Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Non-Branded Rejection

Maybe we should all just start using this generic rejection slip. DIRECTIONS: Send to self on a monthly basis; take with lots of water and lie down for about a week.  The generic version is so much cheaper, and really it's all the same formulation.  WARNING: generic rejection may cause depression, despair, general malaise, suicidal tendencies, and bad breath.  Consult a literary agent before taking.

56 comments:

Anonymous said...

I like the "see" in place of read. One look and they could tell it wouldn't be absorbent enough to line Polly's cage. Did the envelope at least indicate which journal/agent sent the note?

Anonymous said...

journal editors are getting ruder, that's for sure.

NM said...

Perhaps if the recipient wrote better, there would have been some actual feedback written in the margins of the slip.

Anonymous said...

feedback given on good writing? does not happen with literary journals. not at all. academic editors are dropping their courtesies fast. ask anne mini about how many things used to be "industry standard" just 5 years ago & now are over. the concept of story "feedback" is one of them.

James said...

I am amused by this claim. Feedback on rejection slips is a privilege of good writers? Feedback on rejection slips comes to those who submit good writing? Ie, you are saying that a writer who receives the standard, blank, empty rejection slip can assume his writing is no good?

Native Ink said...

Not to send this discussion into the horrid realm of MFA bashing, but I think editors have abdicated their traditional role of encouraging young writers. I believe they now assume the writer goes to an MFA professor to get feedback.

Since I'm not in an MFA program, I guess I'm out of luck. Thankfully I can usually find good readers to critique my work, so I don't have to rely on editors or professors. Those generic, impersonal rejection slips still suck though.

CAPS MAN! said...

I AM UNCLEAR ON WHERE THIS REJECTION SLIP COMES FROM ALTHOUGH AS SOME READERS HAVE POINTED OUT PREVIOUSLY I AM NOT GOOD AT READING BETWEEN THE LINES. ARE WE LOOKING AT A TABLETOP COMEDY SLIP FROM AN AGENT OR A REJECTION SLIP FROM A JOURNAL, AND IF SO WHAT JOURNAL.

a friend said...

>> Since I'm not in an MFA program, I guess I'm out of luck.

Actually youre in a lot of luck. You can take your pick. Pick a program and take part. Join the fun. You'll get feedback, time to write, connections, and most of all you'll be accredited. All the journals will welcome you. No, it's not a ticket to placing each submission. Of course not. You will still get rejections - plenty of them. But they will be different. You will get comments, feedback, editors will remember you name. The perks add up and outsiders just can't compete. I see that now. It's a whole new world. When you teach and gain conference invites you will meet up with the top writers in the field. It is a lot of hard work, frustrating at times - I know. But it is the path of the modern writer. Enjoy it as you take that first step.

Native Ink said...

A Friend, I can't tell if you're trolling or being serious. Either way, I'm not going into an MFA program for many reasons, but mostly because I don't want to teach creative writing for a living. We've heard from quite a few profs on LROD, and I've never heard one once mention a passion for teaching as a preequisite for their job. I've had too many jaded, uninspired teachers in my life to want to risk becoming one myself.

I'd rather earn my living some other way. At least I can collect my generic rejection slips with peace of mind by knowing I didn't sell my soul for them.

Anonymous said...

the comments are written in invisible ink that you can only read when you dip the note in water. duh! or do they only teach that in mfa programs?

Anonymous said...

Speaking for poetry, this is about all you get unless you have "creditials" now. I really don't think the editors read the stuff. I mean not even look at it. First they look at who you are: who gave you the degree, who taught you, where you've been published. If you're ok (pedigreed), then they might let you in (provided you/your submission is amusing enough). But if you are not an MFA graduate, your poems won't even get read. No matter what, it's not about you. It's not about what you are saying, your insight, your words. It's about your degree. What are you doing to keep the system going? That's what it's about.

Don't believe me? I have proof. Try this out and you will see. Pick out any "top tier" poetry journal. Open up to the first page and list out every person on there. Now look them all up. Won't find any poets who aren't in a teaching post somewhere (or otherwise have the MFA Stamp of Approval). Try it with some journals and see. Once, it's an oddity. Twice, it's a coincidence. A thousand times? It's a dirty unspoken secret.

NM said...

Yes, this is what I am saying:

Form rejection letters generally mean that the story was poor enough that the editor did not finish reading it before rejecting it.

"Positive rejections", for lack of a better term for a rejection with feedback and encouragement, are seemingly rare simply because most of the slushpile is simply awful. What sort of feedback can be given: "Spend the next five years reading widely and deeply rather than writing and submitting"?

