Friday, November 10, 2006

In-Your-Face Rejection

So, who else was watching Ugly Betty last night, and cringed when she got the in-person rejection of her article? I was, and boy, it makes you appreciate getting "impersonal" rejections by letter or email, or even a phone call, where the person doing the rejecting can't see your dejected face.

Here's the situation for those of you who missed it: Betty got the nod to write a review of very chic hotel, the kind of place I would hate to stay in -- I could certainly relate to the snooty person at the check-in desk, having encountered one of those in New York. Such people make me want to put on my best "rube" accent and ask questions like, "So that underground railroad thingamajiggy, how d'ya get on it?"

So Betty tries to write the review, in a style consistent with the (equally snooty) fashion magazine she writes for. She gets frustrated and rewrites it to sound more like herself. Unfortunately, while her boss thinks the piece is well written and does indeed "sound like her," it doesn't sound like the magazine. She gets the verbal equivalent of "While your writing has merit, your book isn't right for us at this time." In person. Youch!

The closest I've come to this is what I call The Book Club Experience. A friend of mine has a friend who belongs to a book club. Friend of Friend was apparently excited to discover Friend knows a writer of books. Friend of Friend asks Friend if I'd like to be a guest at her book club. Sure, says I, thinking if nothing else, it'll get me out of the house and perhaps I might even join, on the idea that it would be good not just to get out of the house, but also to meet some new people. Who like books. Cool. I even supply the books.

I get to the book club. Nice group of women. Chit chat ensues. Then they ask me questions about publishing (as usual they are shocked -- shocked! -- that I don't have cover approval) and impressed by how many countries my books are sold in, and various other aspects of publishing of which the public is generally ignorant. Once again, I'm reminded of just how much I know about publishing.

But then...but then...the woman who was apparently forced to hold her nose while reading my book, it stunk so bad, pipes up. Oh. My. Word. Now, I can take some criticism. Well, let's say I've been forced to get used to criticism over the years, but it's quite different reading a less-than-glowing review in the privacy of my own home, where I can then phone up my mother and snark to my heart's content until I feel better, wander around muttering under my breath to the cats and anybody else unfortunate enough to be home, and have some chocolate chips (just the chips, mind you, sans cookie) compared to getting the sneering treatment in person. Squirmalicious!

One thing that salvaged the savaging for me was that it was clear I could have written the best romance in the history of the world and this woman would have hated it. Because it was a romance.

Don't get me started.

The other was that Friend of Friend was absolutely mortified by Critical Reader's lambasting of a person's work when said person was, in essence, a guest. It was rather like going to a party and having somebody announce that they hate your clothes, your haircut and the way you talk, too. But hey, unless everything you write is universally adored by all, you learn how to get over these things.

But I didn't ask to join the book club. There are limits.


Michelle said...

I got this today when I told somebody I was a romance writer and they were surmising on how difficult it is to be published.

"Wow, I mean, if there are billions of people who want to write important literary books, there's probably, like, millions who have written a romance, right?"

Uh. Yeah.

Sinead M said...

That was so incredibly rude of her.

It speaks more to her ignorance, than anything about romance, of course. I'm always amazed by how many people who dismiss romance without ever reading one.

It infuriates me...

Margaret Moore said...

And of course, I thought up all the best responses on the drive home....

Ain't that always the way?