Friday, February 18, 2011

Should I blog about my rejections?

Short answer: No.
Long answer: Hell, no.

In the last month, I've been seeing an increasing number of unpublished writers posting about their rejections. Some are giving a quick "rejection" tweet so vague as you aren't sure if they are talking about a book or a dinner invitation. Those don't bother me. However, others are blogging about their rejections. Still others are posting their rejection letters and ripping the rejectors to shreds. This really bothers me.

As authors, we have an odd obsession with how many rejections successful novels received before making it. It's the standard support advice given in writing circles. "JK Rowling was rejected umpteen dozen times and look at her now!" And while that is true, it's just as likely that you are being rejected because your story isn't up to par yet.

Rejection letters come in various forms. There's the standard form rejection:

Thank you for submitting. Your writing is really good, but this didn't work for me. However, this business is very subjective, so don't give up.

Then there's the personal rejection:

I enjoy the concept of this novel, but I found that I couldn't relate to your main character. Her actions were not consistent with a woman of her age.

Believe it or not, both rejections tell you a lot. When I see a blog about how a manuscript has received 26 form rejections in the last month, I immediately wonder if you're submitting to the correct markets for your work, the correct agents, and if you are following the guidelines. Is it your query letter? Have you tried a gimmick or to be cutesy in the query? (Remember - this is a job application. Treat it with professionalism).

And, you might be getting these rejections because of the one thing no one seems to want to address - the writing itself.

This is a tough one when you get a lot of form rejections because you don't even know what is wrong with a manuscript. Your writing circles have given you lots of praise and you might have even become a bit of an online superstar on places like Twitter, Facebook, your blog, and the dozens of online writing groups out there. Everyone says how great your work is and how yours is so much better than theirs. This might be true, but that doesn't mean that it's at the publishable stage yet.

If you've gotten a few personal rejections and a lot of form ones, there is a problem with your manuscript. Push aside all that praise and glory you've been basking in. Read the personal rejections. Look back over comments made by your worse critics. Don't have any critics? Go and fine one. They are out there. Don't dismiss what they say. Examine what they are saying against the rejections.

Which brings us back - what's so wrong about blogging about your rejections? It's an announcement that you aren't good enough. Everything I've mentioned is what goes through my mind as someone who was a slush reader for a small publisher, and as an intern for a small magazine. That's what goes through my mind when I see your blog. Imagine what goes through a potential agent's mind or an acquisitions editor's mind. It's not worth looking lazy, whiny, or unprofessional. Publishing is a business. Writing can be an art; publishing can not.

Talk about the rejection process after you get a contract, not before.

32 comments:

  1. *nods*

    Mentioning (in a larger context) you've received rejections doesn't bother me. "I got a rejection" is universal and the non-specific comment is fine. We all get rejections. Mentioning it (without attaching details) is enough, if you feel you need to say anything at all.

    But I get really uncomfortable and skeptical about people who post the actual rejections in a public manner; people who have lists of how many places/times something was rejected. It just looks tacky.

    (Again, if you want to say 'it was rejected X times, but now Y has accepted it!' fine--as long as, again, the comments about rejection are kept non-specific.)

    Private correspondence, like phone calls or IM or email or face-to-face to close friends are what bemoaning rejections are for. Not public forums.

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  2. I'm curious to know if you would blog a postive reaction to a rejection, say an encouraging one, or would you keep everything quiet?

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  3. I've seen those and I admit that they often give me a queasy feeling. I think if you do it in a broad sense, removing the details of your project, it could work. I've seen these and too often people go off the deep end a little with these, posting the entire rejection, project name, place of rejection, etc.

    Would *I* do it? I have to admit that I don't usually talk about my submissions. I try to keep those things to myself.

