Search This Blog

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2009 Dreaming: Wouldn't It Be Great?

So Writer's Digest has a contest for the best 101 blogs for writers, and I was thinking maybe you all could help get LROD nominated under the "Just for Fun" category, or if we are feeling really cheeky about ourselves, the "Writing Communities" category.  If you're into this idea, you can send an email to with the subject line "101 Best Websites." (The deadline is Jan 1, 2009).  Your email can simply say: "," or you can write a little note about why you love LORD and think it should be nominated.  Or why you hate LROD and why it shouldn't be nominated, if you are that way inclined.  Feel free to be honest.  You know that's what we're all about.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Angel At The Fence--Too Good To Be True

Oh, Herman, Herman, Herman.  How could you think people wouldn't get miffed at this?  Did you think they wouldn't know? "I wanted to bring happiness to people," said Herman Rosenblat, the 79-year-old author of Angel At The Fence, according to the Huffington Post.  "I brought hope to a lot of people.  My motivation was to make good in this world." And yet, when you write a Holocaust memoir about a love story on opposites sides of the barbed-wire fence, and it's based on a lie, it's just never going to turn out well. Berkeley cancelled the book, which was due out on February 3rd, presumably in time for Valentine's Day.  However, the $25 million film adaptation will reportedly move forward.
Oh, Oprah, Oprah, Oprah. Why are we so confused about fact versus fiction? Maybe this will herald a return to the novel.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Sometimes The World Catches Up

Scott Simon's satirical second novel about political corruption in Chicago is called Windy City (Random House, 2008).  The Daily Beast offers an excerpt here (story via Galley Cat).  I guess it's no surprise that after Governor Rod Blagojevich allegedly tried to peddle Obama's senate seat, the book got hot. Good for Simon.  Sometimes the universe cooperates and gives number two a boost, though couldn't the universe have picked someone more obscure to boost?  Oh well, such is life.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Sad Devaluing of Editors in the Book Industry

This is disturbing.  It's an article from an interesting blog called Holt Uncensored. Here's an excerpt:  "As I recall, the ganging up against editors started in the 1970s, when Michael Korda of Simon & Schuster said that editorial workers should acquire marketing savvy so they’d get out of their ivory towers and stop mumbling about literary values at sales conference. Until then there was at least an attempt to separate Editorial from Sales & Marketing so that acquisition decisions wouldn’t be tainted by commercial concerns. The editors acquired the books independently; they told the marketing people what to sell. Sales and Marketing got to decide how to sell them, but there was no backing-and-forthing, no suggestions made to editors, no intrusion into the editorial process."

Friday, December 26, 2008

What are you doing next year?

Have any after-Christmas plans yet?  How about this little ditty from Amazon, courtesy of the Bookaholic?
Announcing the 2009 Breakthrough Novel Award
The Breakthrough Novel Award brings together talented writers, reviewers and publishing experts to find and develop new voices in fiction. If you're an author with an unpublished novel waiting to be discovered, visit CreateSpace to learn more about the next Breakthrough Novel Award and sign up for regular updates on the contest. Open submissions for manuscripts begin in February 2009.  The grand prize is publication and $25K.

You can read the rules here.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

And To All A Good Night

Merry Christmas, Rosemary Ahern.  Merry Christmas Jacob Appel.  Merry Christmas, all you festive, cranky mice.  I hope your wishes come true.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Waiting to Reject You?

Poets & Writers features a cover on the four new young hot agents....who are waiting to reject you.  Two of these four have rejected me in years past, and one has written in to this blog.  
Also regarding this edition of P&W, I received an anonymous note: "Is it worth registering to see Jake Appel's obsequious tribute to writing contests? I suppose it is if you're obsessed with him...............isn't this what you've always wanted, Dr. Rejected? A glimpse inside of the prince of darkess? If he is one man, of course, and not a consortium of desperate graduate students." (I don't find the article.  Do you? If so please send link.) I believe the clever doctor reference has to do with this article.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Things Never to Appear in the New Yorker

Remember the post about Mike Lynch's 27 cartoon rejections and then his rejection from a book about cartoons rejected from the New Yorker?  Well, the book (Rejection Collection) was eventually published, and its author, Matthew Diffee, had this to say about it. Since them, Volume 2: The Cream of the Crap, has been released.  I wonder if Mike Lynch's rejected cartoons made it into that book?  Somehow I think not.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Rejection Saga From Hell

