Wednesday, August 13, 2008

McSweeney's Tendency to Reject


From Jordan Bass at McSweeney Books in response to a submission sent in April:

Hi W,R-thanks for sending in your manuscript, and sorry it’s taken us so long to respond. We rely on submissions like yours, since a good portion of what we publish comes to us unsolicited. Unfortunately, we won't be able to publish your book--we're a very small company, and can only put out a few each year. Thanks again for your efforts, though,

Jordan

Form letter as email.  Somehow the "Hi [first name]" and use of dash/hyphen, plus trailing off sytax, give this letter a cozy casual feel, but it's definitely a standardized rejection. They give good form, right?

11 comments:

John said...

I'm still puzzled. Publishers and agents both claim they get hundreds of MS or queries a week. Form rejections have been part of the publishing industry for generations. Do you mean to imply that a publisher is doing something wrong to send a form rejection? Or that the publisher is doing something wrong to send a form rejection that masquerades in some token way as personal?

Or do you mean to imply that writers should never receive form rejections? Or that you yourself should never receive a form rejection?

A little clarity here might help. I got three acceptances last week, after two months of solid rejections. Each acceptance I get is after the piece has had 25 or more rejections. Nearly all were form rejections. There's nothing unusual about this.

What's your proposal, in short? It almost sounds as if your proposal is you yourself should be exempt from either form rejections or any rejections at all. This, as far as I can see, is simply narcissism. Perhapz you could clarify your position?

Elizabeth said...

Hi, John --

Commiseration, plain and simple. I won't speak for W,R, but I wouldn't be a frequent visitor to this blog if I though our host were advocating any of what you suppose.

I'm just here to go, yeah, another form rejection, sucks, doesn't it?, nicer to receive personal notes, nicer still acceptances, oh, you got one from McSweeney's too? let's compare the lingo and see if there's some mild hint of personal encouragement or if they write that to everyone, yadayada.

(P.S. Despite use of name in salutation above, followed by dash/hyphen and cozy casual syntax, this is a standard form response.)

Maria said...

I get personal rejections from Jordan for my story submissions to the magazine. Even though he's rejecting me just as a form letter would, it's nice to hear it from a real human being. Plus, he's just a really nice guy.

Writer, Rejected said...

No agenda today. Just posting rejections, like the blog title says.

John said...

So to say "Form letter as email. Somehow the "Hi [first name]" and use of dash/hyphen, plus trailing off sytax, give this letter a cozy casual feel, but it's definitely a standardized rejection" isn't any sort of complaint?

All they owe you is an up or down. I can see complaining if they don't answer, but they've answered. You got what you bought. I'm not sure if commiseration is even called for -- if you're a pro, after all, you just send it out again.

Writer, Rejected said...

Yep...I send it out all the time. And in fact, I'm so much of a pro that I also listen and revise when I get good feedback.

I got nothing against McSweeney's or their form letter that seems cozy and personal. I'm not even complaining (other than that they didn't publish me). I'm just putting it out there.

Here it is. Here's what McS does in some cases (not Maria's apparently).

We here at LROD believe staunchly in commiseration. If you don't need it, then bully for you, pal.

Anonymous said...

Before you think of posting again, John, perhaps you could take a chill pill, washed down with a cool cup of humor.

Anonymous said...

Before you think of posting here again, John, perhaps you could take a chill pill, washed down with a cool cup of humor?

Anonymous said...

I'll pretend I posted that twice on purpose. It's called Spot the Difference!

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't waste any energy pining over mcsweeneys. they are as much about the byline as the new yorker is, only with more 'cool' cache.

personally, i favor the new yorker form rejections over the mcsweeneys ones

Benjamin Rosenbaum said...

Um, I sold a story to McSweeney's, over the transom, in a regular (not "new writers") issue, without any connections or pull, before I had any "byline" to speak of. This was in 2004.

Not that I want to interfere with the commiseration, to which I have no objection, but I did want to put in a word for McS as a good rag which is not necessarily all about the byline!