I have proof that Wal-Mart is the devil

This is going to be long and ranty, so buckle up, children.

I had a lovely stay with the Bree half of Moira Rogers, and I did get to meet the Donna half more than once. She’s fabulous, as is her counterpart. Both their husbands are charming. I enjoyed myself immensely; that part of my trip to Alabama was fantastic. But I needed some alone time to really dig into this book. If interesting people are around, I want to chat, not work, so I removed myself to a hotel for the last few days I’m in town. At this point, you’re thinking it’s all roses, right?

Well, I was writing away today when I got an email from my husband. He tells me there’s a problem with the Peru trip; they require passports to be six months from expiration before they can book the trip. Do I want to miss a company-paid trip to Peru? HELL NO. Plus, I should / need to go to add detail to Shady Lady when I get copyedits back. This is not just a fun trip, though it will surely be that. Assuming I survive the hoop-jumping. So my passport only has four months left on it; it expires in December.

So I immediately use my Google-fu to find an agency that can expedite the order and get me a new passport next week. I find one that is recommended by Forbes magazine. (We leave on August 26th.) Don’t do this if you have any other choice, by the way. It costs an insane amount, on top of the governmental fees. But I am between the proverbial rock and a hard place today, so I start getting things together.

I should’ve known it was not gonna be like a hot knife through butter when it took me half an hour to print all the required forms and documents in the Holiday Inn business center. That was due to computer mess. Note to Holiday Inn, you should NOT buy E-Machines, seriously. These are the jankiest machines on the market.

So I finally get this stuff ready to go. It’s 4:30pm now, but I still need to get a passport photo taken. The agent at the front desk tells me that she thinks Wal-Mart does them, and there’s one right up the road. So I call the Wal-Mart to confirm. The woman on the phone assures me, “Yes, we do passport photos.” I ask, “Is there a certain cut-off time? Like before five or six?” Because I’m not sure how long it will take me to get there. She replies, “No, they do them until 9pm.”

I’m pleased. The cabbie is quick and prompt (later Randy will save my bacon). The Wal-Mart is, indeed, right up the road, so he drops me off, and I promise to call when I’m done. Thus, begins my descent into hell. It started slow. I went into the money center and got a money order. The line was long, but I did get the money order. (I have a checking account, but I literally have no printed checks. I use my debit card for everything or I just use Bank of America’s BillPayer to cut a check for me. So an agency that requires this form of payment, well, it has to be a money order.) I got the $200 MO, government fees for the passport, rush, and the passport card.

This taken care of, I go back to the photo center. Dear Mercy. Nobody was there. I waited 5-10 minutes before she came back and I asked to have a passport photo done. The clerk replied, “I don’t know how to do that.”

Utterly nonplussed, because I CALLED to confirm beforehand, I ask, “Well, can you call someone who does know?”

I wait another 10-15 minutes. The supervisor comes to the back, where I am waiting, once more alone. She says, “What’s wrong wit’ you?” (Awesome customer service by the way. I think she thought it was a complaint.)

I said, “I just need a passport photo taken and I was assured on the phone you could do it at this location until 9pm. Surely someone in the store has been trained. A manager?”

She then gets on the phone to call a manager. I wait another 10 minutes. The manager comes. “Nobody knows how to do this, ma’am, but the girl who is supposed to be working called in to say she’s running late and will be in at 6.”

It’s now 5:30 btw. So I’ve already been waiting close to 45 minutes. I say okay, what’s half an hour more at this point, and I go buy the blue pen I need to sign all the forms and eat supper at Subway. I read some of THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO on my Kindle. At 6:10, I reckon Ebony ought to be at work by now, so I go back to the photo center. Sadly, there is nobody there. Again. I wait until 6:45. She never comes. The manager never checks back on me. Nobody apologizes for my time or inconvenience. Shame on you, Wal-Mart! This is the one at 1600 Montclair Rd, Irondale, AL, btw. Feel free to boycott them. If they couldn’t serve me as promised, they should’ve done something to make up for the trouble I went to.