There's an interestingly comprehensive rejection trouncing over at a site called Resumes from Hell (also the name of a much rejected humor book).  The authors (Jon Reed and Rachel Meyers) had a reportedly 0/1,000,000 success ratio, before they gave up and self-published.  There are ten other rejections over there.  Plus you a link to the book (which you can buy at Amazon), reviews, and interviews.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Rejection Outside Is Frightful

Snow storm!!!!!  LROD is cancelled today due to weather.  (It's like being snowed in under a blanket of rejection, only this time it's cold and wet.)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Miscellany Reject Reads

  1. SYLVIA PLATH rejected because: "There isn't enough genuine talent."
  2. JACK KEROUAC rejected due to: "Frenetic...scrambling."
  3. ANNE FRANK rejected for being: "Very dull."
  4. GEORGE ORWELL rejected because it's: "Impossible to sell animal stories."
  5. JORGE LUIS BORGES rejected as: "Utterly untranslatable"
  6. VLADIMIR NABOKOV rejected for being: "Too racy."
  7. ISAAC BASHEVIS SINGER rejected insultingly: "It's Poland and the rich Jews again."
  8. ANAIS NIN rejected because there's:  "No commercial advantage in acquiring her."

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I Have Rejected >1000 Books

Have a peek into the mind of rejecting book editor, Jean Hannah Edelstein, here.  Isn't it exactly what you've always expected you'd find if you cracked open one of those nuts? Here's a highlight: "...writing rejection letters is a delicate skill, one that must be fine-tuned over time (weeks, even) as one digs out from under the slush pile. For it is not easy to achieve and balance the two central goals of a truly accomplished rejection letter: trying not to make the writer feel distraught whilst also discouraging him or her from ever contacting you ever again." Nice.  I wonder if Bill Shapiro will take one of her "carefully crafted pieces of heartbreaking" rejection in his forthcoming book Other People's Rejection Letters.  Maybe as a measure of karma, he should reject Ms. Edelstein, though even I wouldn't wish that on my worst, enemy.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

You Ought To Be In Movies

Andrew Kiraly at Yankee Pot Roast: A Journal of Literary Satire Hastily Written & Slopilly Edited has a brilliant post entitled, "My Recent Rejection Slips, Rendered in the Same Manner in which Movie Advertisement Selectively Quote Reviews."  It's worth clicking over there for a look, but here are a few gems:
  • "Your story our standards..." --American Literary Review
  • "We...publish it...we appreciate..." --The Paris Review
  • "...You..." --Prarie Schooner
Great site, by the way, my new fave--a little bit like McSweeney's only better.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Scrappy Slipstream Rejection

Here's a rejection I found on the Internets: I think it says "MH: Sorry none from your recent batch [of submitted poems] worked for us."  There's something a little bit charming about this scrap-of-envelope rejection.  As the owner says, it sure beats a cold form rejection.  I can't quite make out the journal or the editor's name.  Maybe it says Coldstream?  Not sure.

UPDATE:  Readers have indicated that this rejection is from Slipstream.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Darin Strauss Rats Us Out

Remember Darin Strauss?  Remember how we all read his book and some of us came to the online book club and discussed his literary merit?  Well, dude is featured in an article by the Village Voice entitled, "Bloggers vs. An Author: No One Wins." However, in a very uncool fashion, Darin did not mention all the love he ultimately received here.  As the loyal LROD reader who pointed the article out to me said, the Village Voice doesn't "give any credit to the commenters who were civil to Strauss" or the fact that our book club probably sold a few books for him, "despite the fact that he never deigned to show his face around the site again."  

In the article, he claims to worry that people will think he's a jerk.  Maybe he isn't, but this seems to me to be jerky behavior.  If that part accidentally got left out of the article, he could at least write a letter of correction.  AFTER ALL WE READ & PROMOTED HIS BOOK.

Anyway, if you don't want to read the whole boring article,  just cut to page 3 &4 for a discussion of this blog, which is deliberately not named; I suppose they didn't want to return the publicity favor.  Guess we know what he thinks of us!

