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June 13, 2006 8:18 AM   Subscribe

Have your rejection letters printed onto toilet paper. Meanwhile, a small UK publisher has posted a thoughtful open rejection letter.
posted by staggernation (25 comments total)

 
Ah, rejection letters. You can try to make them "thoughtful," but it's the same thing to the writer. I mean, I've gotten a few of these "let him down easy, mix encouragement with the slapdown" numbers, and, well... it still sucks.
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 8:32 AM on June 13, 2006


I know a guy who thinks he's a misunderstood genius writer. Notice that I didn't start the preceeding sentence with "I have a friend who..."
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:41 AM on June 13, 2006


We had a competition in college to collect the most and best rejection letters. My room mates and I won a couple of cases of beer in this competition. (hmm, I wonder what that says about us?) The best letter, given a special spot on the wall of shame came from a company known as a good place to work. It said, "Thank you ... we have found more qualified applicants for this position." Ouch.
posted by caddis at 9:03 AM on June 13, 2006


The Do-Not Press has similarly robust submission guidelines.
posted by raygirvan at 9:47 AM on June 13, 2006


Mayor Curley, we probably know the same guy....I mean really how many people could think they are misunderstood genius writers?

Funny story - a guy I used to work with submitted his self published novel to the local city rag - it was subsequently reviewed as the worst book ever received (truth be told, it was worse than awful).

MY favourite part of the review? Where the critic pointed out that aside from the woeful editing, apparently one of the main characters gets killed off, only to reappear mysteriously several chapters later as though nothing happened.

LOL.
posted by Funmonkey1 at 9:56 AM on June 13, 2006


preceeding [sic], following, it's all the same.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 9:57 AM on June 13, 2006


The open letter from Snowbooks is rather good. It makes you feel for publishers: they must meet an endless stream of people who are certain they have a novel in them when in reality they have something altogether more visceral inside.
posted by rhymer at 10:00 AM on June 13, 2006


The irony here, of course, is that at $90 for 4 rolls of the stuff, you wouldn't be able to afford it unless your manuscript had been accepted.
posted by antifreez_ at 10:05 AM on June 13, 2006


it seems like it gets worse when you get accepted; part 1, part 2.
posted by caelumluna at 10:22 AM on June 13, 2006 [1 favorite]


people who are certain they have a novel in them when in reality they have something altogether more visceral inside.

I'm putting this into *my* novel.
posted by Flashman at 11:06 AM on June 13, 2006


I threw mine away. Kind of wish I'd kept 'em. My favorite was from The New Yorker.
posted by bardic at 11:51 AM on June 13, 2006


I really like this rejection letter. Too many people who work in publishing have the attitude that they are the guardians of good writing defending themselves from an onslaught of unwashed masses. It's just insulting considering how many books get published that are written by well-connected people without clear talent or even marketability. Unpublished writers are no different from unsigned bands, but somehow people think of the former as desperate, deluded losers. Kudos to Snowbooks for treating them with some respect.
posted by transona5 at 12:46 PM on June 13, 2006


Having worked as a peon at a pretty well regarded university literary journal, I can appreciate transona5's point. In fact, I wonder why journals still maintain the pretense of looking at unsolicited materials. The ideal is that your next great unkown author is somewhere out there, but the reality is that once it's in the "slush pile" (what we called the boxes and boxes of unsolicited stuff), it didn't have a chance. I got to read a lot of it, I got excited by some of it, and I got to put some high falutin' stuff on my resume that remains to this day regarding "editorial duties," but none. of. it. ever made the cut. Ever. At best, the editor might glance at it and hand-write his initials at the bottom of the rejection slip.

Accepting unsolicited matieral is an empty gesture--an empty gesture that takes up a lot of precioius time, and quite literally, space. It's kind of a lose-lose.
posted by bardic at 1:01 PM on June 13, 2006


Accepting unsolicited matieral is an empty gesture--an empty gesture that takes up a lot of precioius time, and quite literally, space. It's kind of a lose-lose.

The only benefit to the publishers that I can think of is that it maintains the illusion that publishing is a meritocracy.

I didn't realize the situation was that bad, actually. I always thought that literary journals were sort of like scientific journals. I guess most of the people who publish in scientific journals actually could be described as well-connected through their labs or universities, but at least the path to those connections (science grad school) requires neither money nor friends.
posted by transona5 at 1:11 PM on June 13, 2006


transona5: you are right that there's a fair amount of dross by the well-connected that's published; and I reckon you're bang on that there are quite a few people who deserve to be published and aren't. But I reckon both groups are dwarfed by the group that doesn't deserve to be published and isn't.

