When Your Editor is a Pr#%!

What do you do when you get a snide, condescending rejection letter from an editor?  You blog about it, that’s what you do.

The other day, I submitted a piece to a site  and – for the first time in my 20+ year writing career, it was rejected. (Although I was once fired from  Sally Jesse Rafael, because I “didn’t get the vibe.”  I took that as a compliment.) Part of the rejection was based on a technical reason, which I get.  But according to the email I received, it was also stylistic. The prick editor said I clearly hadn’t read the style guide, which would be fair enough — except that there isn’t one.  So I wrote back to the guy:

“As far as I can tell, there (is) no style guide in the (posting instructions)…. It would be helpful to me if you wouldn’t mind taking a moment to let me know what you like to see in game reviews….”

When I first got his response, I thought “Wow.  This guy really is an asshole.”  And then I thought, maybe I wasn’t being fair.  It is, after all, hard to determine tone in an email, and maybe what I was reading as condescension and a smug, superior attitude, was really genuine concern for the quality of  the work he approves. Plus, it’s been so many years since I’ve had a real editor, maybe I’m just not used to critique anymore.  Maybe I’ve gotten soft. And then I forwarded it to a few friends to get their point of view.

“Tell him to Fuck Off!” said one friend.

“Asshole.” said another.

So then I thought: Always trust my first impressions.  The guy is a jerk.

Here are some excerpts from what he said -with my own comments on his comments in purple.  I have edited out anything that would identify him or the site for which he works. (and if you want to read the article as it appears on my own site, click here.)

“…(You  might think those original ellipses are in place of a chatty, kind opening line.  You’d be wrong. No niceties.  Straight to the attack) the review isn’t properly titled(Nothing about how a review should be titled appears anywhere on the material I was given); the names of games, books, movies, etc. all need to be italicized throughout  (He’s got me there. It was in the directions. My bad.); the gaming section requires a star score and ESRB rating on all games. (True, I could have gleaned from the site that they require this. But they could have told me that, instead of telling me to use proper punctuation. Um. Duh.) .  …. we write “videogames,” not “video games;” (Really?  Because videogames isn’t a word.)  don’t write in all-caps, bold something if you want to emphasize it (again — I’m supposed to know this how?); and you shouldn’t include the cover image as that will show up with the Amazon ASIN. (Oh no! My vast pyschic powers must have failed me again! How could I not know that every PR person sends me cover art so that I WON”T USE IT. Oh, sorry, so that I won’t use it.)

Then, content-wise, what you’ve written is a perfectly good description of what you learned at the PR party you went to and the gathering you had to play the game, but isn’t really a review of the game itself.(Fine, point taken.  But if you would take a gander (his word. yuck) at those pesky little FTC regulations, you’d see that I have to disclose that I was invited to a party, fed, wined and dined. Details, details – like the law – I know!)  I wouldn’t include that really long paraphrasing (snide!) of what Tutera said – that has nothing to do with your playing the game….  Your ordering pizza (and the fact that it wasn’t Dominos) doesn’t tell anyone about the game either.( Again – disclosure – they gave me the Dominos gift card. Must disclose the gifts.  And I didn’t realize that snark only belongs in editorial comments to your writers, but not in the pieces themselves)  I don’t think it’s necessary to have a bunch of one to two word paragraphs with the opinions of the kids who played the game – say they enjoyed it or that they didn’t, the list doesn’t really add to the piece. (Personality counts.  This is a BLOG, buddy. Not The New York Times. If you weren’t some 22 year old hipster wannabe living in nowheresville (there go my psychic powers again!) You would know that to a parent, those responses do mean something. They mean everything. )  Outside of saying that there’s no gore and sometimes virtual dice for the board games included, you provide no specifics about anything that occurs within the title.  I understand that there are 13 games and 80 mini-games, but have no clue reading the review what any of them might be.  I don’t know what the graphics look like, I don’t know if everything is available up-front or if stuff has to be unlocked.   What are the characters?  Is there Mii support?  Can you play online?  How many people can play locally at a a time?  What’s the sound like?  Would it be at all fun to play by oneself?  What doesn’t work about the game? What made you cringe? (Point taken. I am so used to writing experiential pieces – rather than straight reviews, that I didn’t include enough detail. In the final post, which went up on my own site, I did include more specifics. That he has a point doesn’t, however, excuse the SNIDE factor – which simply oozes off the page. Need a tissue? Here you go.)

The editor, it turns out, has a masters in critique.  Evidently, he missed “How Not to be an Asshole 101.” Plus, if you have such particulars about style: write a style guide.  Every single publication or network I’ve ever worked for has one.

Finally – and this is the kicker – I’m writing for this site for FREE.  Yes, I am taking abuse from an editor for whom I write for NOTHING.

Whatever happened to civility? Whatever happened to “instead of using all caps for emphasis, we prefer that you bold the words,” instead of DON’T do this and YOU SHOULDN’T do that. (My blog. My rules.  I prefer all caps.  In internet speak, that’s yelling.)

So what’s your verdict? Asshole? Or just me being too sensitive.

And be careful how you answer — or I’ll all-cap my response!


  1. says

    You know what i think-if someone is NOT PAYING u – then U can tell them to FUCK OFF!! If anything he should’ve been super sensitive about his critique being that you were doing this FOR FREE!! What the hell has this world come to?!! OY VEYSMERE!

  2. says

    I think you know exactly what I think about his attitude and rudeness, so I’ll just skip right to the bigger picture: the site in question wants as many views as possible, they want people to come to the site and get a comprehensive review of the game…they want what oodles of other sites also offer. If they strip YOU out of your reviews, they might as well just give every article the same byline and call it a day.

    Interestingly, when I submitted to the same site my interaction was with someone I already knew, and she was as kind and constructive as could be. I think in a lot of ways, the new writers to that site are going to be square pegs trying to cram themselves into a round hole. I’m very curious to see if it all shakes out.

    I do know this: I spent a lot of time pouring over the faq before I submitted, and will probably have to do that again before I submit again because, well, I just don’t have it memorized. If I ever get the kind of response you did, I will have no problem writing back and saying “Listen you rude hipster doofus, at this point, I’m actually doing you a favor. And if this is the way I’m going to be treated, so long and thanks for nothing.” And that’s because of you, giving me a heads up.

  3. A Man says

    By the way you describe his mail, I’ll say you are wrong.
    Look where you say “point taken”; those are pretty big points you left out.
    You didn’t do your homework good enough and now you’re crying about it.

    Be aware of who your “customers” are and deliver what They want.

    • says

      Correctly critiquing someone’s work needn’t include snide or personal remarks. This guy used both. I have 20 years experience writing professionally and I’ve worked with lots of editors, and have never gotten anything quite as condescending as this.
      Also – it’s kind of hard to do your homework when you were never given a style-guide to begin with. I’ve never written for any publication or media outlet that didn’t provide a style-guilde. Though you have to give me this; at least I acknowledged where I messed up. This guy never said, “I guess we should have given you a style guide.”

      As to your last sentence: absolutely true. I do try to deliver what my client wants. But I have no interest in writing (for free) for a client who addresses me with no respect.

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