UPDATE:  Got an apologetic email from Darin, who said he did tell his friend, the Village Voice journalist, all about our friendly exchange and promotion of his book, but the dude chose not to include it.  Guess it would kind of ruin the title of the article.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Bury Your Unpublished Novel

After pitching her novel to sixteen New York publishers, Mary Patrick Kavanaugh buried her dream (and the novel) in an open casket funeral in Oakland on December 6.  She invites you to join her at  She even offers you a free tip sheet entitled "Six Easy Ways to Overcome Dead Dreams, Dashed Hopes, and Disappointments." You can buy her novel Family Plots at Amazon.  Now that's pluck!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Train is Coming to Run You Down

Here's a great question from one of the anonymice:

I am wondering if it's common for Glimmer Train to send a link to their Editor's Perspective page with their form rejections.

I clicked on the link they sent me thinking it might go to my account where an editor had left some actual feedback, but it turned out to be a 6-page manifesto of why nobody is good enough for them. For every example on the cite of why a piece might have failed to capture them, I can think of a timeless short story that commits the same sin. But the most pretentious part of it was their various takes on Literary Fiction. Here is a gem:

'Although plot is lower on the literary totem pole than in, say, a mystery, what goes on in a story must follow some logic.'

I know they don't mean that plot is unimportant, but that's an odd comparison to me; it could be construed that they think Literary Fiction = plotless fiction. But they do publish many plotless doozies, so maybe they really DO think literary = plotless.

Those chicks need to get over themselves in a bad way. Does everybody get this link?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Fictionville Insults

Here's a real beauty of a rejection sent in today from an anonymous LROD reader: Thank you for your story. I will not publish ["Title of Story"] on Fictionville. Although the last sentence of the story was better than all of the previous text, the narrator in each of your stories appears petulant, trifling, misogynistic, boring, self-important, and whiny. The stories turn out to be pretty awful. You are welcome to send other stories. Thank You, Paul Anderson, editor,
Seriously?  After that slam-down, dude wants to see more work?  There must have been something good in there.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

No Thanks, But Buy My Book

I found another literary agent capitalizing on writerly desperation with products  aimed at helping you get published.  Maybe I'm too cynical; maybe his books are genuinely meant to be helpful. I wonder if this guy also promotes his book with every rejection.  I think it's a bad trend. What about you guys?

Monday, December 8, 2008

I Am A Powerful Person And I Have Something to Say

It was suggested to me by a fairly well-known, successful writer, who (by some stroke of luck) happened to read the first two-thirds of my current novel revision, that I need to "step into my power as a writer." How is that for advice?  It was pointed out that my conflict about power is an internal problem that can be resolved. Other points to consider: possibly changing the verb tense I'm using, possibly changing the point of view I've chosen.  
Interesting suggestions.  

I'm trying to listen to myself, though; my powerful, powerful self.  

Thoughts about this, anybody?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Publishing Fall Out

Despite the fact that publishing was considered a repression-proof industry pre-1990, everyone in the shaky book biz felt the hit this week on what book professionals are calling "Black Wednesday." Hold on to your hats, people; this is just the beginning:

Thursday, December 4, 2008

An LROD Rejection Proposal

A lot of readers have suggested that I get off my fat ass and do something useful about the problematic rejection situation of the postmodern world. Usually, I just laugh it off, and whine some more, but recently I was sifting around the Internet, and I found this incredibly cool cartoon  form rejection (scroll down after the click to find it) from Raw Magazine, the comics anthology that launched the likes of Art Spiegelman and Robert Crumb, among others.  So with thanks to those cool dudes, I thought I'd try to adapt it for our literary purposes.

See what you think of my proposal for an all-out standardized punch-list rejection form, useful, I submit, in any rejection situation:

Dear _____________ [fill in writer's actual name]:

Sorry this is a form letter, but: 
 we reject hundreds of manuscripts a day
 we are really, really exhausted right now, not to mention a little lazy
 we're rude as all hell, and make no apologies about it
 that's life

We don't feel your submission is appropriate for us at this time because: 
 your writing style is inadequate at the most basic level. (Have you considered taking a writing class somewhere?)
 your writing style is technically good, but you don't have anything to say;  you should get some real life experience, or find a better topic
 we don't care for this particular story at all; would anyone?
 your story is proficient, but it's not to our liking
 we are speechless, but not in a good way

Your style is nice, but would probably be better placed elsewhere because:
 it's too long for us
 it's the wrong genre for us
 it's the wrong format for us
 we have high standards and think you can make this much better
 we think the only way to get this thing published is via self-publication

 we do like your characters 

 we appreciate your concept 
 we dig your plot 
 we admire your writing 
 we marvel at your diabolical brain 
 we are fond of your metaphors 
 we approve your font choice

