What bestseller would you have rejected? Now is your chance!

In our March/April issue, which hits newsstands Feb. 23, we feature a new call to arms: Reject a Hit.

While combing through our dusty archives for the 90 Secrets of Bestselling Authors feature that ran in our 90th anniversary issue, WD Editor Jessica Strawser stumbled upon a series of funny and intriguing rejection letters of yesteryear—which generated an idea.

Every so often, you hear about how the latest book was rejected countless times before it sold a gazillion copies and sprung up on every type of “–seller” list known to man. So let’s step into the role of the unconvinced, perhaps even curmudgeonly editor: What harsh rejection letters might the authors of some of our favorite books—be them legendary or contemporary—have had to endure?

Humorously reject a hit in 400 words or fewer and send your piece to wdsubmissions@fwmedia.com with “InkWell: Reject a Hit” in the subject line, or post it here. Some of our favorites could appear in a future issue of WD.

Behold, for instance, this troubling letter (featured in the upcoming magazine), discovered in a fictional steamer trunk in the attic of our archives:

Also, registration is now open for the Writer’s Digest Editors’ Intensive that takes place March 13-14 at our headquarters in Cincinnati. The event features a full day of workshops, Q&As, info on approaching and querying literary agents and publishers, info about building blogs and using social media, and a reception. Perhaps the coolest feature: Each attendee also gets a one-on-one critique with an editor regarding the first 50 pages of his/her manuscript. Click here to learn more – hope to see you there!


Feel free to send your piece to wdsubmissions@fwmedia.com or post your response (400 words or fewer) in the Comments section below. By posting, you’ll be automatically entered in our occasional around-the-office swag drawings (next one: Friday). If you’re having trouble with the captcha code sticking and you’d like your story to appear here, make a note of that and e-mail your story to the submissions address, and I’ll make sure it gets up.

Reject a hit!

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0 thoughts on “What bestseller would you have rejected? Now is your chance!

  1. Jahra Midas A. Roxas

    Dear Ms. Meyer,

    I am delighted that you have found the interest (and the guts) to entertain us with your funny manuscript. I would regret to say that as funny as it is, it does not have a place in our publication as of the moment.

    As much as I think the emo culture is something that some of today’s generation carries along, your main character going at it sentence after sentence just made us go, "What a dweeb!" And really, it is ingenious to put a dumb character as your main character. After all, shoujo manga in Japan is a big industry with many of the leading women in love stories being really dumb. I was wondering if you got your idea from there.

    Interestingly, even my good friend Stephen King read your work, accidentally and commented on it. The S-ter was right. You’ve just created a whole new genre of light porno for the yung-uns. Thank you for the idea and we’ll be forwarding this to the editor. We’re sure that any story (even if there is no story) that has this element would be a fantastic bestseller in any continent. All hail to Captain Obvious who said, "Sex sells."

    On the other funny stuff…alum-dusted perfect vampires? I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a sudden beacon of light when they raise their pits and the hallelujah chorus starts in the background. Maybe you should add that.

    Once again thank you for lightening the mood in the editor’s room with your well thought of practical joke.

    It is a joke, right?

    Well, if it isn’t, we’ll contact you when we consider offering comedy books for consumers with critical discerning tastes for literature. And please remember that our policy recommends to send a query letter first without a manuscript.

    All the best,
    No BS Publishing

  2. Liz Mierzejewski

    Dear Moses, David, Paul, et al,

    Thank you for your submission of your religious anthology, "The Bible." Although we appreciate the breadth and scope of your accomplishment, we here at Reality Cheque Publishing Inc. all agree that you may have bitten off more than you can chew.

    First off, the sheer length of your collected works is daunting. Most people would use the tome more for a door stop or furniture or family white elephant than actually sit down and read it. Even some of the stories within are too large for casual consumption, even when broken down into the smaller chapters as you have done.

    That aside, there is the troubling character of ‘God’ in most of your stories that seems to not be consistent in his behaviors. Maybe it was the intent, but he seems to start out in the early books as rather cruel and terrifying and 2/3 the way through, when you reach the second part of the collection, he is now somewhat of a pansy. He has bouts of fury, outpourings of love, he withdraws, he leads, he kills his own son. We all think that this character is too erratic to be believable, and the removal of him from most of the stories would be beneficial, although difficult.

    We understand that you have included all of the work by each of the contributors, but this is to your detriment. The story ‘Numbers’ is nothing but a population census, lacking plot, character development, or nearly any redeeming value. Likewise, the nonsensical and paranoid fantasy ‘Revelations’ is ill-fitting as the end-note to your collection. Excising both of these stories will go a long way in making the collection more acceptable.

    We all agree that ‘The Song of Solomon’ could be published on its own under our romance publishing company, and we will have one of our editors get in touch with you in this regard.

    Thank you for your submission and best of luck,

    Reality Cheque Publishing Inc.

  3. Mandy Hartley

    Mr. Diaz,

    Thank you for submitting your manuscript, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. While we certainly appreciate the opportunity to read yet another social misfit struggle story, your work suffers from a number of significant flaws. The core of your work is compelling and we would be interested in representing the book if you would be willing to make considerable changes to the shape of the story.

