Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Twitter: On Being Misunderstood

So it's happened again. A harmless tweet was misconstrued and someone's panties got knotted.

Mind you, it was a worthy panty-knot. The gal thought I was complaining about agents. And that's certainly something that should be called out. Public belly-aching about agents is on the NO-NO list for aspiring and published authors alike.

So, yes. By all means.

Except, I wasn't complaining about agents. I was expressing my preference for a short, blunt rejection over a flowery, trying-not-to-hurt-the-writer's-feelings form rejection that doesn't really say anything, anyway.

My tweets:

1. My favorite form rejection format: "This isn't for me, but thanks for the look." Really, it's all I need! Not "While your writing has merit"

2. or "I'm sure another agent will feel differently" (you can't be sure of that!). Just "no, but thanks." Absolutely. (k, I'm done now :D)

That's it. That's me, appreciating the "This isn't for me, but thanks for the look" rejection I'd received moments earlier. It struck me that I almost always skim the long, well-thought-out form rejections, despite their well-meant intentions. No is no. Don't tell me how full your list is or that my work was "intriguing" (you obviously weren't intrigued enough to read more) or that you're sure another agent will snap me up. Just acknowledge the receipt of my query and--wow--thank me.

I love that part. For a busy agent with LOTS more to do than to read slush, a "thanks for the look" is a humble and respectful way to acknowledge the time and, well, human-ness, of the author who queried. I don't expect it and I don't feel slighted without it. But when it's there, outside the context of a long-ish form rejection, I notice. And I appreciate it.

So really, that's all I was saying, in my usual, let's-be-lighthearted-whenever-we-can approach. And someone took it wrong.

It happens. Especially online! But I'm so transparent and consistent in what I say and how I say it, both here and on Twitter, that it always catches me off guard when someone misunderstands me to such a large degree. I may have my real name well concealed, but I'm as "me" as I could possibly be under the circumstances. And--correct me if I'm wrong--anyone who has read me for some time should know that I'm not in favor of griping about agents.

Griping about non-response to queries, yes. But that's a pet peeve I have no trouble being vocal about. (What, you noticed?)

In the end, I don't really care what the rejection says, so long as I RECEIVE a rejection. And since that's becoming less common, each one that arrives is appreciated even more. But short and sweet with a little thank you? Definitely my favorite.

Even better? When the agent takes the time to address me by name. Something else I certainly don't expect or demand, but appreciate all the same.

It's nice to feel human. Particularly in the midst of being rejected. *grin*

That's it, really. Though as a result I think I'll keep my in-the-moment responses to agent-related communiques to a minimum on Twitter. Not that I do it a lot, anyway. I'm not in favor of aspiring authors' walking the internets-at-large through their entire query process. Not professional. Not remotely interesting, either. Sharing the journey in general is great, but a play-by-play? No. That's never been my style and I don't like reading others who have that style.

So, to debunk any myth that may creep in: I appreciate ALL responses from agents. And I'm allowed to prefer one method over others because, well, we're all allowed to have our preferences.

I'll just keep my mouth shut about them from now on.



  1. I'm new to Twitter but happened to see that whole exchange go down. In the two weeks I've been on Twitter, I've seen multiple misunderstandings which I think can be attributed in part to the 140-character limit. It's hard to convey specific info and also the intended tone/mood etc. in that short span.

    I hope you keep speaking your mind--there will likely always be misunderstandings on Twitter but that's the way it is. Plus, I love hearing your opinions. :)

  2. Very true, Kristi. Thanks for that! :)

  3. For some reason, you do seem to come under more fire than most writers. I have no idea why.

    I don't mind the no response. I don't mind longer rejections that compliment my writing - if the agent is sincere - and the same letter isn't sent out as a form rejection. Positive rejections can do a lot for writers that have never had material requested. As long as they keep in mind that it's still a rejection.

    But in later stages - yes, a short and sweet letter is just fine. :)

  4. Emails, facebook, much can be mis-interpreted, huh? It's cuz no one can see our faces when we're typing.

    It's happened to me on email before--once I got on the phone with the person, it was fine.

    The more vocal someone is the scrutiny they will be under. Some things I have noticed about you, Authoress, is your consistency, your respect, and your encouragement to writers.

