Post-a-Rejection-Letter Friday

Tempest Bradford links to Shaun C. Green who has declared today post-a-rejection-letter Friday. Tempest also links to an INSANE rejection of Ursula K. Le Guin’s brilliant Left Hand of Darkness which is one of my favourite books of all time. The person who wrote that letter clearly read an entirely different book. Possibly one by Ayn Rand.

My rejection letters are in a filing cabinet in Sydney. The only bit I can remember from them is from a rejection I received in the 1980s that included the following PS:

If you insist on writing under a pseudonym it is best to also include your real name. Thank you.

The crazy outlandish pseudonym I used? Why, that would be “Justine Larbalestier”. I know! What was I thinking?

I do have a few rejections from Strange Horizons—they do everything electronically—but they’re all super nice and encouraging so that’s no fun. Sidenote: If you write sf or fantasy short stories I strongly recommend them as a market. They publish great stories, they respond promptly, and their rejection letters are really nice even when they clearly hated your story.

I just remembered another one, which came from an English magazine. It went something like this, “You write beautifully but this story is completely pointless. Please don’t waste our time again until you learn to plot.” Ouch! They were right though. Sigh.

Post a rejection letter of your own! The club of those who have received them is a very very very big one.


  1. Amie on #

    All mine are at home. I do remember being super-insulted at getting a rejected scribbled on my query letter–and there were coffee stains LOL

  2. Justine on #

    You shouldn’t have been. Hand-written is usually a good sign. Plus they were recycling! Very enviromentally sound.

  3. Pixelfish on #

    Brian Cholfin (Crank!) once sent me a form rejection telling me not to watch so much television. I self-flagellated for days. (Have never been much for TV–I usually watch it after the fact, a la Buffy and Deadwood and Six Feet Under. At the time, I didn’t even own a TV.)

  4. Julia Rios on #

    The one that stung the most said, “Your protagonist needs to protag.” I’d been certain he did, of course, but looking back on it, my opinion has changed.

  5. Justine on #

    Pixelfish: Hah! Well, he was wrong, wasn’t he?

    Julia Rios: It’s amazing what a difference distance makes, isn’t it?

  6. Brent on #

    Unfortunately I didn’t keep either my early submissions or the rejection letters that went with them. I do recall one that had several typos; that lifted my spirits quite a bit.

    Omni also used to give great rejection letters. The boilerplate “we’re sorry but your submission doesn’t meet our needs at this time” was phrased so nicely it sounded like they were sorry their magazine wasn’t right for my story.

  7. cherie priest on #

    I don’t have any of mine handy either (also in storage, somewhere back east), but I got at least two rejections similar to yours — wherein I was told that I needed to at least MENTION my real name … though one of them also added that I’d picked a neat pseudonym. 🙂

  8. Alma Alexander on #

    From an agent who shall remain mercifully nameless to protect the holy – she seemed interested in my work, asked to see more of it, left me all hopeful and fluttery… and then IT came, the rejection letter, written *in longhand* in the little bit of white space at the bottom of my own original cover letter to her.

    It read, in toto, thusly:

    “I’m sorry, I won’t be able to take on the MS, I’m leaving to join a seminary in two days.”

    SHort of a Paul of Tarsus convresion on the road to Damascus and a sudden intense and irresistible stab of Vocation… welll.. it does occur to me that she might have known about this seminary thing in advance. And that she might have acted accordingly, as in, not asked for manuscripts from eager authors when she more or less had no intention of doing anything with them other than perhaps offering up prayers for the writers’ tortured souls….

  9. Matt Smit on #

    It might have been an earlier draft of Left hand of Darkness…

  10. rebecca on #

    i have a printout of my one and only rejection letter somewhere, but i’m not at home and the email is long gone. alas. 😉 it was something generic about how they weren’t looking for that sort of thing at the moment. lol. it was funny. i had no idea what i was doing.

  11. lotti on #

    sigh. I would be rather happy right now to get a rejection letter. It would at least be a start, because I have never plucked up the courage to go down the publishing road. What inspired you to get published?

  12. cuileann on #

    Oh heavens, it’s great to laugh at the losers who passed up awesome writers. 😛

    The last time I saw Shannon Hale speak she had her rejection letters with her, all in one long laminated roll…it must have been thirty feet long.

    Do you think publishers remember books they passed up when they see them become successful? Like, “Oh darn, that book I rejected two years ago just won a Newbery Honor”?

  13. lotti on #

    eh, wouldn’t it be funny? I think most authors get really great stories rejected at least once. and have a good laugh about it later.

  14. Amie Stuart on #

    Justine….LOL I never thought of it like that!

    Alma….I had an editor cold-request a book and then leave the publishing house *sigh*

  15. Jonathan M on #

    Oh come on!

    We all know Justine Larbalestrier is a pen-name for William Shatner. The editor had you bang to rights!

  16. Justine on #

    Jonathan M: Maybe so. Fortunately my name is Larbalestier not “Larbalestrier”. No extra “r.”

  17. S.B on #

    Re: the pen name comment… oh, dear.

    In a rejection letter I was once told to get a pen name because only ‘English’ names sold, and mine’s Gaelic. This was in 2006.

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