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Tuesday, July 31, 2007
"We wouldn't treat writers like monkeys if you didn't act like monkeys. No means no. A rejection doesn't mean "try again later" or "revise and resubmit" or "we're just not a good fit", it means you're not good enough. When you get a rejection, suck it up and try someone else, keep trying until you find someone with low enough standards to take you on, but for the love of god don't keep pestering someone who's already had to wade through your dreck once...that's just cruel."
Yowzer. Touched a nerve. Plus, here's a question. If we suck so bad, why write a letter that implies something else and then expect us to get your secret "you suck" code? I think a simple, You are not good enough for us, but good luck would be refeshing and at the very least honest.
What do writers think? Would you rather be treated like a monkey or be told the truth?
Monday, July 30, 2007
Sunday, July 29, 2007
This diabolical scheme allowed that if the rejected writers ever tried to make contact by writing a letter, or sending another manuscript, the whole agency would know because the writer's letter would be addressed to Norma Desmond or Holly Golightly, or who knows, even Marge Gunderson.
And you thought they didn't treat us like monkeys.
Saturday, July 28, 2007
Friday, July 27, 2007
"....I got mad this week, and I knew exactly where to come to vent. I am posting this for you, WR, both because I think you need to hear it and because I trust that you will repost it so that everyone can partake in some intelligent discussion based on what I say.
Do you want to know why I got mad this week? Because the submission piles on my desk have become so completely out of control that I am being buried alive. I'm not sure if you understand exactly how much editors and agents actually have to read on a day to day basis. You know how much I took home to read this weekend? Almost 900 pages. And my desk looks like a small bomb went off. Last weekend, a large part of the English-speaking world (and probably other countries too) locked themselves away to read 700-something pages of Harry Potter. I lock myself away MOST weekends to read the same amount (or more) of material. Some of it is good, most of it is sheer CRAP!I barely read real books anymore. I don't have time. Most of my free time is spent reading submissions, or the books that is publishing. When I do make time to read an already-published book, I am usually reading a comparison title for a book I am editing or hope to edit. I pray for the moments when I have time to read something that has nothing to do with work.And yet, I love my job. I really do. And I do what I do because I wouldn't have it any other way. But before you post your next rejection letter, I want you to think long and hard about the other side of things. Rejections aren't personal. They are business. They don't always mean you're not good enough (although sometimes they do) and if you always take your rejections that way, it is going to turn you into a very bitter writer (if it hasn't already).
The next time you post a rejection letter, remember what we editors and agents go through. Because it's not always pleasant for us either, and we're sorry we can't always send the most perfect rejection letter, but we have neither the time nor the energy to stroke everyone's ego equally. I've begun a process where I am going to go through everything on my desk and if it is good or has merit in some way, put it aside for more reading but if it is not good or won't work for us, I am rejecting very quickly. No more pleasant letters, no more worrying about encouraging things to say to the authors. Because apparently you and your ilk don't appreciate them anyway and I am inundated.
You make me angry, WR. Not because I don't understand what you are trying to do, but because I don't agree with it. You have a severely limited view of what goes on in the publishing industry and you are taking your bitterness and anger out on the people who are actually nice enough to get back to you in some way. You're lucky -- some days I just want to take half of my pile and throw it in the garbage. But I wouldn't do that. I'd rather send a quickly written rejection letter with some reasons why it didn't work for me than leave the person hanging for a response that will never come.
Be glad you receive rejection letters -- it's the sign that you are a true writer in this businessand the feedback you are receiving is like free advice from the professionals at the heart of the industry. Now if you'll excuse me, I am going to start reading a pile that feels like the Bible and Merriam-Webster combined. But I'll be eagerly checking back to see when and if a heated discussion begins."
Yowzer. Where to start? Have at it, bloggers.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Jo Ann Beard
I'd love to know how the whole contest judging thing works. Like, how many stories do they receive to make their selection? Do they ever regret their decisions? Do they ever recognize stories they've read in other contests? Do they ever stumble across the published books of writers whom they had decided weren't good enough?