I have both seen and received feedback on rejection letters. A friend of mine got a lengthy note from Zoetrope (and no, she didn't have an MFA or a lengthy publication resume -- indeed, I think she had sold but not yet published a single story.) I've received notes of all sorts, including one from Playboy (and yes, this was before entering an MFA program). And yes, this remains a regular occurrence.

It is very common, as far as I can tell from my own experiences and from those of the many many writers I know--who write "genre" fiction, who write "experimental" fiction, and who write so-called "literary" fiction--that marginal notes and such are still given to stories that have actually been read all the way through by the selecting editor.

In my own editing, I've rejected plenty of stories in the first couple of paragraphs--I generally flipped to the end to see if there was anything interesting there. If there isn't a sense that the author is in control of his or her own work within the first half-page or so, there is no reason to reject with anything other than a form.

If you have never received anything but a form from a prominent publication, you should concentrate on writing better rather than spinning stories about editors, MFA professors, what you think may have occurred in the last five years, and the like.

As far as the "proof" of poetry journals and credentials, anyone familiar with critical thinking can demolish that proof. What percentage of the slush pile doesn't have MFAs/teaching positions? Are MFA programs actually valuless (i.e., do they fail to be granted after a couple of years of dedicated focus on improving writing)? If you don't have solid answers to those two questions, then the proof simply isn't proof at all.

Anonymous said...

How will this rejection cause bad breath?

Anonymous said...

NM,

The one hole in your argument is that often, on the same story, I will get lengthy notes, a scrawled thanks with some intiials, and a bunch of generic forms (upper and lower tier). So, in this case the story hasn't changed, but the response has.

NM said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
NM said...

Not really, Anon. I never posited a universe where every editor thinks exactly the same thing about every story. But the fact is that form rejections generally mean, "Didn't finish reading this" and, after a period of improvement and work, one will almost never get a basic form letter even though one will surely still collect rejections. (Very few people can ever publish on a whim.)

I think I've gotten all of five form rejections in the last six years. In the first two years between submissions and my first publication (98-2000) I collected several dozen form rejections and only a couple pieces with notes.

If you're getting a mix of form and comments, sounds like you're improving. It also sounds like editors still do give feedback, contra the claims of your siblings in anonymity.

gimme said...

This is silly.

What an editor writes or doesn't write when rejecting you doesn't necessarily mean anything.

It could mean you stink. Or it could mean they didn't read it. Or it could mean you're a genius and the editor has lousy taste. If they love your story and accept it, it could STILL mean that you stink, and that the editor has lousy taste.:)

All that's going on when you submit is that you're offering a bit of work for publication and they are accepting or declining to publish it. That's it.

A work that is roundly rejected by everyone for years can end up winning a prize when it is finally published. A work that is roundly praised and widely published can still suck.

Nick yapping about how these form rejections without comments mean "you need to learn how to write better" is as idiotic as everyone else going through the same old "it means they don't even read it/they only publish MFA stuff" tirade.

I've said it before: if you're submitting you should be certain of the quality of your stuff. If you're submitting and looking to the editor for comments/suggestions/encouragement/pats on the back/advice on how to make your stuff better, you shouldn't be submitting.

And if you're making any assumptions whatsoever about what the editor is thinking/feeling when they send a form letter, you're completely wasting your energy. You'll never know and it doesn't matter anyway.

Native Ink said...

NM, it sounds to me like you're receiving more personal rejections these days because you've built up publication credits over the years. This is no mystery to most writers: the more publications you have, the more seriously an editor takes your submission. If you sent out one of your early, unpublished stories right now, provided it wasn't completely awful, I bet you would receive a fair number of personal rejections. You might even get it published.

This fact of life only reinforces the general sense that editors care more about credentials than quality. Or to paraphrase John Gardner: "An editor is the enemy of young writers because an editor is afraid of taking chances on work by an unknown. Later on, an editor may become a writer's best friend, but only begrudgingly at first. They have to be won over slowly by a writer's obvious talent." An impressive publishing history (or an MFA from a top program, or a connection with a famous writer) seems almost essential to winning an editor over. That's a serious frustration for young writers, even if they are very good writers.

Maybe one day we'll look on this and it will all seem funny...

Anonymous said...

"Form rejection letters generally mean that the story was poor enough that the editor did not finish reading it before rejecting it."

If the year is 1950, I agree completely.

If the genre is sci-fi, then I mostly agree.

If we're talking about an unknown zine or web site, then I more or less agree.

