Rejections, Rejections

Apr 16, 2010 | Opinions

Let’s say you’re a writer, and you have set your work free into the wilds of the world with the hope that an agent will find their way back to you. Hopefully with a contract in hand, of course. And time goes by, and the silence only grows – but suddenly an email appears! From nowhere! From an AGENT! Stardom is within your grasp, so close you can almost taste the champagne…

No. It’s a form rejection.

It’s something I have to handle, being an aspiring writer. You deal with it as best you can, hopefully with good grace and a shrug of indifference. Yes, underneath the veneer of professionalism, it feels like a solid punch in the gut. You take the threads of story, you live and breathe for your characters, you forge… well, something you thought was worthwhile. Something good. But, in some way, it wasn’t enough.

That’s the hardest part for me. I can’t know where I went wrong. I only know that I did, and it hurts a little more than it should. But I also know it won’t last, because I have other stories to write, and other threads to follow. I think Van Halen said it best – You gotta ro-o-oll with the punches to get to what’s real!

It wasn’t the Novel, you understand. It was just a short story. When I start getting rejections for the Novel, I’ll probably spontaneously combust from agony and disappointment.

However, in any case, I won’t be doing what Mr. Patrick Roscoe did! In the category of too-dumb-to-be-let-out-unsupervised, this writer’s response to a form rejection is surely a winner. I do so love his use of the phrase, “You lose, silly woman”, and the insults he levels at Ms. Lindsay’s clients. And the follow-up email… classic stupidity, the like of which you rarely get to read about. It’s like watching someone shoot themselves in the foot, and then clean the wound with bleach.

Perhaps the most important things that an aspiring writer can take note of are as follows:

  • Agents react badly to insults or snide sarcasm, because they just happen to be human.
  • Agents talk to each other, and to editors and publishers.
  • Agents often have blogs that are popular.
  • Agents have a hundred other hopeful writers with actual manners in their slush pile who have probably submitted work as good as yours.

In short, all that I have learned so far about agenting and publishing tells me that a writer trades on their reputation, and this is doubly true of aspiring authors like myself. Leaving aside for the moment that Mr. Roscoe was unbelieveably rude to Ms. Lindsay, what on earth was he thinking when he wrote that email? Did he honestly expect her not to reveal his crass behaviour to the world? Did he believe his words were actually justified? One does not simply insult an agent (especially one who works for such an esteemed agency as Fineprint) and expect to walk away with one’s reputation intact. Five minutes of anger may have bought him fifteen minutes of fame, but it’s probably cost him more than a few chances of publication and, if he routinely conducts himself in this manner, a entire writing career as well.

When I submit my work, I endeavour to follow every guideline, and act with nothing but the highest respect and courtesy towards the submittees. A published author isn’t just a person with their name on a book cover; they’re also a professional writer, and I think that demands a certain standard of behaviour.

It’s alright to rage in private. It’s even expected, I would think. But in public, when facing a rejection, it’s unacceptable to be anything but businesslike.