    The source of all of your trouble rests with the assumption that the American public actually wants to invest energy into the reading of a book. This Mr.Diaz, is simply not the case. Happily, there are a number of edits that would streamline your story and make it more readable.

    1.People do not like words they cannot pronounce. The “ethnic” flavor of your story is quite welcome, but you have taken it a little too far. The use of Oscar’s native family tongue is too heavy-handed. Sprinkle rather than pour.

    2. People do not like names they cannot pronounce. Oscar is fine, but most of the other characters need to change.

    3. No one reads footnotes. If the public wanted to read an encyclopedia they would not select a work of fiction to meet that need. Remove the footnotes and consider further that much of what you have chosen to footnote isn’t terribly interesting in the first place. Again, you are not marketing your work as a history text.

    Attending to these three issues could shift your manuscript in a positive direction. If you are willing to make these edits, we would be interested in representing your work.


    Successful Publishing House

  4. Dorraine

    Hello Mr. Young,

    Thank you for the first peek at your manuscript, The Politician. It is stuffed with secrets, political lies, a mistress, and egocentric behavior. Why, I have never heard this stuff before. Parties, safaris, private jets, drinking, eating, and screwing around-sounds like everyone but Elizabeth was having a swell time.

    This is for Elizabeth,because I know how she feels. I received this email yesterday and thought of her. Please kindly pass it on.


    As I understand it, you have not only falsely claimed paternity of John Edwards mistress’ baby, but you and your dear wife also took Ms. Hunter into your home for eight months, while thousands of dollars were filtered into your bank account. Oh,and you mentioned some lavish traveling, too. How nice for you! That private jet must have been delightful.

    Sounds like everyone but Elizabeth was enjoying the merriment.

    I’m so sorry the money dried up and you then HAD to write this book. Please don’t allow it to make you bitter.

    I’m afraid there’s nothing fresh here and our agency will have to pass. You know, though,I might reconsider your manuscript,if I was promised an invitation to the eventual Hunter/ Edwards marriage. I’m already in New York, and I looove the Dave Matthews Band.

    Wait, I could never do that to Elizabeth. I’m not like you and John. I’m not.

    Please feel free to submit your manuscript elsewhere. In other words, we aint’ buying it.

    Third class wishes,
    Camille Turner

  5. Martha W

    Okay, okay, okay. Finally. It’s bad, but it’s here.


    Ms. Stafford & Dr. Shoquist,

    Thank you for depositing your proposal of ‘Potty Training for Dummies’ in our inbox. We do appreciate the opportunity to review the concept, however we would have liked more than two sheets pages of the document.

    While we find that it was a potentially fascinating read, we must eliminate it from our list of requests. We understand that you might possibly be upset by our decision and wish to fling the book into a dark cupboard somewhere. While we might think this is a good idea, you should keep in mind that you must keep trying in order to succeed. Just not with us.

    Typically we do not offer advice on manuscripts that we reject. However, you might want to add in as an incentive to potty training for the parent the fact they will cut down on the amount of underwear they need to replace. Trust me, when the crap hits the fan, the ‘roos hit the can.

    Let me take this opportunity to thank you for the box of candied prunes and hand sanitizer. It was a thoughtful gift. One I will be sure to pass along to the editor.

    Best potty wishes,
    M.E.W., intern

  6. Mark James

    Hey, thanks for writing to We Print For Teens, Inc.

    In the spirit of our company, all the Young Adult submissions get read by . . . well . . a young adult. We’re who you’re writing for, right?

    Okay. Here’s the thing, Steph. Teenagers are young. That doesn’t mean we’re dumb.

    So, here’s some pointers.

    Would you wanna be stalked by some creepy old dude, who thinks you smell good? Okay, yeah. He’s a vampire. He sparkles in the sun. But still. Not cool.

    All those kiss & grope scenes, that’s so not gonna fly. Put them in bed, clothes on, him on top of her quilt. The Big Guy (the one who pays real writers), he says that gets past the sensors.

    I wouldn’t have the stalker vampire guy sit there and watch her sleep. That’s creepy.

    And I have some questions.

    You use lots and lots of words, mostly to say nothing. How come you didn’t use some of those words to give your main character a spine?

    Wait. I just read some parts of your manuscript again. Doesn’t really look like you could do a spine too good. Just give her a stiff upper lip or something. Anything. She’s a dishrag.

    The dad. Come on. The guy’s Sheriff in a small town, and he hasn’t got a clue? About anything?

    Here’s some stuff that’s got to go. “She agreed happily”, “he teased cruelly”, “she grinned slyly”. Said. The word is “said”. Adverbs are not your friend.

    Let’s see. I think that about covers it. Oh. Just a couple more things you should know.

    Usually, when writers just fling words on the page, and don’t go back and read it, that’s called a “Rough Draft”. Try reading your manuscript over a few times. . . well. . . lots of times. You’ll be surprised what jumps out at you. Things like . . . I don’t know . . . ‘where’s my plot at??’

    The only reason you’re reading this is because it’s part of my job to read the bottom, bottom, bottom of the slush pile. And I’m not allowed to send out form rejections.

    Last thing. Your title, “The Last Light of Day” is pretty dorky sounding. Try something shorter like “Evening” or “Twilight” or “Midnight”.

    I think in like, five or ten years, you might be a writer, if you keep at it.