If we're talking about one of the handful of commercial magazines that buy "literary" type stories from professional writers for good professional rates, I say you are quite a bit wrong and that it entirely depends on the day.

If the genre is literary fiction and the market in question is an academic literary journal and the day is today, then I completely disagree and say you're wrong and this idea is completely ridiculous. Or are you suggesting that 100% of the writers who use duotrope all people who write poor stories?

I know plenty of editors who do not give a rat's ass about the slush. They mostly don't read it. No they do not. Sometimes students read it and are allowed to play "pick" but mostly these students are reading the submissions and learning from them. Subtropics comes to mind. They had a huge bin but even that farce was called off last year and they're not even bothering with the formalities anymore, taking a year off. (I expect a whole lot more to do this soon, by the way. The illusion is over. If you're not part of academia in a major and *paying* way, the literary journals will have permanently locked you Out.) Are you telling me that Dave Leavitt did not read all the way through any of the thousands of short stories he was sent? I believe it but can you honestly say it's because they were all poorly written? No way. You are wrong.

I know one "top" journal, mentioned on LROD before, where most if not all the stories are picked based on the editor's contacts. Favors. If you're in with him, can reciprocate for a student, then he'll pick you. Otherwise the submissions sit, for a year at a time, and are notoriously "lost". It's kind of an open secret and if you have no personal contact with this man you best not be bothered trying him. People know this. It's been talked about before.

A few more examples off the top of my head, with people that I have had personal dealings with. Cincinnati Review. Almost never a personal from the fiction editor there. He's a teacher too, and no he does not bother with submissions, it's not a place for "discourse" or "encouragement". Did you know that? And of course Antioch Review. He simply does not write personal notes. Never. Not even a "sorry". Are you even aware of that? Are you saying that the world's worst writers have a targeted vendetta against Antioch and send him pigeon crap while all good writers stay away? Sure, lots of crap in that slushpile, yes. But lots of good stories too. Lots of stuff from MFA graduates and even schoolteachers. Lots and lots of stuff. But never, never a personal note. Ninth Letter is much the same way. Have they ever commented once to anyone whose work they didn't accept? I've never heard of it. Do they even write letters in their personal lives?

This is not the world of geeky fantasy web sites and online zines that give you a few pennies a word. The academic publications (mostly unpaying) whose reputation qualifies them as an upper "tiered" journal mostly do not care about you, and they do not care about the slush and have no interest in commenting on stuff they're not taking. It's all for the CV and the connections and that's mostly how the stuff is picked. You're In or you're Out, and if you're a good writer on the outside of academia you're completely wasting your time.

Anonymous said...

"What percentage of the slush pile doesn't have MFAs/teaching positions?"

oh yes the world has morphed in 20 years so only schoolteachers write and submit poems. the rest of the world gave up on poetry.

what utter crap.

Anonymous said...

"I think I've gotten all of five form rejections in the last six years."

How many academic literary journals have you submitted to?

Have you sumbmitted to the Antioch Review?

Have you submitted to Poetry Magazine?

Have you submitted to Crazyhorse?

Have you submitted to Five Points?

I'd love to know what they think of your work. Maybe you can send their responses to WR.

nate said...

yes! i don't think you can *fit* a comment on the five points rejection slip. not that they'd do it anyway.

Anonymous said...

I'm calling this one a victory for gimme. The only sane and logical response posted to a very dull post. Enough with the NM-baiting zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz....boring.

NM said...

The narratives here sure are rigorous, much like talking to a schizophrenic who is sure that the government is spying on him...if there's no evidence for spying, well that just goes to show how good the government is at spying!

However, there are narratives and then there are facts.

It could mean you stink. Or it could mean they didn't read it. Or it could mean you're a genius and the editor has lousy taste.

It could mean that, gimme, but what is more likely? How likely is it that there are many many geniuses out there all of whom are receiving form letters? Is genius really a) incredibly common and b) doomed to go unrecognized despite being everywhere? You're engaging in handwaving, but there is no need to engage in such at all, as we have some facts to turn to.

For example, XLibris and iUniverse are self-publication outfits; they essentially publish the slushpile. Both sites also allow people to look at samples of the work on sale at the site.

So, get to clicking. Check out the category of your choice. You'll find very very few geniuses and very very many bad writers who turned to these services after (or instead of) collecting forms.

So, do the test, and collect some facts. Go to one of the slushpile analogs and find me a dozen or so geniuses.

This is no mystery to most writers: the more publications you have, the more seriously an editor takes your submission.