At this point, I give up. I look for other alternatives, because I must get these photos done today. I speak to a woman at Kinkos and she promises they can help me. I am not feeling hopeful. I call Randy, who comes to get me. We go to Kinkos but it’s almost 14 miles away. In a cab. So, yeah. You can imagine what that cost, there and back.

I do get the photos made. But I lost two hours of my work day, plus all that cabfare, because Wal-Mart is the devil. There are no words for how much I hate them right now.

On Courtesy

I’ve been meaning to do a better job of posting on the blog, but when I’m drafting most of my creativity goes into the book. Fortunately, I have enough cranky in my pants today to make this entertaining, I think. Lately, it occurs to me that courtesy is a dying art. I don’t just mean people who hold the door for others, or say “please” and “thank you” to strangers, although that’s certainly a part of it.

Specifically, I’m thinking about the writing world. We’ve all run across users in our journey, those who want something from us, and they only play nice as long as they reckon we can give them what they want. I hate seeing it happen to people I like because it’s hurtful. I’ve certainly been in that situation a time or two, and it stinks, seeing people you thought were your friends turn. Sometimes success causes it; sometimes the lack of success. Either way, it’s an unpleasant revelation.

Being courteous and polite to everyone, no matter who they are, is a great idea. Not because they might someday be stupidly famous and they will remember your douchebaggery, but because it doesn’t cost anything. It makes no sense to blow people off or to treat them as lesser beings. No matter what someone else has achieved, we are, at base, all human. Celebrity doesn’t change that–and if it does, then something has gone horribly wrong. I’m not a celebrity by any stretch; I don’t mean to imply that. But even I have people who dismissed me quite cruelly before I sold anything. Now those same folks are obsequious in their desire to curry favor. Do they honestly think I don’t remember?

Sometimes people act like niceness is a crime, something you don’t want to be. But I miss it. I miss the days when it wasn’t okay to interrupt someone’s award acceptance. I miss the days when people were allowed to finish their sentences without being attacked. I rather loathe the new sensational standard, where people are hungry and addicted to drama, and to that end, they put the worst possible spin on anything. Sadly, people seem eager to conform down. We treat each other like nobody else matters; self has become the altar of ultimate onanism. I do wonder if this is how the Victorians felt at the turn of the century, as if civilized behavior was on the decline. The world didn’t end, of course. Our standards merely changed.

But in a world where oil gushes endlessly, mountains fall, sinkholes open, earthquakes rock already impoverished islands, and all people want to do is make fun of Al Gore for caring, where are they going from here?

On Health Care

I debated about whether to post this because it’s a sore subject for me, and I will have to get personal before you understand how deep my anger runs. So if you have no taste to learn some disquieting facts about my life, then perhaps you should click away.

Now then. I read this and I nearly went blind with rage. (Link courtesy of Carolyn Jewel) For the love of all that’s holy, people who are sick should NOT have to fight the insurance battle while they are also fighting for their very lives. It’s all kinds of wrong. An astronomical number of people cannot even afford health insurance. Some qualify for Medicare or Medicaid. But even more do not for various reasons. They fall through the cracks. So in this festering mess, there used to be the bright spot of, well, if you’re covered at least you’re set. NOT ANYMORE. Now insurance companies will take your money happily… unless you need to file claims. And then they will dump your asses faster than a dirty diaper.

I have no words for how wrong this is. It lights me up like the 4th of July. I’m so mad I can’t sleep right now, which is why I’m about to rant. And share.

When I was pregnant with my first child, it all went pretty well. Right up until the delivery. I was in labor for 25 hours. They eventually had to perform a C-section. My doctor was not available so they tapped a random resident who had NEVER PERFORMED THE SURGERY BEFORE. She butchered me. I have nerve damage; there are places on my stomach where I can only feel pressure, not pain. After the surgery, I asked them not to give me narcotics. I typically cannot take them well. They told me I must take them, and forced Vicodin on me. I did not react well to it. Before I left the hospital, I weighed more than I did before the baby was born. I told the nurse this was wrong. She said, no, a certain amount of weight gain from fluid is normal.