Maybe someone will comment and fill us in.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
The rejection in the poem says the editors are looking for poetry that: "Aim[s] towards capturing a certain essence that paints a picture of divine beauty that cannot be reached within any other art form; something to immerse the reader into a welcomed world of arresting images that jerk the eyes onto the page and leaves the reels of the mind turning long after the poem is finished." Um, come again?
Bloggers: What do you have to say on the topic? Are fiction contests just a rip off, or a way to finance alternative literary voices?
Monday, July 23, 2007
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Saturday, July 21, 2007
"In 1958, O'Connor traveled to Europe to be blessed by Pius Xll," Rosemary says when we are midflight over the Atlantic. "She had lupus, but her family never told her. Isn't that sad?"
I consider all that is unfair in this crazy world, including secrets and families and all forms of rejection. "Everything that rises...." I sigh.
Rosemary smiles wistfully and looks out the window.
"Amen to convergence, Doodles," she says. "Amen indeed."
Friday, July 20, 2007
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Male suit: So, you're a literary agent? That's so cool. How's it going?
Lady suit: I just sold my first book! And the movie rights were optioned the same day!
Male suit: Totally exciting. What's the book about?
Lady suit: Oh, I don't know. I haven't actually read it.
Male suit: That's cool. I didn't really read much until I started college.
Overheard by: Max Perkins Is Rolling in His Grave
via Overheard in New York, Jul 19, 2007
"A prominent agent at William Morris once tried to seduce me away from my agency at a book party and afterwards with several charming follow-up phone calls. When I sent her my new manuscript, I was greeted with radio silence...for months. I finally called her assistant, who said she'd try to figure out what was going on. Several weeks later, I got a phone call back from the assistant saying that the agent (whose name, BTW, begins with an S) was renovating her kitchen and so couldn't read my work. I received my packaged-up, apparently untouched, manuscript the next day by messenger."
Have an outrageous rejection story? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can't believe how good getting it off your chest will make you feel.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
First Place goes to:
J. Brisbin said...
Dear Writer:This is going to hurt me a lot more than it's going to hurt you. I realize you worked really hard on this and probably poured your soul out into it, but the accountants say your book won't sell. Accountants actually run things in this day-and-age, and let me tell you, after that whole Enron thing, they're all a little edgy. You do NOT want to piss off an accountant these days. In order to let you down easy (and to avoid possibly getting hate mail every week for the next year and a half), I'll close by telling you that another agent might jump at the chance to represent you, yadda, yadda. It's completely untrue, of course, but you creative types are so emotionally unstable that I can't risk a lawsuit by telling you what I really think and having you run out and rob a bank with tree limbs duct-taped to your body like that guy did not too long ago and then blame it all on me telling you the God's-honest truth about the steaming pile of hooey you so carefully packaged and sent to us. Have a great day! Hope you make manager at McDonald's soon!
Second Place goes to:
The Quoibler said...
Dear Writer: My hands tremble as I write this missive by candlelight. Outside, the snow falls silently, interrupted only by the gunshots snuffing out the lives of my colleagues. The guards pace... one, two... their boots crunch. Do they know what I'm telling you? Will I be next? I shouldn't be writing. It's not allowed. Not like this. But your manuscript--I weep as I frantically scribble--was just too perfect. I read it twice before they took it from me like a babe removed from the bosom of its mother. I ran after the beasts, spitting at their ignorance as they dropped the package into the flames, laughing. The butt of a rifle met my belly and then all when dark. When I awoke, I was here in my cell, beaten but not defeated. I found this scrap of paper. I am weak from hunger and thirst as I scrawl in my own blood; still, it's important I make contact with you:Your work was outstanding. Really and truly. But I am not allowed to work with you for reasons you must never try to discover. Yes, Writer. You are among the best. I wish you great success and... dear God... are they back?... I hear the thud... the keys jangling... avenge me! The Editor
Third Place goes to:
Dear Writer: It's not you. It's me. Sincerely, Gloria Loomis
*****And honorable mention for getting the joke to Editor, Advising who said: "Wow. If I thought you were serious with those template ideas, I would have a lot to say about them."
