Joseph Giddings' Gear Shop

You’ve got to be kidding me…

Many years ago, while in a quiet moment at the computer shop in which I worked, a story idea popped into my head.  I belted it out, and in about thirty minutes had a 1000 word story called “Karma.”  It’s a fantasy story, about an undead assassin who gets what’s coming to him.  I was proud of it, enough that when I seriously started pursuing the glorious life of a writer, I pulled it out and edited it into the 950 word powerhouse that it is now.

Now, it’s made the rounds.  A couple of high end publications had narrow fields which included it, but eventually it was cut.  Which tells me its good.  Damn good.  Just not quite good enough.  But, after even more revision, it is about all it can be at my current level of skill.  I’m okay with that, and its still making the circuit.

This morning, though, I received a rejection that just blew my mind.  I won’t say who it is from, as that isn’t really necessary.  It’s bad enough I had to bitch about here.

Here it is, in its entirety (names changed to protect the… err… innocent?)…

We can’t use your story at this time. We hope you have some luck placing it with another market. See below for editor notes. Please submit more fiction.

Your submission of “Karma” was reviewed by John Q Editor.

The thing is, I didn’t read all of it, but it quickly became a vision of the afterlife, and we’re really not interested in stories that are a glimpse of the afterlife. Granted, all writers must write these stories, and obviously some do get published (Sixth Sense), but it’s not right for our magazine.

Now the form part at the start of this rejection is fairly normal.  “We don’t want it, good luck placing this junk with someone else.  Oh yeah, send us more of your junk.”  Every writer sees them.  I’ve learned to ignore that part of the message.  It’s a rejection, and for whatever reason (however nebulous), they didn’t want it for their publication.

For most rejections, that is all you get.  A simple “Thanks but no thanks.”  Sometimes you get lucky and the reader provides something further.  It’s usually a reason why they  won’t take it (didn’t like the character, the story was too drawn out, too much exposition, etc.) and maybe something constructive like “delete pages 5-9 and you will have a good story.”

The part that blew me away on this rejection was the feedback.  Bear in mind, this story is 950 words. 950 words is a fast read.  Double spaced, its a 3 page Word document.  We’re not talking about a time commitment, on any level.  So yeah, the reader above chose not to read it, and on top of it all, quickly proved that he didn’t by assuming what the story is about.  Also, he brought up the movie Sixth Sense to prove his point.

What?  Unless the Sixth Sense he’s talking about features an undead assassin who serves a mysterious master who loves a dose of Karma and Irony, then I’m not sure what he’s talking about.

The editor/slush reader is well within their rights to not read something, that is fine and dandy.  But to call attention to the fact by proving you didn’t even finish reading the first 100 words, well, that’s unprofessional and not very intelligent. Had he just said that he didn’t finish reading it as it felt like something he wasn’t interested in, then I wouldn’t be here writing this.  Now would I?

I also fully respect that the reader felt it wasn’t right for their publication.  I wouldn’t expect a publication that takes vampire robot stories to accept a werewolf hooker story.  But make the rejection a little more friendly.  Come on, you’re making a struggling writer a little sad that their story wasn’t up to snuff.  To be rude and say “Hey, I didn’t read your steaming pile of excrement because it is a werewolf hooker story and we only take vampire robot stories,” when had you read further than 20 words in you would have seen it was a werewolf hooker who teams up with the main character, who just so happens to be a vampire robot.  Well, that’s just bad form.

You know what, give me a form rejection.  At least that way I don’t know you didn’t take it because you don’t like how I had the letter T in the character’s last name.

Sometimes, ignorance is bliss.

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2 responses

  1. I would say John Q doesn’t know what he is talking about…

    January 17, 2012 at 10:50 pm

  2. I don’t see the sense of even putting those notes in the rejection letter. Your right, Joe. It’s a small story and there’s no reason not to read it all. I would be inclined to say they skimmed it for key words and came to the conclusion.. that was totally wrong. Nevermind the ‘letting the writer down gently part’. IMO, publishers are under no obligation to do it. However, don’t ask out of your bumhole either…and I thought reviewers getting character names wrong was bad.

    January 20, 2012 at 8:36 am

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