Classic tale of Literary Rejections

Ever wonder why literary agents and editors are conspiring to reject your manuscript? You're not alone. Below is a classic tale that most writers will identify with:

"When I wrote my first novel 30 years ago, it acquired a distinguished literary agent who acquired a distinguished crop of rejections. These were warm and individually written by senior executives. This undoubtedly was more due to my agent than to the quality of my novel, but the letters all showed that the novel had been read and analysed and they gave evidence of real feeling.

All expressed eagerness to see my next novel. Unfortunately, it took me 15 years to write it. By that time, many of the publishers concerned had been extinguished or devoured by giant corporate houses. Their successors were more interested in their bottom line than my opening line. My agent had moved on and no one wanted to replace him.

Into a far less welcoming literary market, I had to submit my new novel on my own. It collected a pile of short, impersonal rejections, barely softened by polite, formulaic expressions of thanks for offering it. I learnt then that the most terrifying sight for any author is a second-class letter addressed to him in his own handwriting.

Fifteen years on, my public demanded a sequel. So I wrote it and prepared to submit it to a new set of agents and publishers. But the market had changed again. Almost none would even look at a new manuscript. They expected me to submit a request for permission to submit to them (submission squared). I complied. I knocked out an appealing synopsis with a selection of the most sparkling passages.

It left them cold. You could have stored meat in them. The rejections were mostly automated emails. Laconic. Unemotional. No polite expressions, no ritual thanks, and no encouragement whatever to offer anything again.

The responses were far worse than 30 years ago, even though I am a better writer (my fan thinks so)." SOURCE

Before your give up your dream:



Famous Writers' Earnings

Lapham's Quarterly prepared a chart of salaries of famous novelists, not monies earned from writing but rather from day jobs, those which allow one to survive while writing and publishing (figures adjusted to inflation):


Editors, the redundant species

"I am compelled to express my observation that over the past decades, the editorial role has been profoundly devalued. As corporate structures have gulped down and digested independent publishing houses and imprints, their corporate agendas have brought about a slow steady erosion of reliance on the editor's skill and intuitive vision. In order to release the magnificent sculpture that such an editor may perceive in a stone, the work of editing takes time, focus, sometimes isolation, silence, deep cogitation, and some eureka moments when the objective eye finally perceives the solution to a thorny dilemma. Few editors today are granted the luxury of so much quality time. As a result, most are on a search for near-perfect manuscripts that they can present to their editorial boards, where sales and marketing can immediately perceive the potential for a successful publication. Needless to say, the less editors are encouraged to flex their editorial muscles effectively, the more atrophied those muscles become, and the safer it seems to reject than to commit." MORE

The author of the above tries to justify the existence of literary agents, nevertheless the piece poses and interesting question: are editors needed at all? As Alberto Manguel wonders in his excellent book... Why are writers the only creators whose works "need" to be edited? Why is it that painters present their creation directly to their audience, but writers "must" be polished?

Writers and Social Media

Wondering which Social Media works best to channel your brand and message? Look no further:

Download full chart here (pdf)


Ego, a writer's engine

In the course of 40 years, Spanish journalist and editor Juan Cruz has found that “passion and vocation” move writers, but what “moves them most of all are their egos,” the theme of his new book “Egos Revueltos” (Scrambled Egos), because “envy is one of the great defects of the literary world.”

In his role as editor, Juan Cruz has encountered egos of every kind, but perhaps “the biggest” he found was that of Cela, Nobel laureate for literature, “because he had no one to put him down, everyone around him constantly flattered him, he would laugh a thank-you in reply and loved every minute of it.”

Nonetheless, the author of “La Colmena” (The Hive) was “a very lonely man and much more sentimental and vulnerable than he appeared. He was timid and overcame his timidity with arrogance. But it wasn’t a vacuum-packed arrogance, because he was a great writer,” Cruz said.

