Thursday, June 3, 2010

21 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?

Here's the 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. Well-done girlfriends! Totally made me smile this morning. Oh, and I'm definitely a rejection junkie. But I'm not giving up! (Smiles) Keep up the terrific work on your blog. Love it!

  2. This is wonderful! I've got to wonder how long it took you to compile this post. And in perfect appreciation, I did read it all. Even squinted at the photos of the letters. *squeeze*

    Thanks for your hard work!

  3. This was really funny and a great way to look at rejection.

  4. Buffy, I'm with you. A recent rejection with a small piece of praise made me only want more self-inflicted pain!

    S.A., Martina has a very twisted and clever sense of humor ;)

    Creepy Query Girl, if we can't laugh about it, we'll go nuts. Glad we could put a smile on your face!

  5. This was hilarious! Thanks for the smiles. I haven't started querying yet, but when I do, I'll remember that I can turn those rejections into an excuse to eat Ben & Jerry's with tequila.

  6. Ha! This is great. I'm a rejection junkie and I do have a couple that remind me I'm not wasting my time.

  7. JayceeKaycee, who needs an excuse? Go for it, girl!

    Candyland, that's such a good attitude to have!

  8. you guys blow me away, EVERY TIME. another fabulous post!!!

  9. Worth it for the PICTURES alone!!! Hilarious!

  10. This was hysterical and on the mark! Great post!

  11. This is hilarious and right on target for us "newbies" who are desperately seeking representation. Thanks for keeping it REAL! Tory

  12. Thanks Tahereh! We can only hope to be half as funny as you!

    Lisa, glad you enjoyed the images as much as the post!

    Anne, thanks for your kind comment. I think we can all relate :)

    Tory, agree! The rejections are part of getting "broken in." :)

  13. I enjoyed it too. The letters were funny. Wish the real ones were. But it's important to hand onto hope from the "good" ones. They keep us going until the great yes. Hope I just get enough rejections to plaster my very small bathroom. Ha!

  14. Oh, girls, I could have a wall like that!

  15. Natalie, at least you have a good sense of humor about it. Isn't a yes (hopefully, someday) going to be surreal?

    K.M. Walton, if I didn't send so many e-queries, where I can delete the rejection from memory, I would be with you!

  16. FAB-U-LOUS post, ladies! This is so great. And look at all those links! I'm all smiles. :-)

  17. Hi Girls! Such a great post. I feel like you snuck in and took a picture of the rejections stuck to my wall!

  18. What a great post. I keep all my rejections. Form letters or personal. I figure there must be something to learn from them . . . right?

  19. Shannon, thanks! Enjoy the links.

    Julie, you're a riot! Were rooting for you to get that YES letter :)

    Virginia, you're brave! I don't keep mine, though I do keep track of rejections.

  20. I smiled all the way through that! The Rejectionist is one of my faves :)

  21. Awesome post! Sheri linked me here, and I'm happy she did! This post made my morning! Loved the pictures, too. I think the scary, skull-faced guy is the one I imagine!


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