Only it was NOT. They sent me home. I kept gaining more and more fluid at an astronomical rate. By the time I was rushed back to the hospital, I had gained a hundred pounds in water, and my lungs filled. My heart stopped. My oxygen levels were down to nothing. I woke up in the cardiac unit. I had suffered complete cardiovascular failure; at that time I discovered I have a congenital heart defect, WPW, which had gone undiagnosed until the drug taxed my system with a horrendous allergic reaction. (The defect has always been asymptomatic and still is to this day, apart from my body’s response to Vicodin.)

They denied all wrongdoing. But here’s a fact. I had to choose that hospital because it was in my network. I had NO CHOICE but to take that resident to butcher me because she was in my network. I had NO CHOICE but to listen to that nurse, who forced Vicodin on me and who did not listen when I told her before I went home that there was a problem and I didn’t feel right. The insurance system nearly killed me.

Later, when I had my second child, due to insurance, they forced me to labor to deliver vaginally even though I had suffered nerve damage in the C-section, DUE TO INSURANCE. Later, the doctor told me I’d had less than a 33% chance of delivering that way, due to my past medical history and the permanent harm inflicted on me. But my daughter and me? We beat the odds. I did it. I suffered injury (not an episiotomy) that required stitches, but I did it! Fucking bastards. And I am still proud of that success to this day. But with better insurance? They most likely would have just induced and taken her. I would not have labored for 17 hours, due to health risks. But the company I had at the time cared more about minimizing cost than safeguarding my life.

My experience is not unique. Carolyn Jewel nearly died too. Due to insurance. The system is broken. And I am fiercely furious right now about the women who have breast cancer, who are fighting the toughest battle of their lives, and who have been betrayed by the “most civilized country in the world.” As I said on Twitter, running health care for money is beyond immoral. If it’s for profit, it’s not for people.

Things that Piss Me Off

People who drive in the middle of two lanes.

People who don’t own their faults.

People who write one book, spend three years revising it and getting rejections, and then say sadly, “I don’t think I can start over.” Guess what? This business is about writing books, most likely many of them, unless you’re Harper Lee (and you’re probably not), and if you don’t want to write another book, WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS? Sure, nobody likes to fail, but the business could use less whiners and more workers.

People who don’t apologize when it’s due.

People who talk on the cell phone while driving.

People who think the world owes them something.

Dogs who eat my lunch and think it’s cool. (I’m really talking about one dog in particular here. Bitch.)

People who want “tips” that substitute for hard work.

People who fondle me when we meet because they think they know me from reading my books.

People who Follow / Unfollow me repeatedly on Twitter to get my attention. (I’ve set those notices to go straight into my trash now. You’re not even hitting my inbox, people. So stop it. Either you’re interested in what I have to say or you’re not.) Let me be clear: these follow / unfollows would take place in the space of an hour or two, most times when I wasn’t even twittering.

People who spam their links all over my Facebook page, send me 12 messages, randomly IM me, and cover my wall with ribbons and hugs and toy poodles. Please stop. Seriously. Here’s a clue: if I didn’t answer your private message the first 11 times you said, “Hi!”, once in Arabic (I think you said hi that time but I am not sure since I don’t SPEAK Arabic), I probably am not going to answer #12 either.

Mole sauce. That shit is rank. Enough said.

Hey, that was surprisingly fun. Feel free to vent in comments.

Unreasonable Expectations

So Harlequin Horizons. seereus auther

I debated on whether I should post about this. But sometimes I just can’t be silent. This is one of those times.

I’m not with Harlequin. I have no dog in this fight. I’m not aspiring. I’m not interested in self-publishing or vanity publishers (this is an example of the latter). I’m not looking to sell anything at the moment. I have enough work to be going on with for quite a good while. That makes me pretty impartial, inasmuch as I can be.

