You should have sent him my way.
The thought did occur to me. Are you still offering critiquing services for people? If so, I'll start just sending the details of your rates and contact info next time someone asks for this.
Yes and yes. $2 per page.
Just sent him that info with your e-mail address.
Really! Do you do all types of writing? *butts in*
(Hi. We know a ton of the same people.)
2009-03-18 09:40 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I was gonna say the author should just time travel back a few years and sub to Clarkesworld.
Is there any way that I could send you a piece that I'm presently working on and receive some feedback before I send in the final draft?
I don't think you could have answered this more professionally and civilly than you did.
I've gotten a few like that for CP. I think sometimes people just can't comprehend the sheer volume of competition there is for just a few slots until they've finally seen it from the other side.
I think you handled this admirably.
I'm glad I never went to college and learned that.
You could learn that just be reading published writers' bios, too.
A lot of my favorite writers are teachers, or nannies, or bricklayers at the same time.
Handled with class.
RE: "But as an editor I also know that it's not as simple as good story versus bad story." I'd hasten to add that the gulf between a good story and the great story that gets accepted is rather vast. Reading slush for the past month as Farrago's Wainscot has been rather eye opening in that respect.
Wow. I don't think it would have ever occurred to me to write a letter like this; it smacks of writing a letter demanding to know why you didn't get a job/date/prize/whatever.
You handled it very well, I think.
(and I speak as someone who has actually had people ask her, "so why won't you date me?")
Oh, I hate that question.
Back in the days of yore, when I was still dating new people, I got to the point where I would usually say "Do you actually want to know, or are you just being creepy?"
And if they said "No, really, I really want to know." I would say "I don't like you."
Oh, there is so very much that one could comment on here....
But I'll stick with just this: "But the feeling I get is that you and your readers regard me a worthless loser." If this writer's fiction has never been published in Fantasy, how can Fantasy's readers consider the writer to be a worthless loser, since they don't know of his/her existence in particular?
Is there something going around these days? This is the second such story via LJ in the last week or so.
Well, I wouldn't get too harsh. My presumption in cases like this is always that the person is pretty young and inexperienced, and it's not a case of deliberate rudeness. God knows I've had plenty of clueless moments and done much much worse in my day.
But it is sometimes helpful to know these things...
I think I now have a fairly clear idea of what WON'T sell to you, though I'm still not sure what WILL (a couple of pieces I thought were right didn't take; on the other hand the one you DID buy was probably the one I was most optimistic about).
I've always assumed that the "please send more" is editorial shorthand for "you can write; it's obvious you can write; when you write the correct story, we'll buy it". In other words, the mechanics and techniques are all there, it's just hitting the right content and/or tone.
And I will persist - but first I have to write more stories, because you've seen virtually everything of mine that's remotely suitable!
When I say outright that I want the person to send more, I always mean it. It may mean that I think that somewhere down the road they're going to produce a killer story or it may mean exactly what you say - not this one, but another may well hit.
Now go write some more, Brian.
A) I think this is quite diplomatic and clear.
B) Have you thought about including a less-personalized version of this in the submissions FAQ?
Because the information that "we take 1 out of 100 stories we receive" is something that is well known to pros and comes as an INCREDIBLE surprise to many people new to the idea of seeking publication. If I had a dollar for every client who thought that magazines and anthologies were desperate for submissions in general, I would have many many dollars.
I once asked a college writing class what percentage of submitted short stories they thought The New Yorker rejected, and I swear to god the majority answer was "50%."
Which goes some way toward explaining what often comes off as hubris or entitlement to people who have been doing this stuff for years.
I think that's an excellent suggestion and I'm making a note to myself to do so.
If I had a dollar for every client who thought that magazines and anthologies were desperate for submissions in general, I would have many many dollars.
Even more shocking; ultimately, it is true! Not as regards submissions (too many of those), but good work. Mags and anthos DO want more good stuff than they get.
Just not more stuff than they get.
Very well said!
I have occasionally responded to queries somewhat similar to this, where the writer asks for more explanation than I had already given on a story I'd already read and rejected. But asking for a private crit *before* submitting definitely strikes me as going too far.
Also: never a good idea to put words into an editor's mouth when you're asking them for something.
But the feeling I get is that you and your readers regard me a worthless loser.
Something like this, to me, is a red flag that the conversation has moved beyond professionalism.
It speaks very highly of you that you took the time to answer. Thank you on this writer's behalf (because the ones who would write a letter like that are generally the type who won't say it), and thank you for sharing it here, where I can point people who make this same complaint to their fellow writers....
That was a very classy response, and I hope the emailer appreciates the time you took in crafting it. :)
I don't think it would have ever occurred to me to write a letter like this
Same here, but I've done so many benighted things in my life, I can only cringe in sympathy.
Anyway, it's nice to see kindness happening. I hope your cats appreciate it. "D
Well, I appreciate it.
Your response was kind and patient, and the timing in my case was impeccable.
It kept me from doing something I now see is silly.
