Why Gloating Doesn’t Work On Me

This has only happened a few times to me personally, but this is the email I hate getting the most from a writer who I’ve rejected:

Dear Idiot (they usually use my name but this is the subtext),

I just want you to know that I got offered representation for the project you so viciously rejected and my new agent just sold it for big bucks.

HA HA HA! Go cry now, you sad little agent. (Again, usually implied instead of stated outright.)


Suzi B. Writer

I just don’t understand this impulse. Sure, I rejected the project. Sure, that probably didn’t feel good to the writer on the other end of the email, but look! They found someone who loves it! They found someone who was able to sell it in this challenging marketplace! Congratulations!

Every book sale is good news to me because that means editors and publishers are still acquiring new talent. That doesn’t mean there’s one less book sale available for me to grab, that means there’s one more book hitting shelves, one more editor gainfully employed, one more publisher making an investment. That’s great news!

Suzi B. Writer, in the example above, is laboring under the false notion that I’ll… what? Fall to my knees and curse myself for rejecting her? No. I reject most things because they’re not a fit for me. Because I don’t see how to position the project in the marketplace. Because I can’t get through it once, let alone imagine how I’ll read it three, four, five times, or even more than that, while the writer works on revisions. And I reject things, always, with the caveat that the next agent might completely fall in love with them. And that’s great for everyone involved, me included. What else does the writer hope to accomplish? Me seeing the error of my ways and begging to represent them? No. The book’s already been sold. And besides, I’ll stand by my rejection and think that the project still wasn’t a fit for me, personally, because I give everything that comes into my slush careful consideration.

So I just don’t get it. Instead of celebrating the success of your project and your dreams coming true, why sit around and rub your book sale in other people’s faces? In publishing, it helps to have a good, grateful and generous attitude about everything, even if things don’t always go your way. It’s very much a difficult and emotionally draining business and there’s already enough negative energy about it, what, with rejections going around all day long. Don’t add to the pile by being anything less than kind and positive in your dealings with other writers and publishing professionals… especially if you’re going to be stepping up to the plate as a published author soon!

49 Replies to “Why Gloating Doesn’t Work On Me”

  1. Don Cummer says:

    Perhaps some people in this biz think that everything is competition. Suzi B. has won; therefore, someone must lose. I wonder if that attitude shows up in the book she sent you — and may have contributed to your not wanting to spend part of your life championing it.

    What goes around comes around. We all wish the Suzi Bees of the world every success, and hope that the good karma keeps piling up.

  2. Thermocline says:

    This post is the flip side of your How To Lose Friends And Alienate People post from last week: It’s not personal, it’s business. Pour your emotions into your writing and not your correspondence. It will make you a better writer and less of a jerk.

  3. Why spend all that extra energy into emailing you again? I don’t get it either. They could use equal amount of said energy to, oh I don’y know, work on their ms! It is definitely a karma thing. Some people just can’t handle rejection.

  4. Someone doesn’t realize how that attitude can turn around a bite her on the tushy. 😉 Wonder if the same person has been emailing agents who rejected her query. I heard this happened to one agent recently. Maybe the author should be working on her next book instead.

  5. WOW. If anything, be glad you dodged a bullet and rejected someone who lacks professionalism.

    I keep hearing publishing is a small world. Stuff can come back and bite you, right? Sure hope he or she never needs a favor.


  6. Jeez. The pettiness of people always amazes me. I can’t barely believe this really happens. Just ugh.

  7. It’s all about rationalizing, I think. “So-and-so accepted me, clearly appreciating my genius. So-and-so didn’t accept me, so they are mean and stupid!”

    I don’t know that I would want to work with someone who would write an email like that anyway!

  8. Yeah, it’s mean spirited. It’s like the kid who wants to take the ball home from the party when he’s not centre of attention. Also, it’s such a waste of energy and time – get on with writing the next book.

  9. Anola Pickett says:

    How strange to waste time and energy berating you for not accepting her ms. I suspect that whoever did take her on as a client will be dealing with a difficult diva. (pardon the alliteration)

  10. Rejection in this industry is a given and never personal. It’s like choosing a meal at a restaurant. There are some dishes you like and others you don’t. That doesn’t mean another person won’t love the dish you don’t like. Geesh, I can’t imagine taking the time to write and send such a hateful letter. I think I would be giddy over getting an agent. Why focus on what didn’t happen and focus on what did? That kind of attitude is poison to the system.

