To Rant or Not to Rant

A few days ago I saw an author ‘rant’ posted on social media (for the sake of anonymity I won’t mention the author or the social media platform!). It was a full-blown tirade against insensitive publishers and their treatment of authors and their submissions. I don’t know the author personally but the post highlighted for me the dangers of airing grievances online. While I certainly have a great deal of sympathy – the whole process of writing and trying to get published is not for the fainthearted – but social media is definitely not the place to air your frustration or bitterness.This particular rant seemed to be aimed at the fact that certain publishers had not bothered to even respond to a full MS submission. Now, I know silence is horrible and the waiting to hear back on a submission is nerve-wracking, but unfortunately it’s all part and parcel of the (traditional) publishing process. The online post reminded me of the rules I try to follow when it comes to social media and dealing with the publishing process…because you never know who might read or share your online post. These rules include:

  • Maintain Professionalism:  This goes for all online posts related to employment, the publishing industry and the submission process. If you want to be taken seriously, you have present yourself as cool, calm and professional. No agent or editor wants to deal with an unprofessional author. They don’t want tantrums or drama. They want great quality work delivered on time. Equally well, I’ve never met anyone in the publishing industry who doesn’t love what they do and who doesn’t have the utmost respect for the work that goes into writing a novel. This is, however, an industry (hey, publishers want to make money) and, though it can be brutal, if you want to participate in it, you have to deal with rejection and frustration like a professional. Which leads to my next rule…
  • Never air your grievances: Even though the publishing process may drive you to drink/despair/chocolate bingeing…never resort to telling the world how awful such-and-such agent/editor/publisher is…unless you’ve encountered truly unethical behavior or a scam. Only then do I feel an author should legitimately alert the online community to what has happened.
  • Be careful of venting your frustration online: Not just because you never know who might read or share you post but also because it has a tendency to lead to a downward spiral of comments/reactions/flame ups that never end well. It may seem cathartic at first but I’m not sure it helps. While I admire honesty (I’m certainly not suggesting authors lie or present an unrealistic picture of the publishing process), I think restraint is usually the best policy. Cry, vent and scream all you want in private but don’t do it public.

So TKZers do you have ‘rules’ you follow when it comes to social media and discussing your experiences with publishing or the publishing process? How do you react when you see a post that rants and rails against the industry? Do you agree authors should keep their frustrations to themselves or would you prefer to see more venting for the sake of honesty?


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About Clare Langley-Hawthorne

Her first novel, Consequences of Sin, featuring the Oxford graduate, heiress, and militant suffragette Ursula Marlow, was published in 2007. This was followed by two more books in the series, The Serpent and The Scorpion (2008) and Unlikely Traitors (2014). Consequences of Sin was a San Francisco Chronicle Bay Area bestseller and a Macavity Award nominee for best historical mystery.

26 thoughts on “To Rant or Not to Rant

  1. Editors and agents talk about writers, just as much as writers talk about editors and agents. Word gets around. That knowledge should restrain anyone who is serious about being a writer.

  2. I did a rant myself today on my blog, in response to many I’ve seen lately online. Really, whining and complaining is never professional, and if a person wants to make a career as a writer, professionalism is very important!

  3. Claire, I learned early on that the publishing community is a small one, so it was best not to vent my frustrations with anyone in that group in venues that might come back to bite me.
    Then again, there’s the problem of political posts. I have strongly held opinions there, but they’re not popular with some of my blog readers. I’m maintaining a social media presence to let readers know more about me, but do some of them really want to know about those opinions?
    Thanks for posting this.

  4. I would not want to have a public dressing down and I feel that too often people leap to conclusions and post things they later regret. A rant about a publisher or agent, unless they are truly unethical and the public needs to be warned, can come back to bite you in the butt. Patience isn’t easy but in this business, I’m learning to find something else to occupy my time until I hear from my agent or a publisher. Alcohol and chocolate help.

  5. Good points about ranting. I agree that it’s always dangerous to post something in anger. And too often anger is not based on a correct understanding.

    Claire, your comment about “downward spiral” is important. Any statement of opinion online–whether it be a rant or a carefully considered essay–can bring out the trolls.

    The rule I would add is don’t respond to trolls.

    Of course that requires one to discriminate between a serious reply that deserves a reply in turn and trolling. If someone points out a mistake or offers an important counter-argument, it may be appropriate to engage. But even here it may be more useful to agree to disagree. Back-and-forthing can go on forever, and often it raises all kinds of new questions that might better be dealt with in a separate essay.

    • I definitely avoided reading the comments to the post I mentioned as I suspected it would be a downward spiral involving lots of people saying things they might later regret…

  6. I would expand this to include ranting on anything via social media. People aren’t interested in dialogue anymore, only the venting of spleens and the lighting of torches. How far we’ve devolved from the Lincoln-Douglas debates to Twitter flame wars.

    Thus, to rant and rave and RT virulent postings on items political or cultural or (in this case) professional, accomplishes only two things: a) creates an “Amen corner” for those who already agree with you; and b) drives away potential readers who will never again give your books a chance.

    Re: publishing—ranting won’t get you a contract, but it could very well lose you one.

    • Depressing but so true Jim. I have ‘unfriended’ or ‘unfollowed’ some writers based purely on their rants online (I’m not proud of it as sometimes that was my own knee jerk reaction to their views). I think the online waters can be tricky to navigate at the moment – when it comes to ranting about the publishing industry though it’s pretty obvious that it’s always better to ‘zip it’!

