Authors are not really great at social stuff. On top of that, we tend to be horribly insecure about our work, but it's all we can think of to talk about. We are thin-skinned and bleed profusely when you cut our work to shreds. Some of us handle it with grace and dignity, and others go ballistic and make an uncomfortable situation worse.
But what if we have submitted something that was our favorite, the best thing we ever wrote and it was rejected? I have received my share of rejections. It hurt, but when I look back on my earlier work, I can clearly see why it was not accepted. I had no idea what a finished manuscript should look like, nor did I understand how to get it to look that way. I didn't understand how to write to a particular theme.
Sometimes we receive a standard rejection that boils down to “Sorry, but no.” It is in no way personal. Do not brood over it. In my experience, those kinds of rejections are bad only because they don’t tell us why the piece wasn’t acceptable.
Sometimes we receive a little encouragement: “Try us again.” That means exactly what it says, so the next time you have something you think will fit in that anthology or magazine, send them a submission.
It seems illogical, but the more an editor writes in a letter, the more likely there is to be some phrase that will shred the writer’s sensitive soul. This is because it’s a rejection and may contain detailed criticism. I once got a rejection from an anthology along with a note that said the subject had been done before. I could have responded childishly, but that would have been foolish and self-defeating. The truth was that it had been done before. I still love that story, but an editor’s bluntness is valuable, so I will someday rework that tale with a different twist.
We must have a care about the way we behave. We are judged by the manner in which we act and react in every professional interaction. If you respond to a peer’s criticism without thinking it through, you risk doing irreparable damage to your career—you will be put on that editor’s “no way in hell” list.
You need to be strong, stay calm, and understand that the editor has gone to some trouble for you. DO NOT respond to the letter with a flame-mail, and DO NOT go off hurt, bad-mouthing that editor to your homies on your favorite writers’ forums. They saw something good in your work, and you need to try this editor again.
But what if you received a request for revisions? Whee!!!
If the editor wants changes, they will make clear what they want you to do. This happens most often for submissions to an anthology. You must trust that the editor knows what the intended readers expect to see, and you want those readers to like your work. Put on your grownup pants and make whatever changes they request.
Never be less than gracious to the editor when you communicate with them. Make those revisions. Do what that editor has asked and make no complaint. Be a professional and work with them.
Negative feedback is a necessary part of growth. When an author becomes too important in their own mind to tolerate the merest whiff of criticism, they can create a situation that is intolerable for all those around them. Treat all your professional contacts with courtesy, no matter how angry you are. Allow yourself some time to cool off. Don’t have a tantrum and immediately respond with an angst-riddled rant.
Editors are also authors. They may be involved with the same forms in all the many social platforms you are, so have a care what you say online. They’re just like the rest of us—and they’ve experienced their share of rejection. If you respond publicly in an unprofessional way, the innocent bystanders will remember you and won’t be inclined to work with you either. We all know that how we interact online with others is public information and is visible to the world. When an interested reader Googles our author name, our online interactions at Goodreads, Twitter, and every other public forum will be available for eternity.
I keep a file of my rejection letters/emails. Many are simple “We are not interested in this piece at this time.” Some have short notes attached “Try us again in the future.” Some contain the details of why a piece was rejected, and while those are painful, they are the ones I learn from.
Never burn your bridges behind you if you want to succeed in this world, even if the magazine or anthology you were rejected from is a minor player in the publishing world. You can’t say “Well, that editor’s a nobody.” That has nothing to do with it because every famous editor/author begins as a nobody, and they all receive work that must be rejected. Your submission didn’t fit their needs, and you must move on, or if they requested changes, you should do your best to make them.
This is where you have the chance to cross the invisible line between amateur and professional. Always take the high ground—if an editor has sent you a detailed rejection, respond with a simple “thank you for your time.”
Connie J. Jasperson is an author, editor, and blogger and can be found blogging regularly at Life in the Realm of Fantasy.
We all joined NIWA for a variety of reasons, but first and foremost we joined because it is a professional organization that aspires to empower the Indie author. This post details a situation that occasionally arises in the Indie community. It happens most frequently when an author needs a final eye on their manuscript.
