But the issues for me, as just a writer, were: how much is a writer supposed to take? I mean, when is ENOUGH ENOUGH? When can a writer fire off, at long last, a reaction, a human response, and fight back to a cold rejection, written with no sensitivity or care? When does integrity come into play, or are we forever at the mercy of whatever editorial response someone feels is justified and convenient for them?
I understand editors are harried people. That they can't always respond kindly or in depth. But they are also paid people. We writers write these proposals for no money, and nothing is there for us unless, if we're lucky, some magazine is going to pay us and then that barely pays for the mailing expenses and time we spent writing to send off the accepted piece.
Susan O’Doherty, Ph.D offers her advice:
I’d be careful, though, about repeating such an outburst. Your frustration is justified, but there are plenty of good writers out there who don’t rock the boat, and an already harried editor may choose not to work with one who is perceived as difficult and unprofessional, as unfair as this may be.
By abusively rejecting this writer's proposal, this editor has already chosen to work with others. By responding in kind to the editor, the writer has risked nothing, since the editor didn't like the proposal and most likely wouldn't respond differently to this writer’s work in the future even if they had remained silent.
A few years ago an agent excitedly responed to my query letter and requested my proposal. I sent it off with the usual great anticipation, only to receive an email blow off shortly thereafter. The agent provided some reasons for her rejection and they didn't make sense to me. I was proposing an encyclopedia style book about James Dean. This was clear in my query. But that was why she was rejecting the proposal-she didn't think "readers" would like the format. I couldn't understand what she was talking about. Agents sell books to editors, not readers.
I've let nearly all the rejections I've ever received slide. I responded politely to her e-mail, hoping to get her to clarify her rationale and also hoping to change her mind. She got miffed by my response. How dare I challenge her! She said that it would have been nice if I'd thanked her for taking the time to read my proposal. Well, that did it. I told her that unless she wanted to start charging fees, reading proposals was part of her job. Why should I thank someone for doing their job? Her parting shot was to tell me never to contact her again.
That's fine with me. I need an agent who not only shares my enthusiasm for my work, but has passed basic reading comprehension. I also would not want to have anything to do with someone so brittle, someone who is bitter because she has to read a few book proposals before she finds one she can sell.