The Rejection Letter: Inspiration, Pain, and Kindling

For some reason, I began thinking about all of the rejection letters I have received since I first began submitting my writing in high school.  That was 17 years ago and I gathered a lot of rejection letters until I stopped trying a few years ago.  I didn’t quit writing, but decided that there had to be another way for me.  I felt a change in the writing world and I was seeing it in the rejection letters.  There was no longer a pretense of publishers and agents reading my submissions.  One even messed up spelling my name and write the title of a book that wasn’t familiar.  Many times I never got a response, so I began looking into the industry.  I really had no idea what was going on until I received the following statement in an agent’s rejection letter:

“We think you have talent and your story shows a lot of promise.  Sadly, you are not Stephen King, so we have no place for you.  We wish you the best of luck.”

This confused me for several days because I was well aware that I wasn’t Stephen King.  For one thing, I have interest in Maine and I’m shorter.  I assumed that this comment meant one of the following translations:

1.  You are not as talented as Stephen King, so we don’t want you.

2. I wasn’t as famous as Stephen King, so they weren’t willing to take the risk.

Now, I can fully agree with and accept the first translation because I think Stephen King is better than me right now.  I’m always learning and evolving my style, so I could reach his level at some point.  For now, he is one of the masters and I’m one of the struggling peons.

That second one is what I think was really being said and that irked me.  A lot.  Not because they were wrong because they were right.  It was because I felt like they were rejecting me because I wasn’t already published.  Yet, I had been rejected by publishers for not having an agent.  It was my first time meeting the Writer’s Catch 22:  You need an agent to get published, you need a fanbase to get an agent, but you need to be published to get a fanbase.  I was young and easily angered, so I did what any rational author would do.  I started thinking up various ways to destroy the rejection letters and laugh like a maniac while doing it.  There were darts, swords, scissors, lacing one with peanut butter and leaving it out for the squirrels, and so many other methods that should nominate me for a padded room.  The Stephen King one made it to the end where I simply burned it over a pot and swore I was going to prove everyone wrong.  In retrospect, I probably should have kept that rejection letter on the off chance that I ever meet Stephen King.

So, the point of this post is to reveal my past with rejection letters, which has been plaguing my mind and ask the following question:

What was the most bizarre or inspirational rejection letter you ever received and what did you do with it?

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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12 Responses to The Rejection Letter: Inspiration, Pain, and Kindling

  1. The Commonzense of Saint James says:

    My latest one (yesterday):
    Dear Author,

    Thanks so much for letting us take a look at your materials, and please forgive me for responding with a form letter. The volume of submissions we receive, however, makes it impossible to correspond with everyone personally.

    Unfortunately, the project you describe does not suit our list at this time. We wish you the best of luck in finding an agent and publisher for your work, and we thank you, once again, for letting us consider your materials.


  2. Karen says:

    I haven’t submitted anything anywhere for a long while. I think the last rejection I got was a very curt one line email that said, “This is not something we would publish.” I didn’t even rate a form letter (or even an insincere “thank you for you submission.”)

    I’ve been away off the whole submission/rejection carousel for a long while–kinda surprised to see that people are still submitting their work hard copy somewhere (and even more surprised you’re receiving snail-mail responses!)

    Call me a snooty elitist but I would consider a letter that told me I was no Stephen King a compliment. 🙂


    • slepsnor says:

      Long ago, I started to think that the traditional hard copy sending and rejection is a trial of fire that every writer has to go through. It helps you build up thicker skin, so I would tell every new author to do it every now and then simply to get a taste of rejection. Also, you can get some good stories out of it if the letters are comical.

      I was oddly flattered that they felt the need to compare me to Stephen King. I don’t write in the same genre as him, but it did bring a smile to my face. Though, the smile could have also been a hint of rejection-caused insanity.


  3. Leisa says:

    I’ve never received any..but then I’ve never submitted anything. Self Publishing is something I’m looking into


    • slepsnor says:

      Self-publishing is becoming the new first step. I read about publishers and agents scouring the e-book publishers to find writers. It helps get that established fanbase that puts agents and publishers at ease.

      All I would say is to go Kindle/Nook/Smashwords because pay-to-publish (a path I took one too many times) is only useful if you have a lot of money to spend on it and a lot of time to market yourself. Still, the price of the books is ridiculous and is a major obstacle.


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