 Perhaps you should submit this to: _________________________________________________
(list as many appropriate alternates as possible)

 your family and friends only; there's nothing wrong with that

In the meantime, be assured that:
 we'd like to see more of your work as you continue to develop your craft
 if you write something that better fits our style and requirements, we'd be happy to take a look
 we're just another bunch of bozos on the bus; what do we know?
 we think you need to go back to the drawing board before you submit another story here, or anywhere, even to your mom
 we think you're close to getting your work published; don't give up now
 you really should never try us again; we won't change our minds about you

Finally, please keep in mind that:
 your work is good, so you shouldn't be discouraged
 your work is far off the mark, so you should be discouraged
 one more rejection shouldn't make or break you;if you're a writer at heart (and we suspect you are), you'll learn to embrace rejection as a natural state of being

If your work is not enclosed with this note and you want it returned:
 please contact ____________________________________ in our office via email only
 send return postage
 accept our apology because we've lost the damn thing

Your most humble publishing servant,

[signature here]
Revision ideas are welcome.  If you approve, maybe we'll try to get it accepted as standard.  I think it would reduce rejection time and humbly offer potentially useful information to writers. It would be interesting to get feedback from writers, as well as editors, agents, and literary journal publishers, don't you think?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Close Positive Rejection

From Today's Mail Bag:

From the Narrative 30 Below Contest. Feel free to post but please keep anonymous. I think this was what could be called a "positive attention" rejection, although I would be interested to hear from others if it's just the standard. I received this for both my submissions.

Dear _________,

Thank you for entering "[Story]" in the Narrative 30 Below Contest. Your work was carefully read and considered by several of our editors in what was a very large field of entries. We received more than four times as many entries as the New York Times College Essay Contest, and on that basis you can have a sense of how much competition was involved. The entries came from all around the world, and many deserved repeated readings and, like yours, received close positive attention from our editors.

In the end, however, we could choose only three winners and ten finalists, and painstaking decisions had to be made. We regret that your story was not one of our winners this time. We appreciate your participation in the contest, and we hope you will keep Narrative in mind for your future work.

An announcement of the winning stories will soon go out to the magazine's readership, along with a schedule of future contests.

Again, thank you for the opportunity to read your work, and please accept our kind wishes.


The Editors

What says the peanut gallery?  

This rejection letter is:

A) A standard form letter masquerading as personal
B) A heart-warming personal rejection
C) An example of the sly folks at Narrative who want you to pay more submission fees though you don't stand a chance in hell
D) A & C
E) None of the above

*Drawing snitched from authonomy.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

We Only Want What We Can't Have

Not all editors are angry when you take back your manuscript, but they do manage to get their revenge.  Here's an example that I snitched off of poet David Hernandez's website from Oberlin College Press' poetry journal called Field. (I assume that Hernandez submitted several poems simultaneously, one of which got accepted elsewhere, so he wrote to the journal to withdraw the one poem from consideration, as is a common practice.) It says: "Dear David Hernandez: We're sorry you had to withdraw 'The Soldier Inside the House' -- all of us liked it, and I think it would have been accepted.  None of these others quite made it for us, but please keep trying us with your work.  Thanks, David Walker.  I love that Walker acknowledges Hernandez's reversal rejection, while still managing to trump him with a standard rejection of all his other poems.  Guess Walker got the last laugh.  Also it's wonderfully tentative that he "thinks it would have been accepted." Funny how everyone wants only what isn't available any more, isn't it?

Monday, December 1, 2008

You Are No Flannery O'Connor, Friend

Given my feelings about Flannery O'Connor, you can understand my disappointment over this standard rejection.  Bummer.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Publish Your Rejections in This Book

I've been corresponding with this dude who is writing a book about rejections entitled, Other People's Rejection Letters.  Random House will be publishing it. Below is the guy's notice and call for submissions.  I urge you to send him your most important, embarrassing, interesting, humiliating, glamorous rejections.  It will make you happy to be published at long last by Random House. Most certainly, I'm sending him some of mine.

Project Description
Last year, I published a book called Other People's Love Letters (Oprah's magazine said it was "addictive," Esquire described it as "painfully entertaining," a woman on called it "crap"). Now, I'm working on a similar book about rejection letters featuring reproductions of all kinds of rejection letters... and I'm hoping you might have one or two (tucked back there in the closet) that you'd be willing to share.

