A recent “Peanuts” comic strip shows Snoopy standing beside his mail box reading a letter that says: Dear Contributor, We are returning your stupid story. You are a terrible writer. Why do you bother us? We wouldn’t buy one of your stories if you paid us. Leave us alone. Drop dead. Get lost. Snoopy’s thought bubble says, “Probably a form rejection slip.”
Some days I feel like Snoopy, except I receive form rejection emails. They are usually a tiny bit gentler, such as “Thank you for your interest in our publishing company. However, your submission does not meet our needs at this present time. We wish you success in finding the best place for your submission.” What is implied, but not overtly stated is, “Such as the trashcan.”
I’m not stupid. I can read between the lines. (I can even write between the lines.) What these publishers really mean is, “Your submission does not and will never at any time meet our needs, so there is no point in continuing to query us. Good luck with finding another sucker to publish your work. It’s highly unlikely you will, but we don’t want to completely burst your naïve author wannabe bubble, so we will let you falsely believe there really is a shred of hope that someone else may be interested.” I also know that when I become a best-selling author, these same publishers will flock to me like flies to a garbage dump. (Perhaps that was not the best metaphor, comparing my writing to a garbage dump. Or was that a metaphor?)
I have been to writing conferences, taken courses in how to do all the right things to get my writing accepted by agents and editors, meticulously and painstakingly done everything I was told to do in terms of preparing proposals and endorsements, spent big bucks on professional editing, and jumped through bizarre submission hoops (one agent actually required the writer to sit through an hour of his videos, in which he touted how wonderful he and his agency were, so you would receive a secret code sometime during the presentation—so pay careful attention–to put in the subject line of your submission. If that secret code was not included, your submission was automatically tossed!) only to be turned down. Regardless of how gently these publishers, editors, and agents let me down, I still feel like I have received a rejection letter like Snoopy’s.
But at least I know they looked at my submission long enough to hit the pre-programmed reject button. The ones that are the most frustrating are the ones who never respond in the first place when I send them a submission. Most of the time I don’t even receive a rejection. I receive nothing. Wouldn’t you think in this digital age, an automatic form letter could be generated saying, “We received your submission, don’t want it, and don’t bother us again?” Instead, I am left hanging as to whether or not my submission even made it to their inbox. Should I resubmit? If I keep filling up their inbox, will they finally acknowledge me?
My mother taught me to always respond when someone contacted me, whether I wanted to or not. When I become famous, I’m going to remember that advice and not ignore the little people. Or perhaps I’ll just have my agent respond with a form letter.