A traditional publisher going into vanity publishing bothers me. But here is why I am particularly bothered. Go and read the verbiage in the press release. Add that to the descriptions of the packages. Go on, read some of it. I’ll quote some for effect:

“The Booksellers Package is designed for authors who desire to leave a lasting legacy in the form of a hardcover book. A hardcover book shows the world that you are a serious author ready to make your mark on the writing world.”

“Have you always dreamt about being the center of attention at a book signing event featuring you, the published author? If so, then the Marketing Plus Package is for you.”

If those bits don’t set off warning bells, I’ll be really surprised. It’s not about whether someone chooses to self-publish or go vanity press. It’s about the expectations within those parameters. Between the packages and the press release, Harlequin is painting a vivid picture of what it will be like for those who go this route.

Every author believes in herself. She has to believe she’ll make it someday. So she looks at Harlequin as a better option because of the name. The price is a little higher, sure, but so many benefits! She’ll pay this money up front, but she’ll make it up in contracts. It’s actually like a shortcut out of the slushpile. So much better than waiting and querying!

But how many people is this going to be true for? How many Christopher Paolinis will be discovered in the HQN “reader slush pile”? And how many more may have kept on slogging without that false hope? How many would never have done this if not for Harlequin’s name?

And that, in a nutshell, is my objection. Comments welcome.

ETA: This is not even the biggest problem. New information has revealed that in each HQN rejection, the author will receive a reference to the Horizons program. We’re told this is okay because the authors will have to “opt-in.” Yesterday, I predicted something like this might be in the works, and if it was an agent doing this to rejected clients, we’d all be screaming bloody murder. In what world is this okay?

More ETA:

Romance Writers of America’s mission and purpose is to advocate for the professional interests of career-focused romance writers and, despite recent changes within Harlequin Enterprise, we have not wavered from that mission. RWA does not have any professional partnership or collaboration with Harlequin Horizons, including its self-publishing marketing package.

The Board of Directors and Executive Director took the necessary steps to remove mention of RWA’s Romance Sells catalog from the Harlequin Horizons Web site.

Michelle Monkou
RWA President

I am hoping this is not the end. I am hoping this is the first step.

Still more ETA: HQN is claiming that this is an author-facing brand. That is, you can trust them with your book because they’re HQN. but you’re not actually going to get any brand association for your money. So don’t worry, paid authors, your brand won’t be diluted! I’m not alone in thinking this is rather a lot of double-talk and less than reassuring.

On royalties: The content is completely owned by the author. Royalties are 50% net from both eBooks and print.

Even more ETA, the fun never stops!! “An author called the number listed on the HarlHo site. She got a representative who sounded like they were reading a script who advised that, ‘with your book available, other editors in New York will read it. You may receive offers from publishers such as Harper Collins and Random House. And
Harlequin Horizon will field these offers for you.'”

HAHAHAHA!

My problem with epublishing

In the wake of the pie in face closure of Quartet Press, I am left shaking my head. Not at the closure — I think it was probably wise to shut down before wasting a lot of time and money if the plan was flawed. That’s not what leaves me gobsmacked.

I was mostly offline working when Angela James announced she was moving to QP from Samhain, but even in my writing cave, I heard the angry murmurs and mutterings. It was not altogether clean or painless, I think, although I am far from an insider on the situation.

And that’s my problem with epublishing. It’s not that I question its validity or that I think digital is an invalid form of publication. It’s none of these issues. It’s the fact that it is, at base, still for the most part a cottage industry, run by people who get too emotionally invested in the process. It’s crazy that anyone would be offended that someone takes a better job.

I mean consider the insurance game. If an agent goes to work for State Farm, do you really think the Geico people are like, “OMG, we HATES Ron Jones now! Traitor!! He crossed over!” It’s just not like that in any other business venue I’ve seen, and it makes no sense at all. It’s that kind of behavior that makes it impossible for larger publishers to take the indie presses seriously. It becomes about ego and one-upsmanship instead of professionalism.