Really? Most writers know this? Oddly, I've found this claim to exist only in the brains of non-writers and bottom-feeders collecting "publications" from nth-tier websites. People with many many publications get rejected all the time and occasionally (rarely) still get forms. New writers, with or without MFAs, get published all the time. If previously published by that editor, there is a greater chance of a note, sure, but that's it. People bounce back and forth between acceptance, positive rejection, and form constantly.

Here's the clue: when you or gimme or whoever else says, "That never happens" and then someone else said, "It's happened to me", the "never happens" gang is wrong. This is pretty much an essential part of growing up: the limits of your imagination are not the limits of reality. Reality is bigger than you.

As far as the forms collected in recent years, they were from Tin House, Green Mountain Review, Polyphony (which had previously published my work twice under a slightly different regime) and ChiZine (which published me both before that form, and since, and which has also rejected other work with feedback. Again, the form came from a single newish editor...one who later bought a piece I co-wrote.) And also Playboy: story one got a note, story two got a form. So a mix of genre publications, literary, and slicks.

But you know, I'm just talking facts, not fancies. When dealing with people who'll fake up quotes from John Gardner (psst, if you're paraphrasing, don't put it in quotes) and then misinterpret their own self-serving paraphrase (psst no. 2, Gardner is talking about talent, not publication, and I doubt the context was little magazines as there is no real risk in the choice of publishing Story A over Story B), there's nothing to do but point, laugh, and continue selling stories.



I'll do that, and you guys can continue telling yourself stories that explicitly stand in the way of your own goals.

Annoyedamous said...

How the hell did this guy become referee? Who the hell cares what his decision is?

gimme said...

"Here's the clue: when you or gimme or whoever else says, "That never happens" and then someone else said, "It's happened to me", the "never happens" gang is wrong. "

Actually, Nick, if you look over this thread, YOU are the one claiming definitive knowledge on the subject of what a rejection is likely to indicate about the work. I'm simply pointing out that there no way to know why a given work was rejected, so there's no point worrying about it.

"It could mean that, gimme, but what is more likely? How likely is it that there are many many geniuses out there all of whom are receiving form letters?"

This is getting even sillier.

Obviously, percentage-wise, most stuff out there stinks. The odds are, if you are a wannabe writer, you're no good. However, there are, of course, plenty of geniuses who suffered years of rejection.

So... what do we make of this? When we receive rejections, do we just assume that it means we're not good enough? Or do we cling to the belief that we are unrecognized geniuses? Fascinating question, to be sure...

I would humbly submit that the question of your own merit will NOT be answered by what an overworked editor deigns to scrawl or not scrawl on your rejection slip.

Terribly radical notion, I know...

There's a lot of laughably disingenuous digression in your post, Nick (particularly the hilarious notion that credits don't matter to publishers and editors. Love that one!). Mainly, though, you don't seem to be actually READING what you're responding to, and you seem more concerned with being argumentative for the sake of it than actually engaging in *discussion*.

Annoyedamous said...

My annoyed comment was to the sleeping person (zzzzzzzzzzzz -- very original). Everybody has an opinion, but to come here only to pronounce your judgement -- and that's it -- now that's boring (ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ).
Here's a "It's happened to me" to mull over:
The exact same story that was rejected without comment by an editor of a prestigious university journal was, years later, accepted AFTER I had made friends with the head of the English Department.
How do I know it was the editor (and not an intern) that rejected it without comment/then accepted it with lavish praise? Because with the first submission the editor was having all stories sent to his home, and I was given his home address and told to send it there. (The second time the department head handed it to him.)
A clear case of Who-Do-You-Know. That's why aspiring writers cozy up to those who are in a position to help them.

NM said...


Actually, Nick, if you look over this thread, YOU are the one claiming definitive knowledge on the subject of what a rejection is likely to indicate about the work.


I know it is hard to follow a few conversations at once, gimme. The "doesn't exist" crowd is the one that says that editors don't make comments.

I'm simply pointing out that there no way to know why a given work was rejected

Then:


Obviously, percentage-wise, most stuff out there stinks. The odds are, if you are a wannabe writer, you're no good.


However, you should be able to follow your OWN conversation, gimme.

Clearly, we CAN know why most work is rejected: as you say, it is because the work is no good. There's no reason to pretend that rejections are a matter of quantum uncertainty -- the overwhelming majority of stories are rejected with a form because they rate nothing more, full stop.

Annoyedamous: Please post your name, the name of your story, the name of the editor, and the name of the journal in which it appeared so that we can check out your story.

After all, anyone can make any sort of claim at all about anything. No reason on Earth to believe a word you say about your supposed experiences.

gimme said...

