“Much as I love history sex and violence…” Rejection Slips and other Ciphers
All writers share one experience in common: Rejection. Yes, that single three-syllable word can pack more punch than a swat team of grammarians in a first year college class. I’ve known grown novelists crushed by the impact of a lone one-page letter in a returned SASE. (You can tell by the thickness of the envelope that it ain’t holdin’ no contract.) In New York, it is rumored that spurned essayists have been seen to (gasp) forgo imported and guzzle down domestic in their haste to heal the pain.
Rejection is the hurtin’, cheatin’ country song of the writer’s world.
We all know that tune. Usually sung off-key, by editors who can’t do what we authors do, but have the power to keep us out of print.
Rejection slips serve only one useful purpose as far as I can tell: they prove to Revenue Canada and the IRA that we are indeed working writers and deserve all those measly tax deductions.
But wait – is there more?
In case you missed it, there is a hierarchy of rejection slips! If you write for a living, or merely for the loving, you will undoubtedly have a collection that cries out for classification.
Keep them. Treasure them. Devote a drawer to them. (Better still, a steamer trunk.) Make your own list of rejection translations and get to know the lingo.
Here’s my list, to get you started:
- “…unfortunately, it does not meet our requirements at this time.” This means No. Allow yourself ten minutes to rant, and then try another market.
- “…does not meet our current needs, but we would welcome seeing more of your work.” Hey – you’ve reached them! Maybe they can’t use this piece, but they like your style. Send more. Persist. Be relentless. That’s how I first got into Star Magazine. I wore them down.
- “….if you would consider revising, I would happily have another read of it.” Go, go, go! Whenever an editor gives direct encouragement, run with it. Act immediately. Revise and re-mail. Invite her to dinner. Walk his dog. Do what you have to. But don’t lose his interest.
I cherish personal replies from editors, not only for the time they take to write, but also for the hidden messages within. Some are priceless. Here are a few gems from my personal file (er…trunk):
“…not for us, but I think the ‘Idler’ uses satire.” That’s right, pass it off to the competition and hope it sinks ‘em. The ultimate publisher power play.
“…we found your novel an interesting and compelling work, however…” Shucks. I should have known they don’t publish ‘interesting and compelling’ works.
And my own personal favorite: “…much as I like history, sex and violence…” Well, gee, that’s interesting. But exactly how does this relate to my returned manuscript? By the way, what are you doing Saturday night?
That was great, thank you, Melodie!
She is the Executive Director of Crime Writers of Canada.
Library Journal says this about Melodie`s third novel, The Goddaughter (Orca Books)
“Campbell`s crime caper is just right for Janet Evanovich fans. Wacky family connections and snappy dialogue make it impossible not to laugh.”
I then invited Melodie to provide an excerpt from The Goddaughter: We got through the border with no problem at all. Of course, it’s much easier getting through borders without a semi-frozen dead body pretending to be asleep in the back seat.
If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.
The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with fantasy novelist Ginny Atkinson – the five hundred and sixty-fifth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.
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Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.