Another who had “a very abundant ego” was Octavio Paz. “Paz was not a humble man, nor did he think it appropriate to hide his greatness behind false modesty.” He spoke “with the confidence of an authority” and his immense culture and wisdom were undeniable, but “he had a decided tendency to believe that there were few like him in the history of the 20th century.”

Uruguayan writer Mario Benedetti was thought of as modest, but he had “an irritable ego: it remained suspended until some spark made it blaze.” MORE

Aztec Literary Masterpiece

"Two literary pieces written in Nahuatl and attributed to Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, which have been translated by experts, preserve the Indian cult of mountains in a disguised language, ethnohistory specialist Margarita Loera said.

The literary collection Mercurio Encomiastico, which includes the two texts by Sor Juana and others by 16 Indian chiefs of the 17th and 18th centuries, was translated from Nahuatl to Spanish by experts from the National Institute of Anthropology and History, or INAH, with the help of native speakers of that language, Loera said in a statement.

Juana Ines de Asbaje y Ramirez de Santillana, known as Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, lived from 1648-1695 and entered the convent to pursue her vocation as poet, writer and playwright. She was called the 10th Muse and the Phoenix of America.

“The introduction to a play attributable to Sor Juana, but above all the literary pieces by native chieftains, reveal a pantheistic invocation of the forces of nature,” Loera said.

One of the oldest references to the myth of the “love between volcanoes,” of pre-Columbian origin, tells of the “relationship” between the Iztaccihuatl (Sleeping Woman) Volcano and Cerro Venacho mountain, both in central Mexico, Loera said.

What is most noteworthy about the transcript of the literary collection is the glimpse it give us of a language full of cultural disguises used by Indian leaders at the time to conceal the cult of mountains that they wished to preserve." MORE


The Intimate Diary of Frida Kahlo

"The intimate diary of Frida Kahlo is really no such thing – rather it is a literary self-portrait comparable in quality to the pictures the artist painted of herself, an Italian researcher told Efe.

The specialist in intimate literature Cristina Secci, a native of Cagliari, Italy, presented Saturday in Mexico City a study of the literary genre to which Kahlo’s diary belongs.

“An intimate diary is so personal that you hide it in the bottom drawer. But Frida didn’t. She read certain parts to her guests and friends, she allowed herself to be photographed with it and even gave away pages to her friends, so they say,” she said in an interview.

The diary was written during the last 10 years of Frida’s life, but even so contains few dates, an unusual trait in writings like this.

Secci said that when the reader opens any “intimate diary,” he or she expects to find such elements as love affairs, dreams, sufferings and betrayals.

Frida (1907-1954) included all that but also included her thoughts on politics, art, poetry and other subjects." MORE


Dangerous Liaison

There is this place in San Miguel de Allende where some dozen cats and twice as many pigeons live on same rooftop and in perfect harmony, at least during the heat of the day. What happens at night is anybody's guess...

Ancient Literary Treasure

Literary critics, cultural scholars and aficionados of the Mayans, the only fully literate people of the pre-Columbian Americas, have lined up to call the first fully illustrated survey of two millennia of Mayan texts assembled by award-winning scholar Dennis Tedlock, "stunning," "astounding," "groundbreaking" and "literally breathtaking." [...]

His most notable accomplishment is that he establishes for the first time that two millennia of Mayan writings produced in various writing systems and media -- from stone glyphs and paper documents produced in the post-Columbian Roman alphabet -- constitute a single literary history and tradition.

Tedlock's application of a literary designation to stone-carved Mayan glyphs is undoubtedly his most important and emphatic claim he makes and it is one he supports with scholarship of sweeping scope.

He makes the case that hieroglyphic texts represent a visible (not oral) literature that originated long before Old English was born, and centuries before Europeans came to the Americas. This has not been understood, he says, because while there has been much progress in the glyphs' decipherment, an appreciation of their literary value has lagged behind. MORE