James Alexander Thom has a great piece in the Spring 2004 Author’s Guild Bulletin: “Rejection Flip.” I sometimes wonder whether forking out $90 a year to belong to the Author’s Guild makes sense, but articles like this one are priceless.
Plus, I get a certain satisfaction in turning to the last page of each issue of the Bulletin and reading the names of some fellow members who serve on the Guild Council: Judy Blume, Mary Higgins Clark, Michael Crichton, Erica Jong, Scott Turow. Writing fame and fortune have evaded me so far, but hope springs eternal that someday I can at least stand on the fringes of such well-known company.
Anyway, Thom begins by saying, “One thing that will bring a smile to a writer’s face is hearing another writer talk about his rejection slips. The smile is usually rueful or wistful; sometimes it’s a smirk. When we talk about our rejection slips, we are family.” He goes on to relate his early history with rejection slips, then tells about his inspiration to reject the rejections:
“I became a connoisseur of rejection slips. Some were classy, and reflected well on the publishers. Others were poorly typed out, on cheap paper. Some came with typographical errors or bad grammar.
“Some of those I would send back, with a note saying they weren’t up to my standard: ‘Thank you for sending me this rejection slip. Unfortunately, I must return it. It begins to lag in the second paragraph, and the conclusion seems somehow contrived….’ Or, ‘After careful reading of your rejection of my story, I must recommend that you revise it, or seek the help of a professional editor. You seem to have trouble with punctuation and dangling participles. Sincerely…
P.S. If you resubmit this rejection slip, please enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope.
“Well, why not? I had as much right to dislike their rejection slips as they had to dislike my manuscripts. I worked a year on a book; it merited a thoughtful turndown. A professional rejection slip should be a little masterpiece.”
I love this. I (almost) look forward to getting my next rejection slip.