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Friday, September 28th, 2001
|Stupid Form Letter
A couple of months back I finished my manuscript and sent it to publishers. It's tentatively titled "How To Serve Man Part II: Other Books Which Are Also Cookbooks," and includes some pretty solid evidence, I think. Here's some favorites:Fast Food Nation
Like Water for Chocolate
The Book of the Dead
The Celestine Prophesy
The Heart of Darkness
The Joy of Cooking
The Little Prince
The Merry Wives of Windsor
Anyway, I just got back a slim letter from the publishers. I was expecting a form letter, but here's what I got:
Thank you for your unsolicited, and ultimately unwanted, submission. We're rejecting your stupid manuscript idea, of course, but we talked to some other publishers, as well as the media at large, and we wanted to clear something up while we had your attention.
People have bad ideas every day, all the time. It's normal and common, and we don't hold you personally at fault for that. Usually, though, people simply discard their bad idea, rather than developing it further. Once the bad idea is developed, it represents a personal investment. The more time you put into the bad idea, the more you'll want to see it reach some impossible success, and the harder it becomes for you to let go of it. And so, you pour more and more energy into keeping it alive, and into ignoring how fiendishly stupid it was to begin with. This sort of process becomes pathological, and, furthermore, tiresome.
The reason we bring all this up is to address the inevitable retort to our rejection - that your manuscript was too forward-thinking, too bold, too unconventional, or too challenging for us to publish. It makes sense you'd want to think this - it's easier to say "my book was too good to publish" than it is to face the truth, that your book was too bad to publish. We, the publishing industry, are not threatened by novelty and innovation, except perhaps our brothers-and-sisters-in-arms in the romance novel business. We're not annoyed at your book because its truths challenge the fragile house of cards that is the lie of our lives. We're annoyed because it's bad.
We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors, especially if they involve bricklaying, ski tours, or some other non-literary field.
P.S. We already spoke with the movie industry. They don't want a screenplay.