While digging through boxes recently I found some old rejections I received in response to queries about my short story collection, The Year of the Elm (TYOTE). In looking them over most seemed to confirm what I’ve been saying lately: the industry doesn’t care about the quality of your work, it cares about the marketability of your project. If you’re an unknown writer you’re probably out of luck regardless of your storytelling skills. If you’re a well-known celebrity and can’t spell your own name, you’re probably looking at a book deal.
The majority of rejections I received were photocopied form slips. (My favorite was the quarter-page slip that had been cut from a single sheet of four such notices. How much time had it taken to cut those pages into quarters, and how much money had it actually saved?) What seems abundantly clear in retrospect is that none of those agents made any sort of determination about the quality of my writing before saying no. They looked at the project only long enough to determine whether they could sell the collection, and since short story collections are death in the marketplace that determination took two seconds. Feedback about the quality of my work couldn’t be provided because those agents probably didn’t read far enough along to have an opinion.
Again, I understand all that in a business context. I don’t fault agents or editors for churning through submitted projects as quickly as possible, and I’m thankful to those who sent me any sort of reply. (Some couldn’t even be bothered to do that, despite the fact that I always included an SASE.) [ Read more ]