  11. When will people learn that the internet does not give them the right to be a jerk? I see “Anon” comments like this on agent blogs all of the time and it just makes me shake my head. Publishing is a public business. If writers can’t be nice to their public (whether that’s agents, reviewers, editors or whatever), how could they possibly think that public will buy their book?

  12. Why bother? Sure rejection is tough. I just started this process and have sent out about twenty query letters (prob too many in retrospect). I have gotten about six rejections and two requests for MS so far (both deciding it was not the right fix for them). Sure, it is not fun reading those replies, but you keep going. My thought is—-why would I want my work to be represented by someone who is not passionate about it? It would be a waste of both of our time.

  13. If I were to receive a note like this, I would know without a doubt that I made the right decision in rejecting the writer. Who wants to work with someone like this anyway? I want to work with people who are positive and encouraging and passionate about what they do. Anyway….

  14. I remember encountering a “Suzi B.” at the first big writer’s conference I ever attended, the Highlights Foundation Writers Workshop, where two women were informing an editor that the stories the editor rejected were published elsewhere. They had that same sort of “HA!” tone to their voices … but what struck me was the idea that they had just paid a lot of money to attend this conference, and shouldn’t they have been trying to build relationships with a potential editor, not call out the editor for rejecting their work? I would assume agents look for writers whose personalities would be a good fit for them, too — and that a letter such as this would only underscore an agent’s belief that he/she made the right decision in rejecting acerbic Suzi B.

  15. Jeez,

    You know what’s funny is that on Stephanie Meyer’s website she admits to almost doing the same thing. One of her nastier rejections came after she had gotten her book deal and she almost wanted to send him back the write up- but took the higher road (thank goodness)

    I can understand the impulse that some writers have to do this. But in all honestly, I think it depends on the agent and the type of rejection they’ve sent out. If it reads something like ‘ I’m not confident you’ll EVER find a publisher’, or, ‘ I’m sorry, but you simply can’t write worth ….’ than ya, maybe the person felt like this particular agent needed an ‘eye opener’.

    I have the vague impression, however, that you or any other legit agent wouldn’t be sending those kinds of rejections:)

    So I suppose I’m with the others, wondering ‘what’s the point?’ I’ve been fortunate enough to recieve some very encouraging rejections from agents who I know are time limited and aren’t obligated to say more than ‘not my thing, sorry.’

    Coming back and saying ‘in your face’ just makes one look ridiculous and petty.
    Besides- if your book does sell and make a ruckus in the market, I’d assume most agents would know about it at some point or another:)

  16. Just another example of how unprofessional writers make other writers’ jobs so much harder. First, they bombard agents with queries without bothering to research; then, many email back refusing to accept that no means no; and finally, some, after being lucky enough to see their dream achieved, waste more of the agents time being snarky.

    Makes me spitting mad.

  17. Every post that you write from this side of agent-writer relationship is a revelation to me — how can people be so vicious and unprofessional and expect to flourish in this industry?

  18. I used to work in Human Resources, and if a candidate that we’d rejected *ever* call back and throw another job offer in our face, ouch. I would have hung up, happy for them–and glad I didn’t hire someone like that into my workplace.

    Rejection is tough for everyone, and no one’s gotta be reminded of that.

  19. I have received rejection letters that said basically, “your manuscript is unpublishable,” as opposed to the more diplomatic, “we’re passing on this, but good luck with it.” For the record, the manuscript ended up selling at auction. So obviously the first agent was incorrect to say it was unpublishable. Sure, that was their opinion, etc., etc., but it was a poorly written and thoughtless rejection. Other agents may have thought it was unpublishable, too, but had the good sense to just say it wasn’t their cup of tea. I don’t mean to imply that your rejection letters say something along the lines of the first, or that it would make a difference to all of the unpressional gloaters who send “toldjaso” letters, but I do assume that the former agency gets a lot more “toldjaso” letters than the latter.

  20. Stealing from Ron White: You can’t fix classy.

  21. Okay so agenting is as subjective as writing (once you get the craft skills under control). Frankly, since this problem appears regularly, I have problems accepting that so many writers seem so immature.

    Don’t people realize agents are a special form of sales person? In my opinion, there are too kinds of sales people — believers and sleazebags-with-dollarsigns-in-their-eyes. Wouldn’t a writer want someone who grooves on their work rather than someone who’s just in it for the money?

  22. Just by virtue of how you view these situations shows YOUR great attitude by contrast to theirs.

    And to add to Bane: You can’t fix stupid either.

    They’re shooting themselves in the foot, buring bridges, and all those other useful tropes.

