Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Dear Good Luck Elsewhere . . .

A popular post from May 2011

By Julie Wright

Dear Good Luck Elsewhere . . .

As I’ve grown through the years as a writer and gone on to complete over a dozen books, I’ve glanced back at some of my rejection letters. Some of them are priceless—hilarity on a sheet of paper, some of them are painful, like walking ten miles on shattered glass on your hands and knees. Some are insightful and helped mold me into a better writer.

I was doing a school visit with author Jessica Day George, and we both shared horror stories of our rejection letter woes with the kids. It's a surreal moment when you sit up and pay attention to another person's story because it sounds so familiar--so much like your own.

Jessica talked about her first rejection letter, how she received the envelope and thought it was awfully skinny and small to be holding her huge advance check and the contract that would name her the most brilliant authoress ever born. And so it was with horror that she realized the itty bitty slip of paper that looked oddly like a sales receipt was really a rejection letter. Several rejection letters later she got a one that was a couple of pages of personal notation by the editor. usually if the editor sends a personal note, it means they saw some sort of spark they want to fan. They usually only take time out of their busy lives to give personal messages to writers with potential, but this particular message wasn't sent with thoughts of helping this young author improve. Jessica describes it as being like a scene from Mulan, "Dishonor on your house! Dishonor on your family! Dishonor on your cow! Dishonor, dishonor, dishonor . . ."

My first rejection letter said something like, "Dear Conrtibutor, We're sorry but your submission does not meet our publishing needs at this time." That was all that was written on the quarter sheet of paper. I wasn't even worth a whole sheet and the use of my name.

The worst letter I ever received during all the years of submitting was the one where the editor told me they hoped my main character would DIE of a drug overdose because she was THAT unlikeable.

That one letter sent me into a miserable pitiable absurd state of existance for about a year.

That book was later published by a different publisher and to this day, I still receive fan mail for it. I guess not everyone wants her to die of an overdose . . .

The letters are part of the business. They are a horrible part of the business, but a part none-the-less. If you keep at it, you'll find success. Elana Johnson who has her amazing debut book "Possession" releasing on June 7th received many such letters, the kinds where they call you dear author, or dear contributor, or they fail to address you by any such dignifying title at all. Her absolute success came because she refused to give up. Jessica Day George is the same way. They are amazing women. They've done amazing things, and it shows that they are strong and capable when they refused to let the letters that send a visceral ache through them get the better of them.

It is a part of what we do but sometimes you can laugh at the silliness of it. (Yes Marion Jensen . . . I just pulled out the silly word).

So . . . what's the worst/funniest/craziest letter YOU'VE ever received?


Curtis Moser said...

The uncountable pile of rejection letters in my drawer are almost all form rejections. But I did get one from an agent I won't mention by name (you know who you are, Jodi Reamer, ESQ. of Writer's House) that said she "hated my protagonist". So, I'm pretty proud of that one, since it was an autobiographical memoir piece.

Heather B. Moore said...


That's a riot. (I guess we can laugh at it later). It reminds me when I heard a presentation by John Moyer, who wrote the screenplay for "Singles Ward" that was autobiographical. Moyer is also an actor and thought maybe he could play himself in his autobiographical movie. When he met with the director, he was told that he wasn't good-looking enough to play himself.

I was quite proud to receive a rejection letter that seemed personalized and had the phrase "we can see you put a lot of effort into the research". About a year later, I sent another manuscript to said publisher. The rejection letter came and had the same wording "we can see you put a lot of effort into the research." I then realized that what I thought was a personalized rejection in the first letter, was really only a carefully-crafted form letter :-(

Kimberly said...

This post could not have been more timely for me. I've just sent out a batch of six query letters, my first ever, and I'm anticipating my first half dozen rejections both eagerly and with dread!