In addition to my day job and writing I also own Novel Concept Publishing with J.E. Taylor. Jane is primarily the editor and person who determines the thumbs up or thumbs down on submissions, but she defers to me when it comes to science fiction and fantasy stories. Thus far we haven’t had a lot of stories in those genres submitted to us, but one early one came from Marc Hamlet and I jumped at the chance to help him out and publish The Capable Man. Great sales on it thus far have reinforced my decision. But that’s just filler and an attempt to drive a little more traffic Marc’s way. Now onto the crazy…
The nature of the game is that for every one title that is accepted, there are a greater number that get turned away. It’s not out of spite and it’s not because we’re afraid to take on the work. It’s because the manuscript just won’t work or it is need of so much editing that we don’t feel we can take it on. In some cases that disappoints me, because I see some potential in a story but I know it’s going to take too much work to bring it out and make it shine. Between my schedule and Jane’s we wouldn’t be able to devote the attention it requires. I had one of those just recently, in fact, and I’m hoping that writer takes the feedback I gave him to heart and acts on it.
Then there’s other submissions that won’t work because they read like a plate of spaghetti. Nothing makes sense, there’s no proper flow to it, the sentences are jumbled, and perhaps even accepted formatting standards are blatantly ignored. I had that recently too. My first thought was to suggest the author try writing it in a version of English I might understand, but I realized that might sound inappropriate. After all, writing a novel is a lot of work and putting that much effort into something deserves a degree of respect, even if it does read like a randomly generated spam comment.
So I sent a respectful rejection letter. There’s no such thing in NCP’s library as a form letter, everything we do is hand written and tailored to each person. We want to help out even those who aren’t ready yet, such as this case. I offered some feedback and suggestions, even a direction I thought the writer should take. At no point was I rude or belittling. The almost immediate response I received from the writer was:
“Piss off and get lost!!!!!“
My reaction? A moment of shock, a moment of sadness, and then laughter. What else can you do? I shared it with my wife, who went through the same emotional process I did, then I shared it with Jane. Her response turned into the title of this blog.
The lesson for writers everywhere is to keep an open mind. Take feedback in every form and use it to improve yourself. Equally importantly, act professional. Burning bridges and flying off the handle doesn’t get you far in the world. Unless this particular would-be writer can open their mind and learn to accept feedback, they’ll forever remain a would-be.
To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.