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dear mr. clemens
rejection letters to the greats
by bill kostur
1.30.04
humor


Dear Mr. Clemens,

Thank you for sending us your manuscript entitled “Tom Sawyer”. Although this book has obvious literary merit, it is not a work we can publish at this time.

Sincerely,
Oswald Heffweiss
Assistant Editor
Bonhomme Richard Books
---

Dear Mr. Clemens,

We are in receipt of your manuscript, “Tom Lawyer” and have studied it carefully. We do not believe the current literary market can bear another book about lawyers.

Best of luck with your future endeavors.

Sincerely,
Arnold Squibb
Assistant to the Editor
American Book Publishing Company
---

Dear Mr. Clements,

We are unable to consider your novel, “Mom Sawyer”, at this time due to the extremely straightened circumstances of the book business. I am certain you understand. I would recommend you serialize this work and offer it to a southern literary magazine where, due to its style, it is more likely to receive a warm reception.

Best of luck with your future endeavors,

Sincerely,
Wilfred Fuldangle
Editorial Assistant
Hudson River Press
---

Dear Mr. Clemens,

Please do not trouble us with any other submissions of this sort. We are currently awash in folksy novels written in a southern dialect and the public is completely fed up with them. If, on the other hand, you could bring yourself to write a novel depicting the life of a poor orphan boy in the slums of London who is led into a life of crime by an unscrupulous master thief, we are certain we would be interested. You might consider a title like “Oscar Turn” or “Otto Crank”. We are certain there is an unplumbed interest in books of this sort.

In the meantime, we wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors,

Sincerely,
Walter Wangle
Assistant Editor
Smith, Carp and Boring, Publishers
---

Dear Mr. Clemens,

You note in your letter of introduction that you have had some success in publishing humorous articles in newspapers. We recommend you continue to pursue your literary efforts in this direction as humor has no place in serious literature.

Best of luck in your future endeavors,
Theodore White, esq.
Deputy Assistant Editor
Overlook Books
---

Dear Mr. Clumments,

We have carefully considered your book, “Seven Years in Tibet” and are reluctantly unable to take it on for publication. As a suggestion, we believe that the use of Southern dialect in a novel about Tibet is very questionable and unrealistic. We believe that Tibetan sounds a great deal more like German and, therefore, a Teutonic accent would be better;

Sincerely,
William Hafload
Third Assistant Deputy Publisher
International Book Publishers
---

Dear Mr. Clemens,

Let me tell you how much I have enjoyed your humorous sketches over the past few years. They have afforded me a great deal of pleasure and diversion from the troubles of the book publishing business, speaking of which we recommend that you give up your efforts to become a book author. Many of us in the business are attempting to find other outlets for our skills because of the ongoing retrenchment in the industry. And so, I am enclosing a sample of my humorous writings, which I would characterize as “Picaresque” and deal chiefly with my experiences during the summer at my cottage on Long Island. If you would be so kind as to forward these to some of your newspaper contacts I would be most appreciative.

Best of luck in your future endeavors,
Bartholomew Micklewight
Editor-in-Chief
Longshoreman’s Press
---

Dear Mr. Clemens,

My editorial board has directed me to write you regarding your recent novel submission, “Tom Sawyer”.

We think that your book might have merit if some minor changes are made:

1. Books set in the south are poor sellers in light of the recent five year unpleasantness between the north and the south. We recommend you set your novel in Wales or Brittany

2. Children’s books do not have a large market unless there are a great many pictures. Though you offer a few illustrations, they are mostly of a poor quality and are not considered publishable.

3. We think that the character of the leading characters is not what we would consider worthy of publication. We believe that lying, thieving, cursing and pipe-smoking children have no place in fiction because they do not set a morally uplifting model of conduct and are far too realistic in their depiction of children at that age. In light of this, we suggest you change the character of the boy Tom to be that of a choirboy in the local Presbyterian church and Huck to the son of a minister in the Baptist church and that the plot be centered around two upcoming church socials run by these congregations. Tom and Huck would strive to garner the largest attendance at their respective socials and therein would lay many humorous plot twists and developments.
We hope these suggestions will be taken in the spirit intended. We like your book very much but would like it more if these modest changes were made. If you agree with our judgment, please respond by return post.

Otherwise, best of luck in you future endeavors,
Thadeus Sackbutt
Secretary to the Editorial Board
Mother’s Book Publishers
---

Dear Mr. Clemens

I have read your novel entitled Tom Sawyer and have some interest. My firm is a specialty publisher for an elite and exclusive audience with an interest in a particular type of relationship. It seems to me that with very few changes your characters Tom and Huck could become very special friends and physically very close. As an added attraction you can add depictions of loving intimacy between Tom and Huck and Becky and even Aunt Polly.

Needless to say, my firm would undertake to provide a full set of illustrative drawings and plates of the highest artistic quality to match the very high literary quality of your writing.

Naturally, much of the action would have to be changed a little to set the focus on the physical encounters by the various protagonists. You would do well to add some leather clothing. Whips and chains are optional but are definitely welcomed by my marketing department.

I will be at the Friendly Tavern in the Bedford-Stuyvescent every evening this week between 7 and 8. I will be wearing a pinstriped suit and carrying a carpet bag.

Best of luck in your efforts to improve this already very good book.

Sincerely,
P. J. Shard
Editor/Owner/Publisher
Man Maid Books
---

Dear Mr. Clemens,

I am writing you in confidence and hoping for your discretion. A friend at a well-known publisher has passed me your manuscript in the belief that you and I share a common interest: improving the opinion northerners hold of southerners. I am sure you would agree that healing the wounds of the recent conflict must be the highest priority in these days.

I am proud to be deeply involved in just such an effort, to wit: the production of a musical revue entitled “Darkies After Dark”, a light-hearted look at relations between southerners of white complexion and those who are otherwise. Your story would provide considerable material that might be mined to provide little humorous vignettes that would be set on picturesque plantations along sleepy backwaters. If you have any experience in writing music or musical lyrics, we would be happy to consider them at an additional fee.

Feel free to contact me at your convenience, at the following address:

Robert Finagle-Holmes
Holmes Folks Productions
P.O. Box 2333321
Staten Island Station, New York
---

Dear Mr. Clemens,

I have recently come into possession of your manuscript, Tom Sawyer, which was fortuitously mislaid in a dustbin by the firm Scribners Frers. I say fortuitously because it happens that I represent the nationally known firm of Publish-It-Yourself Publishers of Yonkers. We have been instrumental in bringing the work of hundreds, nay, thousands, of first time writers to the attention of discriminating readers.

For a modest fee we will publish your book, complete with handsome pseudo-moroccan leather binding, for a nominal sum starting at 2 1/2 cents per page per copy (illustrations extra). These books are composed by a reputable firm of printers using the skills of German compositors to the high standards for which the Nordic peoples have become justly renowned.

For the modest rate mentioned above, you will take receipt of 100 (One Hundred) copies of your novel ready for distribution to friends, family and potential buyers. It should be noted that many of our customers have used these handsome volumes to gain the attention of mainstream publishers, thereby launching themselves into careers of fame and fortune.

Please consider this pro-active approach to getting your valuable and highly artistic work published.

For a limited time only, we are offering low-cost financing to creditworthy writers in the expectation that you will sell these books for a high price.

Best of luck in your future self-published career.

Sincerely,
Owen Skidmore
Editor Publisher Owner
Publish-it-yourself Publishers, Ltd., of Boston, Paris, London and Miami.

P.S. Please pardon the hotel stationery. I’m on the road and due to business being VERY GOOD, I have temporarily exhausted my supply of letterhead.
---

Dear Mr. Clemens,

My firm, Schuyster and Sons, is interested in publishing your book. While we are unable to offer a substantial advance due to contrary market conditions, we can offer you carfare to carry you to our offices in Manhattan where you will sign the contract and final details may be ironed out.

Sincerely,
Skyler Schuyster
Editor
---

Dear Mr. Tolstoy,

We are in receipt of your novel, War and Peace. This is an interesting book but much too long. We think that reducing its size by approximately half would add greatly to its salability. Try to think in these terms: no book should weigh more than five pounds as this is the limit imposed by the postal service.
Also, we note that each of your characters is referred to with no less than a half-dozen names. This makes it very difficult to know who is who. We suggest that all these “pet names” be eliminated and characters referred to by a single name, that which was assigned to them by their parents at their baptisms.

Best of luck with your future literary endeavors,
Mikhail Babushkin
Secretary to the Editor
Narodnii Books of Petersburg
---

Dear Mr. Proust,

You must be kidding.

Best of luck with your career,
Pierre La Bouche
Editor
Livres Deuxieme Foix
---

Dear Mr. Proust,

We are dismayed to note that your book is almost entirely bereft of punctuation and are unable to account for this lack. A colleague suggests this is a new literary form which he calls “stream of consciousness”. If he is correct we wonder that your consciousness never seems to stop to reflect on what it is thinking. That reflective pause is graphically represented by punctuation, the point where the headlong rush of the mind is arrested by the restraint of good taste.

I must say, though, that if the book were punctuated it might have some literary merit. As it stands, though,

I wish you the best of luck with your etc, etc, etc.
Raoul Sanguine
Editor
Chemin de Fer Books
---

Dear Mr. Hawthorne

Thank you for submitting your book, “The Scarlet Letter” for my consideration. Alas, it is the opinion of my editorial board that this book is both pornographic (dealing as it does with a fallen woman) and anti-religious (since the wrong-doer is a man of the cloth.)

Nevertheless, it is extremely well written. If the plot elements of adultery, out-of-wedlock birth and clerical peccadilloes were removed we feel certain this would be a publishable work.

Best of luck,
LaMonte Diggle
Editor
Mill Run Books
---

Dear Mr. DeFoe,

Your manuscript, “Moll Flanders”, is pornography suitable only for use in the water closet.

Best of luck in your future writing attempts,
Nathaniel Wilberforce
Editor
By-The-Yard Books
---

Dear Mr. DeFoe,

We have read your manuscript, “Moll Flanders”, with great interest and even more mystification. We understand it is your intent to shed a light on the darker side of modern society, but we are at a loss to understand where you think a market for such a work might lie.

Modern literary audiences seek release from the complexities and contradictions of the mundane world. We believe that only light and gay works will find buyers in this environment.

Best of etc. etc.
Percival Bullstrode
Secretary to the Owner
Pollyanna Books
---

Dear Mr.Hemingway,

Are you the same Mr. Hemingway who is foreign correspondent for the Herald Tribune? If so, I have admired your articles on the blood sports of Spain and the three-day bicycle races of Paris. Europeans are so amusing, don’t you think?

As for your manuscript, “For Whom The Bell Tolls”, I cannot be very supportive. That spare, crisp style which is the hallmark of the successful newspaper writer is not really appropriate for the world of literary fiction which leans more to the lush, the lavish and the rococo. Sorry I cannot give you more hope. I would suggest, though, that you read more Henry James and study his style. Now that’s writing.

Best of luck in the world of Journalism,
Cecil Longacre
Assistant Editor
Cosmopolitan Books
---

Dear Mr. Tolstoy,

I have read your manuscript, “War and Peace” with great interest and even greater fatigue. Edit, Mr. Tolstoy, tighten. Less is more! Your story is being buried in words, words, words.

Sincerely,
Yakov Pestergrad
Russkiye Knigi
Moscow
---

Dear Mr. Tolstoy,

Thank you for sending me your manuscript of “Anna Karenina”. I understand you have had some limited success with your publication of “War and Peace”, a novel which this company previously declined. We are no more inclined to this book than the last.

Sincerely,
Yakov Pestergrad
Russkiye Knigi
Moscow
---


ABOUT BILL KOSTUR

I was born just downwind from the nuclear test range in Nevada and every detonation anointed me with the fruit of the cold war. My hair did not fall out right away, it waited until much later, but surely the roentgens made it curl while I had it. I grew up in a suburb of Denver. We didn't call it a suburb, of course. We called it Jefferson County. It didn't become an official suburb until it was incorporated as Lakewood and the tax levy was imposed. Counties are, if not better, certainly cheaper than suburbs. My father drank and welded; my mother worried and worked for J. C. Penney's. I got away from home as fast as could be. And then I looked up and discovered

more about bill kostur




COMMENTS

erik myers
1.14.04 @ 9:19a

P.S. Please pardon the hotel stationery. I’m on the road and due to business being VERY GOOD, I have temporarily exhausted my supply of letterhead.

HA!

tracey kelley
1.14.04 @ 2:25p

Oh. My.

This hurts so, so much.

How many of these are hanging on a nail, in a drawer, under the coffee cup?

margot lester
1.30.04 @ 8:27a

very funny. i like the longshoreman who asks for work and the "lifestyles" publishing angle!

sandra thompson
1.30.04 @ 8:42a

Ever notice there's a "Keynesian" in "Dickensian? Well, of course, you must overlook the spelling and pronunciation. Nevermind.

mike julianelle
1.30.04 @ 9:14a

It took my like five letters to realize this wasn't about the turncoat pitcher. "What's the deal with Roger Clemens submitting manuscripts to editors?"



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