Friday, March 12, 2010

What happened to good writing manners?

As the head of 4RV Publishing I see messages and submissions from all kinds and types. Some submissions are well-written and acceptable; others aren't.

Most submitters follow the guidelines and work hard to have an acceptable submission; others have ideas of grandeur and believe their work is so wonderful that they don't have to follow the "rules."

Every rejected submission from us includes an evaluation to help the writer know some of the improvements needed, to help writers. A few thank us for our help, although thanks are not expected. We want to help, and a form rejection is no help.

However, in the past six months, two rejected submissions resulted in arguments from the submitters. I was called petty because we expected the submitter to follow the guidelines. He kept arguing about his "rights" to submit whatever and however he wanted because his novel would be so wonderful. The other person who threw an email temper tantrum actually used profanity because I didn't have the right to reject his work, I was being too picky. When I started searching to find out more about the second person, I discovered that he hadn't even bothered to follow the guidelines. He could have been rejected immediately without an editor evaluating his manuscript.

I can't believe the lack of good writing manners. I do not have to give a reason for rejecting anything. I pay the bills and take the risks, not the immature wanna-be-authors. 4RV is "nice" enough to help by sending an evaluation.

By the way, any editors or publishing houses out there who want more information about the two brats, just email me.



PS I would appreciate all who click on "tweet" below.


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31 comments:

Dawn Embers said...

That is crazy. It's not like most publishers have very complicated guidelines that are hard to find. And those two obviously don't know how close knit the publishing industry happens to be. They will regret the mistake in the future unless they are seriously that obtuse.

I've seen similar problems in writing contests too. Don't fight back if you lose people.

And sure, it might be the authors right to send what they want but it is the publishers right to reject whatever ones they want to, so that's no reason to argue about. Silly, deluded people.

This is a good post and I hope people who want to submit to 4rv in the future consider not only the website but your blog as well before submitting.

Holly Jahangiri said...

Oh, that's hilarious, Viv - a publisher not having the "right" to reject a submission?

1) As a writer, I have the right to submit whatever crap I care to pay postage on.

2) As a publisher, you have a right to drop said crap into the circular file and only owe me the courtesy of a reply if you have my email address and/or a SASE from me.

3) Writers always claim they want to know why their submission was rejected, and what they might do to avoid rejection in the future. It is writers like these who illustrate the wisdom of a simple form-letter rejection: "Thank you for your submission. We regret to inform you that it does not meet our publication needs at this time, and we encourage you to submit it elsewhere."

4) There's a list, I'm sure. It's like Santa's list. Naughty writers, nice writers, and PITAs. (See? I didn't want to offend the naughty writers. They can be a lot of fun to read.)

Angelica Weatherby said...

I agree that publishers should be able to 1> stick with their rules 2> choose what they want to accept/reject. Complaining and yet not even following the submition rules = a person that is not at all ready to become published. *rolleyes* I'd rather go with following rules of high standards than have no standards at all.

Karen Cioffi said...

I agree with Holly, this is funny. It makes you wonder what their thought process is like.

I think it has to do with today's society in general. There aren't any real consequences for bad behavior or actions, from school to some homes.

I think we're creating a society in which children are growing up thinking whatever they want they should have and be able to do.

Vivian Zabel said...

We do get some excellent submissions. We also get some really, really bad ones. A few of the bad ones thanked us for the evaluation with the rejection. Other rejections brought thanks.

However, I'm tired of those people who believe they are entitled. Ish.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

LOL!
That's how you weed them out - if they can't follow simple directions then they will will a nightmare to deal with later. I guess it's like watching the really bad auditions on American Idol.

Donna J. Shepherd said...

I'm sorry you have to put up with that kind of behavior. I think it's really kind that you send out evaluations. These days a lot of publishers don't even send out a response at all, so to go that extra mile is to be commended!

Rena said...

Some people are just unbelievable. Like L. Diane said, if they're bad during the submission, imagine what they'd be like to work with in the long haul. In the 6 years I've been submitting stories, I've only gotten a tiny bit of feedback from editors. I've never taken that for granted.

Holly Jahangiri said...

Diane, I have fantasies about being Simon... Not fantasies ABOUT Simon, mind - fantasies about BEING Simon. ;)

Katie Hines said...

Excellent post, Vivian. And good manners go beyond the contract, too. Your publisher doesn't want all her dealings with the author to be fraught with bad manners and inconsideration.

Vivian Zabel said...

Thanks, all, for your comments. I'm probably "preaching to the choir," and the people who should read this never will.

Ah, ha, a Simon wanna-be in our midst. *laugh*

jessi said...

Vivian,
Excellent post. It's really too bad that you are, most likely, "preaching to the choir".

Penny Ehrenkranz said...

Vivian, This is so true. It's amazing how many writers think they know better than editors and publishers. Obviously their mothers didn't teach them manners when they were little people.

Sandy Lender said...

