Saturday, September 23, 2017
Dear Publisher: Rejection
I understand how nervous you are. You know that you'll have to reject the vast majority of manuscript submissions you receive. And that's not really that hard for you to do at this point. But you know how easy it is to make a mistake. And that's what you dread. You dread making a mistake.
It's not just a few of the most successful books ever written that have been rejected, but, frighteningly it's most of them. Agatha Christie was rejected for five solid years, and J. K. Rowling was told to keep her day job. Did she even have one? Titans of literature like Melville (for Moby Dick, no less), Borges, Nabokov, LeGuin, and James Joyce were roundly and comprehensively squashed by people doing the same exact job as you. But it wasn't just the good stuff that has come back to humiliate publishers like yourself. You're not safe merely by having an eye for literature. Twilight went down and so did The Fountainhead, The Notebook and Watership Down. Hell, I would still reject Watership Down, but maybe I don't want badly enough to be rich. I'd just blow all that money on... happiness.
Yeah, that's what you think you'd blow it on too. Ah happiness! Oh how you don't want to let another chance slip through your fingers. Because if my math's correct, you've already missed out on a few big ones. There are too many rejections out there for you to not have made a grave mistake somewhere along the line. Clearly you're too young for Catch 22 or Mary Shelley, but every year has its best sellers and most of those authors have been shut out a dozen or so times along the way. There's simply too much rejection out there for you to have escaped unscathed.
Which brings me to me and my manuscript. As you read it you will often feel confused and irritated. You will think you fully comprehend the nature of its shortcomings. Much like the French editor who said about Proust's The Remembrance of Things Past "I rack my brains why a chap would need thirty pages to describe how he turns over in bed before he goes to sleep." you might wonder why anyone would write 350 essays extolling the virtues of those 350 essays. So I'm suggesting that when you think my work strange reflect on Dr. Seuss, who was confidently rejected by one publisher for being "too different", and when my writing all falls flat and cold under your astute gaze consider Anne Frank's Diary, which was rejected because, according to a publisher, she didn't "have a special perception or feeling which would lift the book above the curiosity level."
"Are you" You wonder in a kind of stunned shock, "Comparing yourself to Proust, Anne Frank, and Dr. Seuss?"
Yes, that sums up my writing perfectly. That's why I chose them.
Thank you for your time and attention. I look forward to working with you.