Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Lamest Phone-Call Rejection Ever

Seriously, person at small press? Seriously?! You who are an Associate Publisher--Really?!  
     You have me call you to get my rejection because you're too chaotically busy to write it down and send it?  How about just, "Thanks. It wasn't what we were looking for."  But instead you tell me you have notes to pass along from an editor who has departed and "another staffer."
     So I call in for my rejection, but you start rambling about Augusten Burroughs and how his memoirs work, which is confusing because you didn't read my memoir. I am writing my memoir in fact. So I just keep listening to see where this is going, and you tell me, you probably should have someone's notes in front of you because you didn't really read much of my manuscript, but you are just insanely busy, so you're working from your memory about what was wrong with the manuscript you keep referring to as my memoir.
     Finally, I can't take it anymore, so I interrupt:  "Um," says I. "You asked to read my collection of published essays based on an essay that appeared in the New York Times, not my memoir. You didn't ask for my memoir. But what you read was a collection of published essays."
     And what do you say? You say: "Oh."
     Then there is an awkward silence in which I ought to have let you merely tread water, but I was too embarrassed and somehow co-dependent.  Embarrassed for me and you and publishing in general.
     So, I launch into some long rambling something (what the hell was I saying?) that ends with, "Who would really publish a book of published essays by someone who isn't famous anyway?" and "But really you are publishing some very nice works, and thanks for the consideration." (As my friend says, Aw, no, you made her feel better?)
     I did. And I shouldn't have.  But what, really, should I have said?
     I'm thinking of two not very nice words, but you guys can probably come up with something more creative.

     What would you have said?


Anonymous said...

Wow. I was really hoping something better would come from that phone call for you. Judging from the Associate Publisher's lameass incompetence, you're probably better off NOT having him publish your work.

heynonnynonymous said...

I see nothing wrong with "SUCK IT." Though sometimes I resort to saying the opposite for the sheer sarcastic effect. You could have said: "Nice. Nice way to treat people."

Mercury rising said...

In keeping with your oral theme, I suppose I might have said "Bite me," but that also would have been too nice. UGH. Fuck 'em.

Victor said...

I think you owe it to us to call this person back and tell him/her that this kind of behavior is unprofessional. Or better yet, call the publisher and tell him/her. As writers, we shouldn't accept this kind of mistreatment. Also, you should tell us what press this is, so we can avoid it in the future.

Anonymous said...

I see this debate come up quite often, here and at other sites. As a current MFA candidate at what is a top ten program according to the PW/Seth Abramson rankings (you might think such rankings are BS, and you might be right--just trying to offer some credentials), perhaps I can shed some light, or at any rate offer my opinion on the value of an MFA.

The way people talk about it, the gatekeepers at magazines and publishing houses don't let you in the door without flashing your MFA security badge. I can assure you, with or without an MFA, you are usually not getting through these doors. Let me put it another way: You are much more likely to get published if you spend the next three years working on your trashy vampire or lite S&M novel, than if you spend them workshopping and teaching at Iowa or Brown or wherever.

I have worked on the editorial board of one of the better-known literary magazines. I can 100% unequivocally state that we gave no preference to submissions from MFA holders. After the first week, I barely read the cover letters, and at any rate learned quickly that academic pedigree and even former publications had very little correlation with the likely quality of a piece. It's true that we had a slush pile and an "Approved" pile (rubber stamped for various reasons by the editor), but to my knowledge they weren't categorized as such b/c of the author's academic history. I read a metric ton of slush submissions from MFAers out of top-flight programs.

Here's the main thing an MFA degree is good for: having time to write. That's it. Having two or three funded years to learn and to work on your projects. Afterwards, the large majority of MFA holders return to the workforce.

Now, it's true that you get to network a little. You meet people you wouldn't have met otherwise, and I'm sure a few savvy types manage to parlay these social connections into publishing deals, but I've never seen it. MFA or no MFA, getting published mostly comes down to working harder than everyone else.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, last comment was meant for post above this. Delete if possible, thx.

Anonymous said...

I think you could have just sent a nice card saying: 'Thanks for reading my essay collection and good luck with your work as a small press. Let's meet for coffee in a few months to talk about other ideas.' and let it go. You know - the cosmic letting go/ who gives a fuck? They're struggling, writers are struggling, everybody's struggling. Geez, life is too short.:)

Cari Hislop said...

You could write a story about it: Assistant editor rejects book she doesn't bother to read...and because she didn't read the essay on...insert topic...(all these bad things happen to her) and she ends up being murdered, turned into newsprint paper...imprinted with stories no one will read.