A writerly rant

Writing Stuff:

A rare “friends only” post to vent about the Borderlands 6 rejection I got. Normally I consider myself fairly thick-skinned when it comes to rejections, but this one really provoked me.

This one was so bad I would have rather have gotten a form. It’s not the rejection which raises my hackles, but the tone of it. Would it have killed them to take a page from GVG/JJA’s book and make their rejections a little less snarky?

The editors admonished me for not reading their guidelines (which I had), not reading the previous Borderlands anthos (which, granted, I hadn’t), and wasting their time (glah?). The last bit really irked me. They said that by sending them something so utterly unsuitable, that it was a waste of their time.

I’ve always believed that a writer shouldn’t do the editor’s job for them and self-reject. Hell, I often find it baffling what a market buys of mine and what they reject, so if I have something within what I see as the realm of their guidelines, I send it in. I figure it’s the editor’s job to pick the stories they want from the slush, and mine to write the best I can. Over time I’ve gotten a better feel for what some markets are looking for by what they’ve responded well to and what they’ve bought (as well as, yes, by reading what they’ve published), and I’ve noticed that often the guidelines and the editor’s tastes seem to be at odds.

Now, okay, I didn’t read the previous Borderlands anthos. While I do read ravenously, I haven’t managed to read every single publication I’ve submitted to. I mean, I haven’t even read every publication I’ve sold to. I did read the guidelines, as I read all the guidelines to markets I submit to. They said “we are not looking for any of the traditional bug-bears and boogeymen. No ghosts or vampires need apply. No zombies, no werewolves, no mummies, succubi, or Hitchcockian spouses with plans to do in their mates.” I didn’t send them that. I sent what I consider “dark fantasy.”

Chalk it up as a learning experience, I guess. They don’t want anything that resembles traditional fantasy. Check. And I’ve heard from the RM that they don’t want science fiction either. Check.

But it ticked me off.

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56 Responses to A writerly rant

  1. bpeace says:

    You want I should go lay da smackdown on dem woims?

  2. sylphon says:

    Do you mean the Borderlands book series or is there another borderlands series? I’ve got the first 4, but after the 3rd one I think their editors decided to get rather flighty.

  3. reudaly says:

    Great. If they sent you something really, really snarky, then in a while I should expect a drive-by shooting or something. Dang. Apparently someone pissed in their cornflakes that morning – at least that’s how I soothe myself after a snarky reject.

    That and a pint of ice cream.

  4. Wow! What an obnoxious rejection- I’m sorry about that!

  5. fahkingnut says:

    Who do they have editing that now? I can’t remember the guy’s name, but I had a nice phone conversation about Borderlands being on hold due to White Wolf involvement several years ago and he even pointed me towards Cemetary Dance as a good market looking for fresh young writers. All of this right before my Egyptian pyramid size creative writer’s block. I’d hate to think it’s the same guy, but I guess that there could be a darker side to this nice guy I chatted with over the phone. (Yeah, I did the unthinkable, I cold called an editor. No guts no glory.)

    Love & Hugs,

    • Eugie Foster says:

      I think we’re talking different Borderlands. Sounds like you were in contact with the Borderlands magazine, maybe? Otherwise, it’s the Monteleones, a husband and wife editorial team.

      • fahkingnut says:

        That’s him! He’s been the editor of the anthology since day one. He does a column somewhere titled M.A.F.I.A. (Mothers And Fathers Italian Association) if I remember right. THAT’s how I remember him specifically. At the time White Wolf hadn’t paid him for a couple of books back, so he wasn’t too happy with them.

        What he did was unprofessional. A simple rejection citing the reasons is all that is necessary. Perhaps your piece caught him on that wrong day at the wrong time? Perhaps he picks one rejection to flame on really bad? You know you’re a good writer, so don’t beat yourself up over this one incident.

