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Dear Writers, Don’t Be Assholes

8

September 7, 2015 by Nathaniel Tower

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This morning I woke up to this little note in my Bartleby Snopes inbox:

You motherfuckers have to be kidding me.
After some of the shit I’ve read on your site?
Fuck off

 
The offense that warranted such a response? Well, we rejected his story, of course.

A little background: this was the 13th time this writer had submitted a story to Bartleby Snopes. His deep submission history with us goes all the way back to 2011.

This obnoxious email leaves me with many questions, including:

  • Does he really think that such a response would help his writing career in any way?
  • If he thinks we publish shit, why does he keep submitting to us?

 

A couple months ago, I wrote a guest post for the Submittable blog discussing these pointless profane attacks from writers. Let me say it again: there is nothing to be gained by such a response. The writer has everything to lose.

I would never reveal this writer’s name publicly. But imagine if I did. What if I told all of the editors I know about him? Do you think any of them would be likely to accept his work? I highly doubt it. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to work with a writer with such a horrible attitude.

I can guarantee this: Bartleby Snopes will never even read another submission from this individual. We would never want to work with this individual, and not just because it’s pretty obvious that his writing doesn’t meet our tastes.

Let’s consider this: the writer had been rejected 12 times prior to this. Why would you keep submitting to the same venue after 12 rejections, none of which were met with any strong encouragement? Nothing suggested he was close to “cracking” us.

Back to the response. This writer submitted almost exclusively to our “no feedback” category, so it’s not like anything we said in our rejection was provocation for such a tirade. Here’s our rejection:

Thank you for submitting [Title Removed] to Bartleby Snopes. We appreciate the chance to read your work. Unfortunately, this piece is not for us.

Good luck with this one elsewhere. Feel free to try us again in the future with something new, but please wait at least one month before submitting again.

Sincerely,
The Editors
Bartleby Snopes
http://www.bartlebysnopes.com

That’s the same rejection he’d received a dozen times before. It’s the same thing we send to everyone who submits to the “no feedback” category. (Well, in some rare cases, we remove the “try us again” note, but that’s typically reserved for offensives submissions.)

Oh, and it might be worth mentioning that this writer bribed us in his cover letter. He told us he would donate to the magazine if we accepted his work. So not only is he submitting to a magazine that publishes what he considers shit, but he’s also willing to buy his way into it. Why would you pay money to be alongside shit?

There are many lessons for writers to learn here. The most obvious ones are:

  • Don’t be an asshole
  • Take rejection with grace (or at least with a grain of salt)
  • Don’t submit your work to venues you don’t like
  • Don’t try to bribe a venue to accept your work
  • Know when your writing isn’t a good fit for a particular venue

 
The list probably goes on, but I think any writer who can live by those 5 rules will have at least a slight advantage in this fickle world of publishing.

 

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8 thoughts on “Dear Writers, Don’t Be Assholes

  1. susieq777 says:

    Hmm, a large dose of self-hatred flung back at those who made him feel like that. I guess I can sympathise a little, except for the bit where he actually SENT that email. I mean, learn to control those overwhelming feelings, dude.

    Curious: in my quest to learn the intricacies of the language of Rejectiona (I’m having quite a bit of practice) I would have taken the “Feel free to submit again” as an ever so slight encouragement to do so, with the underlying assumption that I may get lucky in the future. But then you said that this guy’s work isn’t for you and that he should have got the hint by now. So is that line just a polite way of smoothing the rejection then? Wouldn’t it clarify things more just to leave it out, in that case?

    • Thank you for reading and commenting. I think all writers have felt like this at some point. But it’s important to understand that rejection is a matter of taste, and responding in this way will never accomplish anything. Or at least not anything positive.

      As far as your questions about the rejection…we want to encourage all writers to submit again. Or at least we want to encourage all writers. Sometimes it is just a bit of politeness. We’ve actually had writers who’ve submitted over a dozen times before getting an acceptance. These are the rare exceptions though. I think it’s more up to the writer than the publication to make the ultimate decision that it’s just not going to work. As a writer, I should be able to figure it out after a handful of rejections if my work isn’t suited for a particular publication. Oftentimes, the publication won’t even know a particular writer has submitted several times before. When we’re reading submissions, we’re looking at the story, not the writer’s name. In this case, it wasn’t until after this writer responded in such a way that I noticed it was his 13th rejection. If he hadn’t responded, I would never have known how many times he’d submitted to us. Honestly, there was nothing about the particular piece that would’ve made us think that he didn’t have anything we would like. That’s why we invited him to submit again.

      • susieq777 says:

        Yeah,i wasn’t condoning his actions. Theyre very childish … but I guess understandable on some embarrassing level where my inner psychotic child dwells, hehe. But yes – perspective! Perspective! Whenever I get a particularly painful rejection I’ll look stuff up on the net about how to handle it. Plowing over the same ground again and again, hearing horror stories, others’ methods of coping, all those “X was rejected 56,000 times” – it all helps when it comes to gathering your tattered thin skin around you and resubmitting quick smart.

        (Some days, you even find you’re coping amazingly, almost like you’re a duck. That was yesterday 🙂

        Thanks for the further explanation on rejections with him. Makes sense now 🙂

  2. George says:

    “After some of the shit I’ve read on your site?” …

    I call bullshit. Despite submitting to it 12x, I doubt this guy ever bothered to read even a single story from your mag, or indeed, any short story from any lit mag. Guys like this don’t read. They write blindly and furiously into the void.

  3. Dina Honour says:

    I think “Don’t be an asshole” is pretty good advice in general. It’s right up there with “Don’t be a dick.” One size sometimes does fit all.

  4. Gargi Mehra says:

    Honestly most writers might be thinking this in their heads, about different publications they’ve submitted to, but they just don’t send an email saying it.

    >>Unfortunately, I’ve come to terms with the fact that a majority of writers seem not to read the venues they hope will publish their work.
    This is so true. Whatever acceptances I’ve had, had been only after I read and targeted specific magazines for specific stories, including Bartleby Snopes. Its one step that automatically increases rates of acceptance, yet I see fellow writers wary of doing it despite my repeated advice.

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