Friday, April 18, 2008

Finally, a Good Rejection Letter

Like a moth to flame, I continue to send pieces to McSweeney’s. I’m four for four on rejections, but the last one was very encouraging. I gussied up the Horton metaphor piece with some lipstick and a new dress that I thought McSweeney’s might like and was quite hopeful this time around.

McSweeney’s is always very polite in their rejections. They use the language of “we’re going to pass on this one” and “thanks for the look” – exactly the kind of casual and cool tone I would expect from them. It is also ever-so-slightly suggestive that they might have published what I had sent, if only it were a little smarter or funnier or some other quality that the piece just barely did not have.

Also, they get back within a week or two, which is incredibly courteous. This is in contrast to, say, Salon.com, which appears to be a black hole from which no correspondence ever returns. In fact, scientists may want to check into the possibility that Salon.com is really a portal to another universe where queries live forever in a state of suspended animation, begging to be noticed by any sentient being that wanders by. I’m guessing that would be interesting to scientists.

Anyway, my most recent rejection from McSweeney’s was better than my previous ones:


Hi Dan -

This one is fun, but we ran a Horton-inspired list this week and I don't want to overdo the subject matter. Good to see something else from you, though.

Best,
[Name Withheld]

Arrggh! Curse that Wendi Aarons and her smart, funny, timely, concise and totally-better-than-mine piece about Horton. If only I had gotten there first, then punctuality might have beaten quality.

I know writers have a long history of reading entire greek dramas into a few carefully chosen words in rejection letters, but I do take heart in the “good to see something else from you” bit. Usually, I’m happy when my pieces don’t suck enough to be told, please, Dan, for the love of God, never submit anything to us ever again.

But McSweeney’s apparently keeps a list of people who submit stuff, and made some kind of connection to what I sent them previously. They didn’t have to do that. But they did, and it gives me encouragement that I might someday have some hope of eventually getting something accepted by them.

1 comment:

brownie said...

Not to rain on your parade...but...good rejection letters are like sales pitches in a Peir One:
"May I help you?" She said very politely.
Customer: "No thanks, we're just looking."
I've had plenty of these polite rejections with my book, they sound encouraging, and in fact, they may BE encouraging, but it isn't necessarily a reflection of the quality of work (not that I don't think your work is good, it's just that...well...call me if you need me) or whether you should give up, continue on, etc.

Still, a good rejection letter is better than a bad one; cause I've had a couple of those too. And they can be just as un-encouraging as the good ones are encouraging. Either way, I don't let publisher's opinions of my work become an (pun intended) "earth-shaking" event for me.