Friday, July 27, 2007

Don't Burn Your Bridges

I’ve said before that “weeding out” our unsolicited submissions inbox is not my favorite part of the job. I dislike sending rejections as much as authors dislike getting them. But every once in awhile I get a response to a rejection that makes me smile with satisfaction, knowing that rejection was indeed the right choice.

For example, I once received a reply to a rejection that basically told me I better watch out on Judgment Day because I was going to have a lot to answer for. Yikes! According to the author, I had dishonestly misled him into believing we would publish his book. In reality, I had simply asked for some more information, but later rejected his work after we discovered the book was not something Barbour would like to publish at that time.

Paul Muckley, our senior nonfiction editor, recently shared in a meeting about a similar rejection response. I believe this one said something about us all needing to look for new jobs because God would never bless Barbour since we chose not to publish this author’s book. So we all started polishing our resumes right away…not! I have also gotten a few not-quite-so-dramatic-but-nasty-just-the-same email replies in the last week or two.

What I’d like to ask these authors is do they really think they’re helping themselves get published by burning bridges when they get rejected? For all they know, we thought their ideas and writing were great, but their work just didn’t fit in our publishing plans at the time. But they can be assured that if I get a nasty email response, I won’t want to look at any proposals from them in the future, no matter how great they might be. Why would I want to work with someone who acts like a spoiled child and writes a hate-filled response when things don’t go his/her way?

I’m not saying any of you authors reading this blog are guilty of sending nasty rejection replies, but I’m sure you’ve been tempted. We’re all human, and rejection hurts! But here’s my advice: If you’re angry and frustrated and need to lash out, then go ahead and write the reply. Scream and yell with lots of punctuation and ALL CAPS if you need to. But don’t hit send! Vent it out, then delete it and give it over to God. He wants to take our hurt from us, so let Him. (1 Peter 5:6-8) Then let Him comfort you and encourage you.

I admire the author who can send a gracious reply like “Thanks anyway. I appreciate your time and hope to submit something that might fit your publishing needs in the future.” That shows me this author doesn’t want to burn a bridge but will keep persevering in a highly competitive industry. And maybe someday he/she won't be mourning over another disappointing rejection but rejoicing over a new contract!


The Write Life said...

Rejections are never fun, but to attack the! I can't even imagine -- NOT a good career move.

I agree on sometimes needing to get things on paper. I've found that when I do need to vent in any area of my life, if I take time to put my thoughts down in writing, that seems to take away most of the frustration with the situation.

I can then tear the paper up and throw it away...or hit delete if it's on the computer. I just make sure to never put the actual address in, just in case I hit the wrong button! LOL.

Paige (I'm hoping that little baby comes soon and that you only get happy notes! Have you told us the name yet? We just celebrated our daughter's 13th birthday. Where DOES the time go? Before you know it, you'll have 7 giggling girls in YOUR home for 20 hours. Enjoy every moment...)

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Mary Connealy said...

One of the weird things about being a published author is that unpublished authors now ask me for advice. Which of course, I give because who can resist. :) But I also think, "Wow, I don't know anything. If you're coming to me you are in BIG TROUBLE."
BUT, like I said, I still give them advice.
And one of my standard bits of advice is; grow a rhino hide.
If you hurt too bad when you get rejected then GET OUT. Because it's part of it. You've got to expect it and accept it and go on or the writer life will just be too painful.
Yes, it's fine to ... oh, crawl under your desk and suck your thumb a while. If the husband and kids really need you, they'll drag you out.
Rejections hurt.
But even if the family leaves you there, just stay a WHILE.
Then get back to the computer and WRITE.

I wrote this on someone's blog(or somewhere) and they asked if they could quote me.

(Help!--they're quoting me)

Mush up all your rejection letters with glue
and use them to papier mache yourself a thick hide
you'll need it to survive as a writer.

Jennifer Johnson said...

I don't much like rejection either. I remember one time I was absolutely positive my story was perfect for this specific house, but you know that rejection was a true growing moment in my faith. I stepped away from my passion/obsession and said, "God, what do You want to do with my life? What I want may not be meshing with Your will, and that's going to get me no where. If it's no more writing, I quit." It was really cool because when I totally surrendered my will to Him, He led with His best for me.

I think I'm preaching to myself all over again.

God, whatever You want with me, do Your will!