Readers Who are Krazy for Kindle: Rejection letters I wish I wrote

January 06, 2011

Rejection letters I wish I wrote

Eons ago in a land called Las Vegas, Nevada I worked as an acquisitions editor for a small publishing company. Part of my job was to vet incoming submissions. The submission process worked there like it worked at other publishing houses: I would read queries and/or partials, write up rejections, or if something sounded interesting, I'd kick it up to the managing editor (and then he'd reject it, and I'd write the rejection letter). Every so often, a shiny concept would burst through all the crap, and we'd get ourselves a new author. It was rare, though ... like finding a gold nugget in your toilet rare.

At the time, I was also an aspiring writer traversing the ups and downs of the submission process with a little project called DADDY IN TRAINING. (I told you, EONS ago.) So, I felt deeply for those writers who sent their work to us, and I wanted to pet them and hold them and call them George.

Eventually, I got over that urge. I also realized the importance of using form rejection letters. It was just easier to check a box (because most submissions were rejected for the same reasons), and end with, "We wish you success with placing your project elsewhere," than it was to send out a personalized letter that outlined why their suckitude was so massive.

And that suckitude often had little to do with their writing, and a lot to do with their attitudes. I can classify these writers, too. I bet every poor sap acquiring editor can. I've named a few below, along with what I really wanted to say in their rejection letters.

1. I have a concept so great I can't tell you about it, but if you send me a contract and money, I'll give it to you.

Who are you? God? You do NOT have a concept so great you must keep it a secret until we've exchanged papers and gold bullion. How many of these queries did you send out? How many offers came pouring in? And if it is an idea so astounding, it would rock the entire world to its core, then why the hell did YOU think of it? Because you obviously don't know how to follow submission guidelines or how to turn off the ALL CAPS on your keyboard. If I'm wrong to reject you and your universe-ending concept ... well, just add me to your really, really long list of unappreciated, stupid editors that you will not submit to again EVER.

2. I know you don't publish what I'm pitching, but believe me, you'll make an exception because you'll LOVE my book just that much.

No, I won't. You know what I love? Writers who pay attention to guidelines and who understand that we cater to a niche market with an audience we spent years and years building, and who like us BECAUSE we cater to those specific topics. THEY don't care if you wrote the next great alien action-adventure romance set in the Andromeda galaxy and beyond, so WE don't care. We are a publishing company. We want to make money. We want to make our customers happy. We want manuscripts that will enlighten and/or entertain our readership who expect us to deliver quality books about our specialties. Capiche?

3. I know you only accept queries, but I've enclosed my partial anyway to save you the time it would take for you to request it.

Gee. Thanks. Now, I have to figure out what to do with this massive envelope of crap I did not ask for, and even if you wrote it with gold ink, I don't really want to read it because I'm annoyed you sent it without getting the go-ahead. In other words, I'm CRANKY and do you want me to read your unrequested partial while I'm feeling like a troll on the hunt for human flesh? We have guidelines for a reason. Never assume that you are an exception because your awesomeness will automatically slay an editor's inner beast. NOBODY'S that awesome.

4. I've sent you a gift because I read on the publisher's website that you really like snow globes. I hope this will smooth way for you to consider my work. (Wink, wink.)

Bribery doesn't work. It's not cute. It's ... well, kinda creepy. My publisher will not allow us to accept gifts of any kind because we publish advice and reviews about certain topics, and our reputation is built on our integrity. Maybe you should look up that word, so you know what it means before you send out more of your creeptastic bribes to other publishers. (Note to self: Add "Don't send presents to editors ... duh!" to the website guidelines.)

5. Dear Editor of the 700th publishing house I've sent this letter to ... you know, the one I've copied so many times, the ink is kinda gray, the paper is cheap, and the query printed out crooked. I don't really care because I'm too lazy to research your company, your name, and your current address, and then write a tailored, professional query.

Wow, dude. I got a paper cut whipping out my form rejection letter for you. I checked the box, "Does not meet our criteria." Unlike you, I actually signed my name at the bottom with real ink and everything, and hey, look at my professional letterhead and pretty paper. It's more than you deserve.

Well, that's just a sampling. Crazy, right? You can see why editors go home all puffy-eyed and soul-weary, and stick a straw in a bottle of Jack to suck on while they watch CSI reruns. Writers make them insane. And they deal with the same crap every day. I got letters like the ones I've listed above all the time. It's why they rank a classification and not a, "Hey that's a weird one-time thing, huh?"

Getting a well written query about a project we might actually publish was a real pleasure--like getting a whiff a lavender floating through the stink of a shit-filled field. Finding a writer who paid attention to the guidelines, to how I spelled my name (one L, people, ONE L), who researched what we published and could tell me why their book would fit in with our catalog ... oh, lawd. It made me wanna weep with joy.

These were the same writers who, even if rejected, would send me a nice thank-you. Maybe we couldn't take on their project, but I was lot happier to help guide them in another direction, or send specific suggestions about their works. Unlike the writers who, usually guilty of any of the infractions I listed above, would send me letters telling me how I stupid I was for not accepting their books, which were obviously bestsellers-in-waiting. (Seriously. If you never want to sell a book, go on and be a douchebag to an editor. It's a small world, folks.)

At the end of the day, the one way a writer can get some notice is to be polite and professional. You'd think that would be a given, but yeah ... not so much. Be humble, have a sense of humor, take any rejection with a grain of salt, and be nice. Even if it kills you.