This week, WritersWeekly Managing Editor, Brian Whiddon takes over “Angela’s Desk” to address a “concerned reader” who clearly has an unrealistic world view. Angela’s regular feature will return next week.
I love when Angela sends me the “World’s Worst Query Letters and Book Proposals” columns to edit and post on WritersWeekly. To be blunt, I always laugh my tokhes off the whole time I’m uploading those little nuggets. And, it’s clear when you read them that some of these folks are downright musighan, while others simply don’t speak English as a primary language (yet, they are approaching an English-language publication for paying work).
Sure, the examples are somewhat over the top – but they are real. And, they serve the purpose of teaching aspiring freelance writers exactly what kind of pazzo stuff comes across a publisher’s inbox. Armed with that knowledge, a successful writer can put in the effort to ensure they avoid those pitfalls, and send in a query that is far better than the majority of what publishers usually see. That’s called a “competitive edge,” and can make you a real baller … straight up.
So, I was a bit surprised when we received a comment from a reader (we’ll call her Scolding Sally) concerning last week’s World’s Worst Query Letters and Book Proposals, which accused us of racism!
Angela was equally offended, and immediately wanted to respond. However, in the interest of assuaging the boss’s stress, I said, “Relax, it’s Christmas. I’ve got this.”
Now, it doesn’t matter what we post on WritersWeekly.com. There is always someone who doesn’t like it. Heck, someone even criticized Angela for her “Minimalist Christmas” article. We’re used to that. It comes with the territory. I’m not going to have a vspyshka gneva over this feedback. I’m not kicking puppies, or getting drunk and starting a soccer riot over the fact that someone got their knickers in a knot. But, Scolding Sally’s comments just offered way too many opportunities for – well… let’s call it a “teachable moment.” What you’ll read below is a combination of heartfelt straight-talk mixed with some edgy humor in response to someone who really needs to find a good hobby, and relax a little.
In the condescending correspondence, Scolding Sally told us that:
1) Our “mocking” was distasteful.
2) It was “clear that most of these are from foreigners and non-English native speakers.”
3) Each of these people has “every right to have their voices heard.”
4) Our “mocking them can be seen as racist and xenophobic.”
5) These folks “disabilities” (Scolding Sally’s word – not ours) prevent them from having “perfect grammar, yet may be fantastic writers.”
6) And, she reminded us that “writers are not editors.”
¡Ay, caramba! Racists? Us??
In a moment of enlightened self-introspection, I quickly ran a mental inventory of all the authors I’ve helped publish (through BookLocker.com) in the last two years to see who I may have discriminated against. Hmmmm, I’ve formatted and uploaded books from white American authors, black American authors, Chinese authors, Italian authors, Eskimo authors, Native American authors, Russian authors, and more.
We have a Nigerian author and a Kenyan author. I’ve worked on an author’s book from Sinagapore, and another from South America. We have a very interesting and intriguing female author from Australia (and her books sell very well!), and several British authors.
Additionally, we have published books about Christianity, Judaism, and a host of other religions, as well as spiritualism, and nihilism. We publish books by homosexual authors. We publish books that promote traditional family structures. We’ve published books about black heritage, Asian spirituality, growing up as a Latino, and even going to college in Africa. We specifically reject manuscripts we receive that focus on blaming entire races or cultures for the problems of other races or cultures.
And finally, in WritersWeekly, we publish an article and a success story each week that we PAY FOR by various freelance writers from all over the world. Unless the readers look up the author on Google, or unless we post a picture, there is no way for our readers (or us) to know the race or nationality of those writers…and certainly not their religion, political, or other preferences.
The common factor in these and the 9,000+ books that BookLocker has published is that they were well-written, and had the potential to sell well. Not race. Not sexual-orientation. Not religion. Not even political leaning.
1) Our posting bad examples of query letters is providing an example of what not to do. Are we adults here? When I was in Army basic training and I made a mistake, I got yelled and screamed at in front of all my platoon mates. Sure, it felt bad, but we ALL got that treatment. And, each time someone was getting chewed out by a drill sergeant, guess what everyone else was thinking? “Man, I’m NOT going to make THAT mistake!” Surprise, surprise surprise!! That was the entire point!! Sure, we accompany the egregious errors with humorous comments – but to call it “mocking” is just niemądry.
(By now, you may have figured out that you can click all the diverse and inclusive words I’m using to determine what language I’m speaking, and what the words mean.)