What I find surprising here is a publisher willing to offer constructive comments to submitting writers. What I find insane but not surprising is writers sending back rebuttals. Unprofessional writers abound thanks to society's lack of rule enforcement and the thin skin creative people grow while hanging out in our seclusion. Writers have got to get out more. The real world will eat you alive.

If a publisher, editor, agent, critique group member, etc., has taken the time to give you free, professional advice, don't shoot yourself in the foot by writing back some snarky message about how you disagree with him/her. Writers are supposed to use that constructive criticism to grow, whether he/she agrees with it or not. (And you probably ought to take a look at "why" you're disagreeing with it...)

My publisher has a rule: Divas need not apply.

Vivian, my hat's off to you for the extra work you put into helping writers. It's a shame you can't weed out the crazies and send them the form rejection to avoid the follow-up rebuttals. I bet I could make good money if I could come up with a contraption that magically determines which MS come from "divas." Agents and editors everywhere would be beating down my door to buy it...

From Sandy Lender
"Some days, you just want the dragon to win."

Connie Arnold said...

Great post, Vivian! It's a shame some people are that way, especially when you are been kind enough to try to help them learn. I retweeted your post.

Janet said...

Great post, Vivian. I always try to follow the rules and guidelines. I think it is wonderful that you send back an evaluation of a manuscript, when some publishers don't even let you know anything if they aren't interested. They leave you hanging for months while you're wondering if it's still in their slush pile or not. Any feedback from a publisher is a help, whether it be good or bad.

Vivian Zabel said...

Penny, I taught for nearly 30 years and watched the behavior of students digress, mainly due to some parents enabling their children to be brats.

Ooooo, I like that "divas need not apply."

I received so many rejections that let me know nothing. That's why I want to give some help.

Thanks for retweeting.

Ginger*:) said...

It is to the advantage of anyone submitting manuscripts or illustrations to a publisher to observe not only the guidelines, but a high standard of professional politeness. With the thousands of manuscripts submitted to publishers there is usually no response or a form letter when a piece is rejected.
To have a publisher actually take the time to send an evaluation is rare and that action should be appreciated.

I have my share of rejection letters, but I save all of them even the form letters. As the pile grows I do as well.

Sun Singer said...

I occasionally get nasty comments about the book reviews I write. Fortunately, it's not from the authors themselves. I'm glad I'm not an editor at a publishing house: those e-mail tantrums would tempt me to use some of the words I learned in the Navy

Malcolm

Margaret Fieland said...

Vivian, I'm amazed that anyone would rage at an editor who was kind enough to take the time to comment on one's submission {shakes head}. There are so many good manuscripts and polite authors out there -- those badly behaved authors ought to be horsewhipped -- or something --

Peggy

Vivian Zabel said...

I don't understand why anyone thinks he/she has the right to berate an editor, a publisher, or a reviewer.

Ray Johnson said...

Getting an evaluation which explains why a work has been rejected is more than a writer has any right to expect. It's nice, no doubt about that, but it isn't a "right".

I began life as a printer, and we had a saying: "Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one." It seems to me the same principle applies here. You only have a right to be published when you own the publishing company.

Personally, I really question whether any person who is so self-obsessed is capable of writing a novel worth reading. You can't create believable characters without understanding people - and if you understand so little you treat an editor who has just done you a huge favour so badly, that suggests you don't have what it takes. And if you think bullying people will make up for your lack of skill or talent, that doesn't say much for your powers of creativity or imagination. In other words, I'd say they had quite effectively proved they aren't worth any editor's time or attention.

Vivian Zabel said...

I can't believe that one rejected writer is still emailing me and telling me how bad I am and what a wonderful thing I turned down.

Any attorney's out there want to get him for harassment?

I'm blocking all messages from him.

Susanne Drazic said...

Great post Vivian. I tweeted it.

Vivian Zabel said...

Thanks for the tweet.

I blocked that person. Now I don't have to see his email address on my screen again.

The longer I live, the less I understand what causes some people to believe they matter. Ish.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

I attended a seminar where we were given some of a publishers unopened submissions. They accepted only electronic submissions. The guidelines are stated clearly on the web page. Normally the snail mail submissions go directly to the trash bin. It was a real eye-opening experience. I walked away appreciating just how tough a publisher’s job can be and really appreciating the fact I ever got published in the first place.

Vivian Zabel said...

I'm afraid too many people believe they are entitled just because they breathe and take up space. *sigh*

Rena said...

I can't believe you got more than one email from that person. Wow!

Mayra Calvani said...

Hi Vivian,

Thanks for the interesting post. I can't believe authors behave in such a manner. They don't realize that they're only putting thmselves down by doing this. Behavior like that only says one thing: AMATEUR.

Stephen Tremp said...

I never argue with a person sending a rejection letter because I will resubmit a few months later. I do this because I have a brand new query letter my editor fixed and cleaned up for me. Thanks God for editors.

Stephen Tremp

Vivian Zabel said...

We have had several "rejections" take suggestion, improve writing, and resubmit, often with a better result.

Talk about cutting off one's nose to spite his face ...