Friday, March 30, 2012


c. 2012 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

A writers’ legend says that Philip K. Dick, the noted science fiction author, had numerous rejection slips pasted on the walls above his desk. This odd display helped him maintain a sense of focus, even after much success as a creative wordsmith.

At the Icehouse home office, a similar tradition has been in place for the past thirty years. Since this odyssey began on a Royal KMM typewriter, I have dutifully saved each rejected manuscript, and note, in a special drawer of unsuccessful projects for future review.

Most letters of rejection offer time-honored excuses. They doom a manuscript because of space limitations and editorial policies:

Easyriders, 1982

“We’re sorry to have to return your submission, as it does not fit our needs at this time. Each article, cartoon, illustration, photograph, and poem is reviewed by the entire editorial board, and careful consideration was given to your work. We wish we had room to use all submissions, but we don’t and that fact dictates our turning down a lot of good material simply because we don’t have room for it. Thank you for thinking of Easyriders – feel free to make additional submissions at any time.”

Boy Scouts of America, 1988

“Thank you for sending your submission. Unfortunately, it does not fit our editorial needs at this time. The large volume of submissions we receive each week prevents us from providing you with more specific criticism. We wish you the very best in placing it elsewhere. Again, our appreciation for thinking of Boys’ Life.”

Sometimes, an editor will choose to reject material with an unusual burst of candor:

Outlaw Biker, 1995

“Enclosed, please find the materials you recently sent to our magazine. We’ve got flix and stories coming out of our ears right now, so we’re returning your submission. We are also in the process of trying to find an editor. We appreciate your interest and hope you’ll think of us again in the future. But kindly include a self-addressed stamped envelope in the future if you want your materials returned. If you did so, please forgive us. (Please re-submit or send new material in about 6 months. We should have an editor by then.) Once again, thanks for your interest and support.”

Iron Horse, 1997

“Sorry, Rod. Try Outlaw Bike(r), they get off on this stuff.”

Or, a publication will simply close the door in a writer’s face:

The Saturday Evening Post, 1998

“Thank you for submitting material to the Saturday Evening Post. We regret that we are unable to develop it for publication at this time… We wish you success in your writing endeavors.”

Syracuse New Times, 1998

“Thank you for your recent submission to the New Times. I’m afraid will have to pass… but I’ve enclosed a copy of our free-lance guidelines for your review.”

Sometimes, they engage in sheer self-congratulation while rejecting a manuscript:

GRIT, 1998

“Thanks for sharing your short story with me. I’ve learned that GRIT contributors have wonderful, imaginative and compelling stories to tell. Unfortunately, space limitations, the interests of our readers and the large volume of articles offered often force me to return good work. I appreciate the confidence you showed in GRIT by submitting your story. Our readers are our most successful contributors. You continue to make GRIT a publication that conveys the best of American life and traditions.”

But generally speaking, publishers and editors refuse submissions while leaving the mailbox open for future ideas:

Unity Magazine, 1998

“Thank you for allowing us to consider your writing for publication. We would love to be able to publish so many of the hundreds of submissions we receive each month. We feel richly blessed that so many talented writers like yourself have chosen to share their work with Unity Magazine. Although we do not have a place for the poetry that you enclosed, we all enjoyed reading your writing very much. I look forward to you continuing to send your work for consideration. Again, thanks for remembering us.”

The Salvation Army War Cry, 1998

“Although your article was interesting, it was not among our selections for publication. The War Cry thanks you for your submission and welcomes them in the future. God bless you!”

On rare occasions, a rejection letter becomes personal, offering advice and careful direction to the writer:

Easyriders, 1998

“Rod, thanks for your submission. (It) was well-written, but in general, Easyriders fiction runs between 3500-4000 words. If you want to lengthen your story and re-submit it, please do… Your command of writing and the construction of your ideas works well.”

Still, the most entertaining rejections come when an editor simply can’t avoid engaging in wordsmithing excess. These letters say ‘thanks, but no thanks’ with lots of bogus creative energy:

Ten Speed Press, 2007

“Thank you for your submission to Ten Speed Press. In a perfect world, we would be able to publish all worthy projects that come our way. We wish we could respond to everyone with a personal note, but the heavy volume of submissions we receive makes it impossible to do so. Be assured that your proposal was given careful personal consideration. When a manuscript is sent back, it often has nothing to do with the merit of the idea or quality of the writing. As a rule, we do not publish fiction, or poetry, or personal memoirs. Sometimes an idea is ahead of its time and sometimes there are already too many books on the subject. Your project may be too similar to something we are doing or something we have just done. Often we would love to proceed but we are unable to put together an effective marketing plan, and occasionally, we are just not the right house to publish your work. Thanks again for thinking of Ten Speed, and best of luck in placing your manuscript.”

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