        Love & Hugs,

    • fetishpunk says:

      Cemetary Dance looking for fresh young writers? Surely not …

  6. britzkrieg says:

    I’m curious . . . what was the exact phrasing of the (pertinent parts of the) rejection letter? I’m so sorry the editors were nasty to you. Very unprofessional.

    • Eugie Foster says:

      Quoted verbatim:

      “If you had read our guidelines before submitting–you would be advised that your chances of selling a story to this series are practically NILL if you haven’t read any previous volumes. . . .

      Since you sent us a high fantasy tale, it is obvious you read neither guidelines or books.

      This story is SO not what we are looking for . . . . so PLEASE, read the recent Warner paperback, FROM THE BORDERLANDS to see what we want.

      And in general, you really should have some knowledge of a market before sending out your work–that way you save everyone time . . . including yourself.”

      Ugh. Bastards.

      • britzkrieg says:

        Holy Jeebus. That is “SO not professional”! You know what? It almost sounds like a sales pitch for previous volumes. Some sales pitch. ::flips middle finger::

        Would you mind if I shared this (anonymously) with the OWW mailing list? If you do, that’s fine. Some of the members might like to see this, but it’s no biggie.

        • Eugie Foster says:

          The same thought–the sales pitch part–crossed my mind as I was reading it too. Except I’d hardly think anyone would be inclined to go running out to buy their books after such an unpleasant rejection.

          Would you mind if I shared this (anonymously) with the OWW mailing list?

          Actually, I’d prefer it if you didn’t. It’s why I locked this post. The note I got is obviously (one assumes), not a form, so if it pops up, even anonymously, on a writers group, the source might be eventually traceable back to me. And, while I feel rather miffed, it doesn’t strike me as professional for me to air this more publicly. I just felt the need to rant on my LJ.

          But if you want to alert OWW that Borderlands has a reputation for sending snarky rejections, I don’t have a problem with that. I actually suspect, considering the feedback I’ve gotten from other writers who have submitted to them, that it’s not exactly unknown.

          Guess they can get away with it because they pay surprisingly well for a small press ($.05-.07/word).


          • britzkrieg says:

            Alrighty then. I might say something about the snark, but I won’t quote your reject directly. I may not even post about this — ’twas just a whim, really. The content of your post just miffed me so much that I wanted to vent myself, I guess!

          • Eugie Foster says:

            it really is a rejection that impels one to venting, ain’t it? Sheesh.

      • fenrah says:

        that’s a gem, alright

        *gawk* That sounds SO 13-year-old-ish. Dad must be letting the hormone-crazed teenage daughter write his rejection letters. Keep that thing. It may be worth a laugh some day.

        • Eugie Foster says:

          Re: that’s a gem, alright

          I keep all of rejections, even the forms, and file them. But I tend to think this one I won’t be looking at much after I stick it in the appropriate folder.

      • jack_yoniga says:

        Tell you what: I sold them a story for From the Borderlands and I never read any of the previous books.

        I read one or two stories from one of them, as I recall, many years ago, but I’ve never even come close to reading a full oneβ€”not even this one I’m in yet! Heheh.

        I’ve never agreed that a writer has to necessarily read an issue of a magazine or a previous version of whatever antho they’re submitting to in order to stand a chance of an acceptance. I’ve subbed and been accepted to plenty of magazines I’d not read before. I look them over, sure, and maybe try to get a sense of what they want by reading the guidelines, but that’s usually enough.

        Who’s got the time and money to buy and read a copy of every market one submits to?? I sure don’t.

        That said, sending high fantasy to a Borderlands antho was certainly a long shot. But that still doesn’t excuse the tone of the email. They could have been more polite about it, for sure.

        • Eugie Foster says:

          Yah, I thought it probably wasn’t what they were looking for, but I’ve made what I’ve considered unlikely matches before. A polite “no” would have sufficed. Even a firm “not for us.” Polite is free, after all . . .