Monday, July 16, 2007
"Doodles?" she says. "Is that you?"
It is four in the morning, so I'm not sure.
"Mmmummsssa," I manage. "Bleeedoo."
"Listen, never mind," she says."I whipped up a great excerpt for The New Yorker. Maloney and Asher want to print it."
Sunday, July 15, 2007
"As a literary agent, I can only speak from personal experience here and I know that there are as many opinions on this as there are grains of sand. But to put my (admittedly subjective)thoughts out there: first off, I think this blog is A GOOD THING. Frankly, it doesn't matter whether the aim is to vent or change the industry or simply to get published. It's interesting enough, debate is always healthy and I'm pretty certain that the legions of the rejected will draw comfort in a There-Despite-The-Grace-of-God-Also-Go-I manner rather than hurl themselves off a cliff. However.... Last week my office received 273 unsolicited submissions by post, roughly 90% of which were fiction. We have an employee whose job it is to do a first trawl through that pile (which this week fills three large mail sacks). Often enough, he will arrange for those sacks to be delivered to his apartment where he works on them further over the week-end. He has no other job. At the end of each week, he will send us a list of recommendations for titles to be looked at further, which generally consist of between 5 and 10 books in every 200-500 submisssions. The hard reality is, however, that none of our seven staff, myself included, has time to read during work hours - as we are busy sending out submissions, drafting and checking contracts, sorting out publicity tours, meeting foreign publishers or film people et al - which means that we then have to evaluate the best of the unsolicited material at week-ends and in the evenings, and to balance doing so against the demands of our partners, children and friends. That said, I am a firm believer in the fact that the cream always rises, and that great - or even just good - work stands out. But like everyone else in this business I also know that I regularly turn down work which goes on to sell, and sometimes to sell for huge amounts of money. That's fine (although it may occasionally rankle) as we all know that this business is about mapping one's own personal taste onto the wider background of a market which is itself always in a constant state of flux. This is a gambler's business, after all, and all we can do is to set our hares running. That said, about 2 to 3 times a year we will take something on that comes to us unsolicited - unannounced, knocking randomly on the door - and some of our best clients have come to us that way. Two such authors have won the leading national literary fiction prizes of their publication years; and another has become a big household name in the commercial fiction arena. So it happens, believe me. And I know that I have turned down people who have done just as well with other agents and publishers and, in the main, have no problem with that. But the flip-side is that in a few weeks' time we shall probably have to send all 273 of the writers who kindly sent material in last week a rejection letter. We will probably send each of those 273 writers a polite rejection letter which is carefully written so as not to invite its recipient to enter into a dialogue with us. We are not, and cannot purport to be, a writing school and thus to engage in that sort of editorial debate would be to the detriment of our existing clients. A handful of unsolicited writers will, however, receive an individual letter which will offer some advice, encouragement or suggestions. And very, very rarely, as this week-end, I will sit down as I did on Friday night with a typescript of a novel fulsomely recommended by our reader and finish it, as I just have, and know that I am looking at pure gold. This was novel which brought me alive, which spoke to me on some deep, deep level, and so well-written and all-round good that I now find myself utterly frustrated in a nail-biting sort of way to discover that its author is away and cannot be contacted for a week. But that feeling of discovery, and unalloyed joy, is why we are all in this business - lightning can strike us all."
I hope she gets to represent the vacationing author, and I hope lightning doesn't strike her (or us), because she sounds pretty great. Anyway, mice, what do you say now?
