The Dreaded Rejection Letter

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Dear Author,
Thank you for submitting your work to us. Unfortunately, it doesn't meet our needs at the present time, but we wish you future success.


The Editor


Well, that's what they write. Any professional in the business will tell you editors, agents, and publishers don't reject writers: They reject pieces of paper with words written on them. However, that's not what writers hear:


Dear Loser,

 We considered using your manuscript as a coaster, but it was stinking up the place so much we couldn't even be bothered to steam off the stamps. Hopefully we'll never hear from you again, but wish you success at a more appropriate profession, such as fish cleaner or stall mucker.

Go Away,

The Editors


And that's not fair, because in the publishing industry the gatekeepers are inundated with hundreds of--let's face it, sometimes desperate--writers every day. Sometimes a form rejection letter (more likely e-mail) is all they have time for; sometimes they don't have time even for that. There are lots of things to complain about with the publishing industry, but on an individual basis the people working there are pretty decent.


Still, writers get more rejections than a nerd at a sports bar, and I should know. (Just kidding--I never went to sports bars.) In fact, if you're doing it right you're going to get lots and lots of rejections. But sometimes, especially if you're having a down day overall, your umpteenth rejection will show up and just hit you harder than most. That's what happened to me, anyway.


When I first started out, back in the days of snail mail delivered by the Pony Express, I collected enough form rejection letters to paper my office walls ... which would have looked better than the wallpaper I actually had at the time. Later I'd get the occasional encouraging note at the end of one. Then I'd get brief, but personal, rejections. Then more detailed ones, and then, one day, an acceptance. A few times after that, I received some detailed letters describing why they were rejecting the manuscript, or even asking for some changes and a resubmission. Now it's decades since I started out: I have nine published books, and stories in three anthologies.


And I still get form rejection letters.


So yeah, it gets me down sometimes, especially this time of year when the days are short. But after all this time, I've developed a method of dealing with these bouts of sudden depression: I go to my laptop, open up a word document ...


And start working on another story.


It doesn't get me published ... well, not immediately. But it does remind me of why I'm doing this to begin with.


Sometimes the writing life just goes to the dogs.