  7. harmonyfb says:

    Yeah, I’ve heard that they’re none too nice, rejection-wise. You aren’t the only one who got a nasty-gram, apparently. πŸ˜›

    Why can’t people who are supposed to be professionals act in a professional manner?

    • Eugie Foster says:

      If JJA and GVG can send courteous, encouraging rejections to all the writers who submit to F&SF, I’d have thought a small press anthology that has a limited reading period would be able to manage it. Humph.

  8. They’re called *Borderlands* implying things on the border. What the hell *do* they want?!

    ~Maggie, who hates obnoxious editors.

  9. gardenwaltz says:

    weasels, and not the good kind either. i don’t read all the magazines i submit to because there’s too damn many of them. perhaps if i were a famous writer, i’d have the money to do that, but i don’t. i go by the descriptions on their submissions page, the feel of their website, the blurb in poet’s market, anything i can think of. honestly, i can’t think how many times i’ve read a magazine and been surprised about some of the works that were included.

    • Eugie Foster says:

      An insult to weasels, that is!

      I do try to stay on top of the short fiction scene, but I’d go broke trying to buy and read every anthology and magazine that was published. Grumph.

  10. Personally, I thought their submission guidelines were very vague. And I’ve come across editors that tell you to read their previous stuff…which irritates me to no end. It makes me feel like a selling point for their stuff…I have never read any previous work…like I have enough time in the day to do so, only to line their pockets, and then you get rejected anyway. lol.

    I’ve had a few unprofessional rejections, but this one is way over the top, and uncalled for!

  11. horrordiva says:

    I’m sorry to hear that Eugie. I already know what a fantastic writer you are. I’ve been doing the first time editor thing as of late and when something isn’t going to work for my antho I am respectful, polite, and don’t do a form rejection…I try and personalize it. Not only do I say I don’t feel it’s quite with what I’m looking for, I try to expound even more as to what it is I AM looking for and offer that writer to submit again. Being both a writer and an editor I’ve gotten both sides of the coin and taken a page from those editors I most appreciate and respect.

    You are an excellent writer with a ton of talent and if they didn’t like something, that you took the time to write and submit, they could have at least declined with some sense of professionalism and let you know more. I find that rude and ridiculous…would they have cared for that kind of response? I had considered submitting there…but I haven’t read their work…so I guess it would be a waste of both my time and theirs. I can’t afford all the publications I submit to…but I do my best.

    Again, my apologies, you deserve more than that!!!!

  12. affinity8 says:

    I do try to read markets before I submit to them, but I’ve sold to some without doing so. Had one snarky rejection from “The Strand,” and when I finally found a copy I saw immediately why my story would never have sold there. Re Borderlands, they seemed so sincere in their sub warning that I did hold off until I could track one down. Couldn’t find any until I got to WorldCon, where one dealer had one copy of the paperback “From the Borderlands,” with the back cover copy reading “Originally published as Borderlands 5.” So I read through it (modern-day settings, horror, little gore) and fired off a sub, but they’ve been reading such a long time now they’ll probably fill up before they get to me.

    I did meet Thomas Monteleone at Readercon a year or two ago, and he seemed pretty smart, a bit jaded.

    In any case, there’s no excuse for a snarky rejection when “This doesn’t meet our needs” would have done. It’s the editor expressing frustration and annoyance and superiority and those are things that should never be put in business mail, imho. I got a snarky rejection yesterday from a market that I previously held in high esteem, and to which I have sold previously, but now they’ve dropped a few notches on my market list. Ah, the slings and arrows of the writing life!

    • Eugie Foster says:

      What’s worse is that I’ve got another sub with them–sent before I received this rejection. Since it seems I have NO chance of selling to them, I’ve vacillating as to whether I should pull it or not. But I don’t want to lower myself to their level either, and I would be sorely tempted to in a withdraw email.

      I really would have preferred a form . . .