    However, once selling a story, I would have no trouble blogging about my rejections. I just wish I had some... ;)

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  5. Great post! "Writing can be an art; publishing can not." Love that, so true. If one editor doesn't like your work, that may be personal dislike. If ten don't like it, you may want to see why. If I read about a story getting so many rejections, then I also start wondering why. Thank god I'm not an editor. :-)

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  6. I have a different opinion. I don't think it's "an announcement that you aren't good enough." A writer can be rejected for many reasons. Her genre might be on overload at the agency. Maybe the book has been done before and isn't fresh. Or, she may have been defined as a "complainer."

    Please read my piece on the subject here:
    http://marjorie-palimpsests.blogspot.com/2011/02/dig-this-stepford-writers.html

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  7. Using my example above, if a writer gets 26 (random number) form rejections, he needs to look at the basics. Guidelines, basic skills, query, etc. There are a number of writers out there instead blogging, Facebook fan-paging, and Tweeting (openly, not in private) about these agents/publishers. They should be spending that energy on ensuring that their manuscript is the best that it can be.

    "Isn't fresh" is a problem with the writing. That's the plain truth of it. It's doubtful that any story plot or idea is truly new anymore. It's how the writer puts the spin on it.

    Blogging about multiple rejections is simply unprofessional, not to mention rather silly, since you are displaying that others thought your work wasn't worth them taking. Why advertise that while you are in the midst of submitting?

    And, for pity's sake, don't Tweet the agents you have submitted to and make passive aggressive comments about the rejections.

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  8. I am proud of my 314 rejections. I only blog about agents when I am replying to a blog post they have made. It's my point/counterpoint. And I will post pieces when I have a strong opinion about a topic, like SlushPile Hell:Pathetic Madness or Going for the Jugular, both in marjorie-digest.blogspot.com. And the Street Poems at marjorie-digest are trending.

    Why is blogging about multiple rejections considered unprofessional? I run with it. I am inspired and I cartoon it all at marjorie-cartoons.blogspot.com. The marjorie-cartoons are an internet sensation. And how is that a FAIL? 48 marjorie-cartoons will soon be opening at a NYC Chelsea art gallery. I make it work. And, I follow no rules. I won't be a lemming.

    What's wrong with tweeting agents? I tweet many people and receive replies. Today, Rosie @ me. What's the big deal?

    I guarantee that at some point Oscar Whitfield's query process will be a major motion picture. People love films about kooks.

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  9. re: tweeting - Please re-read what I said:

    "don't Tweet the agents you have submitted to and make passive aggressive comments about the rejections"

    re: blogging

    Again, please re-read what I've said. There are new writers out there who are posting their rejections on their blogs. I am not talking about commenting on agent blogs or doing blog posts in reply to them.

    It's great that you are proud of your rejections and that you have found a way to make them work for you. For the rest of the people out there who aren't dual artists and who are striving for professional careers as writers, I stand by what I said. It is unprofessional.

    It's like starting a blog to talk about the number of job interviews you've screwed up, didn't work out, almost got the job, etc. And then naming the companies who turned you down.

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  10. A clarification: In my above example of "26" rejections (random number), I am referring to once piece. Obviously, the more items you have out in submission, the more rejections you'll rack up. That's math for you!

    i.e. A couple years ago, I had 8 pieces out at once and got 9 rejections all in the same month. But, that was spread across those (one getting 2).

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  11. I look at this subject from the perspective of a published writer who interacts with lots of other published writers on social media and has acquisitions editors reading her blog posts. For that reason -- I don't want to blog about my rejections. Actually, I don't want to blog about the submission process at all.

    Why? Because I know acquisitions editors and I know I have acquisitions editors reading my blog!

    Agents and editors do check writer blogs, but they don't read them the same way writers read them. If an acquisitions editor for publisher X reads my blog and sees that editors from publishers Y & Z both rejected the story she has in front of her, she may be influenced by their decisions. Even if she isn't influenced by their rejection, she may not like finding out that she wasn't the first choice for the story. Frankly, I don't need editors to know any of that.

    Now, on twitter, you may see authors tweeting each other with "got a rejection, need chocolate." But keep in mind that usually we don't say who rejected us or on what. And since we may have multiple projects bouncing around at any time, all that is known is something was rejected by someone. Because that rejected piece is going back out and we don't want editors or agents to know it was just turned down by a friend of theirs.

