"I'm just going to write because I can't help it."- Charlotte Brontë

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Naughty Writer

Writers like to think of themselves as the poor, suffering, misunderstood underdogs of the publishing industry (and we are! We really, really are!) but over the last couple of weeks I've come across a few examples of editor and publisher misery caused by... hmmm, my fellow writers.

There was an email from a publisher exhorting writers not to review their own work on Amazon, the reason being that Amazon's review policies prohibit writers from reviewing their own work and if said writer is reported, Amazon comes down on the publisher, which makes the publisher look bad. Apparently, this is an ongoing problem, but I'm at a loss as to why anyone would do such a thing. Review your own work? It's embarrassing to even think about someone being so unprofessional. What would you even write about your own piece? Something along the lines of This is a fabulous story of great depth and intelligence and humour and complexity and subtlety and anything else you want it to be obviously written by a genius, who just happens to be me...? :)

Speaking of reviews, there's always the perennial problem of the occasional unseemly Internet ruckus caused by oversensitive writers wildly responding to reviews they don't like (not having written them themselves, obviously). The best advice I've seen in ages on how to deal with this situation is over at Alan Baxter's blog:

Don't worry, it's succinct.

In the meantime, Lakeside Circus, which is just starting up and is dealing with a influx of material and wrangling many writerly egos, felt it necessary to post a piece about reading guidelines, because many writers are such creative giants  that they seem to feel they can skip such mundane constraints (in this case, among other things, sending non-spec fic stories to a magazine that deals in speculative fiction), and another about experimenting with personal rejections. The latter included a warning :

Here’s the problem, though: for every author who takes the notes in stride, we have another who feels the need to reply to the rejection. Saying, “Thanks, I hadn’t thought of that!” is okay–it’s not necessary, but we don’t mind hearing from you. What we do mind is the authors who reply to argue with the rejection, who insult our staff, or misread the suggestions in order to complain that the fault lies in our reading instead of in their writing.

Too many of those, and we’ll go back to form rejections.

It's sad that they felt the need to add that last warning. Personally, I cannot fathom why anyone would think that being aggressive is appropriate behaviour in this, or any other business. If you're a writer who can't deal with rejection letters, then you really need to find another creative outlet - they're part and parcel of the landscape, for most of us, at least. This post also helps me understand why so many publications do default to form letters. Of course, that just makes the personal ones all that more exciting and special.

Finally, there's the poor, beleaguered literary agent, and if you don't already occasionally pop over to Slushpile Hell, billed as One grumpy literary agent, a sea of query fails, and other publishing nonsense, do so now. You'll do a lot of groaning, but also laugh. And it's a wonderful example of what others in the industry deal with on a daily basis, and a lesson in how NOT to behave if you wish to establish a reputation for professionalism. Mind you, most of the examples used seem to be from the extreme end of wannabe writerly egos running amok and demonstrate a pathological lack of perspective. At least I very much hope they do.

So be good, writers. Do your homework, abide by the rules, be professionally polite, and save your rantings about the unfair treatment of writers for your Facebook pages or blogs :)

And if you truly don't like the way things are, there's always self-publishing...

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