This writing game is super-competitive, and any writer worth her keyboard has endured more than her share of rejection. It’s just part of the game, and you can’t take it personally. Most editors and producers (in the case of scripts) who reject you are polite and professional about it. A good chunk of them never even tell you that you’ve been rejected—-silence equals “no,” and “we’ll call you” is the gentle let-down you get, a-la post-blind date, that politely and passive-aggressively tells you “no, you won’t hear from us, because you suck.”
And then there are the mean rejections. I’ve gotten a few of those. They stick out in my memory because of how vicious and personal the rejecters got. I’ve been called everything from “stupid” and “untalented whore” to “racist” (that one cracks me up, since I’m in an interracial marriage with biracial children) and “smut/filth peddler who belongs in prison.” But I think my personal favorite is the editor who gave me a polite rejection to my face, and then posted a not-so-polite diatribe on her blog where she compared my manuscript to halitosis, complete with lengthy excerpts that she ripped to shreds in full public view. (Said book is now under contract with a major publishing house, so I think I won the karma battle on that one).
I also once had my books written under a pen name viciously attacked via line-by-line livetweeting on Twitter (I even had my own hate-on-my-books hashtag!) by the administrator of Dear Author, who makes no secret that she hates me and my work. I’m sure she thought she was insulting me (and, well yeah, she was), but once I got over the initial sting, it actually ended up being really good for me sales-wise. People wanted to know just what it is about my writing that inspired such vitriol, and ended up buying my books in droves. The blogger drove traffic to her site, I got a bunch of new fans—and money—and it all worked out for the best. A true win-win. I’d love to get live-hated on Twitter again! You can’t buy that kind of publicity.
Indeed, there have been so many attack-the-author, mean/nasty/PERSONAL reviews posted on GoodReads of late that GoodReads recently changed their review policy (any reviews attacking the author instead of critiquing the book are deleted).
Frankly, I think the policy change is short-sighted. While threatening authors with violence isn’t OK (that’s actually happened on GoodReads), authors can actually reap some sales benefit from online hate fests. You just have to learn not to take things personally, as hard as that can be at times.
And when you find success in this tough business, you can also gloat. At least, you can do it privately. I don’t recommend bragging about your big book deals, selling Hollywood film rights, making the NYT list, etc. in public. It’s gauche. Let the industry press do that for you. Be modest and keep your public comments limited to the writing process itself. Show who you are as a person, what makes you tick, and what’s interesting about you. Readers want to feel they know you, almost as if you’re their best friend. That’s what sells books, not bragging.
Oh, and Twitter wars. Those can work. Just be sure to watch from the sidelines. Like boxing and MMA fighting, Twitter wars are better spectator sports than they are participant sports. You can avoid a lot of broken bones and black eyes that way, though I can’t promise you won’t get hit with some occasional blood-spatter.
Meanwhile, I’m going to go work on treating that nasty case of halitosis.