Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Ebil. Hiss.

I have just read an appalling note from an editor to an author. Appalling? Shockingly nasty, dripping with sarcasm, and loaded with vicious digs at the author. I've seen a lot of editor notes over the years, and written more than I can count, and I've never seen anything like that.

I can't reproduce it here because that would expose my author friend, and she doesn't deserve that even if the editor does. In fact, because of the highly personal nature of this note and it's eye-poppingly evil contents, I don't think we can reproduce even part of it here. To sum up and broadly paraphrase this steaming pile of satan's shit, it accused the author of unwillingness to work (not true -- this is a multi-published best-selling author with a solid reputation as a good worker), of being too arrogant to work with (laughably wrong, and even the editor indicates her impression is based on past publications rather than on, you know, actual arrogant behavior), and even  hints at the author's published works being out of fashion or outdated (even though her most recent book topped the charts).

So here's what I want you to do. Imagine you're a successful author with a long publication history and a good reputation. Imagine that you decided to write something new, something a bit outside your genre, and that you reached out to a new editor to discuss the project. Imagine that this editor basically flamed you in response. And now, you get to flame right back. Write a short anti-rejection note in the comments, and we'll front-page the best of them. Do it anonymously if you fear the consequences. But still do it, because my friend could use a little companionship and sympathy even if she can't go entirely public with this.

Defend my friend. Bonus points for making her laugh about it.



Ian said...

"Dear Editor,

Suck the shit out of my hole.


The Author"

Michele Brenton/aka banana_the_poet said...

A response to the editor.

I thought you were an editor
and you were paid to edit
but then you sent this latest note
and I sat down and read it.
Your grasp of manners is quite poor,
your ignorance is rich,
your attitude says just one thing:
You are an evil ...... (you can fill in the gap yourself as an editing exercise)

by banana_the_poet

nerinedorman said...

To be quite honest, I probably wouldn't dignify the editor's comments with a response. I'd walk away from the mess. But I'd sure as hell show my other best-selling author friends this editor's comments.

Anonymous said...

Dear Editor:

We clearly don't know each other very well. You seem to be under the impression that I'm an untested writer with no experience of the market and precious few skills needed to make a success in any publishing endeavor.

And I was under the impression that you were a professional.

I am sorry to see that we were both wrong.


A. Author

Lucy V Morgan said...

I can't think of anything decent (stupid cold) but I'm guessing they were working with the Chicago Manual of Vile.

Poor author!

Sarah J. MacManus said...

Failed writers make the best editors, don't they?

I'm an editor and truly mortified by this person's behaviour and lack of professionalism.

J said...

Dear Editor,

We seem to behaving a communication problem. I tried to find the Stupid-To-English translator so as to better understand your comments, but it appears Darwinism has made your kind extinct in the publishing industry, so the old translator was taken down.

Have a nice day. (That means fuck off.)

The Author

Deb Salisbury, Magic Seeker and Mantua-Maker said...

Dear {editor's name misspelled},

Thank you for your enlightening remarks. Now that I know a little about you, I look forward to working with someone else.

Most sincerely,
The Author

Alice Gaines said...

Dear Editor:

Kindly lose my address.

Thank you,
(actually, I wouldn't dignify it with a response, either.)

Alice Gaines said...

Dear Editor:

Kindly lose my address.

(Actually, I wouldn't respond at all.)

Anonymous said...

I had a similar experience. I was corresponding with an editor of a book on American Indians that had won a Pulitzer prize. I wanted to learn his rates and how the relationship would work. (I live in Indian country, and when I go to reservations for festivals, pow-wows, and meetings with tribal officials, they call them themselves Indians, so don't give me crap about not using the term native Americans). The subject of his author's book is a terrible tragedy that is heart-breaking, but it is biased. The sample of my writing he had requested contained references to male Indians in the early 1800s trading sex with their wives and daughters for manufactured goods brought by white traders. He went batshit. His response was extremely personal and offensive, BUT he offered to work with me for $400/hour. Fat chance. I saw no point in arguing with him because I didn't want to lower myself to his behavior.

If you have doubt about the authenticity of scenes I used in my MS read Lewis and Clark's journals. The journals are torturous to read because of Clark's inventive spelling, but the journals recount that on occasion they had to force women sent by their husbands out of the camp. Also husbands would bring their wives to sleep with York, Lewis' slave, called Black White Man, because "magic" would happen.

These journals are not the only accounts of such practices.

Bottom line, there was no need for the highly respected editor to respond in such a nasty manner. A simple no would have worked.


riotthill said...

Dear Editor,
I am so sorry to hear of your recent bout of brain-rash. I know this is annecdotal, but I have heard a good dose of e- publishing works as a cure.
I do hope your condition is neither fatal nor chronic.
All the best,
Experienced Author.
P.S. Can you recommend a healthy editor?

Alicia said...

I'd be tempted to send back the letter edited, you know, proper punctuation, queries like "Do you mean to sound bitchy here?" and a final "I'm sorry that this doesn't fit my needs at this time."

But I'm with N and A-- probably not worth even responding to. I'd want to "teach a lesson", but maybe it's not worth the time.

Edittorrent said...

I am absolutely not advocating for sending any letter like this. I'm just encouraging a little venting. It's good for the soul. One hopes.

giggling all the way through the comments

Sylvia said...

I was going to write a "I regret to inform you that your editorial letter does not suit my requirements at this time" style letter but actually, I'm laughing too hard at Magdalen's response.

