Friday, 6 August 2010


By Richard Jay Parker

One of the most inspirational books I've ever read about writing wasn't a 'How To' book more a 'How They Regretted It' book. It's called Rotten Rejections (edited by Andre Bernard) and I just thought I'd share a couple here. I found them encouraging as well as amusing and they illustrate what a subjective business any writer enters when they excitedly post their manuscripts off to agents and publishers. The book spares the names of the editors responsible but below are a few quotes with the name of the author and book in question underneath.

'Not only does this bog down in the middle but the author tends to stay too long with non-essentials. He seems to have little idea of pace and is enchanted with his words, his tough style and that puts me off badly.'


'I haven't really the foggiest idea about what the man is trying to say.'

Joseph Heller CATCH 22

'It does not seem to us that you have been wholly successful in working out an admittedly promising idea.'

William Golding LORD OF THE FLIES

'Neither long enough for a serial nor short enough for a single story.'

Arthur Conan Doyle A STUDY IN SCARLET

'It is impossible to sell animal stories in the USA.'

George Orwell ANIMAL FARM

'You're welcome to Le Carre - he hasn't got any future.'


'... improper explicitness.'


'It is unpublishable as it stands because of its flagrant love passages.'


It seems that those 'love passages' and 'improper explicitness' might be exactly what sells books now. But have a chuckle and then have a hollow one.

They certainly put the moment of opening that unpromising and weighty return envelope into perspective.

Happy weekend.


  1. I feel so much better about myself, having read the rejections above :-)

  2. Thank you for this. It puts rejections in their proper perception. What is crap for one person might be gold for another.

  3. Having opened many rejections myself, and oh - been rejected on a personal level by the unsuitable men I tend to choose - this has certainly helped me to have a wry smile to myself.

  4. Having opened many rejections myself, and oh - been rejected on a personal level by the unsuitable men I tend to choose - this has certainly helped me to have a wry smile to myself.

  5. Rejections are put into perspective when we know that even the classics were ripped apart by agents and publishers. Carrie by Stephen King was rejected a total of 30 times. As authors, we can only hope we get to see the day that a bunch of agents will regret the rejection letters they sent us!

  6. Couldn't agree more, Richard. Only this week I read out a few choice rejections from the same book to my writers' circle!
    Nik Morton

  7. This is great. I am so tired of reading rejection letters that all sound the same. Why does everyone in the publishing industry need to have such a strong filter? I value honest even when its difficult take. How are writers supposed to improve if they have no clue where they went wrong?

  8. Susan a.ka. girltrax! :)7 August 2010 at 16:40

    ...simply, I could add to this list friend. Thank you for sharing these, it made me smile. Rejection cuts deep on any level, and stings when you're actually trying to produce what you believe is a genious, creative piece. All said, rejection makes one stronger and fills one soul with the determination to keep writing and being passionate about what we create. Without these letters, work like Stop Me would never make it to the shelves. Just my thoughts after I read this.

  9. Greetings Richard,
    I find your article to be fascinating. I wish for many readers to wake up and read about this. This is a topic that really resonates with many people. I was certainly enlightened about rejection. Thanks so much for posting this. I look forward to learning more.

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  10. Hi Laydilejur - so glad you enjoyed the piece.

    Thanks leiarcice - yes, it's such a subjective process.

    Thanks, Lisa - rejection isn't pleasant in any aspect of life but it's good to have a sense of humour about it.

    Yes, Darcia - it's what drives a lot of writers.

    Great idea, Nik - can't think of a better way to inspire.

    Time is always a problem for agents hence the standard rejections. If you do get constructive criticism I think it's a good sign.

    Thanks, Susan. Yes - use each rejection to make you stronger.

    Thanks, CJ. Glad you enjoyed it.Thanks for swinging by.