    Press on, my friend.

  5. I am sorry you had to deal with the misunderstanding. I haven't yet ventured into the world of twitter so I don't read what writers and agents normally post there. But, I have experience similar in email and on Facebook.

    But I have to say, I love reading this blog and I appreciate your straight forward attitude.

    I have also decided "It was a worthy panty-knot." is going to be my new phrase of the day! For some reason, it just spoke to me!

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom :)

  6. Don't worry about it Authoress. You do so much for the writing community with this blog and the contest that it should be obvious to anyone you care. You wouldn't intentionally say anything against agents or writers. To me, comments and opinions are just that - opinions! If you don't share it then fine, but no need to blast someone about his/hers.

  7. A, I think you're good. You history of excellent support and balance far outweighs the long term impact of a minor understanding. Come clean, work it out, move on.

  8. I agree with your tweets, Authoress. I remember (years ago) getting a rejection to a query that said my book wasn't compelling enough. I know now that this is a "form response" but at the time, I was new and I literally tore my book apart trying to find the parts that weren't compelling.

    If an agent wants to take the time to give the REAL reason for the rejection (ie, 'Sorry but your book is too long' or 'I've already got a client with a vampire romance') I would be happy to hear it. Otherwise, I agree that the longish, form rejects might as well just say "No."

    And a final "P.S" - anyone who thinks you would do anything to intentionally insult anyone, is not a regular reader of your tweets or blog.

  9. I think you come under fire a little more often because you are so very visible - you've got a big platform and someone new might follow you as a result and then misunderstand because they haven't gotten to know you.

    On various geek forums, well tell new followers to lurk and learn.

    In the context of following any of us on Twitter or other social media, perhaps the same applies. Spend some time reading and getting to know the person you've just followed so that misunderstandings are less likely.

    And I vote we all pitch in to purchase our beloved Authoress virtual kevlar. :P

  10. Anonymous coward that I am, I want to bitch about agents.

    I'm on my third. I am not a complainer. I am not a pesterer. I make revisions agents ask for, or don't revise when agents ask. I'm on agent number three where - after book number one doesn't sell right away - mysteriously stops communicating. Oh, and shows no interest in the next manuscript.

    What the heck am I supposed to do now? Move on to agent number four? I have to disclose to them I've had three others, and that's just going to look bad and raise a red flag. But I can't even get a peep from an editor without an agent...

    I hate this business.

    Then on top of it, you've got touchy politics like you mentioned above. Argh.

  11. I hate being anonymous too, but wanted to weigh in on the non-response thing without my name being bandied around!

    I actually had a request for a full a while back from an Secret Agent on this site. It was before this agent was a secret agent here, I'd found out about her from another source. She received the full and after 4 mos. I emailed asking after it. She told me to resend and she was looking forward to reading it. Then NOTHING. EVER. It's been two years!

    Ah well, unfortunately it's the business. It's hard but we can't take it personally! Onto the next!

  12. You mean you don't want to hear about my entire life and what I ate for breakfast this morning? Sad day.

    Just kidding. I totally agree with the whole play-by-play thing being boring. Though on the other hand, when I do force myself to read blogs like that, it helps me figure out my own publishing path. But a little goes a long way.

    I had bacon, btw.

  13. The written word is the most easily misunderstood!


  14. So, short and sweet rejections are preferred by some.

    Got it.

    Does that mean that 615 word posts complaining about misunderstandings stemming from above preference are, then, long and bitter?


  15. Funny, I just got that same oh-so-short rejection the other day. I did hurt a lot less than the one that said my fiction crafting wasn't quite there yet. Ouch. The thing I hate is the whole subjectivity thing--do I really suck, or is it just that this one person didn't like my style? I keep reminding myself of one author who had over 700 rejections in her lifetime before she got published. I don't know that I have her fortitude. How about you Authoress? Would you hang in there with that many rejections in your file cabinet?

  16. Hi Authoress, I've been following your tweets and blog for a while, so I know just how professional you are about this business. When I saw your first tweet I had a moment where I thought, wait, is Authoress venting? That's unusual! Then I saw your following tweets and realized you were doing the *opposite* of venting, and all was right with the world again!

