Thursday, May 14, 2009

Worst Rejections

Not long ago I read a lively blog thread on “worst rejections,” a topic productive of endless reminiscence and speculation. Have you received rejections that baffled you with their ambiguity and cluelessness? Or, worse yet, an implicit rejection in the form of a requested submission being completely ignored?

Very early in my attempt at a writing career, I mailed a follow-up query about a story I’d sent to a small magazine and got a reply to the effect of, “all unsolicited manuscripts have been returned.” What the heck did that mean? All the submissions were so inferior they were rejected in disgust? The magazine was overstocked and therefore automatically returned all manuscripts? They were currently closed?

My two most baffling rejections came from agents. When first trying to sell my werewolf novel SHADOW OF THE BEAST, I sent the prologue and synopsis to an agent who then requested the full manuscript. She eventually rejected the novel on the grounds that a book should begin with something “important” happening. I thought, “Good grief, it starts with both of the heroine’s siblings being killed by a feral animal!” I later realized I’d made a newbie mistake in not including the prologue because the agent already had it. By the time she got the rest of the book, she must have forgotten all about the prologue and thought the story started with the heroine catching a bus to work.

My other most peculiar (and exasperating) agent rejection followed an appointment at the 2000 RWA con. I’d pitched a vampire romance and made it perfectly clear that paranormal romance was the only kind I wanted to write. The agent asked to see the partial. A few months later, she rejected the novel because—it was “too paranormal” for her!

Do you have any provocative or puzzling tales from the rejection trenches?

Margaret L. Carter (


  1. Hi, Margaret,

    In the nicest possible way, I don't think I'd share a rejection story, even if I could remember one.

    However, here's the other side of the coin, a Worst Submission of The Day blog by editor Karen Syed.

  2. I discussed the sensation and experience of getting bad reviews, which is what a "rejection letter" is for a manuscript, in my post here

  3. I read your blog Jacqueline, very interesting and helpful. I am a novice at Tarot (have some acquaintance with Astrology). I will have to read more of your back blogs or your book on Tarot - has it been published?
    "If you like being included, you may clear away more space inside yourself, and find you are able to attract more attention by paying attention to others. And this is a process that may take years -- 7 years or so is normal, as that is the interval Saturn spends in the "obscure" part of your chart where nobody notices you."
    I have yet to suffer the pain of a manuscript being rejected (but have no doubt that will soon be upon me). But your advice is so true for any form of rejection or any time you have occasion to feel sorry for yourself.
    There have been a few times in my life when it has happened and by forgetting myself and throwing myself into concern for others, I have overcome it. It still works if done cosnciously but is probably more powerful if done unconsciously as you say.

  4. ozambersand
    I'm supposed (according to my own schedule) to get back to the final edit on the volume on CUPS next week.

    The 5 books on Tarot will be made available as e-book and POD as soon as I get them done and all the production process is done.

    I've done the e-book version of NEVER CROSS A PALM WITH SILVER already, plus the book on the Suit of Wands. I'm on the next volume and stopped at 4 CUPS. So I have half of Cups then Swords and Pentacles to go.

    Swords and Pentacles are all on this blog posted every Tuesday except one that missed.

    You can get a hardcopy of PALM on Amazon. and on the right, click REFERENCE LIBRARY and it'll be the first book listed (for a while yet).

    I think you'll find your background in Tarot and any other such discipline will be extremely helpful in worldbuilding.

    Even people who don't know Tarot or Astrology -- or even who flat out reject that worldview -- will find a fictional world founded on the basic principles behind the occult disciplines more plausible than a fictional world built out of randomly chosen premises.

    This is a very strange phenomenon, but I've never seen it fail.

    The trick is of course not to be "on the nose" with the occult premises. The less it shows on the surface of the story, the more it helps to make the story plausible for readers.

    Jacqueline Lichtenberg