Sunday, February 12, 2012


A. The Rejection Letter

     Contrary to popular belief, a rejection letter is not the end of the world. In fact, it’s rarely even environmentally unsound nowadays. In the good old days, rejection letters used to come in envelopes and were printed on paper. An author could put them up on the wall for inspiration or insulation, or even burn them in cold weather. Today, many rejections are sent via e-mails. While the author could print them out, it is probably better to just file them away.

     Rejection letters come in various sizes, shapes and flavors. Regardless of the form, the only universal fact that may be derived from a rejection letter is that the sender does not want the submission in its submitted form as of the time it reviewed the submission. Anything else is supposition.

The Form Letter Rejection --

Dear Author:

Thank you for your recent submission of “Super Wonderful Story”. Unfortunately, we are unable to offer you a contract for this submission. Good luck in your future endeavors.

Sincerely yours,
Isa P. Ighead, Acquisitions Editor
Narrow Minded Press

Disappointing? Certainly, but there other seas to fish in.

The Encouraging Rejection Letter --

Dear Author:

Thank you for your recent submission of “Super Wonderful Story”. Although the submission (insert whatever was liked), unfortunately it is not a good fit for our readership. I am confident you will have no problem placing this story with another publisher.

Please consider Somewhat Enlightened Publishing for your future stories.

Sincerely yours,
May B. Later, Acquisitions Editor
Somewhat Enlightened Publishing

Still disappointing? Of course, but there is an upside. The acquisition editor found something of merit in the submission. I received a couple of these letters for Earth Angel before finding the right fit.

The Foot-in-the-Door Rejection Letter --

Dear Author:

Thank you for your recent submission of “Super Wonderful Story”. Although the submission (insert whatever was liked), Penultimate Submissions Press is unable to accept the story at this time. If you remove the sex scene with the banana slugs and (insert any other changes desired), PSP would be happy to consider the revised story for publication.

Sincerely yours,
C. Arrotanstich, Acquisitions Editor
Penultimate Submissions Press

Disappointed again? Not necessarily. At this point, the author is closing in on placing the story. While the author is free to continue submitting “Super Wonderful Story” to other markets, PSP is interested in the work. Author has to decide whether or not to make the suggested revisions and resubmit the story to PSP.

The Time-to-Consider-Taking-Up-Painting Rejection Letter --

Dear Author:

This letter is to inform you that Highly Indignant Press received your submission “Super Wonderful Story”. Please be advised that any further communications will be referred to appropriate state and federal authorities.

Sincerely yours,
The Entire Staff (including custodial) and their families, friends (including social media) and acquaintances at
Highly Indignant Press

The letter speaks for itself. If you are still disappointed, an intervention may be in order.

B. The Acceptance Letter and Contract

     Omigod! They want it! You’ve read the e-mail letter three times, and it hasn’t changed. The publisher wants your story. Breathe. That’s better.

     You finally found a home for “Super Wonderful Story”. However, before you move in, there is the matter of the contract. As you sit there hyper-ventilating, you control everything. That control will change once you sign or e-sign the contract.

     What is a contract? A contract is an agreement, a meeting of the minds wherein the parties mutually undertake certain obligations or cede certain rights in exchange for something of value, commonly known as consideration. Consideration can be something tangible such as money or property, or it can be a promise to take or refrain from taking an action. The contract creates legal obligations between the parties.

     The contract for “Super Wonderful Story” will contain a series of undertakings and ceded responsibilities. Before signing or e-signing the contract, Author better understand the terms. Courts will try to give meaning to every word in a contract. If something is unclear, the time to ask for clarification is before signing the contract. The contract is nothing to be afraid of, but it is far more than a mere “detail” on the road to fame. The contract defines the scope and nature of an author’s working relationship with the publisher.

     Some basic questions (by no means an exclusive list) that Author should be able to answer after reading the contract (to prevent problems later, not to scare Author) include:

    What publishing rights is Author assigning to Publisher--electronic publishing only, or print rights as well? Any geographical limitations or world-wide?

    Who controls publicity--Publisher only, or Publisher and Author?

    Who controls the cover art--Publisher only, or does Author have rights of approval? 

    Who controls editing and content--Publisher or Author? Does Publisher merely have the right to proofread a document for errors (e.g. for punctuation and spacing errors and typos), copy edit (proofreading plus fact checking and correcting syntax and format),  or does it have full rights to line edit and make substantive changes to the story line without Author’s agreement?

    Are there firm deadlines?

    How does either party get released from the contract?  

    What is the duration of the contract?  Is there a renewal provision?

    Where can the contract be enforced--only in Publisher’s local state or federal court, or Author’s local courts as well?

    Does the contract specify which jurisdiction’s law will be used to interpret the contract?

    Is there an arbitration clause? If so, what is the scope of the arbitration clause?  Who pays for arbitration? Is there a specified method or agency for selecting an arbitrator (such as the American Arbitration Association --very expensive)?

    How does Author get paid? How much and how is the amount calculated? When? Method of payment?

     Some of the terms of the contract may not be particularly favorable to Author. Author may or may not be able to negotiate with Publisher over some of these terms. Ultimately, however, at some point Publisher will make its final offer (which may well be its original contract proposal). Author must decide whether the overall benefits of the contract to Author are worth the costs.
If the overall costs-benefits are satisfactory, then sign the contract.


CK 1/20/12


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