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  12. Marie Dees said:

    Now, on twitter, you may see authors tweeting each other with "got a rejection, need chocolate." But keep in mind that usually we don't say who rejected us or on what.
    Yup.

    And that's the thing--we all KNOW we get rejections; it's not some mysterious process. Everyone knows how it works. So there's nothing wrong with looking for a little emotional support if you need it. But it's keeping the details (who/what/where) out of the picture that matters, IMO.

    "Got a wonderful personalized rejection today" is one thing; "Market X rejected my story "Title" with a form, and this is the 635th rejection for this story!" is something else entirely.

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  13. It's "unprofessional?" Well, the bar certainly has been lowered in terms of professionalism by blogs such as SlushPile Hell. And Twittergate last spring was hardly professional.

    All of your comments are your opinions, just as my comments are my opinions. We disagree. You do it your way and I will do it my way. I will continue to post about all of my rejections, especially my job rejections. Job rejections fuel me now.

    I posted a few of my rejections here:

    http://marjorie-digest.blogspot.com/2010/09/me-and-alice-quinn.html

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  14. Slushpile Hell doesn't indicate who she is. This is probably a wise decision because as an author, I wouldn't be eager to submit to an agent who blogged rejections. I'd consider it to be unprofessional. In both cases author or agent, people are blogging what might be considered by some to be personal correspondence.

    Now, agents or editors blogging general advice based on what they see is another thing. That might be professionally helpful. And lately one thing those agents are saying is -- Stop blogging about your rejections.

    If you want to follow another path, that's fine. But I'd encourage aspiring writers to listen to the agents and not blog their rejections. Blog about your success.

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  15. Seriously? I would never post job rejections. You're telling people thinking of hiring you that you were rejected by others - how is that a good thing? Same thing with authors. I personally can't see the good of posting about rejections.

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  16. It's all about from where a person is coming. I was a teacher from 1968 - 2002, and I am now retired. I can post about rejections because it is part of my partial memoir. I come from a different place and my agenda is not that of an active person in the work force.

    I can post about my literary and artistic rejections because it makes my projects funnier. I use it and it becomes part of my creative process.

    I am a stand-up comic in NYC and I make it all work. But, honestly if I were younger (not 64) and actively out there, I would still "be a bagel on a plate of onion rolls."

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  18. Of course if you are not actively seeking publication, then you can blog about past rejections because there are no present projects to impact. But it's not good advice to pass on to aspiring authors.

    Also, those reading this might want to keep in mind that the reason so many agents and editors are offering advice about not blogging about rejections is because currently it is what they are seeing on many, many blogs when they research writers sending them queries.

    Writers blogging about rejections aren't "outside the norm." They are the norm. Everyone is doing it. While it may be fun to share with friends, but if a writer is actively seeking publication, they need to consider that advertising that they've been rejected isn't going to help their search.

    I still advise writers not join the crowd of "rejection bloggers" and take the more professional and less followed path of finding something else to blog about. Agents do actually notice if a writer has other interests outside of failing to be published.

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  19. Marie sums up my feelings perfectly, so I'll jsut say "ditto".

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  20. If you are a stand-up comic and make it work for you, good for you. There are exceptions to the rules - but I would certainly not advise anyone to post their rejections because of that.
    Slush pile readers and editors will read through all that on one's blog to see what a writer is about, and seeing talk of rejections isn't going to make them decide they want you (generic "you" - the author). That's what I think.

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  21. re: "because currently it is what they are seeing on many, many blogs when they research writers sending them queries."

    Excuse me? They research writers who send them queries? I thought the barometer for representation was the query or the content of the book.

    Now, they are digging for other details to make the decision? This is absurd. I wouldn't be surprised if they go to the FBI's Electronic Reading Room to get all the scoop they can on writers who query.

    They should just do their job and look for great writers to rep and stop all the other nonsense.

