Dec 04, 2008, 11:56AM

Rejection is the new...something

Imagine receiving a rejection letter for your great novel. Now imagine receiving a rejection letter regarding your submission to a compendium of rejection letters.

Couldn't hurt:

Now, I suspect that the real aim of this compendium is to provide the rejected with a bit of cold comfort, an opportunity to offer some kind of riposte to the publishing professionals who have hurt their feelings by saying that their space operas or Jane Austen adaptations just aren't good enough. What I suspect the book won't do, however, is acknowledge that writing rejection letters is a delicate skill, one that must be fine-tuned over time (weeks, even) as one digs out from under the slush pile. For it is not easy to achieve and balance the two central goals of a truly accomplished rejection letter: trying not to make the writer feel distraught whilst also discouraging him or her from ever contacting you ever again.

In many respects, techniques for achieving that first goal have much in common with the kind of rhetoric that many people popularly apply to the end of a romantic relationship: the "It's not you, it's me" approach. We all know, of course, that it doesn't really work – that the person on the receiving end of this sentiment almost always concludes "It is me!" but writers of rejections go on trying it for want of any less cruel approach.


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