Whether typed form letters or handwritten in a fit of rage, whether sent by
text message or scrawled in crayon, any kind of rejection is fair game: You
didn't get the job or the loan or the membership; you're not the right fit
for our dentistry school; you're my son but I never want to see you again;
your restaurant failed its health inspection; your parole has been denied;
we had a good time together but you cheated on me so this is goodbye.

Don't worry, I can digitally black-out any names so that you won't be
identifiable; if you or your company has sent out rejection letters that
you'd consider sharing, I'll digitally remove the recipient's name from the

The book's premise is that nearly everyone, no matter their age, upbringing,
intelligence, or ability, has been rejected somewhere along the road,
sometimes brutally. While each letter may have stung the person who received
it, taken together they have the potential to soothe. And entertain.

If you have questions, email me ( If the rejection is an email, you can send it to that address. If you have a letter, you can either send it to me or scan it (600 dpi, por favor) and then email it.


Bill Shapiro

In the meantime, happy Thanksgiving to you and yours (and to Rosemary Ahern, who should come back to the industry and publish me....please).  I'll be offline until Monday because I've got stuff to do, including stuffing the bird, whom my family has named Tina, which ultimately I think is a mistake.  Anonymous is better, IMHO.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Your Ideas Are Distasteful

My friend, a writer, was recently telling me about the time his query letter was sent back with the three middle paragraphs circled and the word "Yuck!!!" written in the margin.  If he weren't a good friend I might be tempted to think this couldn't be true.  Who would be so callous? Sadly, he won't allow me to name the agent of rejection in this instance. I suppose it doesn't matter, could be any of them.

Monday, November 24, 2008

My Heart Swears Often

"I discovered that rejections are not altogether a bad thing. They teach a writer to rely on his own judgment and to say in his heart of hearts, 'To hell with you.'" --Saul Bellow

Dude, I've had to say that a hell of a lot of times, and in more than just my heart of hearts.  But still it's comforting to hear, isn't it?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Isn't It All Just Fear, Fear, Fear?

Here's an interesting rejection from an anonymous editor to an anonymous writer that arrived via email today:

Dear Writer: 

Lots of explaining, positing. Needed more violence/slug/portals/fear/death/fear/fear/fear.
What's urgent? What needs to be told? Are you starting as close to the end as possible? What moves?  No thank you.

[Editor on Ritalin]

It's like someone's version of an MFA in less than 7 sentences!  (The unfortunate "no thank you" doesn't count.) 

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Even Joe the Plumber Has A Book Deal

For all those on this blog who think that ridiculously big book deals by unlikely people who can't write helps everyone.  Try to justify this.  By the way, JTP got $250,000.00.  That's exactly $250,000.00 more than you and me.  At least maybe we're getting closer to something literary because this dude was a total fiction, a symbol used by the politicians to, something, or other.  

The theory that noble publishers put out crap like this so that they can make money to fund literary fiction and other worthy pursuits of art is just bunk, if you ask me.  They put out crap like this so they can make money.  Oh, and, also, so that they can put out more crap.

Then again maybe it's not worth it anyway.  Not that it really matters, apparently.

Who Doesn't Love a Good Hand-Job Story?

A letter arrived via carrier pigeon from your friend and mine, "Sassy Pants". It goes like this:

"Dear LROD

The Warren Adler Writing Contest. Have you heard of it?

Well, last summer, I entered his funny story contest, and of course I didn't win. But you see in this contest five finalist are chosen (all of them being NOT YOU) and you vote for the "people's choice award" that winner is the runner-up, while Adler has already chosen the 1st place winner from the five finalists. So, I got to read the top 5 stories, none of them were funny, the winning story was entitled the 'Italian Motzah Ball' for god's sakes. Now, I'll admit that my story was a bit crass (there was a hand-job in it!) and Warren Adler is 81 years old, but I know it was significantly better than all of the finalists.

You can read the horrendous stories
here for yourself

Anyway, let's cut to the chase.

"We have strived to put originality as the gold standard of our choices. By its nature our judgment is purely subjective. Our advice to those who have submitted is to stay with it. Not being among our top five is by no means a rejection. Thank you so much for submitting your work. We look forward to hearing from you again when we launch our next contest. Our motivation in creating our contests is to enhance and promote the art of the short story form and to encourage other writers to embrace it."

--Thanks, A Venting, Sassy P.

