I'm an Odd One

>> Sunday, April 19, 2009

For those of you who've been following me a while, this will not be a surprise. Let's face it. I've shown my oddity a few times. However, for those who might have recently stumbled upon this site and the nutcase that runs it, it might be a surprise.

Today, you get a bonus stolen comment because I was writing up a comment to Shakespeare's blog and I couldn't wait to tell all my adoring fans [insert the sounds of crickets here] this story about myself. Largely because it is quintessential, well, me.

For those of you who didn't read my "about me" bit, I write fiction and have since I was a kid. Like most people who write fiction and aren't handing out autographs (i.e. wildly successful/famous) - and many that are - I have could paper a wall with rejection letters. Almost always, form rejection letters give the rejectee not a shred of information on why the rejection happened, how close it came to being accepted yada yada yada.

Basically, all you know is that someone in the business didn't think your stuff would suit their publication, which is depressing enough a thought without not knowing why. However, I'm a reasonable person and realized that it wasn't reasonable to expect publishers, often receiving dozens if not hundred hopeful missives a week (and I've read enough out there to be able to guess the average quality) to expect them to reasonably send an individual rejection letter to all supplicants.

So I had an idea. I'm not saying it was a good idea, but, being me, I did it anyway. With the next short story I sent (I think I was peddling short stories then), I provided two form letters to save the recipient time. First was a letter accepting the work:

□Your work is collosal, stupendous! I love it! Here's some money! Send me more!
□ I guess it wasn't too bad. Just this once, I'll accept it but expect to do some work on it, and the quality better improve or you won't be around long.
The second was a letter of rejection, but with some quick check boxes so that I'd have some idea why they rejected it.

□This wasn't too bad but it didn't quite meet our needs at this particular time. Perhaps you could polish it up a bit more and try again later.
□This had potential but it was too (circle all that apply) unpolished, lengthy, short, full of dialog, funny, dull, long-winded, boring, amateurish. See if you can fix that(those) problem(s) and you just might have something.
□Did you even read about the stuff we normally buy? This has nothing to do with our market.
□ I didn't even bother to read it because of a technical nono like a typo or using the wrong font/paper.
□Perhaps you should pursue a different line of work.
□ I wouldn't use this to line my birdcage. It will take weeks to wipe the images from my mind.

For those wondering if I really sent those out (or something similar - I recreated them from memory), yes, yes I did. I hoped that they would either be taken as useful by someone or (even better) an editor with a sense of humor would appreciate them and I would have found the editor for me (since much of what I write is humorous).

Did it work? No. I never saw a single one of those letters back. I did get a couple of their standard form rejection letters back but no offers and no one bothered with my letters. Oh well, I'm not sorry I did it. Better to get a hundred rejections and find the right editor than be grudgingly accepted by an editor who just doesn't get you. Or, so I thought at the time.

To be honest, I haven't been tempted recently to repeat the experiment.


  • flit

    bet they got a giggle though

  • Roy

    From what I've been told about the current class of editors, you're probably better off not trying that again. It seems that publishing houses and magazines, now being but smaller units within giant multinational corporations, are headed and staffed by your basic corporate drone. And as everyone knows, drones are bred not to have any discernible human characteristics, including a sense of humor.

    Although if you see that Harlan Ellison is editing another anthology (and boy am I pissed that The Last Dangerous Visions never got finished!), you could try it. Now he has a sense of humor!

  • Boris Legradic

    HAve you ever given a thought of putting some of your stuff (maybe a few shorts) online? Either on your blog, or on some of the amateur fiction sites? This would give you more feedback - mostly crap of course, given that this is the internet - and who knows, if it proves wildly popular, you could even attract the attention of a publisher. It has happenend before, not often, but it has.

  • Boris Legradic

    Yes, I forgot to mark she "Email-follow-ups" box again. It's because of this confused-scientist image I am cultivating, you see.

  • musing

    I haven't written for publication in over ten years, but I still have all my rejection slips. I'm not sure why I keep them, actually.

  • Davida

    Love the idea! I'll keep your form letters in mind if I ever become less than chicken-ish and actually write a novel.

    BTW, been...uh...out of it. Don't have a clue about what's been going on. I took a mental vacation and read the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer. I swear I lived in Forks, Washington since last Thursday. Now, that I'm back to reality... well... I'm a little sad. Where can I get a copy of your shapeshifter book? I'm ready to dig in to another fantasy.

    I responded to your concerned email. Let me know what's going on when you get a chance. Thanks for caring.


  • Patricia Rockwell

    I think Boris has something. With your reputation as the "Rocket Scientist" you would have a built-in audience for your fiction online.

  • JD at I Do Things

    Hmmph. I think this is a great idea. There's got to be a way to stand out from all the other slush pile hopefuls AND get a little much-needed feedback for a rejection.

    (I keep all my rejection letters, too.)

  • Phyl

    I've got my rejection letters too, though I can never bear to look at them again. I must be saving them for the "collected papers" that will be published posthumously. Or something.

    The editors I know would have loved your forms, by the way.

  • Stephanie B

    If they had a giggle, flit, they never let on.

    I'm afraid you're right, Roy. More's the pity. Look out in the blogosphere and what dominates? Humor. Maybe editors should think about that.

    Well, Boris and Patricia, let's test that theory. I'll post links to several tonight.

    Musing and phyl, I have all my rejection letters too, just not copies of the forms I sent. Go figure.

    Davida, I sent you an email to explain.

    JD, that was my thinking, stand out, don't be part of the pack. Oh, well.

  • Marie

    I think you should try anything short of mailing yourself in box. My motto is "You Never Know". Think of how many anecdotes you have read about unlikely starts.

    Putting your writing on line is also a good idea. You can develop a following that way. Maybe think about another blog, just for your writing.

    When I first graduated from college, I worked for Avon Books as an Editorial Assistant. One of my jobs was to read the slush pile. I read one manuscript that was simply awful. But the author's cover letter was hilarious. I wrote her a personal response, not a form letter, and I forwarded her letter to my boss.

    So I say go for it. Research what other people have done too. You never know! :)

  • Relax Max

    Congratulations on trying to be different. Unfortunately, editor drones don't understand that kind of creative stuff. If they were capable of judging good writing, they would probably be authors. Not sour grapes. I just prefer to be judged by people with brains. Ah, well.

    You, young lady, have something to say. Your rejections only reinforce my opinion of traditional publishers and their drones.

  • Stephanie B

    Thank you, Max, though I have to say, I think I AM different. And I'm not willing to forgo that difference to get published.

    I appreciate your comments.

  • Bob Johnson

    Lol, that is too funny, what an original idea. I am surprised you didn't get any of them back, just goes to show you they didn't have a sense of humor.

  • Relax Max

    I was meaning to compliment you on being different with regard to the novel letters you included with your writing submission. I haven't seen enough of your actual writing to know if you are "different" there too. I suspect you are. :)

  • Stephanie B

    Thanks, Bob and Max. I do try to be different.

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