FAQ: SASEs/email and "you don’t reject me, I reject you!"

This post isn’t from any actual questions, but it covers things we’ve seen happen either occasionally or regularly that either annoy us or make the editors’ jobs harder.

Let’s take the last subject first. Let’s say you get a rather impersonal reply in your SASE that says something to the effect of “Thank you for your recent submission. (apologies here for being unable to respond individually) We’re afraid your work isn’t a good fit for our current needs…” etc.

What do you do?

A) Get mad, then get even. Send the rejection letter back to those idiots who couldn’t see the mastery of your work!
B) Get mad, then get back to work on your book.
C) Get mad, then get depressed because no one will ever want you.

If you chose A or C, you’re taking personally something that wasn’t intended personally. I won’t deny that rejection hurts. Whether in love or publishing, the sting is still the same because that’s you they’re rejecting, right?

Actually, no. 

You aren’t what an editor sees. The manuscript is what an editor sees, and like I said in the last post and have said several times over in the past, it’s not personal. It’s a matter of finding the right match, and if the manuscript doesn’t fit what they’re looking for at the time, it’s no reflection on you.

What is a reflection on you is if you decide then to call attention to yourself by sending the rejection letter back to the editor or doing something even more spiteful, like calling the editor names. It shows a lack of professionalism that will be remembered far more than your writing skills.

There really is no need to call attention to oneself as a high-maintenance author, because it will just stick in the editor’s mind and make her not want to work with you personally. That’s a big difference from an editor seeing a manuscript and saying, “I don’t think this works for me,” (therefore rejecting the submission)–that editor could be saying internally “but perhaps their next one will be better.” 

But we can’t write that to every writer–we simply don’t have the time. I think I might start putting yesterday’s reminder as a signature: it’s just not a good fit it’s just not a good fit it’s just not a good fit

It’s up to the writer to be able to take that moment of pain–and I fully acknowledge it’s a moment of pain–upon receiving a rejection letter and say, “I can do better.” And perhaps “I can do better” means finding a different publisher at which the fit would be better, but there’s still no reason for rudeness. Editors tend to shift from house to house, and if you’ve made yourself memorable in a bad way, that can linger in their minds.

Just a public service announcement. Kindness and professional courtesy are always the higher road. Tack the rejection letters to the wall, vent to your friends, heck, go to RejectionCollection.com, but don’t do anything to burn a bridge with an editor (though RejectionCollection is pushing it on burning bridges). 
Your career will thank you for it.

Part the second: SASEs and email.

This is a subject our assistant editor asked me to cover, because she sees a lot of this coming through the submissions we get nowadays. If you’ve been reading this LJ long, you’ll know that we don’t take email queries or submissions at Mirrorstone. The reason for
that has been explained elsewhere, so I won’t get into it here. (It isn’t that we’re luddites.)

So, since we don’t take email queries, a natural consequence of that is that we don’t really want to give email responses, either. Occasionally I’ll email a positive response if I’m really excited about something because it saves time, but you’ll notice that I don’t put my work email on my profile here on LJ–that’s a dummy address I’ve set up so that my work email doesn’t get spammed. I don’t mind getting submission questions here that I can turn around and answer in a general way because it can benefit a number of people, but sometimes you give an inch, etc. It’s best to let my work email be a closely guarded secret.

On the last post, our anonymous questioner pointed out that they noted on their submission that “an email response would suffice.” But it doesn’t for us, and that’s why we request the SASE in a submission. Generally the SASE does the work it’s supposed to do, and unless we’re really excited about your work, you may not even receive a response if we don’t get a SASE.

There are other reasons for the SASE–sometimes the writer will have mistyped their email address or forgotten to put it on their cover letter. That happened to one person recently from whom I requested a manuscript. What would have happened had she not i
ncluded a SASE? I might have tried calling, but I might not have been excited enough to do much more detective work than that. Postage is getting expensive. Sometimes we’ll use our own postage to return work or to send a request for more, but that’s not our responsibility, and we might just as easily, on a busier day, recycle the submission and shrug because none of the person’s contact info was viable.

So, the lesson here? Always include a SASE. Always. With correct postage.