You be the editor – Reject a hit book for a chance at publication in Writer's Digest

Nearly all writers know rejection. All too well.

Rejection happens—there are only so many slots in a publication/press lineup every year, and there are innumerable reasons any article/book might not be a good fit for a venue (e.g., the 2,000-or-so-word narrative style movie review I submitted early in my college career to a weekly specializing in 300-word movie reviews). But every so often, from Dubliners to Dune, you hear the backstory on a wildly popular—and often great—book that was rejected innumerable times before it found an outlet and scaled the bestseller lists. (Which can help the rest of us rejection recipients take heart, right?)

Which led us to wonder: What might some of the more absurd rejection letters for our favorite hit books have looked like? Earlier this year, we invited readers to play the role of the curmudgeonly editor and humorously Reject a Hit in 400 words or fewer for a shot at being published in WD magazine. Our first official reader-submitted letter is currently in our July/August issue (an editor who was less than impressed with Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat, from its “marauding creatures” to its abandoned “latch-key children”).

Now, the submission doors are open, and we’re checking out pieces for consideration in future issues.

Want to be the one doing the rejecting?

Reject a hit in 400 words or fewer and send your piece to with “InkWell: Reject a Hit” in the subject line. (For a look at our initial call, which features a sample fantasy rejection letter, click here.)

A regular writing prompt—a photo prompt by request—follows below.

Happy writing/rejecting!

WRITING PROMPT: The View From Above

free to take the following photo prompt home or post a
response (500
words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring) in the Comments section below.
By posting, you’ll be automatically entered in our
occasional around-the-office swag drawings.
you’re having trouble with the
captcha code sticking, e-mail your piece and the prompt to me at, with “Promptly” in the subject line, and I’ll
make sure it gets up.

feature package on how to write and sell your
memoir. Interviews with Life of Pi author Yann Martel, and
the scribe behind “True Blood,” Charlaine Harris. The results of our
Pop Fiction competition. New markets for your work. For more, click

here to check the July/August 2010 issue of WD out.



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6 thoughts on “You be the editor – Reject a hit book for a chance at publication in Writer's Digest

  1. Alice Clearman Fusco

    Tom berated himself as they peered at the roof of the 15th floor turret below. He hadn’t wanted to see his little brother that day. Something awful always happened.

    Stan insisted, “but you wanted to be a stunt man.”

    “When I was nine. I’m an ophthalmologist now.”

    “You’re more athletic than me, Tom.”

    “Stan, there is no way I’m getting that ring.”

    “If she says ‘yes’ you’ll be my best man.”

    “What do I care about being best man?! I’ll get killed trying to get your stupid ring!”

    They stood in silence. Then Tom had an idea.

    “Listen, I read a story where someone got something like this with a piece of gum.”


    “Yes, gum. We take a piece of string and attach some freshly chewed gum. The ring sticks to it and we pull it up.”

    Stan stuffed three pieces of gum into his mouth.

    Tom observed, “we need string.”

    “What about your shirt?”

    “My SHIRT?”

    “Tom – that shirt is clearly from 1973. We can unravel it and use the threads.”

    “I like this shirt!”

    “Well, I like Stephanie’s engagement ring.”

    “Oh hell.” Tom took his shirt off and started tearing. “I can’t believe this.”

    “Think of it as your first step toward self-improvement.”

    They dangled the sticky gum over the rail and with considerable effort, managed to get it to the ring. Stan started to draw the thing up. A small gust and the ring dropped all the way to the sidewalk.

    “You stay here and watch – I’ll get it!” Stan pelted for the elevator.

    Before he could get there, a woman pushing a grocery cart full of her belongings came across it. Tom shouted at top volume. She either didn’t hear or was ignoring him.

    When Stan emerged from the building, he saw what had happened. Tom watched his discussion with her. It wasn’t going well.

    When Tom reached them, Stan pulled him aside. “I need $500.”


