Thursday, June 28, 2012

Rotten Rejections

Tip of the Day: You HAVE to click on this link. I swear, it's so funny. It's the 10 Worst Book Covers in the History of Literature.

I was cleaning out my bedroom closet this past weekend and came across this feel good book that I used to love to read:

ROTTEN REJECTIONS by Andre Bernard. It's awesome. It was printed in 1990 and I bought it probably ten years ago for 95 cents at the used bookstore that used to be in my home town (sadly they've since closed). Andre is not only a writer but (at the time of compiling this) was an editor at a giant NY publisher. So he's been on both sides of rejection.

I'm going to share some of my favorite rejections from the book:

"JOURNEY BACK TO LOVE," Mary Higgins Clark, 1962
"We found the heroine as boring as her husband had."

SANCTUARY, William Faulkner, 1931
"Good God, I can't publish this. We'd both be in jail."

SARTORIS, William Faulkner, 1929
"If the book had a plot and structure, we might suggest shortening and revisions but it is so diffuse that I don't think this would be any use. My chief objection is that you don't have any story to tell."

UNTITLED SUBMISSION, Rudyard Kipling, 1889
"I'm sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don't know how to use the English language."

"The girl doesn't, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the 'curiosity' level."

THE TORRENTS OF SPRING, Ernest Hemingway, 1926
"It would be in extremely rotten taste, to say nothing of being horribly cruel, should we want to publish it."

THE DEER PARK, Norman Mailer, 1948
"This will set publishing back 25 years."

IN THE CAGE, Henry James, 1898
"A duller story I have never read. It wanders through a deep mire of affected writing and gets nowhere, tells no tale, stirs no emotion but weariness. The professional critics who mistake an indirect and roundabout use of words for literary art will call it an excellent piece of work; but people who have any blood in their veins will yawn and throw it down--if, indeed, they ever pick it up."

Ouch! I guess we can say that rejections have gotten nicer over time!

I want to end with a memo in the book from George Bernard Shaw which makes me think he would have been a huge advocate for today's self-publishing authors:

"I finished my first book seventy-six years ago. I offered it to every publisher on the English-speaking earth I had ever heard of. Their refusals were unanimous: and it did not get into print until, fifty years later, publishers would publish anything that had my name on it...

I object to publishers: the one service they have done me is to teach me to do without them. They combine commercial rascality with artistic touchiness and pettishness, without being either good business men or fine judges of literature. All that is necessary in the production of a book is an author and a bookseller, without the intermediate parasite." - George Bernard Shaw (July 26, 1856-November 2, 1950)

Kristina, Miss Author in Action


DeenaML said...

These editors are either brutally honest in their real lives, or just missing an empathy gene. :)

Kristina Springer said...

For real! The whole book is like that. I can't believe so many people received so many mean rejections.

Kate Fall said...

Is it okay to say I kind of agree with the Henry James rejection?