Don’t Whine to Your Editor
Some time ago, while I was working on a collaboration project, I happened upon a pitch that seemed totally awesome. But when I got the actual submission, it was boring trite and the subject matter wasn’t what was promised. So, naturally, I rejected it and cited why.
The response I got back was (edited, emphasis mine):
This is surprising and disappointing. I believe that my article was faithful to the pitch I submitted. I worked very hard on this. If you choose not to include it, that’s your business, but I would like to have some more specific reasons as to why it has received an outright rejection.
Here’s how this person (let’s call this person Kris) failed:
- Kris wasn’t graceful about being rejected. If he was, I might be willing to hear a pitch from him in the future. But he wasn’t, and I remember his name, which means this exchange will be in my mind if I’m ever again in the situation of dealing with him. (And understand that being rejected isn’t always about absolute quality — relative quality is a component. If you are good but not as good as other submissions and space is limited, then you don’t make the cut. This time. But if you’re good, you’ll be remembered.)
- Kris said the very words that tell me she’s a complete amatuer. She said “I worked very hard on this.” What, does she want a gold star for participating? Congratulations, this person did the bare minimum I expect out of someone who gives a shit about being a creative: working hard. You’ve gotta do more than that — you’ve gotta pay attention and get your skills up to par. That wasn’t happening here. This is a business, and I have demands in time, quality, and so on that I have to meet. If you can’t meet those demands and aren’t willing to be a decent human about it, I have no use for you.
- The last sentence’s sense of demanding entitlement rather than civility and respecting of my time more or less is the nail in coffin. It’s extremely easy to see that the author just said “fuck you” to me, with a side of “I’m not done with you yet.”
Why post this? Because as an editor, sometimes I have to deal with writers who whine. I didn’t want to use anything recent regarding the subject, but I needed an example that I can point to in order to say this:
If you whine at me like Kris did above, I will fire you. My time is more valuable than that. Granted, I’m far more likely to have a conversation first rather than immediately can you or walk, but it’s important to understand that if you whine at me, and I let you get away with it, then I’m doing myself a disservice. And I may far too little money doing freelance editing to short myself on that.
How could Kris have done better? Try this:
I’ll admit that I’m surprised at this news. Thank you for your time.
Since you were interested in the initial pitch, perhaps we could talk about where I went wrong and possibly letting me take another stab at the project? I understand if you don’t have the time; I’m still eager about this and think I can deliver what you need. If nothing else, maybe in talking with you, I’ll learn what not to do in the future.
That’s how to do the same thing, and not whine. That tells me you want to work hard, you’re willing to accept that you missed the mark, and want to show you’ve got what it takes to hit it.
Kris though that his/her version of “working hard” meant an automatic in, and whining when that falls; the one above is someone showing that working hard is the barest of criteria. And even if I couldn’t because of time grant such a request, that response would leave a positive impression, not a negative one.
Edit: some people are apparently getting all bent out of shape because I wrote about shitty writers. I’m just going to assume that everyone who is is a shitty writer who sees themselves in Kris, and is combating self-reflection by complaining about me. <a href=”https://plus.google.com/u/0/115238641855986579653/posts/FefFbr8H1d7″>If you don’t like that, that’s life.</a>