Back on Valentine’s Day 2002, my husband bought me a copy of Snoopy’s Guide to the Writing Life. It’s filled with Schultz cartoons of Snoopy trying with no success to be a world-famous novelist. But there’s great advice by world-famous writers in it as well. The book stayed in my bookshelf along with many other books about writing, grammar, etc. until about 3 years ago when my daughter discovered it, and found Snoopy’s attempts at writing, and the subsequent rejection letters to be hysterical. Since then, if I want the book, I have to go to her bookshelf. She liked the rejection letters so much, that she started penning a few of her own, and leaving them on my desk, or in my notebooks, or on top of my laptop. And since they were sufficiently scathing, I thought she might have a real career in the publishing industry as an agent or editor (even though she’s mathematically inclined, and I’m holding out hope for something in the science field).
So this weekend, when she pulled the book out again and started reading the cartoons out loud, cracking up as she went, I started thinking about some of the rejection letters I’ve gotten recently and how they make me fall into hysterics… or hysteria…
I enjoyed taking a look at [title of manuscript]–it is a fun and unusual take on the usual [subject] books. Unfortunately, however, we are still unable to offer representation. The picture book market is very challenging right now, and this has forced us to be even more selective in taking on new clients so that we can focus our efforts on the work of our current authors and illustrators. We appreciate the opportunity to read more of your work and would love to see more from you in the future.
I loved this picture book manuscript, but I’ve been struggling so much with the un-illustrated manuscripts I already represent that I’m going to (reluctantly) pass. Best of luck with this, it’s fantastic.
Here’s an old one from my daughter:
Thank you for your latest submission. We are dying to publish your story. April fool!
(This was accompanied by peals of laughter from another room as I read it. So it’s not just fun for me. It’s fun for ALL!)
And here are some famous author rejection letters:
“It is impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.A.” — rejection letter for George Orwell’s ANIMAL FARM.
“I’m sorry Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.”
“It would be extremely rotten taste, so say nothing of being horribly cruel, should we want to publish it.” –rejection letter for Hemingway’s TORRENTS OF SPRING
If you’re interested in more rejection letter trivia, here’s a good blog post
that I found on the subject.