  23. This is nuts. Suzy B. needs to take, Professionalism 101. I agree with you fully. You need to take on what you love and something you feel great reading again and again. If an agent didn’t feel that way about my work than I would go find one that would. My friend once said, “An agent can be just as important as finding a spouse.” If you don’t connect with the work how do these authors expect to sale their work to the fullest potential.

  24. I wonder if this email went out to every agent that this writer had been rejected by? If I did that, my server would crash.

  25. As long as your rejections don’t parrallel a Simon Cowell “That was rubbish” or “Your book made my eyes bleed” (which I don’t think you would ever say), then no writer you’ve rejected should feel the need to write an idiotic letter flaunting their success. It’s just immature.

  26. I don’t get this either… ?
    I would be so grateful, I wouldn’t care who I’d received rejections from!

  27. I think this writer needs a few more rejections under her belt, and she might get that when her agent starts subbing.
    Get a grip writer! Not every book is for every agent.

  28. The old analogy of the agent-author relationship being like dating is so true, isn’t it?! This is like telling your ex about how fantastic your new boyfriend is, when your ex is just thinking, “Happy for you, but why tell me?” I’d put money on the fact that the same people who write letters like Suzi B Writer are scary bunny boilers in the dating arena too.

  29. I hereby vow that, once I find an editor, I will remain completely, independently thrilled, without backbiting, snickering or gloating.

    This is such a bummer that anyone would feel the need to shoot off nasty emails instead of reveling in their new found agentedness. And that you have to read such silly, pointless emails when you have better things to do.

    -Like dealing with that slush pile!-

  30. I kind of feel sorry for Suzi. Most of us would be too busy jumping up and down, going over the edits that our new *YAY* editor sent over, celebrating with our writers groups, gearing up our marketing plans, and, if we’re writers, going over our next novel with our agent or mapping it out ourselves…

    She’s missing it. How, when you should be enjoying your success and pushing forward, do you take the time out to be snotty to other industry professionals? I can’t see doing that unless you’re truly not seeing how far you’ve come and the good things in your life. Only people who are unhappy with themselves feel the need to belittle others.

    So, I feel sorry for her, because she worked so hard to get there and isn’t letting herself enjoy it. And also because that kind of nastiness always bites you later… and I have to wonder how many of those notes she sent out – you probably aren’t the only agent to reject her… but even if it’s just one note, why make enemies?

  31. Melissa Gill says:

    I think people need to learn to deal with rejection no matter what industry they work in, or what their aspirations. I can’t imagine any professional or personal setting where this type of response would make you look good. With this type of approach, no one’s going to say, “oh I was so wrong, I should have accepted your MS, hired you for the job, married you,…”

    I’m sure there are times when agents have a tinge of regret over passing on a project that makes it really big, just like there are probably times when people regret “the one that got away.” But when you take this action, you ruin it, and justify that person’s rejection of you.

  32. A question for another blog post: do agents ever approach writers? I couldn’t help but notice on Julie and Julia, the movie, that Julie got a load of messages on her phone saying things like, “Hi, I’m bla bla from the bla literary agency. I’d love to chat…” Does that happen more than once in a blue moon? Do you scout blogs or other places for talent ever? Just intrigued.

  33. Siski,

    I know Stuart Neville’s agent read one of his short stories, found his blog and approached him. I wouldn’t think one author would have a lot of agents calling because of their blog – unless maybe the blog was so wildly successful that it was being spotlighted places. But I’ve definitely heard of agents contacting authors because they’ve read something great by them online or in a publication.

  34. It doesn’t say much to their professionalism. It’s great that she found an agent who believes in her writing, but obviously she’s not going to click with every agent. It’s kinda’ like finding the right person to date, there are many factors you need to find attractive in them and vice versa. Ashame the author couldn’t just be happy, instead of writing to berate you further.

  35. OMG. For real? I mean, seriously, people really do that?

    I’m stunned.

    Utterly stunned.

  36. Diana Murray says:

    I think she should change her name to Susie B. Bittersworth. Or Susie B. Gloatington?

    How unprofessional and childish. Why put negative energy out there?

  37. Wow, I can’t believe people actually do that. Thanks for giving us little glimpses into the mind of an agent. So fun.

  38. Why burn bridges when you don’t have to? Suzi B. will soon be floating off on her little bitty island if she keeps up that negative attitude. Bon voyage!

  39. Who has that kind of time to bother writing a letter? I figure that those people don’t sit on the impulse, but pen the letter almost as soon as the euphoria of the agent representation has waned or the ink on the publishing contract has just dried.

    It’s petty and short-sighted.

