Monday, October 6, 2008


With the National Novel Writing Month fast approaching, I'm willing to bet that many of our readers are gearing up to silence the editor and write, write, write.

Which poses a bit of a headscratcher for a blog about editing by editors.

I've posted a poll on the sidebar asking if you're planning to participate in NaNo this year. If a big enough portion of you are NaNoing, we might shift focus in November and look at some techniques for greater productivity. Otherwise, we'll carry on with our usual quibbles and random musings.

So please, if you usually read this on a feed reader, pop over to the blog and vote in the poll.

Speaking of Random Musings....

I'm contemplating restructuring our internal process for responding to submissions. As it stands, we have a first reader who mans (er, womans) the inbox. She reads everything and either sends out a form rejection or routes the manuscript to an editor interested in that type of manuscript. If she sends out a form rejection, the reply address is the submissions inbox address. If she routes it to an editor and the editor rejects it, the rejection comes from the editor.

And therein lies the problem. We've had some problems with folks who don't take kindly to being rejected, and who lash out against the rejecting editor. And because of our process, they have a direct address for that editor. I understand it's disappointing to get rejected. Really, I do. But allowing that disappointment to interfere with normal professional behavior is another issue altogether.

So as I sit here pondering whether to change our internal procedures to protect my editorial team from rejection backlash, I thought I would mention it to all of you -- and honestly, this feels a bit like preaching to the choir because I know how upbeat and professional our readers are. But this is a real problem on my side of the desk. We don't like getting yelled at any more than you like getting rejected. But the difference is that our rejection isn't personal, and frequently, the attacks we endure are entirely personal. We get called names. Nasty names.

None of you would ever do that, of course. But for the love of literature, if one of your writing buddies says they're going to pen an angry reply to a rejection, gently suggest that they ought to wait a month and then reconsider. Or a year. Or forever.

Because, honestly, the penalty for angry backlash isn't that the editor suffers. We don't. The penalty is that the writer burns a bridge, and the editor becomes ever more wary of interacting with unknown writers. You know, most of us like writers. Most of us want to talk to writers and hear about your projects, ideas, interests and lives. But we also know that a turtle is safer inside its shell, yanno?



Angela James said...

This is a really good reason, if authors need one other than professional courtesy, not to burn those bridges:

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Umm... guys... why don't the editors have access to using that submission e-mail that the first reader uses? All rejections should come from something generic like that -- to prevent this sort of thing.

No need to hide in the turtle's shell if the environment is well armored, ya know?

Ian said...

Susan had a really good idea. You could just send rejections from a subtle email address like It might get the point across.

Of course, it might just be throwing gasoline on the fire, but everybody likes a good bonfire now and again. :)

Ian said...

Oh, and just because I'm locking away my internal editor doesn't mean I don't want to read posts by my two favorite EXTERNAL editors! ;)

Edittorrent said...

Yeah, but that means going to form rejections for everyone. We're a small, friendly house, and sometimes we like to offer a tip or two to an author even if we're rejecting them. But I don't think we can do that with any credibility if we reject from a blind address.

I don't know. I'm still pondering this one. I just hate to cut off people we might otherwise help a little, just because of a few bad apples. It seems unfair.


green_knight said...

Set up your email programme to send from various addresses - that way all your editors can send from 'submissions@'. Easy fix, no problems.

I've got five e-mail addresses I use for various things - including google which I use more and more for professional mail since my own domain is less reliable, grr.

As for Nano, there's a million and one articles out there telling people how to produce more words, (some rather dodgy - always write out contractions, anyone?) - but I find that if I write too fast, the quality suffers and I am less efficient.

Edittorrent said...

Okay, again, preaching to the choir, but if you're going to complain about an editor or rejection, and I SO understand, do it by PHONE. Anything insulting posted on the Web tends to get forwarded to the insulted party. :)

Anonymous said...

Again, I keep feeling shocked and appalled at the lack of respect some people have for other professionals in the field. Why do people send angry emails to someone just doing their job? Do they think it helps? I mean, write the letter if you're upset and then burn it or delete it.

Incidentally, it also angers me that I end up being lumped in with these sorts of people by virture of benig new to the game.

Jody W. and Meankitty said...

I would have everyone use a general email address like submissions@ until the writer in question has gotten past the initial stages -- like if you're working on requested revisions with that person or something. However, if the angry writer sends his/her screeches back to submisisons@, then SOMEBODY (your first reader) still has to read it, yes?

Genella deGrey said...

Theresa - At the risk of receiving my rejection posthaste . . . JK, LOL!

Yes, I think you should buffer your editors from unprofessional verbal (written) attacks. The more I get to know my editor (-in-chief) the more protective I am of her, so I totally understand how you feel. :)

I also like the fact that your publishing house helps out writers by giving them suggestions. That is a wonderful service that not too many houses provided these days.

I agree with allowing the editors access to a somewhat anonymous email addy AND letting them send out the writing/story tips. Perhaps you could have a non-editor type open the replies and if there are insulting items, just have them delete the email.


Maree Anderson said...

Uh oh, looks like my comment didn't get posted. I'll post it again but sorry if it comes up twice!

All the horror of people actually sending snarky responses to rejections aside (and I am horrified!!!), perhaps an extra section could be added to the Red Sage submissions page. Just a short paragraph explaining what to expect and pointing out that although thank-yous and similar acknowlegements will be gratefully accepted, any emails considered abusive or derogatory will result in...(whatever action Red Sage might deem fit). For example, the sender's email address being blacklisted and any subsequent emails/submissions being immediately deleted unread.

I know this won't stop all the abuse but it might just result in some people who're all fired up hesitate before pressing that Send key.

I do hope you brainstorm a way to protect your editors as IMHO it'd be a real shame for aspiring writers to receive only form rejections just because a few people get overly emotional.

Personally, I LOVE a personalised rejection as it's such valuable feedback and I'm always appreciative of the fact someone's actually sat down and read my work and then actually bothered to give me a few pointers.