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 multimedia entertainment, and the spiraling cost of books, publishers are far less likely to gamble with new writers. The buzzword is “marketability.”
To be fair, there seems 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 may be even worse.
Take a look at what’s available in children’s books today. There are still incredible works of art and charm, like Something from Nothing by Phoebe Gilman, but they are competing fiercely against the “market-driven” fluff generated by Saturday, and daily, cartoons. Not only does every superhero, cutesy puppy, and valiant pony cartoon generate lunchboxes, stuffed toys, action figures, and clothing, but books as well. Many of these books have as much art, depth and originality as a 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’ve run dry when they feature talk show host’s interviewing 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, “husband’s who know their wives cheat… And don’t feel angry.”
Spill your guts novels are rampant as in The Life Story of The Girl Door: Alcoholic, Sexual Compulsive, Self-mutilater and Collector of Hood Ornaments. Many of these are written with the same/and report style as a talk show.
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 and “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 Tutor 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 another, “… There’s so much to admire here that it is with great regret that I’m returning the manuscript.”
And again, “this is a beautifully written and exquisitely researched historical on the Virgin Queen… It would probably be a high risk project in today’s market.”
“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.”
Lisa’s waiting for that leap, net in hand. Should any publisher give the smallest hop in her direction, she’s ready.
Some editors try to soften the blow with humour here’s one I received:
“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 contributions accepted for publication we cannot send you another card, and you will just have to be satisfied with money… Sorry – the editor.”
Satisfy me, already. I can take it.
Chronicle-Journal/Times-News, May 30, 1993