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Jin Shei Cover from sgreer

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September 9th, 2007

Jin Shei Cover from sgreer

"Not for us at this time, alas..."

The art of rejection. We've all tasted the bitter dregs of that, sooner or later, if ever we've committed a single word to someone who might be persuaded to publish it. I don't know what's worse, really, the kind of rejection that is a blistering salvo with all guns blazing, or else the polite letter that lets you know you ALMOST made it.

Anyhow, I'm stuck at the airport in San Francisco for a couple of hours before I go on to Seattle so - what else - I am on the Internet. Surfing away. Whiling away time.

And I come across this article on rejection.

Here's a couple of money quotes:


Nothing embarrasses a publisher more than the public knowledge that a literary classic or a mega best seller has somehow slipped away. One of them turned down Pearl Buck’s novel “The Good Earth” on the grounds that Americans were “not interested in anything on China.” Another passed on George Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” explaining it was “impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.A.” (It’s not only publishers: Tony Hillerman was dumped by an agent who urged him to “get rid of all that Indian stuff.”)

(Americans aren't interested in anything on China, eh...? Plus ca change...)

Today, as publishers eschew the finished manuscript and spit out contracts based on a sketchy outline or even less, the scripting of rejection letters has become something of a lost art. It’s hard to imagine a current publisher dictating the sort of response that Alfred Knopf sent to a prominent Columbia University historian in the 1950s. “This time there’s no point in trying to be kind,” it said. “Your manuscript is utterly hopeless as a candidate for our list. I never thought the subject worth a damn to begin with and I don’t think it’s worth a damn now. Lay off, MacDuff.”

(ow.)

The rest is here, if you want to know more.

Home soon. Can't wait.