Anonymous said...

Now on the flip side, I received a rejection from an agent at one of the largest agencies in the country. She was kind enough to suggest some changes. I wrote back with a thank-you letter. She responded with a request to see a partial after I had made the changes.


Leona said...

Dear Editor,

I regret to inform you that you sent your break-up-with-your-boyfriend letter to me by mistake. I'm sure you're now wallowing in the embarrassment of having me witness such a personal and unprofessional letter, so I have returned it to you.

But, be not afraid, I don't expect you to now send me a professional edit as I see it is above your current ability. I'll endeavor to maintain my sorrow at having lost your respectable guidance.



Anonymous said...

Dear Editor,

Who pissed in your corn flakes today? Or maybe they crapped on your pancakes. Either way, someone or something turned you into a possible villain for Criminal Minds. I'd be happy to write the screenplay for it, provided I get to kill you off in the final scene.

Kindest regards,


Anonymous said...

Dear Editor,

Roses are red
Violets are blue
Your rejection letter
Is a pile of poo.

Love and Kisses,

The Author

Natalie Arloa said...

There once was an editor so nasty,
Her responses were way too hasty.
She spewed her vile,
A steaming pile,
Of &*(^, which I baked in a pasty.

(Note that a pasty is an individual meat pie eaten in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and is pronounced to rhyme with nasty. However, I realize that "hasty" doesn't quite rhyme.)

What I would actually do works best if the original letter were emailed, but I'd still do it with photocopying: write a very mild response, acting like a real professional, a sort of:

"I regret that you are not interested in working with me to build on my successes [name successes here]. Publishing is a subjective field. I wish you and your publishing house the best in your future endeavors."

And then I'd cc the editorial director and/or publisher, with a copy of the original letter.

Julie Harrington said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Julie Harrington said... forgot to tell me that my dog is ugly and that I make small children cry when I leave the house.

Why are people mean? Has Cruel been named the new National Pastime and I just didn't get the memo?

It's been drilled into my head that - as a writer - everything you do and say and write should be professional above all else. Why do editors do this? This isn't the first instance of editor cruelty toward authors I've heard of. I just don't get it.


B.E. Sanderson said...

Dear Editor,

Thank you for providing me with an idea for the first person to die in my next novel.

Stephen Kozeniewski said...

Here's a classic, cleaned up considerably for public consumption:

"I'll Carlton Fisk your head with a Louisville slugger! What do you think of that? I'll drop you with a boot to the skull! I hope you choke on a bottle cap. Have another one, you lush! It's not my fault the bartender cut you off last night! I'm coming out of the booth!

Tollbooth Willie"

Cheryl said...

Would it be out of line to forward that email to someone higher up the food chain? (if he works for a publisher)...

Patricia Preston said...

Check out Bernard Black's rejection letter video at:

It is sooo funny! Especially when he calls the editor piss-midget!


green_knight said...

Dear my Agent,

you appear to have sent my manuscript to [editor ebil] by mistake. I am enclosing their letter to illustrate why I shall refuse to accept any offers from them or the publishers they work for in the future.

I think that like nasty reviews, the best an author can do is say absolutely nothing; but I *would* bring it up with my agent since highly unprofessional behaviour like this does not bide well for authors who *do* sign with this editor - there *will be* disagreements, and I wouldn't want to be the agent trying to mediate between a rude editor and an enraged author.

(And do I detect a certain element of 'how *dare* this person besmirch the name of editors' in your post?)

Unknown said...

Deb's is the best!!!!

"Now that I know a little about you, I look forward to working with someone else."

Edittorrent said...

GK, Of course I'm offended by that. I'm offended as an editor, as a friend to the recipient, and as a human being. Editors take a lot of knocks because we have to deliver bad news, and nobody likes to hear it, and I don't blame them but it is what it is. But imo, we ought to deliver the bad news with grace, because it's the right and kind thing to do. We're not perfect and we might not always hit the mark, but this? This was deliberate nastiness, and yes, it offended me.


Edittorrent said...

Leona, I love that. "You must be so embarrassed!" :)


Anonymous said...

Dear Editor _______,

My first reaction to reading your note was shock. In fact, I was so shocked that I have absolutely no recollection of throwing a vase at the wall while pretending you were standing in the way. The vase incident did, however, have one benefit. While cleaning up the shards, and trying to convince myself I didn't want to keep them just in case I ever got the opportunity to force you to walk barefoot over them, it occurred to me that we must both be the victims of a simple mistake.

You must have sent the note to the wrong person. This realization made me feel so much better that I was even able to keep myself from rifling through my knife drawer in search of a suitable weapon. Okay, yes, I looked, but I closed it quickly and didn't touch any of them so that barely counts.

Meanwhile, I have erased the note and will eagerly await the arrival of the constructive critique I expected to receive from you.

Author ___________

P.S. When you do send this note on to the correct recipient, you might want to preface it with a warning not to read it while within reach of any crockery. Just a suggestion.

P.P.S. On second though, it might be better if you just scrapped the note altogether and wrote the offending author a new one after spending a few moments to rethink your view of an editor's job.

Gin said...

Check out the recently released version of Mark Twain's autobiography (starting around page 164). It reprints a response Twain wrote to an unqualified editor who had the audacity to edit him, and responded, line by line, to the edits. Scathing. Absolutely scathingly funny.

I particularly like this comment: "Comforted" is a good change, and quite sane. But you are not playing fair; you are getting some sane person to help you.