"Clearly, we CAN know why most work is rejected: as you say, it is because the work is no good. There's no reason to pretend that rejections are a matter of quantum uncertainty -- the overwhelming majority of stories are rejected with a form because they rate nothing more, full stop."

You seem to be confused about what we're discussing here, Nick.

Here's a little logic 101 for ya:

We have a statistical likelihood in the form of a totally subjective statement: that most wannabe writers are no good (I'd add that most PUBLISHED writers suck too, but we'll leave it at the unpublished slobs for now).

Okay, so we also have a statistical FACT: most submissions are rejected.

Now, there's also some other mitigating information here: namely that:
1) Many journals have unpaid undergrad interns as "readers".
2) Many journals don't read all the submissions from the slush pile or even claim to.
3) "Good" or "Bad" is a matter of taste, and will vary from editor to editor.
4) Subpar stories are frequently published because they are written by "name" writers.
5) Subpar stories are frequently published for a variety of other reasons (politics, favors, etc.).

So... given all this information, what can we conclude about the reasons a given story might be rejected, handwritten note in the margin or not?

Logically, we must conclude that, although it is statistically likely that the story in question bites the big one, there is little basis for assuming that its lack of merit, is, in fact, the reason for the story's rejection. In fact, given the volume of submissions these days, I'd say it's statistically likely that a story's merit is only ONE of many possible factors in its success.

As it is in virtually every area of life. This ain't a meritocracy, folks. And that's neither good nor bad, in my opinion. It just is.

I don't think any of the above statements are particularly controversial, but I'm sure Nick will find some way to totally misunderstand what I'm saying and argue with it.:)

Anyway, I'm headed out of town, so I'll have to duck out of this enjoyable discussion for now.

BTW, I do agree with one thing Nick said. If you're gonna use your own personal experience as an argument, it's fair to ask you to drop the anonymity. I'll give Nick props for letting his ass completely hang out there in that regard.

NM said...

Gimme, if you're going to claim statistical analysis, how about some statistics? You haven't offered any; you've just refined your fairy tale.

Or heck, just answer these questions

Why are undergrad (or graduate level) "readers" unable to recognize quality fiction? Do you have any proof that "many" journals don't read all submissions -- and for that matter, that the submissions of misunderstood geniuses are more likely to be in the "don't read" pile thank stories by the hardworking anonymous comments here?

Subpar stories? Perhaps, but that should be a good thing for the ambitious writer! After all, your work only need slightly better than the worst piece of previously acquired fiction in order to get in. If subpar stories are being published, then good, it should be that much easier for bad writers who believe themselves deserving to be published. And those undergrad readers should be easier to bypass as well.

Or, you know, most stories get form rejections because most of them stink. As you already agree with.

Anonymous said...

This is Nick's response to my "It's Happened to Me" story (several comments above):
"Annoyedamous: Please post your name, the name of your story, the name of the editor, and the name of the journal in which it appeared so that we can check out your story.
After all, anyone can make any sort of claim at all about anything. No reason on Earth to believe a word you say about your supposed experiences."
See -- he's a brick wall. A black hole. If anything goes against his cherished beliefs, he refuses to accept it.
He thinks I'm lying. I'm not -- of course I'm not! Who-Do-You-Know is a dominant fact of literary life. Everybody knows that. In my story I tell how I benefitted from it.
Sorry, Nick, I choose to be anonymous. If you object to that, why do you come to a site where anonymity is allowed, where many take that option (and which is run by an anonymous individual)? Don't accuse us (as you've done in past comments, repeatedly) of being "cowards."
Though you've certainly cut back on your abusiveness. Good for you!

Native Ink said...

It's really surprising to me that Nick would post such blustery, arrogant crap under his real name. The Internet, from practically Day One, has been a place where it's hard to get your ideas across unless you engage in the lowest sort of discourse, but most people separate their Internet selves from their real personas. Nick is letting it all hang out, and in a way, that's admirable. Unfortunately, it also makes him appear remarkably foolish.

I just hope these pointless posts don't bite you in the ass one day, Nick.

Anonymous said...

"People with many many publications ... occasionally (rarely) still get forms."

This is outrageous. Plenty of real writers have been interviewed/quoted on here and talk about getting forms very, very often. NOT "rarely". Outrageous.


"So, do the test, and collect some facts."

You've been ignoring some good hard questions on this thread.