Here's a question for all the grammar nerds out there: Have they strived or have they striven?  English is so alarmingly irregular, isn't it?  I love that.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

That's A Lot of Math

Some numbers from the mailbox last night:

W,R: You ask whether any of the advances in the palin-seinfeld-silverman crop of celeb books'll earn out. There's a (hypothetical but educated) breakdown of the finances in the seinfeld deal here. He talks about some of the other financial stuff in the deal too, but I'll quote the part dealing specifically with whether the advance'll earn out:

"So let's say, using Moonrat's numbers, that Jerry Seinfeld's Book is published in hardcover in mid-2009 at $24.95, with a 15% flat royalty rate. (The latter won't be true, but it helps to simplify things, and will get us into the right ballpark.) And let's say that Jerry Seinfeld's Book sells a million copies, which is what the book by his missuz, Jessica (Deceptively Delicious) sold last year. I'm assuming a large part of the interest in Deceptively was because she was Mrs. Seinfeld.

Seinfeld will do a lot of media to promote a new book; he can get on any late-night or morning show pretty much by asking, and on nearly anything else almost as easily. (Publishers kill for authors with that kind of platform.)

With those assumptions, we've got $3,724,500 in earned royalties for the hardcover. That's a nice pile of change, but it's only about half of the rumored advance.

But, wait! We're assuming this is a hard-soft deal. (Hardcover-only deals have mostly gone the way of the dodo; you're not going to see them from a big New York house, if you see them anywhere.) So let's say there's a trade paperback of Jerry Seinfeld's Book in mid-2010, priced at $15.00 and with a 15% flat royalty rate as well (we're assuming the publisher throws this in -- it's pretty generous -- to help make the deal with Seinfeld and his agent), which sells about two million copies.

That's an additional $4,500,000 in earned royalties for the paperback, pushing the total earned to $8,224,500. (And that's actually above the numbers quoted -- probably because I'm using very rosy sales assumptions, but so will the publishers running P&Ls to justify buying this.)

And there will be a mass-market edition as well: let's assume that comes along in mid-2011, priced at $8.99, with a flat 10% royalty rate. I'm assuming that mass-market distribution hasn't completely collapsed by then -- which may be an unwarranted assumption -- so let's let that chill our numbers a bit, and only assume another million copies sold.

That will be another $899,000 in earned royalties, for a total of $9,123,500.

Voila! Jerry Seinfeld's Book more than earns out, in three editions. Using more pessimistic assumptions -- for a book at this level, most publishers do several P&L scenarios -- with sales at only about two-thirds of what I originally estimated, it would still earn over six million."

Anyway you might wanna have a look at the rest. You'll find it interesting. And by "interesting," I mean disgusting.

In fact I do find it interesting/disgusting.  Thanks for the opportunity to feel both.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Aw, Come On, Now!

Sarah Palin has reportedly been offered $7M for "her book" by Random House.  At least, so says Radar, Fishbowl LA, and subsequently skeptical Galley Cat; therefore, it must be true. (p.s. there's lipstick under that muzzle.) I guess anyone who didn't poke his eyes out first would have seen this ass-deal coming a mile away. BTW, Sarah Silverman's as-of-yet unwritten book hooked an offer of $2.5 M according to the NY Observer, and don't forget that tremendous literary hero, Jerry Seinfeld, whose book is going for $7M to $8M.  Will any of those advances pay out?  Seriously, only in America would comedians and illiterate politicians be taken more seriously than literary novelists.

Excuse me, now, while I go f*ck myself.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Talk Softly and Carry A Big Degree (Or Don't)

An interesting note came in via the cybermailbox recently:

Hey W,R:  I just was reading an interview with the editor of a new online/print pub called Sotto Voce. Apparently the editorial selection process is totally blind; all identifying information about the writer -- name, previous pubs, education -- is stripped from the ms during the review process, and only after a piece has been selected for publication do the editors find out who wrote it.

A quote that left me feeling kind of smug, considering the incessant speculation on your blog and elsewhere that an MFA credential magically opens publishing doors:

"Ironically, I received an e-mail from a disgruntled contributor (he was rejected for the first issue) who said that "[Sotto Voce] only recognize[s] three letters of the alphabet. MFA." I set him straight, but I had to laugh at his misconception. Any skewing of our contributor pool in favor of those who have formal education in writing or art demonstrates one thing: that formal education will make you a better writer, poet, or artist. Of course, there are the few-and-far-between natural geniuses but, in general, those who devote their time and energy towards learning their craft will be better at it."

