Thursday, October 11, 2012
Rejection, and what comes after
No finer way to start my day than finding this in my email box:
"Thanks for submitting "The Pyramid of Skulls," but I'm going to pass on it. It didn't quite work for me, I'm afraid. Best of luck to you placing this one elsewhere, and thanks again for sending it my way."
Back in around 2003-2004, I made a hard push to finally break through and get something published in a real market. I had about half a dozen stories I considered professional level; I spent about eight months, all told, submitting hard copies of each story, in turn, to several different magazines... MAGAZINE OF FANTASY &SF, ISAAC ASIMOV, WEIRD TALES, ANALOG, BLACK GATE.
Everything wound up rejected. Everything I submitted to one particular venue wound up rejected by the guy who sent me the note above, which is virtually identical with all the other notes he has ever sent me. 'It didn't quite work for me, I'm afraid' is a phrase that is going to haunt my nightmares, I fear.
When I realized, after I'd submitted "The Pyramid of Skulls" to a particular online venue day before yesterday, that this guy (he has a very distinctive name) was now the publisher/editor there, my heart literally settled a centimeter or two closer to my colon. There's no way this guy even reads the stuff I submit to him; when I was living in Tampa, I once put a story (a damn good one) in the mail to F&SF on a Saturday, and found it back in my mailbox the following Saturday. That's the round trip from Tampa to New Jersey, and back, in five business days. There's simply no way he even read more than the top sentence of that story before scrawling a signature across one of these cutesy, maddeningly unhelpful and infuriatingly arrogant little rejection notes ("it didn't quite work for me"... what the fuck is that?) and stuffed it back into my SASE before tossing it on his OUT stack. In fact, my guess is, he didn't read more than the return address before flipping it to the reject pile... having noted, with lightning quick professionalism, that this was from an unknown nobody whose name on the cover wouldn't sell any additional copies for him.
I know I can't take these things personally, and I don't. But "The Pyramid of Skulls" is a damned fine story, and so are the other stories I submitted out back then (I reread most of them, and posted links to them from FB, yesterday). And the absolutely certain knowledge that, had any of these stories gone into any of those magazines with a "by Stephen King" or "by Joe R. Lansdale" byline on them, they would have been snapped up as fast as they were otherwise rejected... I don't take it personally, because it's not personal, it's just how the business works... but it aggravates and frustrates and exasperates me no end.
"The Pyramid of Skulls" is a fucking wonderful story, and I'm proud of it, and now I'm pissed off all over again.
He didn't say 'send more', though, so at least I'm excused from ever trying him out again.
I do, actually, realize I'm whining in a most unbecoming manner. I do, actually, understand that I cannot be objective about my own writing, and when I look at an issue of this mag I was just rejected from, and read the stories that he has accepted, and say "My stuff is absolutely as good as this stuff, or better", well, I don't get to make that call.
But I don't think he actually read this story before he rejected it, and say hey and by the way... this is my LIFE, here. This is what I've wanted to do since I was 12, and this is yet another example of why I don't get to do it... because the people in positions of absolute authority over this crazy business only have so many spaces to publish stuff in, and only so much time to wade through unsolicited submissions, and if what ends up getting published every month is stories by their long time friends and podcast partners, and stories by authors with reputations and followings whose names will bring in additional sales, well, that's just how it is. Sorry, buddy. This might be a Nebula award winner, but I don't know your name and I don't have time to really read this thing, I've got two hundred other nobodies to kick in the kidney before I can go to lunch today, so, you know, 'it didn't quite work for me'.
This shit just aggravates me. It really, really does.
So, today has started out shitty, and, you know, thanks, Mr. Big Shot, for taking the time to reject an excellent short story without bothering to read it. I appreciate your efforts on my behalf.
* * * * *
Heh. So I just responded to this morning's rejection note:
""Thanks for sending me your rejection note in re: my story "The Pyramid of Skulls," but I'm going to pass on it. It didn't quite work for me, I'm afraid. Best of luck to you being less of a tool, and thanks again for sending it my way."
Before anyone types the word 'unprofessional' into a reply window, please consider the following:
(a) I AM unprofessional. I'd like to be professional, but buttweeds won't let me. So, whatever, this is how that's going to be for a while, I guess.
(b) If we're going to have a discusson regarding professionalism anyway, let's start with, professional editors/publishers who reject manuscripts without reading them. If that's professional behavior, then so is calling them a tool for doing it with a snotty little note about how something 'didn't quite work for them'.
I'll probably add more to this later.
* * * *
So I just read two of the stories available for free at the e-mag I was just rejected from. The first, by the long time business partner and I guess close friend of the toolneck that rejected me, frankly sucked. The second... was interesting, and had flashes of real style, and a genuinely original premise. But it wasn't any better than "A Pyramid Of Skulls".
It's how these things go, I guess.