Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Old Rejection Slip

The kitchen table where I write.
I wanted to show the school kids I'll be talking to next month what a rejection slip looks like. While digging through all my old paper file folders to find an example, I realized that these little rectangles of paper are now probably relics of the past.

The usual rejection slip was mass-produced, with a message similar to this: "We regret that your manuscript does not suit our requirements at this time. That does not mean it is without merit. We wish you the best of luck in placing it with another publisher."

Occasionally, the slip would be a half-page, pre-printed with a check list of reasons for the rejection, and someone had taken the time to tick off all the boxes that applied to your submission.

The point I wanted to make to my young audience was that a rejection could be a good thing. Each time we got one we had another opportunity to take a new look at our work, to make revisions, and then to send it out to another publisher.  My first novel was rejected five times before it found a home with a publisher; another book was rejected a total of eleven times.

Today, a number of publishers have as part of their submission guidelines a note that if you don't hear from them in six months you know your manuscript was not what they were looking for. "Don't waste your money on a stamped, self-addressed envelope (SASE)," they advise. "Your manuscript won't be returned to you anyway. It will be recycled." That last sentence concerns me a little. I wish they'd said it would be shredded.

And here's another thing. If we can no longer collect rejection slips, what are we going to use to paper the outhouse? Oh, that's right; we don't have them anymore either.

Write on.

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