Author blacklist?

I got an interesting question posted on our Editor Chat page, wanting to know about a very feared idea:

Hey is there really something known as a blacklist for writers?
I’ve heard of it, but get different feelings from different people on the subject…

Many writers have heard of a universal “black list” that will damn an author forever if their names ends up on it. That editors from publishing houses send out mass emails to every other house around the country, warning others about a particular writer or agent, telling them how terrible and annoying the person is, and that every editor in their right mind will avoid them at all costs…

To make a long story short: no. There is no such thing as a universal author blacklist. Editors do not put up flyers with pain in the ass writers to ruin their future career, and do not take time out of their already busier than hell days to email other editors at other houses…we don’t have time, and really, we don’t care enough about such a thorn-in-our-side-writer to do so. We have other writers to deal with, too many submissions to shift through, and too much general crap on our minds to give that writer a second thought.

Now, not to say that there isn’t a “softer” version of a piss-list in each publishing house. What do I mean by this? Well, it means getting a threatening email from a writer after rejecting their manuscript, and then having the same writer submit another manuscript two weeks later.

It’s not so much a “black list” that houses keep, but we do remember. And at Leucrota Press, each editor keeps a spreadsheet of submissions read, just to keep track for the month. And yes, if there is a psycho writer out there, I – and our other editors – will send an in office memo about it. But aside from not putting much effort out to read his manuscript before returning it, we didn’t do anything else to the guy.

So don’t worry about. But at the same time, use common sense. Don’t be pissy or overly sarcastic and not expect a little reaction back. As long as you’re professional, you’re fine.

Hope this helps to clarify.

15 Responses

  1. I have an editor blacklist, folks I wouldn’t submit to if they were the sole employee of the last publishing house on Earth. In my 20+ years as a professional writer, I can count the number of literate, intelligent editors I’ve dealt with on the fingers of one hand. Genre editors are the worst but the feeling is universal among many writers that the overall quality of editors has deteriorated greatly in the past X amount of years (the number X represents varies, depending on the writer you talk to). Right now I’m waiting for a reply from a major publisher in New York that has had the manuscript of my novel for the past 18 months. This week I was reduced to writing a formal letter of complaint to the editor-in-chief of the publishing house because the editor I’m dealing with has repeatedly lied to me as to when she’s going to get to the novel. Keep in mind, I’m an author with many publications credits, critical praise, terrific blurbs from writers like Timothy Findley and it counts for diddly-squat. Editors’ responses should be timely, professional and dignified. The reality is far different…

  2. well I have no experience to speak of and no credits either at this point, pathetic as that is. I do like to believe I have a bit of common sense and that sense tells me that being rude and nasty to people you want something from is…um stupid is the word that comes to mind. What is a shame is that everyone cannot simply behave in a professional manner, and that goes for both sides I guess. I’ve not dealt with another publishing house so I really have no opinion on that.

    It seems to me that an unsavory person would make a bad name for himself wherever he goes without editors ever exchanging a word. It also seems like once you’ve done this to yourself, it would be hard, if not impossible, to undo. I guess that the truth is people like this never see it as their own fault (I mean geez who wants personal responsibility for how they act?) it’s so much easier to blame…oh the editors and that ****list they send around…

  3. Cliff,

    I’m sorry you’ve had bad experiences in the past. And while your comment regarding the lack of “literate, intellegent editors,” doesn’t really phase me at all, I would like to point out that your comment is sort of what I’m talking about.

    Some editors are finicky bastards. You hurt their pride and you’re dammed at their desk. It’s one thing to comment and say that you’ve had a bad experience and tell about it (without listing any actual names) then to bash the entire editing world. You get another editor to pick up my blog (and we do have visitors frequently) you might have just screwed yourself at their house. But again, that goes with any profession, not just publishing…

    Now, I’m not saying that you aren’t free or right in your belief, it’s just that sometimes the internet can be a blessing, and sometimes it will come back and bite you in the ass. Be careful of what you say, wherever you say it, as the right (or wrong) person might read it.

  4. I see your point to some extent. But, you know, any editor who lets their own biases and “finicky” (I like that) personalities get in the way of their judgment is not someone I’d like to be associated with anyway. I want to work with people I respect and trust and once I find someone like that, I will be happy to sing their praises and they will have themselves a loyal, devoted writer (and friend) for LIFE. My last publisher, Pete Crowther (PS Publishing) treated me exceptionally well and I’ve said so in other forums. Didn’t touch a word of my manuscript and, as a result, he sold out his print run, the book got critical kudos AND both novellas in the book have been optioned for movies. Amazing what happens if you just leave a good author alone. I’d work with Pete again any time and he would be the first person to tell you that I was a pleasure to work with, there was never the slightest disagreement or acrimony between us. I consider him a friend now and would walk through a burning wall to assist him or his press and he knows it. Same goes for anyone else who works with me and gives me a fair shake. But if you read about the experiences I’ve had with editors (an essay called “Solace of Fortitude”), you’ll see that my misgivings and mistrust are well-earned…

  5. So, basically you’re saying that a “good” editor is one that doesn’t edit your work? That your book is perfect the moment you send it in?