    We all say stuff that can be misinterpreted, the important thing is to clear it up once we know about it.

    I think it's great that you have taken the the time to explain what you meant, without blaming the other person, because it wasn't anyone's fault.

    That's what misinterpretation is about - nobody has done the wrong thing and it's important to clear the air (I'm talking to you, Anonymous at 6.59pm)

    PS to Anonymous at 1.16pm - did you follow up again? Sometimes I think we're so afraid of being "annoying" that we don't speak up when we should.

  17. I can't say I'm sorry that I missed it. :)

    Still, yes, form rejections SUCK, and while I appreciate that agents really do want us to not off ourselves after getting one, the attempts at making it sound better just make it worse.

    I got a form rejection for a full. I honestly thought it was a personalized one, and when the agent said she didn't like the voice I was crushed. How do I change my VOICE?

    It wasn't until a further scouring of the Internet for references to this agent showed me that it was a canned response that I called off the Sylvia Plath part of myself. Especially when it's a partial or full, you are expecting SOME kind of feedback, since the query obviously caught their eye, and not knowing it's a form, that kind of attempt can really REALLY suck.

  18. I am SOOO with you on the lack of any response. One highly respected agent spoke at a conference last year where she said she knew there were agents who did not respond, but she just didn't get it. In her view, how big a deal was it to copy/paste a form letter rejection into an email and press send? It was simple courtesy.

    I've had queries AND partials get lost in both eMail (you never know when your email will be flagged for spam and filtered out), and snail mail (twice at one post office - I don't use it anymore).

  19. Can I just say I love how unpartial you are? Someone totally misunderstands you, but the way you present it isn't unfair or, "OMG I can't believe she did that!" Social networking can make some things so much more difficult, but you handle things with class. :)

  20. And a form rejection hurts no matter how long it is. Dragging it out just makes the hurt on on and on. I can't even read them all; I look for the word "unfortunately" and quit reading!

  21. You make some good points. The only thing I can gather is this particular person may not have been familiar with the tone you normally use. Maybe they're new to twitter or to you. Then again, maybe not.

    Either way, I've only queried once and I have to say that the polite dismissal of my manuscript somehow made it sting a tad less. I appreciated the 'thank you for allowing me to read your work' line.

  22. I'm with you, Authoress. If an agent isn't going to give specifics, then a short 'no, thank you' is the best way to go. Unless, of course, it's hand-written right on your query letter in all caps with exclamation points. That was during my first attempt at queries six years ago, but it still sticks in my head as being just mean.

    Hang in there.

  23. I hadn't thought about the actual words used. I suppose I skim too (unless they offer some specific suggestions).

  24. Well I think it's just part of social networking. Whenever something is typed, depending on the person's mood, the look of your writing or the terse statements made, people gage their own opinions. Don't sweaat this, it just comes with the territory.

  25. Oh no! I saw those tweets live and thought "I fear this will not go well for Authoress..." I knew what you meant. I wonder if rejection is sensitive for agents, too? I never really think of it that way. It's so easy to be misconstrued on Twitter. E-mail's hard enough to get inflection across, but 140 characters is really tough.

  26. Suggestions go a long way. Though I do have to confess a blanket statement about my good writing, and I delude myself that I was almost the right writer.

  27. Yet another reason why Twitter can bite me and why I refuse to ever join.

    And yes, a little bit goes a long way. I actually got a response that commented on my query letter (yeah, my query letter!) and how maybe, *maybe* if it had been strong enough, materials might have been asked for. I gaped at the screen for a while and then nearly fell out of my chair.

    (That's a compliment, people. I was blown away and felt all kinds of special that she actually took the time to let me know that. Obviously I'm now trying to make my query letter better.)

  28. I get everything from non-responses to detailed, personal critiques on on my last submission and I appreciate every one of them except the non-responses.

    Brevity may be quick and painless like a ripped off bandaid for some disappointed authors, but I'm sure many agents feel they have to cover all their bases when rejecting. The 'your writing has merit but the voice didn't connect with me' seems safe enough.

    I totally missed the kerfuffle, Authoress, but I'm sure most of your audience understood you meant no malice. Those who really know you are fully aware of the generous spirit you have.