  7. I think it’s better to turn it into a lesson learned or a constructive how to deal with x situation, rather than to just rant and rally at something. Social media makes the world very small and things said cannot be taken back.

  8. Gosh, yes. I see people post tirades of Facebook. I just cringe. Even if I agree with their opinion, they’re hurting their platform.

    One author I highly respect had blogged for months about platform, reaching your audience, staying on brand, etc. Then the last US election hit. Their social media became nothing but politics. Even though I mostly agreed with their POV, I couldn’t bear having my feed flooded with constant vitriol. It’s like having a crowd of people screaming in your face. I unfollowed the author and haven’t read any more of their books. Sigh.

  9. An author I once enjoyed to the point of ordering books ahead of time and standing in line to pick them up at midnight has taken to political ranting. In the interest of free speech I could almost let that go but when it turned to being nasty to fans, I decided I was done.

    A couple of other authors I once admired expressed the opinion that anyone who didn’t agree with them politically was an idiot. Once, I could deal with. Stated repeatedly as fact made me purge my bookshelves and no longer purchase their books.

    I don’t understand why anyone would want to alienate half their audience.

  10. This is devolving into whether or not to discuss politics. I can’t not do it, and honestly, if you have a problem with my politics, you’ll likely have a problem with my books. I’ve reached a detente with some fellow authors on one particular subject. I reserve my venom on that subject for the political places. If you follow me there, you do it at your own risk.

    Back to the original topic. Now, I do not trash publishing, writers, agents, etc. in public. I’ve gotten into some heated discussions on certain “big” books (50 Shades, celebrity gagillion-dollar advances, etc.) but never the usual screed about how “heartless and unfair and meanie-head” publishing is.

    I have one writer friend who is tied up in a dispute with a small house that is on its way down and are holding his rights hostage. They want a “non-disparagement” clause in his rights’ release and he frankly told them to fuck off. I support that. I don’t join in because I’m not involved directly, but I do listen to what he has to say.

    Book stuff is happy stuff. Some discussions on what I’ve done personally that could have been better and my perspective, but never ever a pub rant. I accentuate the positive and the interesting and funny (like when I ended up in a months-long email exchange with the agent that owns the firm, the guy with his name on the door in big letters who handles the literary estates. I accidentally cut/pasted his email address instead of one of the associates.) It was awesome.

    And even when I’m emerald green with jealousy and envy (you know, human) I do one of two things. I either congratulate and promote or I say nothing and walk away. I do it because the taste of sour grapes lingers on far too long and it’s nasty.


    • On an industry blog, run by an industry professional, there was also a discussion about something a particular agency was doing that was very unprofessional. It had happened to several of us and the person who ran the blog was as appalled as we were. Names were never mentioned, and it didn’t get ugly, but everyone involved knew who we were talking about. I haven’t heard anything about it in well over a year, so I’m guessing word got back and it stopped.


      • Yes, I wanted to focus on the rants re: publishing rather than the political ones (which i can’y help sometimes weighing in on either!). I do think it’s still important to disseminate information where something is legitimately wrong/inappropriate. It’s so hard those days with all the ‘noise’ on social media.

  11. I honestly don’t see a reason to rant about the publishing industry or anyone in it who hasn’t done something wrong or illegal. And even then, you have to step lightly, because some of these ‘wrong or illegal’ people have been known to sue anyone who mentions them.

    But the publishing industry, itself, is what it is. It may be frustratingly difficult to get published traditionally, but that’s the nature of the business. If a writer isn’t prepared to handle these things gracefully, maybe they need to try to get into a different business. You’re not going to change anything by ranting from the outside.

    If a writer needs to get their frustration out onto the interwebz, it should be done quietly. Find a closed group where they can trust people to keep it to themselves, or keep it in person to close writer friends. Or even write it down in their private journal.

    No one says people can’t get frustrated. But publicly taking that frustration out on other people and on the industry they want to be a part of will cause more trouble than it’s worth.

    Me, I try to be professional. I prefer to build others up over tearing them down. I want my social media to show me to be a person that others will want to work with or read. I don’t need all my many faults projected out into the ethernet.

    • Good point – maybe writers who want to rant or vent their frustration should do so in a closed online group setting. Personally I think screaming into a pillow might still be the best option:)

  12. OR~ change the name and “occupation” and rant it out in your WIP (a la Hemingway with The_Old_Man_and_the_Sea_ ~ at least according to every American lit class I ever sat through).


  13. I’m like Terri above, I am a political activist on my regular Facebook page, which I was long before I got into writing. I keep my regular page separate from my writer’s page. I do not post anything political on there. Some of my writer friends are also friends on my regular page. I always warn them that I am political on that page. I have a few friends, both writers, and non-writers and we agree to disagree and we do not respond on the others posts. I do worry sometimes that when I do get published that I may be alienating half of my audience. I don’t intend for my fiction to reflect my political leanings and hope that alone would not prevent them from reading my books. On the subject of writing, I haven’t seen a lot of bickering about agents and publishers, but I have seen many writers respond to bad reviews on Amazon. It looks very unprofessional and as a reviewer, I wouldn’t want to touch their book and wouldn’t expect anyone else to either.

  14. Personally, I use social media very little. As a new writer I only want to introduce myself and tell people what I write, and I am so appreciative of the people who take time to acknowledge me, and I like to to let others know when I appreciate their work. I am not looking to make BFF’s, just to to say thank you or I really like what you do.

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