Tuesday, May 31, 2016

I've Run Out of Other Cheeks and There's No Room Left on the High Road.

In the nine years this blog has been going, I've tried to keep it upbeat, tried not to complain (too much or too often), or waste time or yours with petty grievances. Not today.

So there's a writer/editor who put out a call for submissions for an anthology about 18 months ago. (Let me say first, and as my readers, you likely already know: I have VERY thick skin, and roll with rejections every day.) I thought carefully about the stated theme of the anthology, and I submitted a pitch for an essay very much on-topic that also addressed an aspect of the subject matter that wasn't likely to be over-represented.

You never know with these things. I've been on the YES end of a cold anthology essay pitch many times, and I've also been on the NO end many times. You pitch (or submit), and you hope. You know it's a crapshoot. If it's a NO, you (or at least I) regroup and decide: whether to pitch the editor something else; to write the original essay anyway and find another market for it; or figure I tried, maybe this anthology is just not for me. And you walk away a little disappointed, but not particularly bruised. It's the way things go.

But in the meantime, you wait for a response, and you hope. If you're me, you start notes for the proposed essay anyway. Maybe you begin writing a brain dump draft. Because, why not?

This writer/editor's negative reply came back in less than two hours, and included all of the following:

1. The idea was "obviously outside the range of what I want." (It wasn't outside the topic at all, though it would address a little-discussed but important aspect. Okay, she didn't want to go outside that box, got it. But then shouldn't the original guidelines have noted that all ideas had to be on-the-nose? Or was she just lying about the reason for rejection, because she went on to inform me that...)

2. Even if she were inclined to like the idea, she would need someone other than ME to write it because I don't have enough "audience drawing power." (Guess she didn't like my social media numbers. Or I didn't fit into some idea of the kind of top drawer writers she wanted in the book. This seemed like the kind of opinion she ought to have kept to herself, especially as it wasn't a stated criteria. Yet if she wanted only top writers, who not solicit them directly instead of putting out a public call? Also, she's not exactly a household name herself, even in writing circles.)

3. That under no circumstances should I contact her again with another idea for this same anthology; I had my one shot already. (Wow. Didn't realize I was dealing with a royal personage who had granted me the honor of a one-time-only email audience.)

4. That under no circumstance should I give out her email address to other writers because she was already inundated with pitches. (Then why did she post it on a public website in the first place?)

It stung, it felt in part personal and mean-spirited, and in part wholly unprofessional. But I shook it off. That's what you do, right?

I also wrote the essay anyway, and it has since been published in a venue I like by an editor who treated me well. So I guess I "won" in some odd way. Still.

The anthology will be published soon, and via email, via Facebook private message, via Twitter private message, and via newsletter (which I'd sworn I'd opted out of), I've been asked to: sign up for an automated social media support campaign; write a book review; request a local bookshop to stock it; LIKE the book's Facebook page; support a giveaway; and otherwise support the book's release. (Gee, guess my reach is okay after all!).

I know the right response is no response, that the right thing to do is to do nothing, to say nothing. And so that's what I will do to "support" the book. Nothing. I will also not ever reveal this person's identity, or the name of the book.

I have been in this "business" for 30-plus years, and some days I get so freaking God awful tired of that damned high road.

That is all.

Images: All Flickr/CreativeCommons. High Road - Tim Roach/aka atoach; Red Flag-TerryJohnston.


Editor/arb said...

OMG, you blew your once in a lifetime chance to write for this editor. I'm sure you are heartbroken, but I am so glad you shared this with us who never took that once-in-a-lifetime to get such an ominous rejection.

I would frame it and keep it near my dartboard.

Linda K Sienkiewicz said...

YIKES! So unbelievably unprofessional. I would email the editor and ask to be taken off the mailing list asap.

I'm sure you cannot be the only one he/she has irritated. People who have that kind of attitude seem to enjoy spreading it around!

I'm glad your piece found a happy home.


Linda K Sienkiewicz said...

I'd also pass her email address around so others can submit their work to her, any work at all, just because, you know.

Margie Gelbwasser said...

Wow. This left me speechless. This editor sounds extremely unprofessional. You didn't deserve a reply like that. I'm so glad your piece found a home. Her loss. And behavior like that will leave her without writers soon enough.

Lisa Romeo said...

Anthony - sometimes I do print out a particularly tough rejection email just so I can feed it to my shredder!

Oh, Linda, how tempting that would be. But I'd have to suffer my father's ghost admonishing me forever for a rudeness of that magnitude!

Thanks for the kind words, everyone!

Risa Nye said...

Not that it matters in the least, but I wonder if this person had included a "we can't pay you, but we'll send you a copy of the book" in her website post asking for submissions. I'm always curious about this aspect of the anthology curating philosophy. The rest of it, on her end, goes below and beyond professional behavior. Good riddance!

Anonymous said...

Not as bad as I began to suspect the outcome would be. I was afraid she also took your novel idea and one of her "writers of note" write it. You're always of note among us. This editor didn't sound like an editor at all - but more of a packager. No collegiality.

Lisa Romeo said...

Aha, @Risa, that would be the icing on the cake, but actually this was a paid opp, and a not too shabby amount either. Sigh.

Well, @Julia, won't know that until I see the final book. I did think of that, but we all know you can't lock up an idea, once you let it loose into the world, anything can happen...

Liane Kupferberg Carter said...

That's appalling! I'm glad your piece found a good home.

Andrea said...

Wow! What nerve. And here I thought a form rejection was the worst thing. Good job galloping along the high road. You probably dodged a very nasty experience working with someone like that as your editor.

Middle-aged Diva (Carol) said...

Good God, what a clueless person, in the wrong job, too. It's my experience that people like that get what they deserve.Whatever it might be. I can only imagine how shocking that response must have been.Hopefully, it's only a flesh wound.