Get the data from duotrope, search for the pubs mentioned above and elsewhere on this site, the top-tier, "academic" publications we have been criticizing. Look down at the types of responses and the percent of acceptances. Bearing in mind that a lot of people still count a programmed cut-and-paste of the submission name / title as a "personal" response and not form, you will have to admit that the stats for these places like antioch review, subtropics, american poetry review and so on are pretty grim.

Anonymous said...

As for "outing" the editor who rejected/accepted my story -- I don't think that's fair to him. I don't want to do harm to the man. OK, so he didn't read my submission the first time. Big deal. It's how things are. I know that.
Anyway, whistle-blowers often remain anonymous. They fear retaliation. The literary world can be quite vindictive. I think w/r is well aware of this.

NM said...


See -- he's a brick wall. A black hole. If anything goes against his cherished beliefs, he refuses to accept it.


What "anything"? An unsourced unattributed story about unnamed editors and journals? Definitive!

I give as abusive as I get. People on this thread have been no smarter, but a bit less shriek-happy.

It's really surprising to me that Nick would post such blustery, arrogant crap under his real name.

In the land of the cowards, the reasonable human being is king.

Native Ink said...

Nick wrote, "In the land of the cowards, the reasonable human being is king."

Actually, reasonable human beings would be turned off by your posts. If you came across as merely cantakerous or hardheaded, then no big deal, but you instead sound arrogant and disingenuous.

W,R could reveal his or her real identity, and in my opinion, suffer no harm. W,R uses humor to make his/her points and never stoops to personal attacks. Nick, you really should have stayed the most anonymous of the anonymous posters here.

It may be that there are other people out there cheering you on (as you implied in one of your first posts), but you're like the stupid kid in the gang who actually acts out the arrogant, bullying fantasies of his friends. Of course the stupid kid pays the price while his friends hang back in the shadows and laugh... at him.

NM said...

As for "outing" the editor who rejected/accepted my story -- I don't think that's fair to him. I don't want to do harm to the man. OK, so he didn't read my submission the first time. Big deal. It's how things are. I know that.

How interesting that your story has already changed. It's gone from "rejected without comment" to "didn't read"—even if everything you said about your experience is true, you still make a bunch of wild assumptions and shift the details to suit your own ego. How do you know it wasn't read the first time? Because it is impossible for someone not to be moved by your story? (I hope that story is better than the one you're trying to tell me now!)

Anyway, here's a hint: it is hardly impossible for an editor to invite readers over to his home to go through a big pile of slush. Indeed, it isn't even uncommon to get a bunch of pizzas and beverages and make a party of it. Much like painting a living room, tedious chores are easier when done by happy groups. Sorry Columbo, but "The story was in his house!" doesn't prove anything except that thinking is hard for you. That is, assuming that ANY of this happened.

This is why for your claims to be believed, you have to name names, so we can double-check. "Did you read all the slush in your house, Mister Editor? Did you reject story X because it was awful, or because the issue you were reading for already had a story about a boy who drowned in a lake? What issues are these, so we can compare the stories?"

Anyway, whistle-blowers often remain anonymous.

Wowie, IQs sure have dropped sharply over the course of the week. Even when whistle-blowers are anonymous (and they are rarely anonymous to investigators when they detail their own personal experiences) the targets of the whistle-blowing are NEVER kept anonymous. It's not whistle-blowing at all if one just waves their arms and says, "Something bad happened in this industry?" "Yeah, where?" "Never you mind where!"

What a pathetic joke, and all to scaffold a silly lie.

No more lying; anyone with a name actually have anything of substance -- not "everyone knows" or "how dare you use your name" -- to say?

Lauren said...

As usual, the conversation degenerates here. I don't know what it is about this particular blog that encourages such vehemence and nastiness...I guess talking about rejection makes people incensed and so they get personal.

NM is right. Most of the writing submitted to journals is not so good. Of course, we don't want to believe this is true about our own work. It is easier (and can be useful) to imagine that editors and agents are idiots who simply can't recognize our genius. I've told myself this story a lot of times, and it's helped me to keep going against what sometimes feels like impossible odds.

But I can say that, at least for my poetry, I started getting more rejections with comments when the poems improved. I thought they were really brilliant to begin with, but frankly I was a bit deluded. Only after an insane amount of revising did I begin getting slips with "Try again" on them.

But although I agree with NM that most of the stuff out there is not that great, I have to say that it DOES help to know people. Not because knowing people gets you published. Believe me, it doesn't. But knowing people CAN help you get read. This is why people always encourage writers to attend conferences and meet other writers.

But I would like to point out that the same is true in ANY profession. To get an interview for any job, it is helpful to know people, to network, etc. Career counselors will tell you this. The writing profession is no different.

