November 13, 2006

On receiving a rejection letter from a publisher

It should be hard to write after receiving a rejection letter. What's hard, in truth, is writing about anything other than the letter. I'm not new to it. It's not the first one I've received - I've had two projects turned down previously, by everyone I sent them to. One became a self-published book. The other, pace Samuel L Jackson, nothing. They were both to have been books on football: eventually I found it hard even to be in the sports section of a bookshop, where all I could see was shelfloads of books which should never have been written in the first place, and a space, after Hornby, where my name might have been.

That's how you feel, for a while. You tell yourself it's not the only publisher to receive your proposal - and there is, at least, one more to go - but in truth, you feel like you do when you get a job rejection letter. A rejection letter for a post you should have got. Logically, rationally, you can tell yourself it's just a matter of time, you'll get one in the end. But you feel, logically, rationally, that if these people, even these ones, turned you down, there's no reason you should be accepted by anybody else. It's ten years now, since I last wrote a book. I am not enveloped by optimism. We are interested in your proposal, but it's not quite the same as what we normally do. Yes I know, it's a bit different, that's the whole point of my writing it. Thank you for your proposal, best of luck in trying to place it elsewhere. It is too tiring a dance: too familiar a dance.

So I sit in front of the PC, browsing the internet, feeling sorry for myself, remembering when I last received rejection letters. When I was living in Newcastle, finishing my Masters, living homeless and cooped-up in the YWCA, trying to get a job in libraries. I had fifty rejection letters in the end. Each one expected, each one anticpiated, yet each one weighing as heavily as it would have had I expected otherwise. This stretched over a period of about four months. I couldn't write more than two or three application forms a week, as each fresh rejection letter sent me into gloom and made it impossible, for a while, to complete any new applications.

Even so, eventually, I had written so many application forms that I had perfected the content. Each fresh one was basically a copy of the last, adapted purely to the layout of the application form and the specifics of the job. The phrases, claims and self-description were identical: there was no further work to do, no further thought required. Eventually, motivated by gloom, motivated almost by its demotivating effect, I started composing a standard rejection letter too. Standard but bespoke, saying what a rejection letter really meant to say. Or what, when feeling sorry for myself, I thought they meant to say. Or what I thought I meant about myself.
Dear ejh

We are writing to express our delight that we are able to reject your application for a post within our organisation.

We understand that you may feel disappointed by this rejection and we would be extremely pleased, to the point of jubilation, if this were so. We wish to make it clear that causing you personal unhappiness is a goal towards which we attempt to strive and we are delighted if we are able to achieve it.

Frankly though we must tell you that we were extremely disturbed that you should have considered applying for a post here and we are conducting an urgent review of our systems, personnel and procedures to ensure that such a thing never occurs again. Even the thought that you might have liked to be associated with us fills us with a feeling of self-loathing that is only partially ameliorated by the joy we feel in turning you down. We feel slighted, but worse than slighted. We have been insulted, but worse than insulted. We feel dirty. But worse than dirty: we feel unwholesome.

Please stay away from us in future. Do not apply for any post with us again: do not even look at any job advertisment that we may issue. We will be changing the personal specification of all future vacancies, at all levels of our organisation, to make it clear that you (and you alone) are excluded from consideration.

We hate you. We have always hated you.

You are mediocre in everything except the degree to which you are vile. You are not worth the time which it has taken to compose this letter: yet if you received a thousand letters like it, the accumulated contempt would be less than you deserve. You are without merit. You are entirely lacking in admirable qualities and there is no objectionable characteristic which you do not possess.

We wish you no success at all in your search for another vacancy. We can think of nobody, no matter how loathsome, who has sunk so low that they deserve you as a colleague or an employee. Whoever knows you, goes near you or thinks of you is permanently damaged and discredited by the experience. The very planet on which, to its misfortune, you now stand, will forever have the fact of your existence as a blemish on its own. You, sir, are revolting.

We sincerely hope that you are no longer alive to receive this letter. If indeed your regrettable existence continues, let us at least hope that it is terminated as swiftly and decisively as was your application for employment here, which, as I say, we are utterly delighted, thrilled, excited - and gripped, by an intense and lasting sense of rightness, to be able to reject.

Yours etc

13 Comments:

At November 14, 2006 4:23 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

difficile est de epistula non scribere, as Juvenal might have said.

Commiserations.

Talking of rubbish football books, you've made the point to a mutual friend of ours that he is too good for the world of pop music. Maybe the same with you and football?

 
At November 14, 2006 9:00 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everyone gets rejection letters, but you're the only only one who has made a lifetime out of it...

 
At November 15, 2006 3:34 am, Blogger glenn said...

A possible reply

http://www.fishtank.org.uk/humour/humour.php3?articleid=70

 
At November 15, 2006 10:02 am, Blogger ejh said...

Heh. Very good Glenn, thanks for that.

Mind you it reminds me of when I resigned my job a year ago and my boss said to me:

"I accept your resignation".

Among the many things, after resigning, that I didn't say, and now wish that I had, was:

"What do you mean you 'accept'? You think I'm giving you a choice?"

 
At November 22, 2006 11:20 am, Anonymous Simon T said...

You mean they actually bother to send you rejection letters? Bloody luxury...

 
At December 02, 2006 12:54 am, Blogger Ian said...

I recently replied to a rejection letter by sending it back and saying that I was very sorry, but I was no longer able to accept rejection letters due to the overwhelming volume in which they'd been arriving, but I wished them the very best of luck in placing their rejection letter with another rejected writer, or perhaps a rejection letter clearing house. The best ones are when they kindly suggest you "try looking for an agent in The Writers' And Artists' Yearbook". F**king brilliant. I'd never thought of that. It's a whole new world of fun, incidentally - you get to experience the joy of a lower level of rejection letter. "Sorry, but we don't think your writing is good enough to start getting rejected yet." One agent suggested I buy her book on how to get a publishing deal. I like to think she was having a laugh.

Meanwhile, console yourself with the thought that, whatever you sent them, they probably didn't bother reading it in the first place.

 
At December 06, 2006 2:43 am, Blogger Leighton Cooke said...

Shit happens. Just move on. Every really great writer was rejected at least once.

 
At December 06, 2006 5:57 pm, Blogger jailhouselawyer said...

My parents rejected me, but if they thought of sending me a rejection letter I was too young at two to read it but I suspect that it was never written or sent...

 
At December 08, 2006 11:10 am, Blogger Jeremy Jacobs said...

Start your own business.

 
At December 08, 2006 11:14 am, Blogger ejh said...

I have, Toryboy.

 
At December 08, 2006 9:54 pm, Blogger Rachel said...

I thought it was ace

Which is why I linked. If you can't laugh, etc...

 
At August 28, 2008 7:12 pm, Blogger Big Plain V said...

This is hysterical. I especially loved this part: "We sincerely hope that you are no longer alive to receive this rejection letter."

God, I'm giggling as I'm typing. Have you tried writing comedy?

 
At August 28, 2008 7:15 pm, Blogger Big Plain V said...

Freaking hysterical.

(felt I had to reiterate)

 

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