Friday, July 15, 2011

10 The Writer's Rejection Dictionary

Have you ever gotten a rejection letter and wondered what it meant? Actually felt happy to get a rejection letter? Or gotten one that makes you want to burn your manuscript and take up something less risky than writing, like say sky-diving?

Since Marissa and I are on blog hiatus, that means no round-ups. In the meantime, here's a repost of the dictionary of all things rejection, and if you don't see one or two terms that sound familiar, you haven't sent out enough queries yet.

Rejection Letter:
  1. A single sheet of paper with the potential to send you screaming for Ben & Jerry's. With Tequila. Because the last year of your life was worthless. 
  2. A rite of passage on the path to publication. Applying lessons learned from it can help you grow as a writer.

Rejectionist: (Taken mostly from the blog at
  1. An assistant at a literary agency.
  2. Someone who does not want your tired, your poor, your huddled masses. The Assistant is not Ellis Island. The Assistant isn't interested unless [your manuscript is] GOOD.
  3. Someone who considers it her job to crush your dreams/spit on your hopes/make you cry pass good things on to the Agent. It is not the Assistant's job to tell you how to write a book, dole out the milk of human kindness, or hold your little Author-hands.
  4. Someone who encourages you to buck the conventions of the query letter if your work is too amazing/revolutionary/brilliant to be summarized [or to] try applying for jobs without a résumé, using only your psychic powers.
  5. A great (and funny) resource about the publishing industry from [almost] the other side of the agent's desk.

Rejecter: (Taken mostly from the blog at
  1. An assistant at a [different] literary agency.
  2. The first line of defense for her boss [against tripe, drivel, and the random query musings of writers who don't bother to do their homework].
  3. Someone who, on average, rejects 95% of [query] letters immediately and put[s] the other 5% in the "maybe" pile.
  4. A great resource for writers who want to do their homework before sending out their query letters.
Rejector: (Don't look for the blog--rejectors are everywhere!)
  1. An agent or editor who rejects you.
  2. For the purposes of the following definititions, a short way of saying "agent or editor."
    (see Evil Editor)

Evil Editor: (See the blog at:
  1. An entertaining and useful blog with critiques of query letters, alternate endings to bad beginnings, funny cartoons and videos, etc.
  2. Any rejector not intelligent enough to instantly hail your genius despite the six typos, eight cliches, and the rhetorical question in your query letter.

Form Rejection:

     A letter that means one of the following:
  1. You sent the letter to a rejector who doesn't handle manuscripts like yours.
  2. You sent the letter to a rejector who already handles a manuscript similar to yours.
  3. You sent your letter to a rejector who received 147 other queries about vampires that day.
  4. You sent your letter to a rejector who has so many fantastic clients they will only accept you if you are the second coming.
  5. You sent your letter to a rejector who receives 200 query letters per day and couldn't possibly send personal rejections for all of them.
  6. You sent your query before you researched how to write a query letter or what this particular rejector wants to see in a query.
  7. You committed one of the query letter sins listed here.
  8. You sent your manuscript before it was really ready.

Helpful Rejection:
  1. A letter in which the rejector points out that you did something right by letting you know what was wrong with your manuscript.
  2. A letter you will puzzle over with your critique partners and loved ones while poring over writing books trying to define the terms used in the rejection letter and randomly inserting War & Peace-like volumes between the lines.

Refrigerator Rejection:
  1. A rejection letter in which the rejector points out that you came close, but close only counts in horseshoes and hot-trends-that-must-be-published-right-this-minute. (Sorry, not yours.)
  2. A rejection letter you post on the refrigerator and look at every morning for affirmation that you aren't completely wasting your time.
  3. A rejection letter that invites you to send more work or recommends another agency or editor.

Rejection Junkie:
    1. What you become when you have almost enough rejection letters to wallpaper your bathroom.
    2. A writer determined to be published.
Robert Eads, Rejection Letters, From the exhibition: It’s Not Us, It’s You, San Jose ICA, 2009

Happy submitting,

Martina & Marissa

P.S. - With determination, talent, and a LOT of hard work, rejection junkies, dreams can come true! Come back every week for WOW Wednesdays to get the proof.

P.P.S. - For more help deciphering rejection letters:

P.P.P.S. - For help writing query letters:
P.P.P.P.S. - More info on coping with rejection letters:


  1. I got a refrigerator rejection, was quite happy with it. But I can see many form rejections in my future. hehe

  2. I've never queried, but when I do, I know the rejections will come. I'll refer to this post and attempt a laugh.

  3. This post is a classic. So much truth!

  4. I've only sent out a few queries - and I was so lucky to get some wonderful rejections -- this is probably the only business where people say that -- I working to fix my stuff on that advice now :)

  5. hahaha...if I ever do get an agent, i'm going to print out all my rejection letters and make them into a cool poster. Thanks for the great idea and inspiration (and a good number of chuckles!)

  6. I'm so glad you re-posted this, because I missed it the first time. It's awesome!

  7. Hilarious post; good thing I read the letters in between too, because they are the funniest of all! I kinda wish I'd saved my collection instead of tossing them out one year...oh well!

  8. Thanks for sharing this.

  9. I'm laughing so hard I'm grateful to not be out in public where people can hear me snort. My favorite rejection was a mailed half-sheet addressed to Sir Madame. Apparently I've been knighted.

  10. This is such a great (and hilarious) break-down. I haven't started querying yet but I see what I have to look forward to. :)


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