Authors Who Need a Binky

There are authors who believe their writing comes from the hand of God. Hey, maybe it does and I’m too dumb to realize it. But I do know what works for us and what doesn’t. For instance, when Kristin Adams pitched her manuscript about the amazing friendship between her son and his chicken, Frightful, to me at the PNWA in Seattle last July, I knew I had to have her on board.

But not everyone rocks my boat, and they receive a rejection letter…which affronts some the point of striking back. Instead of doing what you should do: M.O.V.E. O.N. the aggrieved author writes me back in a fit of pique, accusing me of everything from global warming to acne.

Let me invite you into my world for a second:

I read a manuscript and sent this rejection letter:

Thank you for writing. There are some problems with this that prevents me from considering this further. First, I can’t find anything about XXX on the internet. If there’s no proof this place existed, and thereby impossible to verify, then I don’t see where the compelling components for this manuscript exist. Lastly, your query letter lacks editorial finesse. If I’m forced to re-read sentences two and three times, then I have to assume the manuscript would be of the same quality. This makes things quite untenable for us. Best of luck to you in your endeavors.

I received this back from the author today:

I had my proposal letter edited and found out that even though it needed improvement it was not any where near as bad as you claim it is. My manuscript was reviewed by a professor when I took a course with her and she has found it to have what a creative fiction that is auto-ethnographic needs which is clarity and believability. I do not accept your feedback as valid in fact it was very insensitive. I now believe  your or or publishing company just wanted to discourage me because of being scared. I talk about powerful women and that can scare some people. I also think that even though y’all claim to focus on such things as conflict and resolution in truth y’all are just wanting to stop social progress and keep socialization as it is now so you have to discourage people who think and act outside of that oppressive box, take good care

Oh dear.

This is never a good idea. EVER. I can’t say it enough. Conduct yourself as you would at a job interview, because basically, a query letter is a job interview. All I could think was that this poor author is in for the shock of her life when she has to experience the editing process. And reviews? Oh, the horror.

Publishing is a tough, competitive business, where only the best are chosen. If you need a safe place to suck your binky over what you perceive as “insensitive,” then I posit that you ain’t ready for the Big Leagues, yet. There is a huge difference between making professional critiques and telling someone their writing sucks stale Twinkie cream (which I would never do).

So why do I bring this up? Because I see so much of this idea of “I deserve this, and screw you if you reject me!” And you know what? You don’t “deserve this.” You earn it…and you do that by acting like a professional and having an amazing story that is clearly outlined in your query letter. The characters and plot should be so real that they leap off the page. This is exactly what Kristin Adams did when she pitched to me during breakfast in Seattle last year. By the time I’d slathered the butter on my roll, I knew I had to see more. Kristin earned it. And so have all of our authors.

Over the years, I’ve seen more and more bad behavior, and I don’t understand this. Is this the general coming of things, or is there something in the water that’s making everyone put on their Crabby Pants? Regardless of why it’s taking place, there is one constant, and that is that editors and agents won’t put up with rude behavior. You want to throw a hissy? Fine. Go do it in your safe space. And don’t forget your binky.

3 Responses to Authors Who Need a Binky

  1. Barbarann says:

    I think your patience with Her Majesty was beyond beyond. But you know so well writers fall in love with themselves and lose perspective. Living a life of heaped rejection, real or imagined, my skin is thicker than average. You don’t like my style/ subject/ delivery? Some things are not negotiable. But it is imperative that I understand that you are the one who knows that side of the table. My job is to listen. Currently my publishing editor is instructing me to stretch this, shorten that, slow the pace, don’t dump, sneak up on my reader with building suspense, and so much other good stuff. Why would I argue? I don’t get it. When she says to eliminate a chapter I love she also tells me where to strip down that material and where to fold it in for best application. Not to forfeit it, but to use it to enhance the part that I gave short shrift. Hey. This is no place for prima donna!

    My wise words to authors? Don’t ask if you can’t deal with the answer. Look. An agent’s secretary told me my WW 2 memoir was a waste of time because no one cared about that era anymore. My Mama was a boom boom girl who made 40 mm rounds for the Navy so I said ” you don’t say! ” and moved on. When you tell me no one has interest in a woman who makes ammo, then you surely are not my editor. Let me just say Mama kept all her fingers, Stick with us and never stop consulting your dog. Please.

  2. T. M. Hunter says:

    Sign of the world to come, I’m afraid…

  3. kellbrigan says:

    What the heck is “auto-ethnographic?” Is it curable?

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