Friday, September 16, 2005

What’s worse than rejection? I’ll tell you.

People, especially writers, hate rejection. Whether it’s a submission of a short story, poem, full-length novel, or a query letter to an agent it still has the same sting. Well, take heart, because there is a place online to commiserate: Rejection Collection. A quick scan of the posted rejection letters makes one wonder if we are all receiving the same set of three rejection letters. The agent glances at your query, then picks a rejection letter from the rejection template, adds your name (if you’re lucky—you might just get “Dear Writer”) and sends it off.

I’m actually OK—so far—with rejection. I know it comes with the territory, and that rejection isn’t necessarily a rejection of your work. It could be just a numbers game. If a magazine has room for ten stories, and they received fourteen that were good enough to run, well, that leaves four stories—and four authors—out in the cold. So you move on.

What is worse than rejection, for me, is the “no response.” You do your research, find the journal or the agent that suits your work, write your cover letter and send it off in good faith. And wait for a response. And wait. And wait. Once in a while, everything will click and you’ll get an acceptance. More often than not you’ll get a rejection. But the growing trend is that I get no response. If I send an agent query letter out via email and don’t receive a reply within ten days I write it off as a “NO.” Traditional mail I give a bit longer, maybe even a month. Then I mark it down as a “no” on my submission log. Stories submitted to magazines I’ll give three months before throwing in the towel. Sometimes I’ll email a reminder, asking about the status of my story. Still, no reply.

I wonder what becomes of my self-addressed-stamped-envelopes. Are they reusing the stamps at least? Pasting a mailing label over my handwritten address and using it for business transactions? Is this all a scam to get free stamps?! At least e-queries don’t cost anything but time.

I’m tempted to create a query letter with a simple set of java buttons that allow the agent/editor to click from a choice of “NO” or “YES”. I mean, if an agency/journal is openly soliciting submissions on their websites, the least they can do is spend the three seconds it takes to click reply in their email program and write “No thanks.” Is that too much to ask?

Meanwhile, I have about three or four short stories I’m waiting on, and about a half-dozen agent queries. Please, reject me already! Put me out of my misery.


Tribeless said...

Agreed Don. I've got two stories out now that I realise I'm never going to hear back from the markets for. I think it's lousy. Such markets will suffer though: they go on my list and I'll never submit to them again, even after I take out the Booker Man Prize.

(My hit list so far: McSweenys' [print], Barcelona Review).

Cheers Mark Hubbard

Don Capone said...

I try to give the smaller mags the benefit of the doubt. I know they get hundreds of submissions, and the editors are running it in their spare time. But geez, to never get a reply? Even after a reminder email?

Honestly, I haven't even tried the big name places. Maybe this weekend I'll look into it, send some out. I have 3 or 4 good ones just sitting on the bench, waiting to get in the game.