But just because personal connections can help get you read does not mean that the whole system is corrupt. It's simply not true. People want to discover talented new unknown writers, but there just aren't that many at one time. But no one at a literary magazine can afford to publish sub-par work just because they know someone.

Anonymous said...

NM says, "I give as abusive as I get."
But I believe the first comment you ever made (under NM) was on the Mass Rejection post. So, since it was your first appearance, no one could have abused you. But here are your words:
"Keep making excuses for your own failures, anonycowards. It's easier than writing something anyone might want to publish."
(In the next paragrahs you accuse me of being a racist.)
So: weren't you abusive right off the bat?
In trying to figure out how the same story could go from rejected without comment to accepted with lavish praise, I made the assumption that the editor hadn't read it (if he had read it the first time, and it was so good -- as he wrote me that it was -- what other reason could there be for rejecting it?).
Maybe, as you suggest, he had a party, with pizza and beer, and some interns performed the "tedious" chore of going through the slush pile.
Anyway, you write that what I've stated as happening is "a silly lie."
So, folks, I'm a racist and a liar. Nick Mamatas says so, so it must be true.
Hail Nick! The bearer of all truths! The MFA faction has finally found a spokesman to carry their banner.
Hail Nick!

Anonymous said...

Someone I know through a writer's group just got a story in at GUD--I had never heard of it. Where does this fall--which tier would lrod readers consider it?? Is this a respectable place to submit?

Anonymous said...

GUD pays. Don't remember for sure but I think their rates are a step above token, 2 steps under pro. To me that's much better than the 20,000 zines and academic journals that pay 0.

However you also have to take a few other things into account. Look at the thing. If it looks weird, amateur, sloppy, or kind of like a college kid's collagework from 1992, you have to stop and wonder if you want to be associated with it. Also of course look at who else is in there. Are you, as a writer, ok with being part of it?

Those are questions you have to ask about any pub. I've been in nonpaying pubs before and I did it for the "prestige" of the particular journal, which in turn helped me get noticed by other editors. I do avoid the academic cartels and cliques as much as I can. Pro markets for literary stories are scarce though, so pickings are slim.

Anonymous said...

"Nick, you really should have stayed the most anonymous of the anonymous posters here."

too late. ever read his online journal? he links to lrod a lot now. hes had it in for this place for some time. he *hates* this place and wants it gone. oh and in his journal he makes fun of a lot of the people here. lotta double standards in some of his off-color remarks. be sure to read his discriminatory ageist remarks about john bruce.

Anonymous said...

"But I would like to point out that the same is true in ANY profession."

absolutely. difference is these academic liars try to make it out that they are open in "fairness" to all, when that's a lie. a total lie. of course they prefer their own kind. imagine if they didn't? imagine if their journals featured even a 50-50 ratio of teachers and non-academics? then the young kids who like writing would have much less desire to get mom & dad to ante up for grad school. no one would bother with grad school for writing short stories, grad school for poetry. no. then academia would suffer financially. so it's just business. just like the mob, it isn't personal, it's business. they're trying to keep their stranglehold and as part of that those people who are outsiders & who write stuff unpopular with academia's party line are totally excluded.

ted said...

Anon, you just said this: "NM says, 'I give as abusive as I get.'"

Quite a philosophy, isn't it? A true creed to live by. Is this how all writing teachers think?

And pizza parties with beer to reject your stories. Who is making up fantasies now?

Anonymous said...

I love that image -- interns and the editor having pizza and beer while going through the slush pile.
Does this happen, editors?
And NM has an online journal where he really lets his hair down? Ye gads.
If I gave the name of the story, editor and journal, as NM insists, I'd be doing the two things I said I did NOT want to do. Which is, bring any grief to the editor (he's an OK guy) and reveal my identity.
Duh.

NM said...

So, since it was your first appearance, no one could have abused you.

Well, except for the constant denunciations of people with MFAs and editors, two groups which include me.

You got what you gave. You all insulted huge groups of people, I did the same with another group: the anonymous cowards who populate this the comments section of this blog.

I'd be very interested in seeing the "ageist discrimination" against John Bruce I supposedly engaged in in my own blog. Let's see a link to either the post or the comment. Or, you know, a heartfelt apology for yet another lie. (I don't even know how I COULD discriminate against John Bruce since I have no power over him.)

As far as the increasingly ridiculous story of the magic editor who gets submissions to his house and only publishes people he knows, but who is still a nice guy (gee, I thought it was all a conspiracy to funnel kids into grad school!), there's no reason to believe a word of the story without any evidence, is there? So, I don't.