    “She said I can have it for $500.”

    Tom realized why he hadn’t wanted to meet Stan that day. He found an ATM and gave her the cash. “Don’t use it for alcohol.”

    She eyed him. “Do you want the ring or not?”

    “Yeah. Okay. Sorry. Use it for anything.”

    The shirtless ride home was uncomfortable. Bare skin doesn’t feel good on leather seats. Stan thanked Tom several times; Tom was too disgusted to listen.

    On the wedding day, Tom dressed at home and carefully placed the diamond-encrusted wedding ring in his pocket. He stopped at the drug store for naproxen, the florist to pick up a last minute boutonniere, and the bakery to pay for the cake. Busy day.

    When it was time for the ring, he confidently slipped his hand into his pocket and found a ring-sized hole. His mind raced through the last two hours of errands. He turned to Stan, said “I’ll be right back,” and ran out the door. Just in case, he stopped at an ATM.

  2. Mark James

    quiet one: that was hysterical.

    Zac. . .you’re the bestest. Thanks

    The town was laid out below them in acres of green trees that ate away at the square, planned grids of a city that never happened. In the middle, just a little left of center, lay the target.

    “What do you think?” Geoffrey said

    “We need to go down lower, make sure.”

    “You said this was it.” Neither of them took their eyes off the target.

    “Don’t start,” Simon said. “Let’s just go see.”

    Geoffrey sighted the target through the telephoto lens of his camera. But even getting in as close as he could, it wasn’t enough. “By the time we climb down, it’ll be sunset. Then what?”

    “We wait till tomorrow.”

    “The last day?” Geoffrey wiped off his lens. “Jesus,” he muttered. “If you weren’t my brother, I’d kill you.”

    “It’s one day,” Simon said.

    “It was one day in London.” Geoffrey spit on the dry dirt between them. “One day in Moscow. And now it’s the back end of Kentucky.”

    Geoffrey and Simon had been on their annual hunt for a little less than two weeks. They both knew the target was an obsession with them, but for fourteen days a year, they lived on the dream of finding what they’d spent decades looking for.

    “You’d really kill me?” Simon said.

    “Yeah.” Geoffrey looked through his camera, adjusted the focus, “and I’d do it slow. No gag, so I could hear you scream.”

    “I’d come back and haunt you.”

    “There wouldn’t be pieces left to make a ghost.”

    “Excuse me,” a voice said behind them.

    Both assassins spun around, perfectly in synch, Geoffrey moving off to his left, Simon coming in tight.

    “Christ, kid,” Simon said. “Don’t scare people like that.”

    Geoffrey saw the boy’s eyes on Simon’s hand, his right hand, the one with the knife lying flat in its harness. It had been close. He brushed at his brother’s shoulder. Simon unclenched his fist.

    “What do you want?” Geoffrey said.

    The boy held out a camera. “For you to take my picture.”

    The men looked at each other. Neither of them had heard a car drive up. And they were too high for a kid to hike to the look out. “Where’s your mom and dad?” Simon said.

    “Near our campsite. Last time I saw them,” he rolled his eyes, “they were kissing. Again.”

    “You shouldn’t wander around by yourself,” Simon said, scanning the line of trees behind the boy. “Things could happen.”

    “Not from around here, huh?” The boy shaded his eyes from the sun, looked up at them. “You’re in Possum Trot. Nothing happens here.”

    Geoffrey reached for the boy’s camera.

    “Wait,” Simon said. “You see that little square down there, in the middle of the trees, sort of?”

    The boy barely looked. “Miley’s place? What about it?”

    “Does it really have the best milkshake in the world?” Simon said.

    “I don’t know. Mom and dad say nothing in there is good for you.” He glanced over his shoulder, bent toward them and whispered, “But it’s all good,” he said. “Like Heaven.”

    “Go on and take his picture,” Geoffrey said. “Then we’ll go down and see if you’re right. Vacation’s done tomorrow.”