Dear Reject

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Like diarrhea, it's a nasty subject. Happens to everyone (at least it does to every writer) and yet we're all too mortified to admit to it when it does. It's happened to me...more than once...just this year (Rejection, that is, not the other). But I must say, my experiences lately are becoming a lot less horrifying. Actually, I might even call most of them pleasant (gasp, I know).

Eleven years ago when I entered the publishing world and sent out my first submission, I had no idea what to expect. My story came back to me with a standard form letter. Dear So and So, Thank you for querying us, but we're not interested at this time. Yada, yada, yada... blah, blah, blah.

OK, so it broke my heart, but I moved on. Wrote another story and sent that off.

My second submission attempt came back as well, with another similar note attached. Standard, impersonal...rejected. But rubber banded to the back of my returned manuscript, I found a reader's review. I have a feeling this review wasn't supposed to make it to my eyes and was "supposed" to be kept in some file under my name back at the publishing office. But, oops, someone must've forgotten to separate it from the story before returning it to me... and I read this reader's blunt, honest review. Two, full single-typed pages of painful criticism. Ouch. I didn't submit another query for four years after that experience.

But eventually, I did jump back on the wagon and after writing a few more stories, I eased back into the submission game...a lot more leery this time. Many more standard form letters came back. I learned more about submitting from each rejection. And over time, personal notes began to crop up within the mine field of form letters. I could tell people were actually beginning to read my stuff because they gave advice about my plot or certain characters before telling me they weren't interested.

It was ten years before an editor actually offered me a contract... but the rejections didn't end there. Nope, I still get them. I even still receive the impersonal, standard form letters. But lately, those have decreased substantially and personal comments have increased. In fact, in the past three rejections, I was asked to resubmit after making corrections. This is good...this is very good news. I always feel like jumping up and down and singing the theme song to The Jefferson's "Movin' on Up" when I receive these letters. Because one step up from a "please resubmit" letter, is an "I-want-to-buy-your-book" call!

So, anyway, I've discovered manuscript rejection comes in three basic stages before making it to acceptance. There's...

1. The standard form letter where they may (or may not) slot your name into the salutation and write the same "Sorry, we're not interested at this time" mumbo jumbo to basically everyone they contact.

2. The personalized note, thanking you for submitting, and then detailing every reason why they don't want your story. These are helpful rejections because now you know what's wrong with your story and how you can make it better.

and finally...

3. The interested rejection, telling you you're close, but your story still needs a bit more work. Here, they'll either ask you to submit something else or resubmit a revised edition of what you just showed them. Here, it's time to get excited because if contracting a story was fire, you'd be singeing your eyebrows with this rejection.

Literary Rejections on Display is a blog dedicated to posting various rejection letters and making fun of them. So, the next time you receive a nasty little diarrhea note, visit LRoD and join the ranks of every other writer on the planet for a little lift-me-up humor. It always makes me feel better, anyway.


  1. Love the link! I'm going to go post about it on my blog! :)

  2. Great post :)
    And the link is awesome.

  3. Good post- Love the comparison... and yay! for the revision rejection.


  4. Thank you, thank you, all. And yeah, it is a pretty cool link, huh?

  5. Hi Linda,
    I think many of us have felt your pain, experienced it first hand. Thank you for the link. I added it to my favorites so I can read more later.

  6. Rejection and I are old friends, but luckily, we've not gotten together nearly as much lately. We're not totally estranged, however, and rejection still visits sometimes.

    Alas, I don't know a writer who hasn't become intimate with rejection.