Friday, April 24, 2009

Airing a Grievance or Popping a Cap in Your Own Foot?

Recently, I read a letter to the editor of a magazine that left me stunned. The author of the letter had won a fiction award sponsored by this magazine, and her piece was published in an anthology with runners-up as well as an abbreviated version in the magazine itself.

After reading this letter, I wonder how many times the editors she worked with wished someone else had won the award.

This author redacts the version of her story published in the magazine, spends time detailing the woes of editing and of losing the one most-revered sentence of the piece, and even calls out her editor by name, blaming her for the apparently sorry state of her award-winning tale. I don't wish to detail the contents of the letter, since this isn't about her. Rather, it's about a very odd mindset I've seen lately, and I really think it's counter-productive to anyone who actually wants to publish.

I will admit, the made a splash with all that drama. When I saw the word "redact" in the header, I was sucked in, and now I'd like to reread the story and compare the two versions. At the same time, I think about what her editors are saying now and whether they'd ever willingly work with her again (assuming she'd ever allow them to touch her pearls again).

This letter to the editor came at the same time that I began seeing more of the same type of drama over the Twitter campaign called #queryfail. For those of you who haven't heard (and I only just did), several agents got together one day to tweet their responses to queries as they read them. Can you say invaluable information? I can. If nothing else, you can learn what one agent prefers or despises, and you can look into their brain as they are responding to a letter they have just decided to reject.

Yet there are some who apparently don't find this a useful exercise at all, and they've taken to accusing agents of purposely representing low-quality work. Lilith Saintcrow has responded to the backlash, and I've seen at least one agent applaud her response while pointing to the agent-bashing as What Not To Do. Clearly, the agents are aware of the uprising of anti-agent writers who've decided to become very vocal in their militance.

Obviously, the attitude won't win any favors with agents who see posts like this. And, if the vocal authors decide to delete, the Google gods remember all, and their memory is called Google Cache (and those who live to capture the cache for posterity).

We also hear about the long memory the publishing industry has. We're told that agents and editors talk about more than just the manuscripts they're considering. If an author sends a snide response to a rejection letter, if she blogs about how horrible one agent or all agents are, if she insults an editor while one of that editor's authors is standing right behind her, is she doing herself any favors?

Wouldn't it be better to consider the rejection experience as information, not a personal insult, and move forward? After all, the agent who rejects her manuscript today might see her promise as a long-term client in her next book. The editor who published her last piece might have been the last reputable industry professional willing to consider her work.

This industry is hard enough without making enemies of those who might have been an author's biggest champions.


Theresa said...

Great, classic point, KL!

It's hard enough to get published and then thrive in this industry without shooting yourself in the foot by being difficult.

Grin . . . tho--ugh . . . some writers just can't seem to help themselves.

We should pity them. We should. B-u-t . . . being the less-generous person that I am, I rejoice in their stupidity.

I might even mentally egg them on. How sweet is that? The competition taking themselves out of the game!

KL Grady said...

LOL, T. I can't pity them - they're adults and they know the power of words (especially those that live forever). I can't rejoice in their stupidity, either, because it really makes me uncomfortable to see someone self-sabotage so publicly.

I'm not even sure some of the agentfail folks were really competitors. It seemed like a LOT of them were literary authors.

Donnell said...

KL, never shoot yourself in the foot, never ever never! This business is too small, the memories as you say too long. Oy.