Saturday, July 14, 2007
Thursday, July 12, 2007
- "Dear Writer, Rejected: You seem cool, but you need to rewrite. I don't know why or how, but if you sit in a quiet place for about a week, or on top of a mountain briefly, it will come to you. I'm pretty sure. Yours, Rejecting Agent"
- "Come on, Writer: I know you can do better than this. How about a little spell checking and grammar consistency? Perhaps some more interesting details (alternate options: emotional heat, drama, plot, narrative continuity, depth, sex-appeal, spunk, etc.)? Writing isn't the same as being a parking lot attendant. You've got to sweat; you've got to dig deep into your emotional center and feel the pain of what you are trying to say; you've got to demonstrate some originality and truth. It's got to hurt, baby. Until then, no can do. --Agent of Truth"
- "Yo Writer: You came sooo close, but my job sucks and the market is horrendeous. Did you know that 80% of Americans didn't even purchase one single lousy book last year? So what am I supposed to do? Risk it all on you, even though your short stories are going to sink the entire publishing company, for which I work. I mean, if block-buster short-story writer Alice Munro has trouble moving more than 50,000 books out of the Barnes & Noble, what the hell can we expect from you? (I know, know, she's Canadian, but still.) This isn't a dream world. This is a business. If you still feel like writing after this dressing down, you probably are the real thing, but that doesn't mean I (or anybody else) is going to publish you. So, keep your day job. And buck up. Maybe someone will discover your work when you're dead. Sorry to disappoint. I'm as depressed as you are about it, but I gotta' go get a latte and some gum. Sincerely, Agent 007"
- "Maestro: If only I could publish you, but I just can't. It's too complicated to explain, but the situation involves my ridiculous bosses and my own lack of acquisitioning power. The corporate structure is killing me. Do you have any idea who owns us now? This huge corporate conglomeration is no joke. So, why don't you try a small, independent press or LuLu? In fact, tell them I sent you. Tell them I'm a fan--of theirs and yours. Maybe it will help because you really deserve to be in libraries until the end of days. And instead of just saying "no" to a book I think is flawless (or at least pretty damn good), I'm going to go out of my way and try to help you get published, pretty much without lifting a finger. Just go ahead and use my name liberally all over town. See if that and two bucks will get you on the subway. Warmly, Not-so-Evil Editor"
Okay, writers, your turn. This is a call for submission. The Quoibler wants to make an anthology, but we'll settle for some blogging fun.
Post your ideal rejection template here.
(BTW, come up with a name other than anonymous, mice, so we can identify and publish the best top three by "name".)
Based on the information, I am adding the following to my negoogligence list:
- Anne Edelstein
- Elaine Markson
- McIntosh & Otis (in particular, Elizabeth Winick)
- Kelly Harms at Jane Rotrosen
- Harold Schmidt
- Alex Glass at Trident
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
"Pass the cheese doodles," she says.
I can't hear her over Bruce Springstein blasting on the radio. Also, I am asleep.
"Doodles!" she demands. "Wake up, writer!"
But I am busy dreaming about books.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Monday, July 9, 2007
More grumbling from the anonymice on this blog. One anonymous writes: "I've read numerous comments on this blog. I've read lots of very good arguments for Writer, Rejected to black out the names of the editors, and not a single argument, good, bad, or indifferent, for leaving the names. So, WR, allow me to pose a question: why do you leave them unblacked?"
Did you ever go to one of those sites where anonymous students rate their teachers who are listed by name, subject, and school? Little squirts giving the teacher a grade and leaving a pithy evaluatory comment, so other students can use the information if they deem it valuable?
An example of a powerless underclass banding together, speaking up, and being heard? Or an exercise in futility? Who knows. But that's the idea, mice. Don't worry so much.
- "I only troubled myself so far as to open one of the notebooks of your manuscripts; I opened it at random, and, as luck would have it, my attention soon plunged into the cup of camomile tea on page 62--then tripped, at page 64, on the phrase...'visible vertebra of a forehead.'"
