think will be easier to work with if I do accept them for a project and then need to edit them?

Obviously, the first one. And if it comes down to me having only one invitation left, the first one is going to get it based on how they (much more professionally) reacted to bad news in public.

The same thing happens when it comes to reviews. It's OK to not like the review I gave you. However, it is not OK to only focus on the bad parts of the review, ignoring the good parts of the review and publicly accuse me tricking you or setting you up to fail or any of that. Because, whether you know it or not, I will probably read what you have said about me. Maybe because Google alert has told me you've written about me. Sometimes because a friend will IM me and say, "Uh, you might want to read what Author X is saying about you."

Editors are human. What you say about them and how you react to them doing their job will color how they look at you in the future. I have removed authors from my "top tier" list for future projects based on how they have dealt with rejections and what they have said about me online. I read what you write on the internet and if what I read tells me that you will be more trouble than you are worth, then I will head that problem off at the pass.

This is why authors should remember to be professional online when dealing with something upsetting. It is better to walk away from the computer than to damage your reputation. This is the part of things that authors have control over. I bitch about my bad reviews but I don't bitch about them online. I cry in private and keep my suit on in public. This is the best piece of advice I can give any writer.


( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 23rd, 2010 09:56 pm (UTC)
I read what you write on the internet and if what I read tells me that you will be more trouble than you are worth, then I will head that problem off at the pass

Me too.
Nov. 23rd, 2010 10:04 pm (UTC)
Y'know, this isn't the only editor blog I've read this on, sadly.

The advice appears to boil down to "Only cry and/or bitch in private."
Nov. 23rd, 2010 10:56 pm (UTC)
I don't know about this. I'm usually pretty good with rejections and I don't get that many bad reviews at the moment (but reviews that go "this book was lame and I didn't like any stories in it") but I figure that there is a value to being honest and spinning one's hurt feelings into a story or an entry. As long as you don't Rice out, you shouldn't need to worry too much about people coming back at you.

Still, I usually react the occassional bad review of a short story with amusement. I finally responded to the review calling me a angry fat guy who sat alone on his computer bitching about his life with "I'm not fat." And when PW called my story self-satisfied, I was talking about that for months (as in PW said my name. Isn't that awesome?) so I guess I'm usually pretty good about this.

Then again, I'm still amazed that published writers can have thin skins when it comes to reviews and rejections. Did they skip the seven years of only getting rejected? Were they considered the best little writers in their MFA programs and buddied up to a professor who was editing the New Yorker in his spare time? I just figure that the submit and reject process would eliminate the Nick Paciones from the publishing world.
Nov. 23rd, 2010 10:58 pm (UTC)
My number one piece of advice to writers is: Be professional in all things.
Nov. 23rd, 2010 11:07 pm (UTC)
Honestly, this applies to all things professional. Everything (and I DO mean everything) is accessible on the Interwebs. Employers LOOK for stuff like this.

Completely bad mouth a previous employer? New employers will think hard about whether or not to hire you.

Post interesting and inappropriate stuff on FB? Don't think a potential employer won't think to look for your FB account and get an impression of you as a person.

I know people who cry that their FB is personal or their blog is personal and therefore it gives them to right to say or do whatever they want.

Of course it is. And, your current or potential employer also has a right to look at your stuff that's out on the web and see if they want to work with you...or not.

A little bit of professionalism, common sense, and a sense of knowing what NOT to say on the web is important.

By all means, feel free to rant or vent, but not on a medium where all information is *cached* somewhere and could potentially prove harmful to you later.
Nov. 23rd, 2010 11:21 pm (UTC)
Of course, it all depends on how you do it. If you are intelligent in your criticism of the previous employer and it's a rational critique of a place that treated you unfairly, then you should post that and if future employers find it and think that they don't want to work with you, then you've just saved yourself the fate of working for another set of assholes.

Nov. 24th, 2010 02:42 pm (UTC)
Unfortunately, in my experience, it doesn't matter how well or nice a criticism of my boss is, they don't like it. So, i would caution people about doing any public criticisms. As someone said, keep it all private or offline. But that's my experience.
Nov. 23rd, 2010 11:37 pm (UTC)
The only appalling thing about this post is that it's necessary at all. Oh, Common Sense. Why do you neglect us?
Nov. 24th, 2010 01:15 am (UTC)
I don't know if it really falls into common sense territory. In a lot of ways, society just hasn't adapted to the internet yet. The notion that someone many states, or even countries away can type into a search bar and find the little website hidey-hole you thought was just for you and a few other people, that lesson hasn't sunk in yet. It's just a little different from the small tribes of a dozen to fifty people our brains evolved to handle socially.

That said, it's still excellent advice. Especially for the younger generation which has grown up comfortable with social media.
Nov. 24th, 2010 02:45 pm (UTC)
I must admit, I didn't resubmit my Grant's Pass story because I was in the wrong mindset for feedback. Nothing you did. It was all me. Unfortunately, I lost those emails and the story, so can't look at it now, hopefully with the distance needed not to take it personally but constructively. Ah, well. Life happens.
Nov. 24th, 2010 06:26 pm (UTC)
This is one those things I've never understood. I actually link to bad reviews on my blog because I believe that balance is an important part of talking about one's work...
Nov. 26th, 2010 03:38 am (UTC)
Excellent post, Jennifer. Just because we can share our every thought and feeling online, doesn't mean we should.
Nov. 26th, 2010 05:43 pm (UTC)
Too right!
Nov. 27th, 2010 04:38 am (UTC)
What he said.
Nov. 26th, 2010 05:44 pm (UTC)
Very true, so very true. Especially the last statement.
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )