280 Dear Carsten Burmeister ...

Have you ever seen one of these? This is a rejection letter from a publisher to a writer. Nothing extraordinary … a standard letter, for a standard rejection. I just thought you might like to see it, out of curiosity.

However, there is one aspect to the letter I do find remarkable, where it says “we are not currently able to take your book on - while it looks both promising and original, our editors feel it’s not quite the right fit for our list at present.” But again, this is very much standard phrasing; I have read it (or similar) many times before.

Anyway, at least I have confirmation my book is both “promising” and “original”, “(though) not quite the right fit for (their) list at present.” At present. I guess I’ll contact them again in a year’s time, or in a month, or maybe next week. Perhaps the configuration of their ‘list’ will have changed. Or a new demi-god in the General Publishing Department will look upon my oeuvre more kindly and actually … ah, well, just dreamin’, I guess. (Love the advice I’m given: Contact the local writer’s center … find a literary agent.)

The point for your writer here is this: I have self-published  en.light.en.ment  a few years ago. For many years before I did so - as well as ever since - I contacted well in excess of 400 (four hundred) literary agents and publishers; in Australia (in this country every single one), the US, UK and Germany ... hence I am so familiar with the rejection letter format. Though, I have to say, I actually haven’t received all that many … in fact just five; for the sake of truth in blogging, here’s a transcript of the formal rejections I received:


Dear Carsten Burmeister,

Thank you for thinking of me with your query. While this sounds like a strong project, I'm afraid it doesn't strike me as a likely fit with me and my particular editorial contacts. I wish you well in finding the right agent for your work. Anne Hawkins - John Hawkins & Associates, Inc. 71 West 23rd Street - Suite 1600 - New York 10010


Dear Carsten Burmeister:

Thank you for your submission to the Fredrica S. Friedman literary management firm. Your spiritual coffee table book looks attractive and interesting; unfortunately, it is not a good fit for our agency at this time. Best of luck finding representation elsewhere. Sincerely, Chandler Smith - Assistant to Fredrica S. Friedman - President, Fredrica S. Friedman & Co., Inc. Literary Management / 136 East 57th Street, 14th Floor / New York, NY 10022


Hi, Carsten, 

Thank you for your query. While your project certainly has merit, I'm just not wild enough about the concept to take it on. As I'm sure you know - opinions vary considerably in this business, and mine is but one. I'm certain you'll find others who feel differently. Wishing you the best, Laney K. Becker Folio Literary Management, LLC 505 Eighth Avenue - suite 603 New York, NY 10018 212.400.1494


Dear Carsten,

Thank you for sending a proposal of your work to us for consideration. Though we found your material to be intriguing and smart, unfortunately we feel that this project is not right for us. We’re sorry that we can’t respond with good news, but we’re sure you’ll find the right representation for you and your work elsewhere. Good luck on the road to publication.

Sincerely, Foundry Literary + Media


Dear Carsten,

Thank you very much for contacting us with your submission for en.light.en.ment. Unfortunately, we are not currently able to take your book on - while it looks both promising and original, our editors feel that it’s not quite the right fit for our list at present. This is of course just one perspective, so you may wish to try showing your work to other publishers.

General Publishing Department, Penguin Group (Australia) (a division of Penguin Australia Pty Ltd), 707 Collins Street, Melbourne VIC 3008, penguin.com.au


One percent. Yep, that’s the number, roughly 1% of publishing professionals contacted have graced me with a response, albeit a rejection. OK, now please don’t get me wrong: These five responses are the highlight of my publishing career. I am ever so thankful to everyone of them ... not just for bothering to respond at all, but also for their kind words. 

So now I can add “promising” and “original” to “a strong project”, “attractive”, “Interesting”, “has merit”, “intriguing“ and “smart”. I guess that means - in a curious, queer way - I am indeed a successful writer. Methinks that’s worth blogging about.

p.s.  In case you’re a literary agent or publisher ... ah, well, as if.