2) If Sally thinks it was “clear that most of these are from foreigners and non-English native speakers” – isn’t Sally being a bit racist herself? I mean, we didn’t post any pictures, or reveal the email addresses of those writers. Other than the few that actually state where they are from – how can Sally assume that most of these queries did not come from Americans, Brits, and Aussies? Is she saying that by merely reading a sample or someone’s writing, she knows what nationality the writer is (or isn’t)? Perhaps before wagging her finger at us, she should go buy a full length mirror and take a good, long look…
3) Sally thinks that anyone and everyone who writes us asking us to HIRE them has “every right to have their voices heard.” Clearly, Scolding Sally does not run a business that requires hiring good writers in order to retain a loyal readership. If you owned a publishing company, would you pay someone who sent you an email that said, “how are my name is xx i need a writting job please help me?”
You’d be a meshugenah if you ran a business that way!! Let’s be real. Everyone has the right to say (or write) whatever they want. But NO ONE has the right to be heard. If Sally feels that everyone has the right to be heard, then she can fork out the money, and pay all these people for their writings (we receive hundreds of queries every month, by the way) – and then publish them so they can be “heard.” Good luck keeping a roof over your head with THAT business model, Sally.
The fact is, a business can’t be forced (or shamed by a reader) into buying a bad product just to make the seller of that product feel good, or to give them a chance in the business, or to “give them a voice.”
4) “Mocking them can be seen as racist and xenophobic.” In a nutshell, Sally – go pound sand. You need to go look up “racist” and “xenophobe.” You’ll find that neither definition has anything to do with work quality or product marketability. And, the very fact that Sally had to inject those very words into her criticism tells me that SHE is the one with the problem. Personally, I don’t care if someone like Sally “sees” what we do as racist or xenophobic. I’m far more afraid of my company being seen as a low quality, cut-rate publishing firm that will publish any book or article that comes across my desk.
5) If someone wants their work published in French, they need to know how to write fluently in French. Same goes for Spanish, Swahili, Portuguese, Laotian, Nynorsk, and (surprise!!) ENGLISH!! Not learning the language before diving into a country’s writing industry is not a “disability.” It’s a failure to establish a linguistic foundation on which to build your writing career. And, no – failing to have absolutely “perfect” grammar does not indicate that someone may be a fantastic writer. Quite the opposite, in fact. We ask that anything submitted to us (including query letters) are written well enough that the grammatical errors do not distract from the writing itself. I’m all about empathy, Sally, but come on! You’re just being okkunig!
6) Finally, Scolding Sally is right about one thing. Writers are not editors. We very rarely see an error-free manuscript. While I do edit articles, my job is NOT to completely re-write anyone’s work. We have, in the past, accepted an article based on a well-written query, and then received a horribly-written article as a result. In those cases, I’ve literally had to spend a couple of hours fixing a 600-word article. So, from a business perspective, that’s $60 up front to purchase the article from the author, then 2 hours of my time to make it readable. Then, add the additional time to upload and format the article to appear online properly. That’s hardly what I’d call a profitable transaction.
Here at BookLocker and WritersWeekly.com, we don’t care what color people are, or where they come from, or their religion, or their political affiliation. We do care about publishing well-written articles and books that people want to read.
And, finally, based on all the comments and letters we’ve received over the years, our readers LOVE to read the zany, poorly written düngen we receive each month in the form of World’s Worst Query Letters and Book Proposals. It’s okay to have a little giggle at these. Scolding us and throwing around “racist” and “xenophobic” is really just ridiculous.
Merry Christmas to all of you!!
- Just Because I Rejected Your Manuscript Doesn’t Mean I’m a Racist, Homophobe, Anti-Semite, etc. By Angela Hoy
- World’s Worst Book Proposals and Query Letters
- 11 Fatal Query Letter Mistakes – Angela Hoy
- World’s Worst “Query Letter!”
- QUERYING QUERIES? What To Do When Editors Fall Silent By S.E. Batt
- Brian Takes His “Home Office” on the High Seas! – Days 1-4
Brian Whiddon is BookLocker’s Operations Manager, and serves as Managing Editor for WritersWeekly.com. He’s an author, researcher, and writer, an Army veteran, a 16-year police veteran, and former business owner. He lives on his 36 foot sailboat – the Floggin Molly – in St. Petersburg, Florida, where he sails the waters of Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.