So now that QP is no more and Angela has posted her reaction, I’ve seen some perfectly hateful buttmonkeys muttering that she got what she deserved. Really, people? REALLY? To take the insurance analogy one step further, do you really think Ron Jones’s former coworkers at Geico would be gleefully pissing themselves with bitter schadenfreude over the fact that his State Farm office closed? Nuh uh. Number one, they just don’t care that much because it’s a job, not their lives or their religion.

This behavior keeps people on the outside viewing a select chunk of you as hormonal, hysterical women, who couldn’t get publishing contracts in NY and so opened your own companies to peddle your own work. Rightfully or wrongly, that is the perception, and by acting like a gaggle of angry Tasmanian she-devils, you’re only confirming the stereotype.

If the independent digital publisher has any hope of surviving and thriving, it has to be staffed by people for whom it is a job, first and foremost, not a red wagon to wheel around their bloated egos. Get over yourselves, people, and realize you’re being assholes before it’s too late.

Author websites

I just finished a totally awesome book called THE HEIRESS IN HIS BED by Tamara Lejeune. She’s written some hilarious, off-kilter historical romances. I’d call them farce because of the mad-cap adventures and nonsensical plots, but they’re also sweet and sexy. I’ve read everything this author has ever written. I’m looking forward to her next book. If there is one. See, I have no idea what’s coming down the pike from her because SHE HAS NO WEBSITE.

Unless you’re a total rockstar of an author like Linda Howard, you need a website. You do. Seriously. People need a place where they can find out when your books are coming out, at the very least. And because I’m in that sort of a mood, I will establish my list of demands for said site.

    Don’t do it on a black background. It may look all cool and moody but it’s hard as hell to read. Dark background, pale print gives me a headache.

    If you have auto-play music, I will click away before I read anything.

    If your site is flash-heavy and I can’t skip your intro that cost you a gazillion dollars, but just annoys people who want one piece of info, I will click away before I read anything.

    If your menu is incomprehensible because you’ve come up with super-cute names for all your sections and I can’t figure out what I’m looking at… well, I think you know.

    If your website is all style and no function…

Here’s what I want in an author website:

    To be able to find information quickly

    Not to spend five minutes loading it

    A bio page that tells me something about you. Some authors think it’s cute to make up a bunch of shit like: Sarah J Author was a CIA spy, and a supermodel, and a rockstar who toured all over the world before inventing the flu vaccine. Then she climbed Mt Everest and wrote a rock opera that she starred in. She’s currently incognito living in Paris. You know what? That shit pisses me off. I went to your page because I loved your book enough to want to know a little more about the person who wrote something so awesome, and sadly, now I know you’re a dipwad who likes wasting my time.

    Not to be forced to watch slides of you posing with a motorcycle or a sports car or a half-naked dude and your dog or cat or monkey. If you want to have a photo gallery, by all means, but please, please do not make this your intro page with no way for anyone to escape but the back button.

    Regular updates

Finally, if you can’t afford a big design, I’d much rather you take a simple WordPress template and customize it than to cobble together some hoopty HTML that looks like your webpage escaped from Geocities 1994, and is now fleeing its rightful time period. Likewise, too many blingy sparkly gizmos will scare me off. Give me a clean, simple, elegant template with good information, solidly organized, and I will visit often.

And I’m spent. What are your peeves?

In which a book pisses me off

So I’m writing about a book late at night, once again. Tonight, though, there’s no incoherent squee of joy. Instead I’m left with this inchoate sense of dissatisfaction, as though this novel had been a pepper pot into which the author hurled all the factors (s)he could conceive of, left it to broil for four hundred pages, and then just sort of stopped writing.

