The Mail I Get: Rejection Edition

How to never sell your book…

We received a submission at Brash Books, the small publishing company I co-founded six years ago with Joel Goldman. After reading the submission, we decided to pass. This is the entirety of the rejection letter we wrote to the author:

Thank you for thinking of Brash for XYZ. Unfortunately, it’s not a fit for us. We wish you the very best finding the right home for the book.

His reply:

Keep printing The same redundant shit Arrogant ass, just remember the title of this book, u will see it on the best sellers list asshole.

And I’m sure he wonders why he hasn’t sold a book yet. (BTW, his submission was awful). So I decided to respond:

I sincerely doubt it… and I say that as a novelist who has actually been at the top of the New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post bestseller lists multiple times. To be a successful author, you not only need to write well, and tell a good story… you also need to have some decent people skills. If I lashed out and called every publisher who politely rejected my work an arrogant asshole, I wouldn’t have achieved my success. How do I know? Because I ultimately ended being published by two of the publishers who’d rejected my previous work. You are clearly the biggest obstacle to your success. You might want to rethink your strategy.

He responded a short time later. 

This book has a very complex plot and vivid characterization that you couldn’t have possibly ascertain in the brief time you review my story. is a very complex plot, and profound characterization. This story is very unique, and has major shocking twists at the end! A PHD from Western Kentucky, who was a professor for 38 years is editing it, and compared it to Silence of the Lambs. It is very, very unique story, and intertwines orwellian themes, which compare to today’s political and social upheaval. I DO APOLOGIZE FOR LASHING OUT, NOT PROFESSIONAL AT ALL, sorry just have my heart and soul in this book, and you rejected it in record time, this is not my first rodeo, again I do apologize!

Still a little crazy, but at least he apologized. I guess that’s progress.

20 thoughts on “The Mail I Get: Rejection Edition”

    • Ha! “complex plot,” “very complex plot,” “vivid characterization,” “profound characterization,” “very unique,” and “very, very unique.” I can imagine this pretty much sums up some of the problems with the book.

      Is the name of your imprimatur actually Brash Books, and is it still in business?

  1. Rejection tears at our heart and very soul especially if our effort was extraordinary. I feel this person’s pain. Nonetheless we all at sometime in our lives have felt rejection. It is never welcomed nor appreciated.

    He referenced record time which prompts me to ask “did you read it”?

    • Yes, of course I did. What would be the point of accepting submissions if we didn’t read them? His submission was terrible, though I didn’t tell him that.

  2. If the book was as poorly written as the apology letter, I understand why you rejected it. I’m glad this turned out to be a teachable moment for the guy. I hope he remembers the lesson. It was a good one for all interactions in life. Blowing up bridges rarely results in positive future outcomes.

  3. Hi Lee. I really do appreciate your latest books but like most fans who enjoy your efforts I was wondering when your next novels are due out, and what will they be?

      • I can’t wait! I just finished Bone Canyon yesterday and I loved it. I gave it five stars on and will recommend it to anyone who asks for a suggestion of reading material. Good health and happiness wishes to you and your family.

  4. If his writing to you is an example of the type of writing in the book, the book obviously needs a lot more work. It probably didn’t take you too long to realize the book was impossible. I can’t imagine you would suffer through the whole thing knowing early on it was poorly written.

  5. Lee:
    Every aspiring author and every published author has received rejection letters. The professionals just accept it and either send to a different publisher rewrite or begin writing another novel.

    My advice to all aspiring writers is become a professional and study the industry. There are certain protocols and courtesies that are learnable and will better help you as you learn the writing task.

  6. Greatly appreciate and love Brash Books. Sorry you had such terrible correspondence with this individual. He didn’t lead with the apology which makes me doubt its sincerity and the way it came in at the end almost makes it seem like an afterthought to his defense of his book. You did yourselves and all of us, your audience, a favor by rejecting this person’s “heart and soul”.

  7. Hi Lee,
    The first rejection letter was very generic. (The rejection is understandable if the book was as bad as the guy’s response.) However, (generally) do you reply and explain in more depth if an author wants to know the reason for the rejection so he/she could improve the submission?


    • We get so many submissions that it’s not practical to give detailed rejections…and it would be very time-consuming. We aren’t a critique service. If someone asks why we passed, sometimes we will respond in some detail. But, to be honest, 90% of the time the submissions we get are by people who don’t know how to write (much less tell a story). Where do you begin with someone like that without offending them? So saying more to them usually doesn’t end well. But here’s a recent exchange you might appreciate.

      This was the first line of a recent submission letter we received:

      “I liked a lot Jimmy Sangster’s Katy Touchfeather spy novels. My submission is different, but it is always a spy story, but set in today’s world.”

      The manuscript read as if it was the result of using Google Translate to transform Arabic into English. Incomprehensible. I sent him this rejection:

      “Thank you for thinking of Brash for XYZ. Unfortunately, it’s not a fit for us. In fact, the sample reads as if it was poorly translated from another language. It’s full of grammatical, verb-tense and punctuation errors…as well as typos. You really need to do a thorough revision before submitting this to other publishers.”

      His reply:

      “Thank that is good suggestion.”

  8. I don’t know why, but this conversation just made my day. I especially enjoyed the Google Translate example in your reply to Annett (both helpful and rather funny!). Just imagining a relationship for that author where lashing out at a prospective publisher ends well…. hmmmmm.

  9. Lee, it seems the guy was a bit upset, don’t you think? I had a somewhat similar experience, but with an author–won’t disclose her name. I naively asked her to give her opinion of my submission letter. She said she would if I bought one of her books… I did; she had only negative comments–jeez, I didn’t know I wrote that poorly! She also said her first book was being made into a movie. This was a couple of years ago. Recently I published my novel; wrote to tell her and–naively again–asked if she’d mind helping me promote it–never asked her to buy. Her answer: “Hi, no I haven’t read your book, but I do hope it’s selling well. Maybe better to offer to send a copy for that sort of ask in the future? I have given you a lot of my time already reading your query letter, etc., (I normally charge for that sort of consulting as I have to pay the bills–you know how little money authors receive per sale), so asking me to buy and promote your book on top of the time and advice I’d already given you didn’t sit quite right with me. But I sincerely wish you success!” Sounds a bit disgruntled for so little? I agree. Maybe having a bad hair day? 🙂


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