Rejections are always painful for an author. It's very much like the feeling a jilted lover undergoes-searching for reasons to justify oneself, mustering courage to stay on and retry, and taking recourse to negative expressions like hate or sulk. Yet, in time one just forgets. One success is enough to assuage all the trauma of the tens and scores of failures in the past. Resilience, thy name is writing!
I've put my rejection missives in my e-mail archive and love to read them sometimes. And I do marvel at their expertise in saying no's. Some of them are advisory, none too morale boosting, but most are with words that would sound like praise for your writing style, or choice of theme, or freshness: 'you write evocatively'; 'your ideas are interesting' and so on. They are just form letters!
Now I'll try to recapitulate a few such replies here.
1- 'Thanks for this query. As interesting as this does sound I'm afraid it is too difficult to take on story collections from a unknown writer, esp. from overseas. I would recommend that you try and get some stories published in lit magazines, in India or in UK. or perhaps anthologized. This would help give you a name and a leg up in this tough game.'
2- 'Thank you for the proposal.
'Unfortunately at the moment it will not be possible for us to make you any offer on the same keeping in mind the requirements of our publishing programme. '
3- 'Many thanks for your material which we've read with interest but sadly without sufficient confidence in our ability to place the book for you, to offer to take things further. Sorry to be cowardly, and we wish you the best of luck elsewhere.'
4- 'There are many factors that determine whether we accept a book for publication. Is it well written? Is it entertaining? Is there a good story hook? Are the characters fully fleshed out where the reader would care about them? Does the progression of the book make the reader want to keep reading? Does the author have a good plan for helping to market his or her book? Would the book have wide market appeal to be a sales success? Does it fit with our catalog of offerings?
'Our editorial staff has completed the review process for your manuscript. After careful consideration, we regret to inform you that we are not able to offer a publishing contract for "The Remix of Orchid." '
5- 'Thank you for giving us the chance to review material from your short story collection.
Unfortunately, the agency is so inundated with work for our existing clients at the moment that we are currently being forced to limit quite severely the new projects that we can agree to undertake. The need to allocate time effectively forces us to decline participation in many worthy projects, and regretfully that must be the decision in the case of this as well.
'Sorry we can't be of help but we wish you all the best with this'.
6- 'I'm not back to work yet (I have a six month old baby boy - Edgardo - to look after) so I won't be able to read much until September. Do contact me then, though, if you are still looking for an agent.'
7- 'Thank you for the query. To be frank, it is simply too difficult to sell short stories by new writers, so, due to our workload we can't take on a project of that nature. I believe you are better off directly approaching those publishers who take queries and hoping for a stroke of good luck.'
8- 'Dear Mr. A.N. Nanda,
'Please reffer to your e-mail dated 29th April 2006. The production subsidy required by us would be Rupees Forty Thousand for a book of about two hundred printed pages (350 to 375 words per page apprx.). This may sound ridiculous from your point of view.
'With best wishes,
'Dr Some Big Publisher
9. 'After going through the pieces, I am a bit disappointed as the stories are far too long and do not have enough fresh material (for an outsider like the reader). However, if you send me a brief sketch of the rest of the stories (about 50 words for each) I can come to a final decision.
So, the list is full of varieties-brief, businesslike and bewildering. It will take me time to rummage through the archive to present the most depressing ones and I'll do that one day. With the words of advice too insincere, they are far from being useful. Still a response is a response, better than a silence. And all rejections are to be understood as such.
A. N. Nanda