    Sounds a little arrogant to me, sir.

  6. Dude, everyone knows how hard it is to edit your own work. You’re bound to miss something, even if it’s just a little detail. No one’s perfect.

    If you’re THAT much of a “good author” then why don’t you go it alone and self publish…wait, I know, you don’t want to spend the money or take the risk. You want a publisher to do it. The publisher’s and editors that you like to bash so much.

    Guess they can’t be that bah, huh?

  7. Oh, and by the way, you’re saying because he didn’t edit your manuscript at all – that “as a result, he sold out his print run…”

    So, if he had touched your manuscript, does that mean you wouldn’t have sold any books? Or that you’d be bash him along with the dozens or so other’s on your editor shit list? Come on man, grow up.

  8. Let’s please keep the comments critical towards the topic and not the commenter…

    Cliff, just so you know – most editors WILL edit your work to some extent. Whether for content, flow, spelling, grammar, punctuation, or typographical errors. That is not by any means a way to judge an editor or press. It is very, very rare for any publisher to not touch an author’s book. Honestly, it’s almost unheard of. Most editors will drop an author if they bitch at each change an editor makes – it’s too much work.

    Not saying that your or any other author’s work is not “nearly perfect,” that it can be. But everyone needs a little help sometimes – even editors. That’s why publishers employ copy editors, to catch any mistakes or typos that even the editors miss (because, alas, editors are human too, despite popular belief).

    Another pair of eyes does not hurt, it can only be helpful. Whether or not you (or anyone else) agrees with those changes, that’s another issue.

  9. I can understand if your writing wasn’t touched by your editor – if you published with Publish America or IUniverse…

  10. Folks: Thanks for this, it’s an interesting discussion. I am a good author AND I’m a professional. I’ve devoted long years to mastering grammar, punctuation and I take an enormous amount of time and effort when I’m writing anything, be it a story or even a blog posting. The effort shows. My last novel, SO DARK THE NIGHT, took three YEARS to write, with only a short break to take time off in order to come back to the final edits with a fresh perspective. There were no side projects, I concentrated solely on SO DARK. Please keep in mind my heroes and role models are people like Joyce and Beckett and Flaubert, writers who took enormous pains in their editing and were notorious perfectionists. I don’t read bad novels because I’m afraid they’ll teach me bad writing habits–I read and learn from the masters of prose. Isn’t it just POSSIBLE that I’m good enough to judge for myself if a story or novel is finished? Nabokov famously said that when an editor offered a suggestion for revision re: a manuscript “I just bark ‘Stet!’ and that’s that.” Why would I allow people who read bad zombie/vampire books by hack authors to have input on something I write? How could their aesthetic sensibilities possibly gibe with mine? I suppose this reads as pompousness on my part–but I defy you to read my best work and not come away impressed. Matter of fact, I’m counting on it…

  11. You are an arrogant ass. No one’s saying your work wasn’t / isn’t good, you twit. Only that just because an editor / publisher / agent touches your novel doesn’t mean that editor is an idiot. Hell, it’s a wonder anyone has agreed to work with you!

    And it’s bad on your part to put down other authors to build yourself up – we’re trying too. There are MANY people who match or put more than your THREE YEARS to write their novel, and to them it’s their baby. I write horror and science fiction, and while I know I need help editing and with my plot, I don’t like it (and I’m sure no one else does) when some pompous, stuffy-nosed writer starts berating everyone. It’s hard enough as is to get a rejection from a publisher, than to have some overzealout writer put us down as well.

    Very unprofessional for a self-proclaimed professional author…

  12. I believe it would be best if this thread is dropped period.

    Writebettah –
    While I understand your anger, your comments are also not professional or adult-like. Please behave.

    Cliff –
    While I don’t like where the discussion went either, I must agree with several of the comments listed above. Please, for the sake of professionalism and for the sake of this blog, do not come here and put down other writers in order to lift yourself or to attempt to add credibility to your argument. Your opinions of editors is your own, and I respect it. But do not insult or condemn other people who write in forms/genres you don’t care for. If you wish to do so, do it on your own blog. I don’t appreciate it here, and neither do my readers.

  13. By the way, JT-

    Thanks for your comments (way up in the comments) regarding acting professional and the list. I’m glad you are able to understand, and you made some great points. Thanks.

  14. This is an unfortunate–and inevitable–reaction when one discusses matters relating to aesthetics, integrity, artistic compromise. I think I’ll leave this thread where it is, rather than risk upsetting folks further. Instead, I’ll let the quality of my work speak for itself…that’s the best approach, methinks.

  15. Thank you. I was um trying to make a point with my little unpublished self but then it seemed better to just watch. Sometimes the best way to be professional is to just shut up. (I know that lesson :). Hat’s off you you for keeping your cool.

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