  13. kafkonia says:

    May I ask how long that rejection took to get to you? I’ve had one there since May, and I’m wondering if I should start prepping for snarky rejects myself…

    And, of course, you’re more than welcome to send it (or anything else) to Irregular Quarterly. πŸ™‚

    • Eugie Foster says:

      It took 124 days.

      And, of course, you’re more than welcome to send it (or anything else) to Irregular Quarterly.

      Alas, I’ve already sent this one off. But now that I’ve received a personal invite from the editor to submit, Irregular Quarterly has bounded up my list of preferred markets!

  14. *hands eugie a glock with no serial numbers and several clips full of hollow points. leaves by the side exit*

  15. If you want, I can chase them down and tell them to play nice or they won’t be allowed to play at all. πŸ˜€

    I am really sorry about the rejection. By the way, if they don’t want sci-fi, horror, fantasy, or main stream, what exactly DOES that leave? Maybe we should let Bob make up categories for them too… *sniggle*

    • Eugie Foster says:

      Rawr! If only I could have you chase down all the editors who reject me!

      By the way, if they don’t want sci-fi, horror, fantasy, or main stream, what exactly DOES that leave?

      I’m not sure. I think they want horror, but not classic horror. Maybe they’re looking for something surreal and moody? . . . maybe.

  16. That does seem unduly snarky. I’ll bet the editor had just gone through a pile of rejections that would have justified those remarks, and you just got hit in the crossfire. Even justified though, that does seem unprofessional to me — it’s the sort of thing I might say under my breath but never actually send out.

  17. fetishpunk says:

    Hmm, that kind of surprises me. Everything i’ve heard about T&E has been very positive .. I wonder if perhaps you were just unlucky enough to have had your story read after several unsuitables and it maybe just tipped them over the edge? I agree it’s often hard for a writer to judge exactly whether something is suitable or not and oft-times when I’m unsure i’ll just send it anyway.

    But yeah i think i’d have hated to get such a rejection note. Fortunately they asked me for a rewrite and i’ve not heard anything since but now you’ve got me on edge! πŸ™‚

    • jack_yoniga says:

      Dude, if they asked you for a rewrite, I’d say you’ll probably get in. I’d be surprised if they rejected it at this point.

      • fetishpunk says:

        it depends on what else they get I suppose, and if I managed (in the rewrite) to eliminate the negative points that they wanted changed…

        I’m not holding my breath … taking it as a good thing that I got this far when so many others didn’t and just will wait and see.

        • jack_yoniga says:

          That’s the best outlook, definitely. Never get your hopes up; it’s just a longer drop to the ground when you do.

          And don’t anyone give me any positive-thinking crapola. I’ve received many acceptances when I had completely given up hope, so my thinking patterns after I’ve submitted to an editor are most certainly not taken into account. Heh.

          • fetishpunk says:

            Yeah basically the way i look at it is that me thinking a story will or won’t get accepted makes no difference as to the likelihood of it being taken so it makes no difference.

            If I think it WILL get accepted and it doesnt then i’ll just be dissapointed. If i think it WON’T and it does then it’s a nice wee surprise!

          • jack_yoniga says:

            Precisely! Pessimism certainly has its advantages.

          • fetishpunk says:

            No no not pessimism or negative thinking – it’s anti-positive thinking!

            BTW, what the f*ck does Jack Yoniga mean?! I’ve been meaning to ask that for ages!

          • jack_yoniga says:

            A friend of mine, Jason Taniguchi, has this bizarre little green shrunken head-type doll that he sometimes puts one-man shows on with, using the little green head as a character. He named it Yoniga. And I just like the name Jack, so Jack Yoniga became my alter ego, I guess. Pretty boring story!

  18. elmwood says:

    They need to get over themselves, Eugie, and try and remember what it was like before they got in a position of pseudo-power. Courtesy costs nothing, and it seems as if they get their jollies in this rather sick way. Says more about them, than they realise.

    Cherry pie is good for salving the soul.


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