The Burghal Hidage Added Jan 21, 2018 - 5:21am
Some of my best friends are dogs :) 
Write on brother!
Mark Hunter Added Jan 21, 2018 - 6:56am
You bet--dogs can give unconditional love in a way humans rarely do. But he hates it when I spend too much time concentrating on those glowing screens instead of him!
opher goodwin Added Jan 21, 2018 - 7:00am
I have a drawer full of those slips too. I got to talk to one of the guys doing the selection. He told me that he received between 2000 and 3000 manuscripts a year and published only one. The odds don't look good.
RobL_V2 Added Jan 21, 2018 - 9:14am
Don’t dread it, expect it. Then when the eventual acceptance letter comes.... joy.
Anti-Limey Added Jan 21, 2018 - 10:41am
Yup! If you have problems handling rejection, do NOT become a writer. It would be like someone wanting to be a lifeguard but doesn't like to get wet.
Stone-Eater Added Jan 21, 2018 - 10:53am
Sorry for that. But you seem not to have the right connections yet, seeing what shit is published and put out daily. We're in the connection age, not the quality age, anyway. I know it....
Stone-Eater Added Jan 21, 2018 - 10:53am
BTW: Proof is Twitty Trumpy, right ?
Stone-Eater Added Jan 21, 2018 - 10:56am
Thanks for that link. Maybe they accept books in German LOL
Dino Manalis Added Jan 21, 2018 - 12:16pm
Stay positive and keep trying!
Even A Broken Clock Added Jan 21, 2018 - 2:18pm
Mark, that's one thing I've learned about my own writing. I'm not cut out to sustain a topic for a book length, but 800-1500 words is a sweet spot for me. I'm enjoying doing the blog posts, and the encouragement from the WB community (both positive and critical) is my pay. But then I'm not trying to earn money through the writing, so it's not existential to me whether someone likes what I write or not.
John Mathew Added Jan 21, 2018 - 11:19pm
Mark Hunter Added Jan 22, 2018 - 12:13am
The odds are horrible, opher. I think that's what drives so many people into self-publishing ... which is fine, but many of them rush in too quickly and don't try to make their story as perfect as possible. In any case, I've beaten the odds five times, so I'll beat 'em again.
Mark Hunter Added Jan 22, 2018 - 12:14am
RobL, someday I'll tell the story about the weekend I received my first acceptance, and how many things went horribly wrong over the two days (including a totaled car). The joy came later!
Mark Hunter Added Jan 22, 2018 - 12:23am
Your sarcasm is appreciated, xanadu. But guess what? There still is traditional publishing, and there still are gatekeepers, and many people still choose to go that way for various reasons. I've had five books traditionally published and four books self-published, and I've been doing this for a long time so no, I don't need your educational help. (Well, not in this area.) There's actually a term for people who choose to go both routes at the same time. Do you want me to Google it for you?
Mark Hunter Added Jan 22, 2018 - 12:26am
I still hate rejection, Michael! But yeah, writers have to know how to handle it. It's like haunting singles bars every night for the rest of your life.
Mark Hunter Added Jan 22, 2018 - 12:28am
Well, Stone, the problem is I haven't been convicted of a felony or behaved badly on my own reality TV show. Worse, I don't write graphic sex. Those are my backup plans.
Mark Hunter Added Jan 22, 2018 - 12:28am
You've got it, Dino!
Mark Hunter Added Jan 22, 2018 - 12:35am
Clock, I wrote a paid humor column for over 25 years, which gave me a lot of experience in writing short and meeting deadlines. Just the same, novel writing is my first love--although my novels tend to be a little on the short side. As for pay, I can retire on full benefits in two years, but that's not going to happen without some supplemental income ... so it's monetize my writing or be a Wal-Mart greeter.
Mark Hunter Added Jan 22, 2018 - 12:37am
You're right about that, xanadu--no excuses! But I don't drink whiskey often ... which is probably a mark against me as a writer.
Mark Hunter Added Jan 22, 2018 - 12:45am
Heyduke, one of the best writers I know writes only fanfiction and blogs. She's way better than most published writers, but she just doesn't want to deal with the publishing process--there are lots of lots of great writers out there who aren't trying to get published. And, of course, plenty of bad writers who are.
Mark Hunter Added Jan 22, 2018 - 12:50am
xanadu, I apologize for my own sarcasm, you caught me at a bad moment. Of course self-publishing is a perfectly acceptable, and more and more often successful, way to go. You had no way of knowing how much time I've put into studying the business and the process before I made my decisions.
Mark Hunter Added Jan 22, 2018 - 12:51am
John ... hello?
Mircea Negres Added Jan 22, 2018 - 12:56am
Mark, I hope to begin getting rejection e-mails or letters by December. I've been working on my first novel for a few months now. It's slow going for a number of reasons, though living next door to a kindergarten which hasn't been hit by a divine airstrike is at the top of the list. I mean, even with the earphones in and blasting, I still hear 189 screaming contraceptive failures... As for my novel, it's got three assassinations and a sex scene, the latter of which my mother said was perfect :-)) Writing a book is hard though rewarding, and I would imagine getting an acceptance letter is quite an emotional moment. You've got nine of them under your belt- I wish you a speedy tenth. 
Mark Hunter Added Jan 22, 2018 - 1:12am
My wife would assassinate me if I ever suggested living next to any school! I can write with a lot of distractions--I did a whole book at her college while she was in class--but that would be a bit much.
My next novel will be self-published, so the best part will be getting the proof and seeing it in print for the first time. That's great, but I have to admit that the acceptance letter is probably the best moment for almost any beginning writer. And it never gets old!
Dave Volek Added Jan 22, 2018 - 9:03am
Self-publishing is the way to go these days.
I encountered a couple Canadian publishers who would publish anything for about $5000. They make the connections to the ebook world and set themselves up for print runs if demand calls for it. $5000 may sound like a lot of money, but it's cheaper than mailing 1000 manuscripts. And your book is out there! And the publisher will do a little marketing for you.
I didn't go this route, but it was nice to know that the gatekeeper of who gets printed or not can be cast aside.
mark henry smith Added Jan 22, 2018 - 1:19pm
Self publishing is like masturbation. That's what Louis C.K. said. Most people are just watching.
Traditional publishing is like prostitution. It's not the person getting paid who gets to call the shots, within reason.
Not publishing is like ED. It's gotta be hard copy put in the right place to make an impact. Manuscripts left limp in drawers does no good.
Mark, the first thing is you have to get your work out there, no matter how good, bad, or ugly. And everybody knows this so they, anybody who writes anything, are all glutting the market. Yeah, most of these people couldn't write their way out of a paper bag, but there's no one stopping them, and the industry loves this. Everybody's got a story, they say. That's crap. Everybody has experiences. To turn experiences into a story takes real effort. Anybody who says, I just whipped this off on my two-week vacation, probably stole it if it's any good.   
