Unless you are one of the lucky few, you’ve gotten a rejection from a publisher or agent. You also know the best ways to deal with it. I never thought I’d say this, but even getting a rejection letter in this day’s publishing world is an affirmation.
Over the past few years, common civility in all things has taken a downturn of near mammoth proportions. Almost five years ago, my workplace had their employees read “Choosing Civility: The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct” by P.M. Forni. I remember my bemusement that someone actually earned money for a book that said:
- Pay Attention.
- Acknowledge Others
- Think the Best
- Be Inclusive
- Speak Kindly
- Don’t Speak Ill
- Accept and Give Praise
- Respect Even a Subtle “No”
- Respect Others’ Opinions
These are only the first ten Rules.
So simple. So obvious. I thought everyone knew this was how to behave.
Civility appears to be less a priority these days. People don’t have TIME for it. It’s like people are hamsters running inside the wheel.
Regarding rejection letters, many publishers no longer send them. You send off your submission whether it’s ground mail or electronic and the editors don’t have TIME to notify you of their decision. The non-response rejects you. No feedback, no “this opinion is subjective, good luck” darkens your e-mail or mailbox. Your efforts are not only barely acknowledged, you might not get a letter even if you put a SASE in your snail mail submission. No TIME is an acceptable excuse for lack of civility.
How about electronic submissions? It should be easy to send a one-line rejection via e-mail. After all, they have an automatic message about having received it. Often, they have no TIME to send a rejection. I’m not writing this because I’m upset that I haven’t heard from an agent or editor, although now I long for a good old-fashioned rejection letter. They stung, but they were civil.
Just for fun, here is a brief rejection history of these writers and works:
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – 14 rejections
Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis – 17 rejections
Carrie by Stephen King – over 30 rejections
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell – 38 rejections
A Time to Kill by John Grisham – 45 rejections
Louis L’Amour, author of over 100 western novels – over 300 rejections before publishing his first book
Ray Bradbury, author of over 100 science fiction novels and stories – around 800 rejections before selling his first story
The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter – rejected so universally the author decided to self-publish the book
From rejection slip for George Orwell’s Animal Farm: “It is impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.A.”
From rejection slip for Norman MacLean’s A River Runs Through It: “These stories have trees in them.”
From rejection slip for article sent to the San Francisco Examiner to Rudyard Kipling: “I’m sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.”
From rejection slip for The Diary of Anne Frank: “The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the curiosity level.”
Rejection slip for Dr. Seuss’s And To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street: “Too different from other juveniles on the market to warrant its selling.”
I’m all for change, but I miss civility. I miss it when I hear or observe how people treat others. I miss it when I listen to politicians. I miss it almost every day.
How about you?