S.G. Browne

The Writing Life: More Tales of Rejection

So last week I mentioned that from 1992-2002 I’d sent out more than 500 queries for stories and novels, with the number of those stories actually accepted for publication being around 3%.  As you can imagine, that makes for a lot of rejection letters.

Most of the time, the rejections weren’t particularly helpful and were nothing more than basic form letters:

Thank you for submitting to Whatever Magazine.  We have read your story but don’t feel it fits our needs at this time.  Yadda yadda yadda.

Occasionally, I received rejection letters with constructive criticism and encouraging comments like:

Close but no cigar. Try again.
Not quite right for our audience. Good job!
Would love to see more of your work.

And once in a while, I received a hand written rejection that challenged my ego, like the following one from Deathrealm back in 1994 for my short story “What You Can’t See,” which was about a little boy who has a monster in his closet and the monsters turn out to be his parents.

Mr. Browne:

We all know about the thing under the bed and in our closet.  It’s as much a part of our childhood as doing chores.  Basic and fundamental.  You wouldn’t write a story about brushing your teeth, would you?

Two months later, the story was accepted by another publication. But that publication went out of business before the story could see print.

While I’ve thrown away the majority of my rejection letters, I kept this one because it’s my all time favorite. After all, it’s not often your writing gets compared to good dental hygiene.

Filed under: The Writing Life — S.G. Browne @ 2:58 pm


  1. Wow, the Deathrealm letter was harsh…and wrong. I would love to read a story such as the one you described. Although, I suppose, I was not and am not a subscriber of Deathrealm.

    Comment by Benni — January 26, 2011 @ 3:05 pm

  2. I “love” those kinds of rejection letters. They make me grouchy at first, because I think, “Who the heck are you to tell me what people want to read. I wrote it, which meant I wanted to read something like it.” Then I laugh because the tend to be so out of touch with what actual readers want to read. Finding out the monsters in your closet are your mom and dad!!!!!!! I’d read that. In fact, I think my parents ARE monsters.

    Comment by Jenny Beans — January 26, 2011 @ 3:12 pm

  3. Hmmm…not only do I love Monster in the Closet or Under the Bed stories (just read an excellent one recently by Dave Zeltserman called Pink Wiggly Things over at Small Crimes), I can also think of several interestingly horrific things to do with the prompt of brushing your teeth. Some folks just have NO imagination.

    Comment by Jan Kozlowski — January 26, 2011 @ 5:31 pm

  4. Deathrealm has been out of business for some time. And this editor was particularly brutal on me, beating me up and down on several rejections, with at least two of them getting accepted somewhere else. Which is a good lesson in the subjectivity of writing.

    I’ll be posting brutal reviews and comments about BREATHERS and FATED next week that make this one look like a compliment.

    Comment by admin — January 26, 2011 @ 7:30 pm

  5. Wow. To me it seems like the editor didn’t even read the story if all he got from it was a comparison to basic childhood fears. Ugh.

    Comment by Melanie — February 2, 2011 @ 5:05 am

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