The first guy who read my first novel told me I had the talent. Everybody tells me I have the talent. I've been writing since childhood, story telling before that. I have gifts. That first novel got taken, he told me, and laughed because he knew, and then all you have are problems. He did tell me that the publishing game is the dirtiest business in the world, because the pros know nobody can protect their work, no little guy. Disney has made an industry of stealing the work of unknown authors. I heard it from a writing teacher, a well-respected, published author. But it's as known as the indiscretions of Harvey Weinstein were, by people in the business.
Talent has nothing to do with getting published. Getting published has to do with giving the people who will pay you something that they want. And they might not want you because you're already considered a problem, as Jeff Michka keeps pointing out to me.
So here's the thing. If you can make people angry with your work, there's a good chance it's good work, because if it really sucks, nobody reads it. I hate almost all of the dialogue I read in modern fiction. Everybody has to be a smart ass. Remember Harry Potter was rejected by thirty agents and publishers, at least, but I don't think she came up with that idea. I think it was stolen. I'd like to see JK Rowling's work before and after. That's the only way to know if someone steals. Minds don't change how they operate. The playfulness with language is innate.
We are very lucky, us writers with talent, unlike in the past where you could be blackballed and walled off and not break through. We can go on social media and build our own audiences. We can perform our work in videos, and if we're good performers, with good material, the work will find a following. That's the lesson in all of this. The work has to sell itself. Hype only takes something so far. Fire and Fury is a nothing book. It could have been written in a paragraph, but the hype sold it.
In this world, you have to make your own buzz, and if you have had enough conflicts with the industry, those people will want you to buzz off. But if you believe, all you can do is keep writing. And never believe comments. You have no idea what they mean without context.       
Mark Hunter Added Jan 22, 2018 - 5:41pm
Dave, my wife is so talented that she can have a book completely ready to go at a cost of maybe ten bucks--and that for proof copies to examine. She does editing, covers, formatting, the whole nine yards. My self-published books are just as much hers as they are mine, which is why her name is on two of them. (She refused cover credit for the other two.)
Mark Hunter Added Jan 22, 2018 - 5:46pm
That's a fairly good comparison, Mark.
Without the hype, all you have is talent and hard work, whether you're trying to self or traditional publish. The biggest advantage with the former is that someone else is taking on a lot of the financial risks; the biggest advantage of the latter is that you can get published without fitting in the mold of what someone else wants. Either way, it takes both the talent and the hard work (if you're not a celebrity) to make it in the long run.
Dave Volek Added Jan 22, 2018 - 7:04pm
Your wife's efforts may seem cheap, but the effort going in a book is quite enormous. Then when the book is in shape to show the world, the effort to market it can also be enormous. Even if I somehow manage to get $100,000 in royalties some day, I doubt I would be making minimal wage for my efforts.
Family and friends have indirectly told me why I am such a fool to have spent so much time on my writing and other inventions. I say to them that I don't spend time in the pub, coffeehouse, golf course, or installing unnecessary parts for my car. My book was my recreation! 
But I think the 4th version of "Tiered Democratic Governance" is going to be last creative endeavor. Even despite Mr. Trump, the world is not ready to consider another form of democracy. It is time to focus on retirement and put more effort on getting a few kids through school.
mark henry smith Added Jan 23, 2018 - 2:39pm
People have forgotten why writing is so important, because we are so focused on the financials. People used to write letters, long, carefully thought out, carefully worded letters to people all over the world. It was a cherished art form. Not everyone wanted to be the next big thing like kids these days dream of. People wanted the people they cared about to know they'd taken the time and effort to write something meaningful well.
That's what I look at all of my writing as, an attempt to write something meaningful well. What happens with it beyond that is anyone's guess, but in that process of writing and editing we become better people, we can't help it. We become more aware of how we think and how we can hone our thought process, and we become more aware of the attitudes of the people on the other end of our communication. So much of the modern game is about winning. I want my readers to want to win at learning when they get done reading my work. That's all. For myself, I want to earn a living doing what I love, and if it isn't obvious by now, I love to write. That is why I started and why I will continue to do so until the day I die.
Mark you are very lucky to have a partner in your efforts. Cherish is the word I would use to describe. Have rediscovered The Association on You tube. What a bunch of cool nerds. They have a guy playing recorder in the band. They have fun with it all and grow terrible mustaches.     
Mark Hunter Added Jan 24, 2018 - 8:36am
Oh, my wife's efforts don't seem cheap to me at all, Dave! I figure her work is worth thousands of dollars, and she's probably worth more than me, the actual author. But you've hit on a key there, when it comes to writing: Successful or not, better to spend our energy on that than a lot of other hobbies people put all their time and money into.
Mark Hunter Added Jan 24, 2018 - 8:38am
That's a good point, Mark, and we learn a lot through history when we get a chance to examine those letters, too. E-mails just aren't the same thing.
Boy, I haven't heard The Association in awhile ... it was okay to be a music nerd, back then. These days they'd have a publicist changing them around to make them look "cool".
mark henry smith Added Jan 24, 2018 - 1:03pm
I'm glad you read that post. I think it's got some interesting thoughts in it and the thread went all over thanks to Doug Plumb. Now that I have speakers for the smart phone, I'm listening to albums, all kinds of classic rock. Last night it was Queen from Wembley Stadium. Then I noticed a video of Freddy Mercury's last interview, just the picture make me shudder. Poor Freddy. A very talented pufter who paid the ultimate price. But he lives on.   
Mark Hunter Added Jan 24, 2018 - 4:47pm
We've got a few Queen albums ... my wife and I are both fans of classic rock, although she's horrified at how much pop music I like and I can't get into her screamo head-banger stuff.