Rejecting the Rejections

This week was a rather interesting one on the twittersphere. A certain author, who shall remain nameless, apparently got it into her head to lash out at  someone who left her book a bad review. The backlash spawned over 18 pages of comments on Amazon, as well as massive commentary on blogs such as LKH Lashouts and Dear Author. Even Neil Gaiman mentioned it, so it’s clear the ripple effect was in full force.

I followed it briefly, and stopped when the author made mention of getting the FBI involved for threats. Not because I cared about that, but just because it was starting to get silly – like watching a train wreck, I guess.

On one hand, I feel pretty bad for her. No one likes having their work rejected, and Amazon is a pretty public place. On the other hand – as writers, that’s kind of the deal, isn’t it? You write and people read what you write and assess the story’s value by whatever internal measuring device they have. I know that I have no control over what that reaction is going to be other than to write the best that I can.

That being said, I imagine it’s easy for someone like me to stand in the back and point this out.  After all, I’ve been rejected, but never publicly.Ask me again when my book is out there for the hungry masses and maybe I’ll have a different opinion.

Still. The review in question wasn’t a personal attack on the author. It wasn’t a drive-by love/hate review either. The reviewer stated clearly what he/she didn’t like and that was pretty much it. And that’s fine. The author, however, took it extremely personally and it exploded into something that really can’t be taken back. I wouldn’t be surprised if this behavior didn’t destroy the author’s career, or at least set it quite a ways back.

I can understand the author’s need to lash out. Rejection hurts. Going through this process myself, I can say that although it’s not supposed to be personal (agent rejections/contest rejections/crit group rejections), it can still feel that way. The theory is that it’s the work/query letter/synopsis that’s being rejected – not me as a person. But after all, I put a great deal of effort and love into the work, so it’s very easy to feel like it’s “me” being rejected.

So far, though, I can’t say I’ve felt overly bad about most of the rejections I’ve had. The first one stung the most, simply because it was new, but after that, I guess I kind of plowed through a lot of these submissions on the assumption that it *would* be rejected. So when I got the email I could just sort of shrug at it and send out another one. I’m not sure if that’s a healthy thing for the long term, but as a defense mechanism, I suppose it’s worked out all right. And I’m not going to deny that I’ve been extremely lucky here. I technically finished Shadow of the Incubus in April of 2009, with revisions done in late August and got my agent in November. As stats go, I’m the first to admit I bucked the trend, so maybe my words here don’t mean anything.

Honestly, though, the rejections from the faceless agents and editors didn’t mean as much because I didn’t have an emotional investment in them. It was just business, after all. I was hurt far more when someone I considered to be a dear friend wouldn’t read past the first page or so, merely because it was written in first pov. (And then proceeded to denigrate the entire genre I was writing in).

Style and Rhythm, baby. Style and rhythm.

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7 Responses to Rejecting the Rejections

  1. Kendris says:

    There is simply nothing to be gained by an author posting an aggressive rebuttal to a negative review, even one that *is* a personal attack. Any writer who puts a book out there and honestly believes that everyone is going to adore it needs some oxygen piped up the ivory tower. Rejection is an unavoidable fact in the writing process, and the smart writer knows to learn from the constructive rejections and simply ignore the personal attacks.

  2. JET says:

    Interesting Post.   I haven't entered the world of reviews, but it's coming.  All I can say is a review – any review – good or bad, is an opportunity to reach more readers and sometimes bad reviews, especially those that border on personal attacks can be used in the writers favor if they know how to play the game.  The most savy of marketing reps will tell you that bad reviews can drum up just as much business as good reviews – it just depends on how you handle it.  In this case, I think the writer shot herself in the foot.      

  3. Danica says:

    This always makes me ask: who reads reviews? I don't. I never read a review because I know everyone has their own opinion and the chances of them matching mine, aren't the best. Whether it's a book, a movie, or even a restaurant, I want to find out for myself. I don't think writers should give too much power to reviews because what doesn't work for one reader, will work for another. Simple as that.

  4. BeeGirlBlue says:

    "I know that I have no control over what that reaction is going to be other than to write the best that I can." I needed to hear that this week.


    And yeah, just because you CAN say something on the internet, doesn't mean you should. And now a moment of silence for her career.

  5. Simon says:

    I've taken the same attitude as you: I expect rejection. Thus far, the two (flash fiction) acceptances I've gotten have been of the pleasant-surprise variety.

    But I can't see getting cranky about a review on Amazon, of all things. This isn't the first time this has happened, either.

    At least we unpublished (as yet) authors get to learn from others' mistakes.

  6. ~Sia McKye~ says:

    Rejections are never fun to receive and I'll be the first to agree with that. Critiques, though they've sometimes stung, are constructive and meant to help you. That's how I've always looked at them anyway. I don't take it personally.

    I write reviews. I'm not going to candy coat it if I don't like the book. I do what I call a sh!t sandwich. I comment on those things that are done well or that I liked. I'll mention the weaknesses, or where the story might have bumped me out and commend them for their hard work and great imagination.  Truthfully, there have been a few books that I didn't like at all. I've told the publishers I declined to do the review since I can't write a good review for it.

    Reviews are merely one person's opinion. I'm honest, but tactful. Not everyone is going to *love* your books. *shrug, it's the nature of the beast. To declare war over someone honestly and tactfully saying they didn't like it, is stupid. And not good for their career. By the time an author gets published, they should have developed some thick skin.

    I've taken heat because I won't hand out an automatic 5 stars on Amazon. Sorry, I rarely give 5 stars. Let me tell you, I had two authors that pulled that with me, but privately. I didn't budge. I don't give 5 stars to someone  who wrote a 3 star book. If you want me to do a review, friend or no, don't ask me to blow sunshine and butterflies. I'll give it my honest opinion.

    I can't wait to see your book Allison. I've loved the premise of it since you wrote about it and it sounds like my cup of tea by a nice fire.  

  7. mynfel says:

    Awesome comments, all. Frankly I'm a fan of the honesty,as Sia mentioned, but like she says, there's ways of saying that don't come across as bluntly crass. Just like with judging a contest – you try to pick out the good and gently point out where it needs work.

    I do tend to sometimes follow reviews – if I know/trust the reviewer, for example, then I will give that review a little more merit. Amazon can be tricky, though. If there's less than five reviews, I don't usually pay attention. If there's 400 and they're all one star? Yeah…I might take that into consideration before I buy it. (And for a favorite author, I'll overlook most reviews, simply because I love the storyline or the characters).

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