Here's the interview:
And here's the new zine:

A caveat: I haven't read any of the fiction in Sotto Voce, and I see that the blog interviewer is a contributor in the first issue; relations between editor and contributor might be cozier than the editor admits. But since there is no such thing as the imaginary cookie-cutter "MFA style" some of your posters are paranoid enough to perceive (it is impossible), I believe the editor when she says she goes for accomplished art.

Anyway, I thought you might be interested. You know I love Literary Rejections On Display and have great respect for you and the grace with which you conduct yourself, particularly with the meanies who show up periodically.

This note does bring up an interesting question, though. Are editors with MFA's more likely to publish the kind of writing they learned and learned to value in graduate school? Perhaps some lit eds will come around and set us straight on the question. 

Friday, November 14, 2008

Picture This

Or perhaps you prefer video commentary on rejection?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Long Live The Queen!

Props to the unstoppable Rejection Queen; she is at rejection #39 and counting.  We all prefer to think of ourselves as pre-published, but you clearly are our leader.  We bow down, sister queen. We bow down low.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Program Your Novel, Program Yourself

Galley Cat reports on a program called Write or Die that just might help you.  THe program is from Dr. Wicked's Writing Lab, and you can take it for a test spin here.  Or watch the YouTube video about it.

Some Rejection Lists for You

Oh, the many lists people keep concerning rejection.  Lists to avoid it and lists to deal with it.
Here are few for your viewing pleasure:


A new science is born: the study of rejection!  It appears that two dudes (James Payne and Dr. Esim Erdim Payne) presented An Analysis of Rejection Letters from Literary Agents at the Fourth International Conference on the Book, held at Emerson College, Boston, a couple of years ago.
Here's what the abstract said:

"The rejection letters were received within an 18 week period. Of the 314, 111 were form letters, 101 were personalized form letters, 43 were real letters, 7 were helpful letters, and 52 were notes written on top of the submission cover letter. The purpose is to graphically show the frequency and type of rejection letters so novice authors won't be shocked, get depressed, or take a rejection personally. A rotation submission system is suggested for novice authors to help reduce the expense and minimize the time and effort involved."

Why Even Try?

In the meantime, Nick Denton is forecasting media doom.  So, really, what's the difference?  

You Bore Me, You Spoiled Brat!

Here's an interesting comment from an angry LROD reader from a recent post:

"there are other ways to make contacts besides getting an mfa...

how about making friends at a chichi artists' colony? editors who've published you? writers you've been published along side?

it must take work to have *no* friends in the lit biz, after 20 or so years. complain much wr?

your writing should usher you into the literary world on it's own merit. after all the $$$ you won, you sound like an overgrown spoiled brat. i'm sure if your defenders knew all the breaks you've had they'd think twice about championing your blog. your literary lottery winnings trump those of most people with mfa's. if you don't like where your career is at, you have only yourself to blame."

Actually, I didn't say that I had no friends after 20 years. That was a misinterpretation. (How do you think I got as far as I did in the first place?) But this dude probably has an MFA and probably doesn't like that some people are hating on the degree.

Here's another less personal one:

"LROD is the Mobius strip of blogs. Just when you start to think you're heading in a new and interesting direction, you end up where you started. I'll check back in two or three months when the whole MFA debate returns -- YET AGAIN. But only after a few entries (yawn) on VQR, Narrative, and Darrin Strauss."

My response to this comment is that I...I....zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I Guess E Told Us!

The old MFA-argument has reared its ugly head in the comments section of yesterday's post. One LROD regular, who calls herself E., has this to say about that:

"Jesus God, the MFA crap again. I am so fucking sick of this argument -- frighteningly similar to the anti-intellectualism of the outgoing neocon fearmongers -- that to actually study a subject is to somehow limit one's ability in that subject, to stifle one's worldview, and to fail to be a real, authentic, genuine "artist" (or American, if you like).

For the umpteenth time, people: MFA programs do not program writers to write in a certain way--to value or emulate particular elements or style or forms--any more than individuals not in MFA programs train themselves by reading what they admire and growing as a result of the exposure. I challenge anyone to try to sculpt another writer's voice by way of instruction, discussion, and critique; it is impossible. Sure, it's possible to imitate, but imitation is not sustainable.

