Sunday, July 15, 2007

An Editor, an Intern, and an Author Walk Into a Bar

So, wondering if you can help me decipher this rejection...? I sent four separate pic book manuscripts (in four separate envelopes) around the same time to a single publisher and received the following: an envelope that wasn't my SASE, with all four SASEs returned inside, addressed to me, naming (correctly) all four books, and reading:

"...several editors have considered the projects and we regret to report that we cannot see a place for them in our current publishing program. Our very best wishes to you for placing the work elsewhere. Thank you etc."

This was signed by the Vice President/Publisher (and it’s one of the big houses), although looks like it may be a computer generated sig, it's hard to tell.

Does this mean:

A. "All the editors that looked at this stuff agreed this was crap. Hang up the keyboard, sweetie."


B. "One or more of us actually considered them for a minute, we brought them all together and chatted about them over lattes, but we couldn't reach a consensus, dammit."

C. Neither of the above. (One of these manuscripts had been accepted by Penguin Australia (where I'm from) a few years ago but put on indefinite hold due to blah, blah, blah, so I know that one at least wasn't complete crap. Unusual perhaps, but not crap.)

I was interested that they were on the ball enough to put them together in a single package, and that they were thoughtful enough to return my unused SASEs to me (which I thought was kind). Why would they take the time, when they could have just sent me four form rejections at my expense?
There are really two possibilities. Take your pick:

a. The intern opening the mail noticed that four identical envelopes had identical return addresses/handwriting and clipped the four submissions together. Somebody looked briefly at the top one and passed all of them back to the intern to reject. None of your individual envelopes was big enough to send all of the manuscripts back together, so rather than personalizing four form rejections, she personalized one and stuffed them in a new envelope.

b. What you've quoted sounds very much like a form rejection, but the mention of "several editors" makes me pause. I wouldn't put that in a rejection if it weren't true... but I can't speak for other editors (and there's just no speaking for interns, ever). So it's possible that after the intern opening the mail noticed that four identical envelopes had identical return addresses/handwriting and clipped the four submissions together, your manuscripts were passed among editors. That would indicate that there was some real promise there, but that none of the manuscripts grabbed anyone enough to prompt a more personal rejection.

Maybe there's another possibility, though—you didn't say how long it took them to respond to these manuscripts. If it was a long time, then:

c. The intern opening the mail noticed that four identical envelopes had identical return addresses/handwriting and clipped the four submissions together, read them, and recommended them to the editor she was assisting. The editor put them into a pile that she thought she was going to read (in a moment of absurd optimism), and forgot about them (and the pile). Several months later the pile that had once been on her desk had moved to the floor and was gradually getting taller, dustier, and more mysterious ("What is that pile? Did someone leave it here?"). Finally she tripped on it and realized that it was made of manuscripts. In order to make some excuse for the ridiculous amount of time that had passed, she sent a form rejection referencing "several editors." Does this qualify as "evil"?

An editor, an intern, and an author walk into a bar. The editor sees several things wrong with the bar, but doesn't mention any of them. "I'm... late for an appointment," she says, and leaves. The intern doesn't see anything wrong with the bar, but has to follow where the editor leads. "Uh, me too," she says, "But great bar!" The author thinks the bar is charming and sits down and orders a drink. "This is the best drink I've ever had!" she says.
Which is the worst customer?

Answer: the author. She has no money, and is going to stiff you for the tab.


Anonymous said...

Thanks EA, for answering my question! I didn't require my manuscripts to be returned, so they didn't need a large envelope... it was just their single letter in their envelope with my four #10 size SASEs.

It didn't take long either, roughly three months.

Gives me hope, thank you!

Terry P. said...

Too funny, EA. My husband always says, "How do you know when a children's author is successful?" When they have a spouse with two jobs. ;-)

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