Sunday, July 25, 2010

Are Agents and Editors Really Dying to Reject You?

If you're like most writers, you've already accumulated dozens of rejection letters over the course of your career. In the beginning, you optimistically handed over your work to agents and editors in naïve belief that you held the power and they were simply waiting, contracts in hand, for your words to cross the transom.

After a rejection or two, you began to imagine agents and editors as predators, pouncing on their piles of queries, shouting in triumph as they snatch yours out of the slush then gleefully stuff yet another rejection into your waiting SASE.

Now that you're a pro at rejection, you've developed a healthier response to it. You've learned to mock the agents and editors who dare pass over your sublime writing. You place the blame squarely on them, thinking, "Sheesh, they must be completely out of touch or unconscious if they're rejecting My Wonderful Work!"

Hmm. Maybe you're right. Next time you receive a cold, impersonal rejection, consider this…

A well-known editor who had already published three of my works invited me to submit a story for her newest anthology. Knowing this editor’s likes and dislikes fairly intimately, I wrote what I thought was a spot-on story she couldn’t turn down. And since the anthology was “by invitation only,” I figured there couldn’t be too much competition.

On a Monday, shortly after I sent in the story, I received a form rejection. One sentence, quite rude even by normal rejection-letter standards. The signature was even stamped on. Because of our past professional relationship and because this story had been sent at her request, I thought at least a hand-scribbled “no thanks” would have been in order.

The next day I ran across an obituary for my editor. She had been admitted to the hospital the past Thursday where she lapsed into a coma. She died on Saturday. My rejection letter was dated Friday. I was devastated. All I could think was that my beloved editor had hated my story so much she had roused herself from her coma on Friday with the single thought that she must reject my story if it was the last thing she did. I can hear her rasping, “Must reject Phoenix's story … must ... reject …” Then, moments after thrusting the rejection letter into her assistant’s hand to mail off, lapsing back into a coma, only to die the next day.

Not quite a rejection from beyond the grave, but it does make you wonder how many editors and agents really are in a coma when they reject your brilliant work.

Do YOU have a favorite rejection story to share?

8 comments:

Robin B. said...

This one is a doozy, honey, in more ways than one. I'm nogt far enough along to have a classically good rejection story yet, but I'm sure I'll have a good one or two (or more) very soon... it's just the stats, isn't it?!

Anonymous said...

This is a story of love, conflict, rejection, and the death of a powerful person in a hush hush industry no one, not even a sasoned pro, can crack.

The Ultimate Rejection is complete at...

Gosh Phoenix, reading that obit must have hit you between the eyes like a brick. Shudder,
Bibi

Whirlochre said...

I don't mind when agents claim they "couldn't engage" with my script — what gets me is when they do so in conjunction with the admission that "opening your chapters, the pages got destroyed".

Hrmph.

Glynis said...

I am about to submit for the first time this week. Bring on the rejections, it means I achieved my lifetime ambition even if they don't like it.

PS: I will cry when I get the first one I am sure. ;0

fairyhedgehog said...

Ouch! That's a tough one.

Phoenix said...

Yay Glynis!!! The first submission is always the hardest to send out and the first rejection is always the hardest to get. Go ahead and cry -- we all do. It's a part of the process. And it makes the first request that much sweeter. Best of luck to you!!

sylvia said...

That's one hell of a rejection! I know it must have been a tough time for those involved but I'm sure they could have found a better way of dealing with it.

Not really in the same league but my worst was a form letter rejection that sounded like someone was breaking up with me, complete with "it's not you, it's me" explanation. It was full of generic-encouragement that I was really talented and needed not to give up etc etc etc. I'm used to stupid rejections but this one was so condescending, I actually posted it with a complaint that a simple no is fine, I don't need Kindergarden teachers telling me how special I am.

They changed the form letter immediately, thank goodness.

Joe G said...

I hate to ruin the story, but are you sure somebody else wasn't doing her work for her? I just find it hard to believe that she would be that concerned about her job while fighting to stay out of a life threatening coma...