The writing wasn’t bad, although I wouldn’t call it inspired. (S)he had serviceable prose. The book in question was science fiction — and it reminded me once me why I don’t read more of it. Lisa Iriarte commented on one of my other posts that she was surprised not to see more SF titles on my “best of 2008 list”, given that I write it and all.

But you see, this is the problem.

I’m only going to talk about the book in general terms, but let me summarize. The ship was commissioned to go seek out a solution to earth’s population problems, so they set off. Once on the distant planet, things began to go badly wrong, etc. I felt, at times, that parallels were being drawn regarding the starfarers reactions to the natives they encountered, parallels that harked back to, say, Europeans meeting indigenous peoples or the way the British treated the people of India. And yet I thought such veiled observations made little sense in a SF novel because the world-building wasn’t done in such a way that it seemed reasonable to me that certain historical facts would still be fresh in mind.

The mission went vastly pear-shaped until by the end, I had no idea what they’d accomplished if anything. It was a messy, messy book, and left me annoyed that I’d wasted my time with it when I have so many other things to read. But someone had recommended this author to me (not one of you guys, don’t worry. It was someone from a SF convention, and I’m coming to realize that I have very particular tastes where SF is concerned. It takes a lot to please me. Lois McMaster Bujold does, Sharon Shinn does. Connie Willis does. As you can see, it’s an elite cadre.)

But that’s not the bulk of my gripe. Much was made of the sexual practices of these natives. The captain of the ship fornicated with two alien babes (Hello, Cap’n Kirk!) and yet by the end of the novel, both these poor chickies were dead while the captain rode off into the sunset. wtf

To which I can only respond with a resounding WTF? The message horrifies me. Women die for having sex. Men ride off into the sunset? Oh. No. You. Didn’t. This is the kind of shit that sets womenfolk back ten years. And you know, this isn’t failure of HEA outrage, either. For one thing, it’s SF and I understand that’s not guaranteed, but as a second point, neither relationship was fleshed out well enough for me to give a shit whether they came to a happy conclusion or not. But holy crap! They BOTH had to die? For suffering his penis in their hoo-has? I dunno what the point of this was in the book, but I totally missed any symbolism or profundity. I was too busy being revolted.

As this is Smart Bitch day, feel free to use this post to bitch about something, as I have. Go on, let it out. We’re here for you.

Don’t you wish you had my life?

The expensive car across the street that the owner refuses to park in his garage has an equally expensive, hyper-sensitive alarm system. It goes off at the drop of a hat. Or the drop of a pin.

6am — the car alarm has been going off for 15 minutes. Foul oaths in Spanish are hurled out of various windows, along with shoes and bottles. Nobody comes.

7am — someone finally comes to turn the alarm off.

8:15 — the alarm goes off again.

9:00 — someone turns it off. I pray for battery death. Working is a joke. Good thing this is my day “off.”

10am — (Can you guess?) the alarm goes off… again. Two men arrive to work on the electrical system in my house because everytime I use the microwave I get mildly electrocuted. This probably explains a few things about me.

11am — Car alarm is squalling again, but I’m in the shower. My head feels like an anvil. But onward! I have errands to run.

11:55 — the husband asks me to bring him back some food because he’s supervising the workmen (ie playing Drake’s Fortune on PS3. Thanks, Bettie Sharpe!)

12:20pm — I’m still sitting in the gas line at the station. Naturally, I picked the side with only one working pump. I am praying the car won’t run out of gas before I get there.

12:45 — I’m at FedEx trying to remember how to pronounce “Y” in Spanish because I’m overnighting a book to a reader; her ARC was lost in the mail, so I want to make it up to her.

1:00 — I’m at Subway and there’s only one guy running the whole place. It’s empty when I walk in, and then WHOOSH, suddenly there’s a crowd jostling behind me. The old lady right next to me in line could use a mint. She also has a terrible hacking cough.

1:30 — I check on the special order for the custom designed necklace (part of my prize package in the Grimspace Juggernaut). That will be ready after 5 today. But Tete doesn’t want me to get out quickly; she’s a family friend, so it means lots of smooching on cheeks and talking in Spanish. My head still hurts, and I’m having more trouble than usual following. My side of the conversation consists of “Si” and “bien.”

