A fellow writer was asked which magazine ran her articles and stories. “Oh, I write mostly for rejections,” she joked. The inquirer responded seriously, “I don’t think I’ve read that one.”
None of us have. That’s the problem. With the increase of multi-media entertainment, and the spiralling cost of books, publishers are far less likely to gamble with new writers. The buzzword is “marketability.”
To be fair, there seem to be more new writers than ever, many victims of unemployment. A popular or prestigious magazine may only have space to publish one out of hundreds of submissions. The competition for books is even worse.
Take a look at what’s available in children’s books today. There are still incredible works of art and charm, but they are competing fiercely against the “market-driven” fluff generated by kids shows. Not only does every super hero, cutesy puppy, and valiant pony cartoon generate lunch boxes, stuffed toys, action figures, and clothes, but books as well. Many of these books have as much art, depth and originality as the cereal box.
Sadly, the scene is not much different for adults. The public’s voracious appetite for talk shows has spilled over into writing. (By the way, you’ll know they run dry when they feature TALK SHOW HOSTS WHO INTERVIEW TALK SHOW HOSTS.) Magazines run more sensational pieces than they used to, as in “Women who cheat on their husbands…and don’t feel guilty,” followed up by, “Husbands who know their wives cheat…and don’t feel angry.” Spill your guts novels are rampant, as in “The Life Story of The Girl Next Door: Alcoholic, Sexual Compulsive, Self-Mutilator and Collector of Hood Ornaments.” Many of these are written with the same slash and report style as a talk show.
Any celebrity, who is famous for any reason, will be rushed to the front of the publishing line – he or she already has a “brand” name. Add to that the proliferation of cheap self-published books, and you have a glutted market.
Still, there are editors and publishers who’ve managed to keep their standards intact. Swamped by submissions, they do not have time to personally critique a writer’s work. You may find it strange that an “emerging” writer will be happy to receive a private comment on a rejection form. The personal connection can be enough to spur a three month rewrite. There are those, though, who find it painful because they still don’t know where to head.
For example, Lisa Powell’s fictional biography of Elizabeth Tudor has received the following rejections: “This is indeed an outstanding historical and lives up to all the fine things you said about it…as I admired it, I didn’t feel we could do the right job with it in the current market.” And “You should not be at all discouraged by the fact that we will not be making an offer for the book, because this is an extremely publishable novel, and a more commercial publisher, I’m certain, will positively leap at the chance to publish it.”
Some editors try to soften the blow with humour. Here’s one I received from “Congratulations! You have been chosen to receive this beautiful hand-lettered rejection slip! We know you will be proud to add this attractive notice to your personal collection. For additional copies, send your contributions to:… Note: In the event that your next contribution is accepted for publication we cannot send you another card, and you will just have to be satisfied with money…Sorry. -The Editor.”
Thankfully, there are editors out there willing to satisfy me with a contract.
So, if you haven’t read Dawn’s End: Nightfall and Dawn’s End: Poisoned, there’s still time before the final book in the trilogy becomes available.
What’s the strangest rejection you’ve received?