The Rejection

Every author, especially those aspiring to get their work published, is familiar with the rejection letter.  They come in all sorts and shapes and sizes - the personal reject; the form reject; the curt reject; the flowery titillating tease reject (FTT for short); those painfully generic ones that make you think 'nobody read a word'...

They are a part of the submission process.  There are gobs of examples of great authors who had their work rejected prior to making it big. Louis L'Amour had 200 before his break. Dr. Seuss was rejected because his work was too different for the kid market.  William Golding got his novel, The Lord Of The Flies, rejected because the agency felt it was “an absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull."  The book was picked up later and has sold over 15 million copies. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis was rejected for years, and now it has over 100 million copies sold.

Authors persevere - get rejected, keep submitting, write another book, edit your work, get beta readers, attend writing conferences, never give up - all that.  I've completed two novels; the first took me a year to write, the second took me seven months.  I have a pile of rejection letters and stopped keeping hard copies many moons ago. Novel number three is underway.

But this blog is on preference, not perseverance. Sure, aspiring authors out here, here me - write on.  Write well, write often, read like crazy, keep at it, plug away, put words on paper. Yes and amen.  But for this blog, I wanted to share what I prefer in terms of the rejection letter.  

I vote for the curt response every time.  Here are a few actual examples I have received over the years of submitting.  

"Not for me, thanks."
"Pass."
"Doesn't work for me."
"Thanks so much, I'm going to pass."
"This isn’t right for me, but thanks and good luck."

I will take those all day, any day.  Please and thank you.

The rejections that irk me are the FTTs - the flowery titillating tease rejects.  Some actual examples I've received:

"Thank you for sharing "The Thinplace" with us. Although we appreciate having had the chance to read your manuscript, we've decided against making an offer for it. We receive a much larger number of submissions than we can publish, so, unfortunately, we must often turn away even promising work.  We found much to admire here, and liked your decision to root this story in Tim's perspective.  The imagery of your character's dreamscapes were vivid and full of entertaining imagination. We wish you the best of luck finding the perfect home for your manuscript and so hope that you will keep us in mind for future projects."

"Thanks for sending me OF SAND AND SILK.  I was very intrigued by the unique story you described in your query, and I was curious to see how it would unfold.  Unfortunately, I wasn't pulled in enough by the sample chapters, so I'm afraid this isn't right for me.  You have a great and unique story here and I wish you all the best in finding the right agent and getting published."

"Thanks for your patience while I read this and thank you so much for sharing your manuscript with me. This was a lot of fun to read and I really like the concept. Your voice and setting are spot-on for the genre.  In the end though, I just don’t think I’m the right agent for this. So, with regrets, I’m going to have to pass. Keep querying though! I’m sure another agent will feel differently."

The FTT rejections end up being more of a let down than the curt rejects. I get it, its an encouraging let down; the ol' compliment sandwich that lets you know your work was actually read and considered, that there is meat in the story and good things - you don't totally suck, dear author.  Good, just not good enough.

Other authors out there submitting might prefer those FTTs, and more power to them.  If that fuels the fire and motivates, run with it.

I just prefer the succinct - "No thanks." or "Doesn't fit my current wishlist."
For my brain, it helps me move on to the next submission without feeling like I was so close.  I am able to cross that agent of my list and go onto the next without ruminating on edits or tweeks to my manuscript to fit an agent or agency - I am of the school that writes the story I want to be told, not to fit into market; make the market, don't write another watered down predictable tale.

In the end, as the great James Lee Burke said, "Every rejection is incremental payment on your dues that in some way will be translated back into your work.”

Thanks for reading.

Stay alive,
-M.P. Callender