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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Le Petite Rejection

Those crazy French bastards! They have a different word for everything:
You have received la petite desolee. We have not found a place for your work--but we know it will find a good home elsewhere. Please know that we've been overwhelmed with submissions recently, and simply cannot include all the great work we receive. Thank you for your submission, and we hope you continue to enjoy La Petite Zine.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Thousand Brief Blessings Upon Our Heads

Brevity is blessed enough to reject you:
Thank you for sending your brief essay. Although we do not have a place for your work in the issues for which we are currently reading, we wanted you to know that our readers read your essay closely. We have been blessed with a large number of excellent submissions lately, and we hope that you understand that we can only publish a small fraction of the material we receive. Good luck with your writing, Sincerely, The Editors Brevity

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Two Kinds of Rejections

In case you thought the rumors about tiered rejections were false.  Here is an example for you of the literary caste system:
Thanks for sending to West Branch. Though we have decided not to publish your work this time, we appreciate your interest in the magazine. Sincerely, The Editors of West Branch
Thank you for sending to West Branch. Though we have decided not to publish your work this time, we appreciate your interest in the magazine and hope that you will think of us in the future. Sincerely, The Editors of West Branch

Monday, June 27, 2011

Distraction Technique Rejection

Here's a new one from those clever rascals at the Normal School. I have to say, though it confuses me, I like it very much.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Why So Angry?

Anonymous posted this message to me today to let me know if I lose it's because I am a self-promoting douche and if I win I am a sell out. Can't win on those terms. Anyway, made me laugh. Thought I'd share:

"I for one will be delighted when you are finally, definitively rejected, your constant self-aggrandising bleating about having written a book coupled with your fawning to the vanity of editorial market-led pap-loving venality has been nauseating, and should you compromise sufficiently to get your book validated by mainstream publication it will merely go to show how sheer lack of integrity and a will to conform can get you fifteen minute in the overcrowded, overrated, dying-on-its-feet literary spotlight. And yes, I've nothing better to do. Having said that, good luck with your future literary endeavours."

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Good Writing = Good Book?

I've had the pleasure of being rejected -- or maybe I was actually ignored -- by this esteemed editor. Yes, now that I think of it, I'm pretty sure he never got back to me after agreeing to read my manuscript. Anyway his words sure do seem like the quote of the month to me. How about you? How do you interpret this? Agree or disagree?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Me, Unadorned

I'm having trouble with posting letters/pictures on blogger today. Not sure what the deal is.  So, anyway, you just get me this morning, unadorned. I'm waiting for Agent 99 to read the new (probably last) version of the novel. It's hard to wait, especially since sometimes she will delay if she has bad news. I kind of figure this is the last shot for two reasons: 1) I don't think I want to make any more major changes to it; I'm happy with where it landed and 2) We've worked together for a year now, so if she doesn't feel like it's the book she wanted it to be by now, it probably won't ever be that book. What's weird is that sometimes I feel like everything will be ruined if I don't get that novel published; other times, I think "eh...whatever." It's just some words on some paper. If she decides it's time to take a pass on the novel, I have one editor I'd like to try, and then I'll probably shelf the bad-boy. All that being said, I've moved on to working on a non-fiction book about disinheritance--my own and others--as a cultural phenomenon. Probably the most marketable thing that ever happened to me. So that's the scoop with me this summer.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Cooperative Press Rejection

I think they did a good job of emphasizing how much they appreciate your participation in a generic, general, impersonal kind of way.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Nasty Good-Bye

Here's a funny Slate article by Jack Shafer about a different kind of rejection note: the kind a quitting employee writes to his employer on the way out. Some funny highlights include:

  • "It's been a rough few years here, mainly because of the jackasses in Chicago who own us. To them I say, with as much gusto as I can muster in an email, fuck you."—Dan Neil, upon leaving the Los Angeles Times for the Wall Street Journal, February 2010.
  • "Jesus spent three days in Hell. … I could only handle one."—Richard Morgan, who quit after one day, January 2008.
  • "Don't worry about me; I'll land on my feet. I don't regret coming here, even though I've been laid off now. In fact, my only regret is that you haven't come to visit the Beacon Journal. I would have loved to piss on your shoes."Mark Schlueb in a letter to Knight Ridder CEO Tony Ridder, April 2001

Thursday, June 16, 2011

An Eye-Opener For Writing Students

It's so nice when you all send me the juicy stuff. Maybe I should have a rejection contest. You can send in your most notable one. Anyway, a reader sent this note in with the above rejection:

Dear WR: Above a rejection I received in 1978 from a magazine called Samisdat. I'd just gotten out of grad school and was submitting my work for the first time. The original rejection was written in red ink, which added extra punch to the impact of the note. I was so stunned and deflated by the brutality of the rejection that I stopped writing for several months. I probably would have stopped writing permanently if I had any choice in the matter, but I think writers write no matter what -- we can't stop ourselves (or be stopped by others). And most of us also feel compelled to send our writing to magazines in hopes that it will be published (Emily D. being a notable exception). 