But this actually got me thinking: there's plenty of examples which mess around with this rule.

Martin Amis: well connected (Kingsley's son); worth publishing (up until Money, anyway).

Jade Goody: not at all well connected (famous via Big Brother); not at all worth publishing.

Go figure.
posted by rhymer at 1:17 PM on June 13, 2006


The "path" to getting literary work published these days is to win major contests. If you want to get a book of poetry published by a uni press, that's the only way to do it.

I mean, there's plenty of nepotism as you'd expect, but it's really more a situation where you just have very few venues for "serious" writing. I could go on about how writers who took academic jobs after WWII ended up selling out future generations, and how you can't win the appropriate awards without the appropriate connections, etc. I'll just say this: if MFA programs want to stay in business this century, they need to start offering courses in television and film writing. But I'm cynical.
posted by bardic at 1:26 PM on June 13, 2006


I think reality-show fame counts as being well-connected, although not directly to the publishing industry.

Anyhow, the same thing is true for music — there are a lot more terrible unknown bands than great ones. But I think people take a much less sympathetic view of record labels with a huge stack of demo tapes than publishing companies with a huge slush pile. And releasing your own album is gutsy and underground, but "vanity publishing" is the height of gauche.
posted by transona5 at 1:27 PM on June 13, 2006


Sorry, that was a response to rhymer.

Bardic, I think the same thing is even more true for "nonserious" writing, where there aren't even universally recognized contests, even though there are far more venues for it.
posted by transona5 at 1:29 PM on June 13, 2006


bardic said: The "path" to getting literary work published these days is to win major contests. ... I mean, there's plenty of nepotism as you'd expect"

Are you familiar with Foetry?
posted by mattbucher at 1:35 PM on June 13, 2006


releasing your own album is gutsy and underground, but "vanity publishing" is the height of gauche Good point: I wonder why that is?

More seriously, isn't the standard route to getting published (in the UK at least) to get an agent first who then gets you the deal?
posted by rhymer at 1:38 PM on June 13, 2006


transona5, good points. But there's a possibility that a band in the slush pile could potentially make millions for someone. Not so much for novelists (although it does happen), and never ever for poets. I hope I'm not making literary journals sound like (the only) bad guys in all this, because these editors are actually pretty sympathetic to struggling writers (and spend a lot more time dealing with financial issues in the form of grants and staying on the good side of Trustees than people think).

mattbucher, yeah. Good link. A more academic approach which ends up drawing just about the same conclusions is Jed Rasula's American Poetry Wax Museum.
posted by bardic at 1:47 PM on June 13, 2006


Wow. That's what I call service!
posted by bardic at 2:31 PM on June 13, 2006


Thanks! I think that Gerard Jones guy is kind of annoying and whereas Foetry is exposing something even the average academic poetry reader might not know, his site is kind of like a phonebook.

I am personally familiar with about half of the people mentioned on Foetry--I'm going to email you some stories. However, I generally think that the small, insular world of poetry is by definition small and insular and that it will likely never support a lot of new talent simply because there is such a small amount of money and prestige at stake.
posted by mattbucher at 3:19 PM on June 13, 2006


boo hoo.
posted by lampoil at 7:52 PM on June 13, 2006


The only benefit [to accepting unsolicited submissions] to the publishers that I can think of is that it maintains the illusion that publishing is a meritocracy.

Disagree. It prevents the publication/publisher/studio from getting stale. It's the only way to find truly fresh material.

In genre fiction, sff in particular, all the mags and most of the book publishers accept slush (although the publishers may take hell's own time to read it), and buy from the slush fairly regularly. It is literally the only way to find new short fiction writers: the pay rates for short fiction are so lousy that agents won't handle it. 99% of slush is crap. Of the stuff that isn't crap, 99% of writers will prove to be merely adequate. But that remaining one in ten thousand might be the next Terry Bisson or Karen Joy Fowler or Kelly Link.

I noticed back in the mid-1970s that the National Lampoon, at that time still fresh and funny, had stopped accepting outside material. I knew that marked them for a slow downward spiral, which is pretty much what happened.

BTW, writers who obsess about their rejection letters need to stop it, and spend their time reading and writing.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 8:29 PM on June 13, 2006


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