2pm — I’m back home, delivering sandwich, cookies and soda. Workman are still hammering and the animals are agitated, meowing, barking. Only the turtle is quiet. I set to answering emails, visiting blogs where I’m featured, and parceling up prizes to be mailed tomorrow.

2:30 — car alarm, again. I want to hurt someone.

3:28 — the cat sounds like he’s being run through a juicer, so I finally go see what is ailing the whiny bastard. He’s gotten his foot stuck in the toilet somehow. Perhaps it’s something to do with the bird sitting on the top shelf in my guest bathroom. Ok, WTF? BIRD? WHY is there a bird in my bathroom?! I free the cat and scream for my husband.

3:30 — my husband shoos the bird, which flies around the house, bangs into walls and windows, exciting the dog and cats who are giving chase, barking and meowing at the same time. Dog knocks me down, bird flies out open door, and the cat has been whining in disappointment ever since. Now I have a damp, sullen toilet-smelling cat who hates baths.

3:32 — now that the alarm has finally been shut off (or the battery ran down) the cat won’t stop meowing.

Soon, I have to pick up the kids and then, more errands. I can tell you’re all jealous.

Annie McRantypants

I didn’t get to post Monday and Random Tuesday was all about the contest, which means my posting schedule is hosed for the week. Since variety is the spice of life and all that, I’m defenestrating the schedule until next week. That means you never know what you’ll find here for the next three days, but I will say this: there’s gonna be some nearly nekkid men on here by Friday.

Anyway, I woke up this morning and put on my ranty-pants, so I’ve got to handle that first. Rejections. There are a lot of schools of thought as to how a writer should deal with them. Some people hide them or immediately throw them away. Some people keep a scrapbook, some people pin them on the wall and throw darts at them. Some people post them on the internet and others keep a running tally of how many they receive. Me, I think it’s important to stay positive and move on. So that person didn’t get your work; someone else will, unless it’s really, heinously bad. I cling to the mantra of that’s one person’s opinion. That mindset helps a lot.

So really, what I want to talk about at this point is the feedback that comes along with a rejection from an agent or editor. Some writers, usually folks just starting out, get all riled up because this person doesn’t send specific feedback, telling her why this precious wondrous gem got rejected. First of all, that’s not in the job description. These people are industry professionals and they don’t get paid to crit. It’s really a yes / no decision. I get that, and I’m perfectly happy with a rejection that just says, “No,” or “Not right for me at this time.”

My gripe is this: rejections with monumentally unhelpful feedback. Like “I couldn’t connect with the characters,” or “The premise was engaging, but ultimately the plot seemed too familiar.” Okay, what? That’s publisher-doublespeak that means, “No.” At the base of it, it simply means no, and the writer can’t do anything with that “feedback” to try and improve her book. She can only drive herself crazy wondering what the hell it means.

The coldest rejection I ever got from an agent, after she’d requested the full was, “I will not be offering you representation at this time.” That’s it, a one line email, maybe a month after I sent the full. I got frostbite from that email, dudes, but it got the job done and I didn’t waste time fretting over it. I actually preferred that one to the touchy-feely note from another agent explaining that she’d been so excited about my book and about the possibility of working with me, but “as it turns out…” See, it’s still a no. All the sugar plums and fairy dust you sprinkle on it doesn’t make it a yes. And yes, the touchy-feely email offered some of that fortune cookie feedback, where you need to be Confucius to decipher it.

Now I know a lot of soft-skinned writers like the touchy-feely feedback, even when it doesn’t actually mean anything because that offers some personal contact, but I prefer a simple rejection. If the person has time to write something I can use, like, “The heroine’s motivation for sheltering a strange man at the start of chapter two needs work,” then I’m all for that. I can do something with that. Otherwise, just tell me no. I’m not Confucius.