While the letter devastated me when I got it, what strikes me most about it now is the odd shifts in tone, from sympathetic understanding (he only read my poems because I must be sincere) to belligerent attack (my poems were the kind of shit that would get written in a detox ward) to folksy comaraderie (say "howdy" to David) to full-on crazy (piss on Kennedy's eternal flame). Not to mention the part where he justifies his attack in the name of honesty.
I often show the letter to my creative writing students, who are understandably eager to submit their writing and see it in print. It never fails to make an impression. In the stunned silence after I finish reading the letter aloud, I tell them that the first rule of submitting your work is to know your audience -- to become familiar with the magazine before you submit to it, not after. And I tell them to ask themselves if they're ready to receive a letter like this one.
Here's a transcript of the rejection, which is a little hard to read: 
I customarily don't read photocopied submissions. Made an exception in your case because you did order a sample copy, an indication of either wealth or sincerity, and I've not met a rich poet yet.  But, truth to tell, I'm inclined to wish I hadn't read these.  There's not a damned thing positive or encouraging I can say.  They're adjective-heavy, _____, trite, self-conscious, borderline incoherant (sic), the sort of shit I'd expect from a beginning writing class held in a de-tox ward. Miscarriage is best of the lot, but the person gets lost in your effort to be poetic. What you really need is a good dose of The Pillory Poetics RSV; your sample order was short 50 cents and so wouldn't normally get it, but I'm tossing it in anyway, trusting you'll either pay up or return it, preferable after careful reading.

Now I know I'm five kinds of bastard, six of motherfucker. You don't need to tell me--but I need to be what I am to tell you the above, giving you (hopefully) some new perspective, either constructive or destructive or what you make of it. Arlington, eh? Say howdy to David Greisman of Abbey for me, if you know him, and piss on Kennedy's eternal flame for me if you get the chance. (I hold the bastard responsible for Vietnam, detaching the CIA from direct Congressional supervision, and miscellaneous other crimes against humanity based on Happy Days! idealism.  Regards, _____________, (Editor of Samisdat) 

Here's the flyer, on the back of which the above note was scrawled:

Would be hard to believe it weren't posted here in living color/black-and-white, wouldn't it?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

LMQ Rejection in 30 Minutes

Here's a note I received from one of you anonymices:

It took me seven years to write my novel and some additional time consulting people and researching agents but a mere half-hour for the literary agency to generate send me this generic-ass response. I guess we know who's more efficient.
Thank you for your recent query regarding representation. Having considered this, we've concluded that LMQ is not going to be the right fit for your project but of course wish you all the best with it. Sincerely, Lippincott Massie McQuilkin, 27 West 20th Street, Suite 305,New York, NY 10011
     "Of course" seems gratuitous. I mean, considering how much time they spent with my "project", they obviously put a lot of thought into their decision and quite naturally such an investment of time would produce a level of investment in the "project" and in my ultimate success as a writer.
     BTW, though I followed the agency's website's instructions and specified the agent I would like to read my work, the response email wasn't from her. Curious. It's almost as if she didn't read it. And nobody else did, either.
     So, in return, LMQ, thanks so much for your speedy response. Of course I appreciate it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Does Not Enthuse Over Freaky

I really hate the way editors speak to agents sometimes, so weirdly stilted. Here is a prime example. The rejection above says: "We do agree that this is an unusual and impressive first novel. Vincent Eaton has more imagination on each page of his writing than many an author has in a whole book. Absorbing and challenging this book certainly is and there is no doubt that psychological drama has appeal. We do feel, however, that this novel is just too freaky to have other than a modest appeal. For our first list we feel that that appeal is just overly modest. Many thanks for thinking of us, and we look forward to finding a project over which we can mutually enthuse."

Friday, June 10, 2011

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Head Trip

A few more readers have weighed in and there's an interesting question emerging about the ultimate punishment of one of the characters (all others are redeemed).  Is it harsh enough? Might just be one of those discussion questions for the book.  Anyway, Agent 99 has a copy and so I'm waiting on her opinion now. In the meantime, I'm working on the non-fiction book; first marketable topic I've ever stumbled across. Basically, I'm sitting at my desk and writing. Otherwise, I got nothing.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

No Implied Criticism

These editors are not in the business of implying or imparting criticism apparently. That certainly lets everybody off the hook, doesn't it?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

It's A Mad, Mad, Mad Rejection

Humor is as humor does. I used to read this magazine as a kid because my brothers had them everywhere. What is it that people submit to get published in Mad Magazine, anyway?  Cartoons? Concepts for the back cover fold?

Monday, June 6, 2011

"I Love Your Writing"

This is what I call a personalized rejection. I mean, the editor LOVED so much about the submitted poems, and they even made it to the "second cut." But ultimately it's a no go. It makes you see how random it is when you get this close.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Dytman Blow Off

They might have bothered to cut the edges of their scrap rejection a bit more evenly. BTW, that exclamation mark fools me not a bit. A blow off is a blow off. I guess it's meant to be a little rude for those who do not follow instructions.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


Every year in December the peer-review journal Environmental Microbiology publishes a selection of reviewer comments, which are basically mean rejections. I suppose its a stab at scientific humor or a showing of how aggressive and mean scientists can be. Here are a few top comments from this year:*

  • The biggest problem with this manuscript, which has nearly sucked the will to live out of me, is the terrible writing style.
  • This is an interesting manuscript, not because of is results, but because of its complete ignorance of due scientific process
  • I like lipids, but they have their limitations, which appear to have been overlooked in this article
  • This was a possible candidate for the "worst use of statistics to substantiate a falsehood" award
  • I nearly said reject, but then I recalled that I have a hangover and am feeling grump
I think that last comment is probably often true of the fate of our writing. *With thanks, via Harper's Magazine.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

"I linger, desperate..."

This plea to publishers was apparently written by someone's great, great grandfather, dating back to the Civil War. Seems like dude never got published, but his rejections and manuscripts were unearthed in an attic somewhere and passed along to family members. I find the whole thing kind of depressing, especially this note from 1879, which has been typed up here for easier reading.