I was hoping it'd be helpful to at least a couple of people.
Mmmm... with so much slush I tend to think editor's don't remember me, so I don't take it as a personal slight when someone rejects me over and over again.
Cat - thank you for yet again serving as a role model of courtesy and professionalism.
Thing is, that internet networking, and LJ in particular, can create an illusion of false intimacy between writers and editors. A writer follows an editor's blog and feels he or she has a personal relationship with the said editor. Being rejected by someone you feel you know is harder than being rejected by a faceless stranger; and it is also easier, I think, to ask a favor of someone you feel you know.
Those are, of course, false assumptions. The fact that you follow an editor's LJ does not make you a friend of the said editor. Even if a personal relationship does exist, it certainly does not guarantee a sale. I have been rejected by editors who are my LJ friends and who moreover accepted my work at other times. That's part and parcel of this business.
Regarding everything you said in this post after your letter to this person ...preach it, sister!
And it's stories like this that make me run away like a frightened squirrel if people suggest I read slush. There's a lot of pain in that letter. I think you handled it well.
That's a very kind and understanding response you gave.
I'm sure that we've all felt similar to the way the letter writer did, at one time or another.
Jay Lake's quote about how it takes "near-pathological persistence" to succeed in this business really rings true at times like these...
You are amazing. I bet the writer of that letter has become a fan forever.
My response to rejection is to grit my teeth, stick out my chin, go write another story, and try again.
Well put, and further proof of your wonderfulness.
"But the feeling I get is that you and your readers regard me a worthless loser. Is there any way that I could send you a piece that I'm presently working on and receive some feedback before I send in the final draft?"
Some people's frustration manifests more strongly than others, I guess.
Good response, you. *salute*
Thanks, Cat, for going above and beyond the call of duty as a force for good in the writer universe.
It takes a whole lot more effort for a fiction writer (and I suspect, artist, actor, musician) to advance in their profession than for practitioners of other forms of endeavor. Basically, you need to get an A- to pass the course. So here you are, writing B+ stories, and your friends who are not writers are making a living (well, before this economy anyway) with their B+ work. And the world makes you feel like you're a D student. You need to work on your craft, so that you start writing a few A- stories, and work on your marketing, so you send them to to the appropriate editor, and work on your productivity, so that you have more chances to win.
You're right, of course about the letter. Poor thing.
But there's an interesting observation here:
I also know as both writer and editor that thickskinnedness and persistence help a lot.
Persistence, obviously. Thickskinnedness [a real word?] -- well, yes, in the best of all possible worlds. But there may be an inherent contradiction between "Artist"
. Artists put on the line the things they care about most, expose their frailties to the world, and then ruthlessly rip those expressions apart in order to make them work. It would leave anyone a bit touchy.
Back when I was an acting student, I once complained in a journal entry that I shouldn't have to pull out the most desperate, painful pieces of my life to use them in performance. "Shouldn't some things be sacred and private?" I wrote. My instructor wrote back in the margin: "The artist is an imperialist conquistador who plunders his own inner city, again and again."
So writers can be forgiven for taking rejection personally. Of course I (myself) know that it isn't
personal, and I (myself) know, in Kate Wilhelm's words, that "I am not my story." But it takes an act of will and self-discipline to stay in that place, and it feels like a tiny victory every time I send the rejected story out to the next market.
This actually reminds me a lot of our earlier conversation about the word "racism." Over-sensitive artists who don't know much about race theory take the sentence "This story is racist" to mean "You are an offensive criminal." Similarly, over-sensitive artists take "This story is not right for us" to mean "You suck." It isn't true; but I know why they feel that way.
We can all TOTALLY sympathize with that, I agree. But I'd argue that a writer needs to build a sense of self that allows them to move forward even when the message they're getting from the world is disapproving or even hostile. I know it's one of life's most difficult tasks to build that, but I also think it's a strategy that writers (and artists of all stripes) would be wise to follow.
Nope. You didn't sound pissed off.
Wow, you were way more patient with him/her than I would have been in your position.
Cat, as always, I admire your patience and tact in difficult situations. And if thickskinndedness isn't a word, it probably should be :-)
Cat, good job. Those kinds of emails are always difficult to handle and you managed with class (your usual.)
And yeah, oh man, all writers need a turn at slushpiles, just to get an idea of the competition.
Heh. It's when I don't get the "please send more" that I feel like a worthless loser...Otherwise I just feel worthless.
I would advise this writer to keep a stash of chocolate around. I find it's not just helpful, but essential on rejection slip days. But that might be just me.
What a nice letter! (Won't tell you the casual set of LJ hops that took me here, but here I am.) I'm always touched when I see/hear/read about (or actually read) examples of humane friendliness like that.
And I laughed at the comment upstream about people thinking that the New Yorker accepts 50 percent of the stories it receives.
Hey, I like how one of your avatars is different from the others. How did you do that?
Click on Picture to Use, up under the subject line, when posting, and you should see all your pictures and be able to select the one to use.