Rejection!

Right now I’m staring at a pile of about ten unsolicited manuscripts I need to attend to.

Dino Guards the Manuscripts

“Unsolicited” means authors just send them to us (often to the wrong person, like Steve or Kylah) without an invitation. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just means that I have to read through every single one and determine if it has the potential to be a Berrett-Koehler book. (Read this post if you are curious how I judge them.)

Berrett-Koehler has a very unique way of responding to these unsolicited manuscripts. I learned about this week two, as seen below in my brief attempt to write a Week 2 update:

“February 8:

Today is the fourth day of my internship, and I still feel excited, against all predictions of my supervisor Jeevan Sivasubramaniam. So far, I’ve written several rejection letters (1 by email, 2 by hand). Normally, Berrett-Koehler calls to reject manuscripts, unless the proposal is too wacky and/or esoteric (meaning its handwritten, in large multicolored font, and/or relies on aliens, gods, spirits, ancestors, and personal anointing as the premise…yes, this has already happened to me).”

Yes, I have to call. As in, open my ancient work flip-phone, dial their number, and tell them “Thank you for considering Berrett-Koehler, but unfortunately, we will not be going any further with it,” or “…we won’t be able to publish your work,” or “…you have a great idea, and your writing is very compelling, but since you have no platform, we can’t market it.” Those last ones are the worst, because sometimes I really like what they have to say or I love their writing style, but if they don’t already have the potential of a large, receptive readership, we often turn them down. This is were BK as a business steps in. There’s no point pouring money into a project if there is no real profitability.

I know I’ve broken several writers’ hearts, or at least it sounded that way over the phone. There was this older woman I had to call a few weeks back, and I could just tell from the way she reacted that the manuscript was her baby and she’d tried everything she could to get it published. I wasn’t her first rejection, but I could tell it still hurt–maybe even worse since I was yet another disappointment.

However, a strange phenomena occurs during these phone calls, without fail. I end up getting thanked for calling and offering criticism! How odd is that? But it seems most authors are thankful to even get a reply to their proposal, let alone a phone call that contains some element of human connection. Most publishing companies send off emails or do not reply at all to rejected manuscripts. Rejecting via call or handwritten note is one of the things that makes Berrett-Koehler special.

It’s also one of the duties that sometimes makes my life as an intern a little hellish. I just hope I’m suffering more than the actual authors are (I doubt it).

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Byrdie Grey
    Mar 22, 2012 @ 20:16:16

    Reblogged this on byrdiegrey and commented:

    Here’s an update from my internship! I can’t believe I’m already half done.

    Reply

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