Furthermore, who says the finalists in this contest are recent MFA grads? Could it be they graduated ten, twenty years ago? It could. Who says they earned their degrees when they were in their tender twenties? It may be that, like me and many of my fellow MFA classmates, they are in their thirties, forties, fifties, sixties. But even if they're not... Extrapolator Anon, you know *nothing* about these people, least of all the extent of their personal life experiences. Paint with a broad brush much?

As for being in debt: I'm not, because I have a full ride. Elitist luck? No; I worked to be admitted, and I'm working my ass off in the program as a writer and a TA. Most MFA programs offer at least partial funding; most students manage to sidestep this mythic mountain of debt I keep reading about. The fact that I'm lucky to be doing this doesn't make me a hack writer. I've carved out time at great personal sacrifice to devote myself to writing. After my three years are up, it's back to writing between the margins of a fulltime job, just like I did before.

There are a lot of reasons to whine about the state of publishing. People who dedicate themselves to studying the art are not one of those reasons.

If you're going to make an argument, make it original and cogent, will you please?"

She makes a good argument. I'm almost convinced. What do you think?

Clinical Rejection from BLR (Twice)

Yesterday, I received two (count them: 2) rejections from BLR's Literary Prize: one in fiction and one in nonfiction.  Here they are:

Dear Writer, Rejected

Thank you for submitting your work for the Bellevue Literary Review's literary prizes. We appreciate the efforts that have gone into this piece.

We were impressed by the enthusiastic response from the writing community. The volume was such that, unfortunately, a great deal of quality work had to be rejected. Please be assured that your piece was read thoroughly and given careful consideration. A list of contest winners may be found on our website,

We wish you luck in placing this piece elsewhere, and apologize for not being able to offer a more personal reply.


The Editors
Bellevue Literary Review

NOTE: Please do not reply to this e-mail -- we are unable to respond personally to messages sent to this address.


Dear Writer, Rejected

Thank you for submitting your work for the Bellevue Literary Review's literary prizes. We appreciate the efforts that have gone into this piece.

We were impressed by the enthusiastic response from the writing community. The volume was such that, unfortunately, a great deal of quality work had to be rejected. Please be assured that your piece was read thoroughly and given careful consideration. A list of contest winners may be found on our website,

We wish you luck in placing this piece elsewhere, and apologize for not being able to offer a more personal reply.


The Editors
Bellevue Literary Review

NOTE: Please do not reply to this e-mail -- we are unable to respond personally to messages sent to this address.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Book Dreams

As we buckle up with our hopes and dreams pinned on Barack Obama for the next 8 years, I can't help wonder: Will he be the one who brings back the literary book?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

When Is A Commission A Commission?

Here's a good question from an LROD reader: Let's say you have an agent. If you submit stories to contests and lit mags and they get accepted, does your agent get 15% of whatever you earn? Even if your agent wasn't involved in any part of the submission process for these stories? Or do agents only get 15% of what they sell?

In my humble experience, agents have always refused a commission on any publication or deal I worked out myself, including prize money, unless I asked them to review a contract, or perform some other duty.  Then, we negotiated the commission. 

What about the rest of you mice?   Commission on story submission and prize winnings?

The Temple for Athena, Not You

Here's my analysis of a rejection that came recently from the Parthenon Prize in Fiction: It's very nice paper stock and letter head.  Also, this outfit has a nice website.  They must have a lot of dough. The stakes for winning were high: $15K prize and publishing contract with Hooded Friar Press (whatever that is). There was no reading fee, and I think it had something to do with Frank Lloyd Wright, but I don't remember what.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Oh, Yes You Can

It's a new day in America, friends.  It was an awe-inspiring night. And if dude can get elected unruffled, undeterred, and with great humility, simply by putting one foot in front of the other and staying smart, I know you can stay the course, keep the calm, find the inspiration, write the novel (story, essay, book, or poem,) and get it published.  This is a new era of possibilities. Might as well ride the wave.  What the hell, right? 

You guys are writers. What's your reaction to the election in one sentence or less?  

Here are some samples:

  • "I got my country back!"
  • "The U.S. is in terrible enough shape that we have overcome 300 years of racism to fix it."
  • "The best run election in the history of this country; of course he won."
  • "Good-bye McGramps; Good-bye Sarah Palin."

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

"Go Vote!" says Writer Hussein Rejected

If you can't change your literary success rate, maybe you can vote to change the country.  That's a good start, right? Also, please take the post-voting poll (over to the right) and we'll see if LROD reflects the rest of the country. What are the chances?