When things get a little rough…

A few days ago an agent wrote on her blog about how a disgruntled writer had sent an e-mail and then, before the agent had a chance to reply, had sent a follow-up e-mail lambasting her for not responding, and labeling her as a bad agent. She concluded with, “We know we’re supposed to brush it off, but sometimes it’s hard.”

Among the comments to her post was one that suggested she should ‘suck it up’… “and if it is ‘hard’, get some tips on coping skills.”

After I digested the post and its various comments I found myself wondering about these negative aspects of the industry – the effects of unjustified criticism, misunderstandings, and yes, the rejections and bad reviews.  How should we handle such things? As writers we try hard to write with integrity and express ourselves honestly and coherently, but our words are open to evaluation. When the interpretation of our work (or actions, as in the case of this agent) seems unfair, are we obliged to ‘suck it up’?

What’s your opinion? If you’re not thick skinned when it comes to those ‘black cloud’ situations, how do you cope with them?

~

Grumbling Big Time

I’m having trouble digesting that the blogosphere is still reverberating with reactions to #queryfail and the resulting backlash dubbed #agentfail. I’m not linking to these because I think it’s time the venting stopped.

 

It seems like everyone has an opinion on why writers are so angry at agents — Nathan Bransford, Jennifer Jackson, Johnathan Lyons, Victoria Strauss, Ginger Clark, Jessica Faust, Janet Reid, and Rachelle Gardner to name just a few of the more visible ones. Most express surprise at the intensity of the anger. I suspect there is truth in one agent’s assumption that it stems from the frustration of unsuccessful writers whose efforts at publication have been thwarted by rejections from those who are seen as the gatekeepers of the industry.

 

As a writer, however, I’m embarrassed at the whining, ranting and nastiness that has erupted. There are frustrations in any business. Anyone who has done her homework knows the pathway to publication isn’t a freeway. Complaining about the bumps is neither productive nor respectful of those who are trying to pave the way for us. I think, as writers, our energy is better spent focusing on what we do best – writing — and not in trying to tell agents how to do their job.

 

One reader on Gretchen McNeil’s blog commented, “You expect professionalism, give it.”  Well said!

An Encouraging Rejection is an Anomaly

Agent Jessica Faust, in a recent post on the Bookends Literary Agency blog says, “No matter what you do or how you proceed, remember that personalized rejections deserve a pat on the back. Congratulations for making it that far.” Somehow, knowing the definition of the word ‘rejection’, her comment seems like an anomaly.

 

I haven’t received many rejection slips, chiefly because I haven’t sent out my manuscripts for scrutiny very often. My non-fiction pieces have been well received — no rejections (so far!) since I began writing for magazines eight years ago.

 

In light of Jessica’s comment I find myself re-evaluating the rejections of my fiction submissions. Every one of them has been personal. And kind. And encouraging. None has suggested there is no market for the story, or that it needs further work. The most recent provided a paragraph of feedback and ended with “While your story shows promise it’s not right for me at this time. Keep at it. You have talent. Your time is coming.” At the time I chose to believe this was just a polite agent. After all, it was still a rejection.

 

Do personal rejections reveal less about the quality of the writing and more about the personality and professionalism of the agent? Maybe. But whatever the case, at the moment I think perhaps I’ll take greater encouragement from my collection of personalized rejection slips and press on with renewed determination.