you thought those rejections were harsh?

No, forget everything I said yesterday about hurtful rejections. I got one today from a magazine publisher to whom I had politely and sensibly sent a query about an article. Here is the reply. You will need some time to read it, so go and make yourself a cup of tea, put your feet up, switch the radio on, relax.

Brace yourselves. Here it is, in its entirety.

"No thanks."

This came by email. There was no 'dear'. There was no 'sorry, but ...'. There was no 'Yours sincerely/faithfully/rejectingly'. There was no nuffink. There wasn't even a comma as there should have been, so obviously the editor wasn't going to spare any effort on me; that would have meant an extra KEYSTROKE.

No, I'm not bitter.

Hey! You know, the more I look at that, with its non-comma-ised construction, the more I'm thinking: what does it really mean? Maybe it isn't the rejection I think it is. Maybe it's ...

Yes, I'll take your article, but whatever you do, don't use the word 'thanks' in it. In this office, the word 'thanks' is like the word 'Macbeth' for which 'the Scottish play' has to be substituted, otherwise things go wrong. We used the word 'thanks' too much in one issue and we had three office staff go down with beri-beri.

or maybe it meant ...

Yes, I'll take your article, but don't expect anyone to be grateful or to extend any appreciation. We have a policy of non-appreciation here, since we found that people you give positive feedback to just keeping coming back and demanding to be published again. We had a particular problem with someone whose article we published on Railway Tracks Since 1893, perhaps unwisely. We made the mistake of thanking him and have since had to be quite frank about rejecting his articles on 'Paper Clip Manufacture in Iceland', 'Fruit Bowls and their Multifarious Uses in Emergencies', and 'Bus Seats and Dust Mite: A Modern Dilemma'. So as long as you're happy with your pay cheque and don't mind doing without any positive feedback, we'll publish you, just this once.

Perhaps I'll drop the editor a line and make sure it wasn't actually an acceptance and I just didn't realise.


  1. That publisher is one of those 2-word people. I had a boss like that once. He probably goes to a restaurant and says "Coffee. Now." If he loved, loved, loved your story he would have said "Not awful." You don't want to work with him anyway.

  2. No, you're right. I didn't want to work with him. (Not much anyway ...) But I wouldn't mind a two-word publisher who said, 'thirty thousand'.


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