A couple of asides:

1. GUD is an okay magazine. I've seen a couple issues here and there.

2. I laughed out loud when "tedious" was put in scare quotes. I recommend to any anonywannabe who has the chance to do so volunteer to read some slush and then report back their findings.

woggy wooggie wiggly wag said...

i heard this story before (here on lrod maybe?) and the journal was tin house. the way this anon goes on and on about it, i'm pretty sure this is the same 'tin house editor doesn't really read from the slush' story i heard before.

Anonymous said...

This is my exit from any discussion involving NM.
There are a lot of different people who comment as anonymous and have the same views, the same stories.
I'm not the Tin House guy/gal. My experience was with another journal.

NM said...

This is my exit from any discussion involving NM.

I'll take this as an admission that your story was false. (And, if you're the same anon who claimed I was making ageist remarks about John Bruce, that this claim too is false.)

Really, people is it too hard to type in a pseudonym? I realize that everyone using "Anonymous" allows for even a single commenter to pretend to be any number of people, but really...how about a shred of human dignity?

Speaking of pseuds, hey "ted", here's some fantasy for you! From salon.com, 2002:

Some publishers consider reading slush a waste of resources and no longer accept it; some bribe their assistants to read it by throwing slush-and-pizza parties (presumably figuring that nothing makes cheesy fiction go down easier than a little cheese and pepperoni). My publisher welcomed all slush and handed me the reins.

The difference between that link and the false stories being floated around here: verifiability. and another source. A third. (this one naming Bantam specifically) And a fourth (this one from a former St. Martin's editor).

Or to put it more bluntly "ted", I am right and your are wrong. Get used to this happening a lot.

ho hum said...

Form rejections don't always mean that the writing is bad.

They could also mean that the editor or slush reader was simply not interested in your story.

I had NUMEROUS form rejections for 3 stories I wrote last year from several top-tier journals and magazines.

The same stories (with no change) got me several national and provincial writing grants at the beginning of this year. 2 of them also got published - one in a paying publication.

Sometimes it's a matter of taste.

NM said...

I write:

Perhaps if the recipient wrote better, there would have been some actual feedback written in the margins of the slip.

Anonywannabes hear "A FORM REJECTION MEANS THAT YOUR STORY HAS BEEN FED INTO THE DISCERNOTRON 9000 AND HAS BEEN FOUND OBJECTIVELY WANTING, BECAUSE CREATIVE WRITING IS JUST LIKE TAKING A MULTIPLE CHOICE EXAM." (Sorry CAPS MAN, for the gimmick infringement.)

And that's not even counting the possibility that top-tier journals may be more competitive than writing grants (from, I presume, Canada) and nth-tier journals.

suomynonA said...

Anonywallabies hear "KOOKABURRA SITS BY THE OLD GUM TREE, MERRY MERRY KING OF THE BUSH IS HE!" And that's not even counting the possibility that wallabies (presumably from Australia) submit to competitive top-tier journal fiction contests and win on occasion.

this is some actual feedback written on the margins of a rejection slip

(Sorry NM for the gimmick infringement)

Native Ink said...

NM, I actually looked at your website. (God, I was really, really bored for a second). From your comments here I thought you'd been getting acceptances and/or long, detailed rejection slips from the likes of The Paris Review or Quarterly West. No kidding you get personal responses from the magazines you apparently target. I get a high percentage of personal rejections (or acceptances) from magazines of that size. I even occasionally get personal rejections from top-tier journals.

So Nick, try submitting your stories to the top literary magazines and then tell us what losers we all are.

ho hum said...

LOL.

NM, using All Caps will not prove your point any better.

And I honestly don't have any idea what you intend to explain with that comparison to multiple choice exams.

You ask: Is it possible that top tier lit journals have more competition than a national grant program?

I say: Yes, it's possible.

YET, Is it also possible that national grant programs promote "BAD" form rejection writing? Especially when they can give the same money to established authors with a proven track record?

I say: Not likely.

You have proved your own ignorance with those imbecile comments of yours.

NM said...


So Nick, try submitting your stories to the top literary magazines and then tell us what losers we all are.


The magazines that have published my fiction include venues with six-digit circulations and payrates of $1000.

Do not confuse your rinky-dink internal bulletins with "top" magazines.


I say: Not likely.


Actually, in a small country with not much competition, it is extremely likely.

ho hum said...

Not when there are thousands of dollars involved, my friend. Even a so-called "small" country can choose to hold back funds and use them for other purposes.