Skip to content

What “genius” and “being a writer” have in common

Yesterday I did my usual Saturday quarter-mile trek to get the mail (large steel rural mailbox, trek made in the afternoon since weekend mail doesn’t come until 3 PM at the earliest, checking mailboxes on either side so as to find mail-to-me-in-wrong-box and move mail-to-others-in-my-box-back-to-where-it-belongs) and opened the box to find a huge white package.

Normally, huge white packages in the U.S. mail mean either that secondhand books have arrived, or that someone has sent me curricula to review.

This particular huge white package was something else. The cover letter said, “Thank you for submitting your manuscript to X Publishers. Your manuscript passed the initial readings and was sent on to a senior editor for review. Unfortunately, we are not able to publish it, but you should know that very few manuscripts are sent to the senior editors. Yours was among them.” Then there was a postscript. It said, “We apologize for the delay in responding. We are attempting to revamp our policies so that we are able to respond more quickly to submitted manuscripts.”

So guess when I submitted this manuscript? Seriously. I didn’t even REMEMBER so I had to go look it up.


Yep, seven years later I got a rejection notice. Yep. Seven years. I’m SO tempted to make a biblical analogy here.


But I won’t.

I’m also seriously tempted to tell you who this publisher is, but I’m straining my discretion and NOT doing so. Plus I cannot at all remember, given that it was seven years ago, why I submitted this MS myself instead of sending it to my agent. But since it was a novel, as opposed to my usual history/literature beat, I’m guessing that I felt a little insecure about its quality and decided I’d try the impersonal hard route rather than the personal, potentially humiliating (as in, “Why are you asking me to hawk this embarrassingly bad manuscript around?”) route, even though my very competent agent would have undoubtedly gotten the publisher to issue a yes-or-nor in less than…seven years.


There are two possible morals to this story.

1. Get an agent. Make use of your agent. Ignore all those publishers who say that they read unsolicited MS. They do, probably, eventually.

2. Develop eternal patience (a.k.a. FIND ANOTHER BREAD-AND-BUTTER JOB).