    You really should read my piece:

    http://marjorie-palimpsests.blogspot.com/2011/02/dig-this-stepford-writers.html

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  22. Yes. Publishers and agents DO look at the websites and online promotions done by writers who submit to them.

    When I was a slush reader for a small press, I always looked up people's websites. I also searched for the first sentence of each of their chapters to ensure that I could not find entire manuscripts online...thereby making the manuscript previously published and not meeting our requirements of "no previously published works."

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  23. Well, I will admit that they don't research every single writer who submits to them. If they aren't interested in the story or the writing in front of them isn't up to standard, they'll simply reject the piece.

    But, yes, if they think they might be interested in the writer, they will not only look at the blog, they'll search for your name and your book title on the web. And a good agent acts on all information they can find about that book - how long has it been making the rounds? Who's already seen it and rejected it. Is it unfortunately already available on the web or self-published, which will limit rights. Does the author seem to be too invested in the unpublished manuscript and likely to object to editing requests? Does the author seem to be a nice person? After all, I like to work with nice people.

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  25. A nice person?" The greatest artists and writers were difficult people. Was J.D. Salinger a "nice person?" Was Ernest Hemingway a "nice person?" What about Virginia Woolf?

    Yikes! It sounds like a writer has to be a milquetoast, drink the Kool-Aid, and join a cult of Stepford Writers in order to be published.

    Many books go blog to book. Sh*t My Dad Says" went blog to book. It was a bestseller. So there goes that rule.

    These rules you state sound tired and stale. I appreciate writers who break the rules and reinvent the process.

    I hand out my cartoons on the NYC subway. I read my poems at night under a NYC streetlight. My poems are at:

    http://marjorie-digest.blogspot.com

    Who wants to be "nice?" How boring. LOL

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  26. Majorie, I'm going to be blunt here. The reason agents are suggesting that writers not post their rejections on their blogs is because -- everyone is doing it. Writers who do so are not breaking the rules and reinventing the process. They are simply doing what every other wannabe writer out there is doing. They are part of the crowd. They are not the bagel on the plate of onion rolls, they're simply just another onion flake.

    I wish you the best in your writing.

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  28. Check them out here:

    http://marjorie-digest.blogspot.com/2010/09/me-and-alice-quinn.html

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  29. Then feel free to behave however you wish on the internet.

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  30. reposted due to typos:

    OK, I can be an onion flake, well toasted I hope. What was blunt?

    AND, the reason agents are suggesting that writers not post their rejections on their blogs is because it is about their need for power and control.

    An agent who was not into power and control and who did not have an internet presence herself would not give one hoot about what a writer did on her own blog. She would only be invested in the quality of the work she is considering representing.

    Why would any literary agent even care what "everyone" is doing on the internet? The only agents that care are the ones who tweet all day and get into it. Most agents are very busy doing their jobs and do not waste any time yentahing it up on the net investigating what is going on at blogs or social networking sites.

    I posted my rejections from Alice Quinn. Do you honestly think if I sent her one great poem she would give two hoots and allow that to impact her decision in terms of whether to publish the poem?

    Get real. I think she would laugh. She seemed to always enjoy my sense of humor.

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  31. Krista:
    I have ALWAYS felt free to "behave" how I want on the internet within my special brand of humor. And, I am outspoken. I shoulda been a whistleblowah!

    However, I do not see it as "behavior." I see it as freedom to post what I want on my blogs and to voice my own opinions without fear of being blacklisted.

    And, if I am blacklisted.... so be it.

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  32. Yes, agents/editors/publishers/what have you google and research the writers they're thinking of signing. Contacting a book/writer means entering a legally binding business relationship with someone for several years. You'd be an idiot if you signed a contract without knowing what their personality or online presence was like. Just like writers research agents/editors to ensure their work will be a good fit.

    Writers can blog about their rejections all they want, but there are consequences to doing so. If aspiring writers are okay with the fact that it gives a bad impression, so be it--it'll give them even more rejections to whine publicly about.

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