Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Rejection Letter Mad Libs

(Note: This is a re-worked, re-written, re-posting of the original "Rejection Letter Mad Libs" post of May 11 that was lost during Blogger's snafu-ridden outage. Blast it all. Humble apologies to those who commented on the first post. I am sorry your words were also lost. >:@ )

"We have received and reviewed your recent submission. Unfortunately, it is not what we are looking for at this time."  
For the same reason that not every first date ends in matrimony, not every query letter ends in a sale. No writer, regardless of talent or work ethic, escapes rejection. It's one of the many sad truths of working in the publishing industry.

(Another truth is that once you do get published, your workload increases. No laurel sitting for any writer who wishes to remain in print. But that's the topic for another post on another day...)

Photo by Rachel Montiel, from www.morguefile.com

Sometimes, an industry pro takes the time to pen a personal rejection. I am always grateful when that happens, for it can offer insight into why a particular work didn't connect with a reader.

Several months ago, before my novella had convinced me that it merited becoming a Real Novel, I submitted it to one of the few novella publishers. It's a quirky, darkly comic noir that I find hilarious. Several of my beta readers do too. I received a rejection letter that said good things about my writing in general, but that had nothing good to say about what I wrote. (I got the distinct impression that it genuinely disturbed the publishing pro.)

Now, if I had been going for "profoundly perverse," I'd have been thrilled. But I wasn't. So, as I fleshed the story out, I paid particular attention to the pro's concerns and addressed them in case others might share his sensibilities.

I doubt that my project will ever fit within the publisher's comfort zone and won't inflict the manuscript upon him when the novel is finished. I am grateful to him, however, for voicing his issues in the rejection letter.

Though reading rejection letters to famous authors can be cathartic, hearing "No" with regards to your work still stings.

Sadly, most rejections these days show about as much creativity and passion as a phone book. They tend to be tepid and generic -- with an unstated underlying fear of having harsh words thrown back in the industry pro's face when the genius manuscript they rejected finds a publisher and goes supernova.

 I haz solushun.

 As promised in my last post, offering a Mad Libs solution to query letters, I hereby humbly suggest the Mad Lib Rejection Letter. And why not? After all: what's good for the muse is good for the gatekeeper.


STEP 1: Fill in the blank with the indicated words:

*  Author Name: ____________________

*  Noun: ____________________

*  Title of Manuscript: ____________________

*  Infinitive Verb: ____________________

*  Infinitive Verb: ____________________

*  Adverb: ____________________

*  Exclamation: ____________________

*  Adverb:  ____________________

*  Noun: ____________________

*  Adverb:  ____________________

*  Name of Publishing Professional: ____________________

STEP 2:  Insert your answers in order into the following rejection letter where indicated:

Dear (Author Name):

Thank you, from the bottom of my (noun) for submitting (Title of Manuscript) for my consideration. Reading it caused me (infinitive verb) and (infinitive verb). Upon finishing it, I (adverb) shouted (exclamation)!

(Adverb), I must pass on this project. It would be too hard on my (noun).


(Name of Publishing Professional)


What's your opinion: would you prefer personal (and potentially scathing) rejections? Or would you rather have the benign "thanks, but no thanks" form letter? Also, if you have a favorite rejection letter story, I'd love it if you shared it below.


Anna said...

So clever! The next time I receive a rejection I'll have to compare it to the mad lib. Is it sad to say that I'm jealous of your personalized rejection letter? All I've received so far are form slips.

Amber S said...

That's cute.

Yeah, that personalized rejection letter is a good/bad thing. I mean, don't we wish all editors would take the time to send us that level of detail? It would be so helpful. But then again, in this case, it sounds like this book just wasn't for him. So maybe it's not that useful since he'd never be the kind of guy who'd normally pick up your book in the first place.

By the way, this: "before my novella had convinced me that it merited becoming a Real Novel" was really interesting to me since I'm in that crossroads myself. Do you have any advice on this (or is there a past blog post perhaps)?