  40. Diana Murray says:

    Sorry, I meant “Suzi” (not that Ms. Snarkypants deserves to have her first name spelled correctly).

  41. I’m sure this woman got rejected from more than just you. I wonder if she sent this letter to all who rejected her. I’m fairly new to the world of writing and publishing, but I’ve discovered one thing that continues to surprise me: how much people’s ego is tied up in their writing.

    I’ve observed that writing and seeking publication, makes a lot of people crazy. Many people seeking publication seem to have an overwhelming need for validation that frankly borders on the unhealthy.

    I want to be published as much as anyone, but if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t mean I’m any less intelligent or unworthy as a person. I’m thankful for the good job I possess right now, especially in this economy. Life is good and I can’t complain. People need to get a clue about what’s really important in life. It’s not always about whether you become a published author, though if you do, be grateful and be gracious.

  42. Mary,
    I am so sorry you got an email like this. Obviously, she would not have been a dream client. So good job on passing on her ms. I’d be tempted to send her a congratulations card or email. Nothing mean, just a polite note wishing her good fortune in her future. Everything I’ve read about you indicates you are a lovely person. Stay true to yourself. I expect this author is probably not going to be good at public appearances or networking. Yesterday, I wrote on my blog about what you want people to remember about you when you are gone (really gone), perhaps she needs to read my post and evaluate herself.

  43. I just blogged about an agent event I attended in which one of the agents discussed rejecting Shiver and the other rejected Lisa McMann’s Wake. However, what they implied was that they wouldn’t be doing the author the best service if they weren’t passionate about their work. Different people have different tastes. That’s a wonderful thing as there are a variety of books out in the world.

    It seems that type reaction implies they thought the rejection was personal rather than a business decision. Why would you want an agent who doesn’t love your work as much as you do? I’d rather get rejected a bunch if it led me to a great match in the end — okay, maybe not a bunch but you get the idea. 🙂

  44. This sort of thing always baffles me. This is a business. It isn’t personal. An agent is doing a job. It’s all subjective. How many times have I read a book and loved it and then not liked the next from the same author? Or vice-versa? Many times.

    Yes, we writers believe our babies are wonderful and rejection hurts–but the only words I remember are, “We are accepting…” Aren’t they the ones that matter? I’d rather spend my time writing something new.

  45. >So I just don’t get it. Instead of celebrating the success of your project and your dreams coming true, why sit around and rub your book sale in other people’s faces?<

    Very likely this author is NOT that happy with the agent she/he finally attracted, the publisher the agent found and the bucks are probably not all that “big”. Thus, the bitterness. I have often heard that an author (as with an illustrator) can have a “wish list” of agents, and most likely these lists are exhausted and they feel they have been forced to “settle” for a rep not on that list… and it’s YOUR fault because you said not for me!:)
    If the author had found a truly wonderful agent, made a massive deal with a terrific publisher and was rolling in dough, would they really have the time or inclination to stick out their tongue at anyone who had taken a pass on their work along the authors climb up the ladder to fame and fortune? Nah, think not.

  46. Hahahaha, I have a macab sense of humor. I can envision this Ms. B writer sending out this same letter to everyone who has ever rejected her. Then she gets the opportunity to participate in a workshop or conference, but no one wants to work with her because she was so rude. It would be awful to go to nationals in LA and have all the agents and editors give you the evil eye when you put your book out on the table to sell.

    Sorry you have to deal with sore losers/winners sometimes.

  47. I’m a teacher and I’ve had to read some pretty crazy e-mails, but I was still pretty shocked that somebody would actually send an e-mail like that to an agent. I’m starting to understand why J. D. Salinger became a recluse.

  48. Tina Lynn says:

    Wait…does that ACTUALLY happen? Wow.

  49. I don’t think they actually got representation.

    They didn’t do the breathe deeply, feel crappy, take a shower, go for a walk, reevaluate life and writing, laugh at the ridiculousness of wanting to be a writer, remember the moments when the writing crashed out of your fingers and a mighty glow made people walking by your home ask, Where is that light emitting from? It can’t be the tv.Iit’s more of a joyous hue. Go a see a movie, or walk to the library and say, “I can do this,” while you peer at all the book spines or book covers, and library aficionados. I just need to observe some little happening in the world and write about it and loosen all the bolts holding the disappointment in the wrong place and breathe, and breathe deeper, and breathe until a smile appears, and laugh or cry at the desperation to have someone have the words touch them to the core as they do us, and then go back and work at those rejected words and worlds because the whisper in your ear will not cease.

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