- "I may be dead from the neck up, but I can't see why a chap should need thirty pages to describe how he turns over in bed before going to sleep."
Sunday, July 8, 2007
Saturday, July 7, 2007
"Pass me the sunscreen," she says.
"Publish me," I answer.
Friday, July 6, 2007
Thursday, July 5, 2007
Here's an anonymous comment I received today: "As an editor in the industry, I feel compelled to comment. I hope you realize that, while you may not agree with some of the rejections you receive, and some of them probably are utter shit, that a lot of the time when someone is saying something vague or giving you extensive compliments and still rejecting, that it is because they are just not interested. Maybe they think, with a little attention from an editor, your work would sell -- but they might not be interested enough to be married to the project. They are also working with stacks upon stacks of submissions that continue to roll in, day after day. Enough so that they HAVE to have help from assistants and interns, who may not write the most descriptive decline but who are at least getting an answer to you. I certainly hope you haven't blacklisted yourself with this blog. It's a tricky industry and while you may see this as a place to air your frustrations about being rejected, it is also incredibly unprofessional to be posting the things you do. Especially since you do not black out the names of the people you are corresponding with." I thought we were just having some good clean fun. What do you think?
- James Joyce, Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man: "It is not possible to get hold of an intelligent audience in wartime." And: "...a good work but it won't pay."
- John Knowles, A Separate Peace: "...embarrassingly overwrought...strikes me as much overdone, and even pretentious...I feel rather hopeless about this having a future."
- Herman Melville, Moby Dick: "It is very long, rather old-fashioned, and in our opinion not deserving."
- Pearl Buck, The Good Earth: "Regret the American public is not interested in anything on China."
- Emily Dickinson, Untitled (Poetry Manuscript): "The rhymes are all wrong."
Wednesday, July 4, 2007
"You're kidding me here...right? Seeeeriously, Jan, (you're Jan Brady, right?) if Jane Dystel turned you down, it was because she didn't think your "epic, moving, diatribe," was right for her. It's not personal - but you sure are petty. Get. Over. It. Move on! Stop sniffling over Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!I know Jane personally, she has impeccable taste and she's been in the biz looooooong before YOU came along. But you're right...."whine, whine, whine...wha..wha..wha..poor me got a rejection!" My god, GROW UP! If you got an agent and you got a book deal - then go write something productive, cuz this is just a waste of time for my eyes to read."
Dude, you read the post wrong; Jane Dystel never rejected me personally. Still, I take you at your word; I'm sure she is a lovely lady, as are most of the editors and agents who turn us down on a regular basis. This isn't a moral judgment; it's just a little steam we're letting off about a tanking system that has become absurd. Anyway, I absolutely adore your extended 70's-sitcom metaphor. It's pure genius! Do you write novels?
Tuesday, July 3, 2007
Monday, July 2, 2007
I guess I'll wait until after the holiday to write again, or try another avenue. I really want to get the banner ad thing straightened out for reasons I have detailed elsewhere on this blog. What if I were really being abused, would Google simply decide not to write back? That seems like negoogligence.
It reminds me of the following agents, who just didn't bother ever to respond:
- Elyse Cheney
- Gail Hochman
Please feel free to add to the list if you've experienced agent negoogligence yourself.
Sunday, July 1, 2007
- Betsy Lerner gets a copy of my query and accidentally sends a note to me that she meant to send to her colleague. "Erin: Do you have any interest in this writer? B"
- I write her back and say: Oops..I think you meant to send this to Erin.
- Betsy Lerner writes back to me and says: "Indeed! Oops. And I'm sorry. I'm very tired and your energy struck me as something that my colleague Erin might like--So with your permission and now knowledge--I'll forward it to her...Betsy"
Update: I have recently had a much worse email accident, handled gracefully by the unintended recipient of my message, an editor of journal publishing an essay of mine. We are all susceptible...I think BL handled it nicely.