The last stage of getting a manuscript ready for publication is critical. This is where the final person in the process comes in--the proofreader. Perhaps you have volunteered to proofread a friend's book. The friend arrives with the proof copy (or maybe you have been sent a manuscript). They ask you to look for typos, cut-and-paste-errors, or autocorrect errors. These are things they and their editor may have missed.
Before we go any further, proofreading is not editing.
Editing is a process that I have discussed at length elsewhere and is completed long before we get to the proofreading stage. A good proofreader will understand that the author has already been through the editing gauntlet with that book and is satisfied with it in its current form. A proofreader will not try to hijack the process and derail an author's launch date by nitpicking his/her genre, style, and phrasing.
The proofreader must understand that the author has hired a professional line editor and is satisfied that the story arc is what they envisioned and the characters are believable with unique personalities. The editor has worked with the author to ensure the overall tone, voice, and mood of the piece is what the author envisioned.
You will note that I have used the word ‘envisioned’ twice in my previous paragraph. This is because the work is the author’s creation, a product of his/her vision, and by the time we arrive at the proofing stage, it is intentional in the form it is in.
At this point, the author and his/her editor have considered the age level of the intended audience, so if you feel their work is too dumbed down or poorly conceived and you can't stomach it, simply hand the manuscript back and tell them you are unable to do it after all. DON'T go through it with a red pen and mark it up with editorial comments, or critique their voice and content because it will be a waste of time for you and the author.
But what if it is your manuscript that needs proofing? What should you ask from a proofreader?
Even though an editor has combed your manuscript and you have made thousands of corrections, both large and small, there may be places where the reader's eye will stop. Words have been left out, punctuation is missing--any number of small, hard-to-detect things can occur despite the most thorough of edits.
I say this only because even in the traditional publishing world, proofing errors slip by. Most editors are really good, but no editor is perfect–even editing programs are inherently imperfect (they lack the ability to see context). And in the end, an author may not see (or understand) what the editor has pointed out and may choose to ignore it. We who write and publish books are only human, after all!
If the person who has agreed to proof your work cannot refrain from asking for large revisions regarding your style and content, find another proofreader, and don’t ask the first reader for help again.
A problem that frequently rears its head among the Indie community occurs when an author who writes in one genre agrees to proofread the finished product of an author who writes in a different genre. People who write sci-fi or mystery often don’t understand or enjoy paranormal romances, epic fantasy, or YA fantasy.
These are genres with specific styles and reader expectations, and many authors don’t understand this. For this reason, some otherwise wonderful people become terrible, arrogant readers, when they have been asked to proofread in a genre they don’t care for, or for an author whose voice they don’t like. They can’t proofread because they are fundamentally driven to critique and edit.
It is your task to ensure that your intended proofreader is aware of what they are to look for.
In the publishing industry, proofreading is done after the final revisions have been made, and hopefully, it is done by someone who has not seen the manuscript before. That way, they will see it through new eyes, and the small things in your otherwise perfect manuscript will stand out.
What The Proofreader Should Look For:
Spelling—misspelled words, autocorrect errors, and homophones (words that sound the same but are spelled differently). These words are insidious because they are real words and don't immediately stand out as being out of place. A human eye is critical for this.
Repeated words and cut-and-paste errors. These are sneaky and dreadfully difficult to spot. Spell-checker won't always find them. To you the author, they make sense because you see what you intended to see. For the reader, they appear as unusually garbled sentences.
Missing punctuation and closed quotes:
Numbers that are digits:
Miskeyed numbers are difficult to spot when they are wrong unless they are spelled out.
Dropped and missing words:
Make your corrections with care. Each time you create a new passage in your already edited manuscript, you run the risk of creating another undetected error.
At some point, your manuscript is done. The line editor has beaten you senseless with the Chicago Manual of Style. The content and structure are as good as you can get them. At this stage, all you want is one last eye looking for small flaws that may have been missed.
You, as the author, are the last person to see the manuscript. You will make many changes after the editor has sent the revision requests. It is at this stage that these errors happen most often, and also this is where the final proofing must happen.
Before you upload that masterpiece to Kindle or wherever, do yourself a favor and have it proofread by several intelligent readers who understand what you are asking them to do and who are willing to do only that.
Connie J. Jasperson is an author and editor and can be found blogging regularly at Life in the Realm of Fantasy.
Parts of this post, Proofreading VS. Editing, have appeared previously on Life in the Realm of Fantasy.