by Debbie Taber
Like a disease, they pay no regard to age, race, religion, creed, sexual orientation, financial status, or ability to dance the tarantella. Rejection letters find writers in every genre, and we all have to deal with them somehow.
I gained a new perspective on rejection after a writer’s conference last year where a panel of agents discussed for us what the did or did not want to see. As each agent introduced him, her or itself (remember that sexual orientation?), the same words came out down the line: “We’re open to pretty much anything except science fiction,” “I don’t accept science fiction, and I don’t work with cookbooks,” “Any fiction but science fiction, any nonfiction but cookbooks.”
Guess what I write? Both of ’em.
You’ll get the same stories from mystery, fantasy romance, and how-to writers. Whatever your genre or specialty is, you have written exactly what no one wants to see. In order to keep our dreams going, however, we have to do something when we are told once again that our work is “not for us at this time.” What follows is a list of phrases to remember when you tear open that familiar SASE only to find that your genre of choice is the plague of the month. Forgive me if I’ve missed your particular pathogen. I blame the present space-time continuum, or maybe a bit of mustard.
Science Fiction–“The agent/editor only rejected me in this universe. In an alternate universe, I’m famous.”
Fantasy–“Guess I’d better make a larger offering to the Goddess Shenrathu of Klaemaen before my next submission.”
Mystery–“Perhaps I was accepted, but shortly thereafter the agent/editor’s secretary actually killed him/her with an innocent-looking piece of office equipment, then sent out form rejections to everyone on the list in order to buy time to make an escape.”
Romance–“The agent/editor was probably too busy with his/her hot new love affair to give my book a proper read.”
Horror–“I know who the victim is going to be in my next book.”
Western–“Those @*?#$! New Yorkers wouldn’t know a Longhorn from a Rocky Mountain Oyster.”
Mainstream Fiction–“I’m just ahead of my time. Maybe if I keep submitting, the calendar will catch up with me.”
Literary Fiction–(No comment, because literary fiction needs no excuse. If they didn’t accept it, they obviously weren’t cool/smart/literate/counterculture/etc. enough to get it.)
Children’s Stories–“My five-year-old would make a better agent/editor than that rotten ogre.”
Cookbooks–“At least I’ll be eating better than that agent/editor tonight.”
How-to–“I wonder how the title ‘Fifty Ways to Legally Avenge Yourself on the Publishing Business’ would sell.”
Memoir–“Too bad. If that rejection letter had been better-written, I would have included it in my addendum.”