What Publisher Rejection Letters Really Mean

April 14, 2014

Thanks to The Guardian, the Twitterverse engaged in a hashtag fest not too long ago (#publishingeuphemisms) to get to the bottom, in a semi-humorous way, of the real meaning of phrases that publishers use when rejecting or recommending authors. I say "semi-humorous," because — while funny — they also sting a bit to those of us on the receiving end. Here are some of the most clever contributions:


  • "Just a couple of tiny changes needed." =  I'm about to send you 27 pages of edits.

  • "I hate the cover too, but my hands are tied." = The publisher's niece did it.

  • "This is too British for the American market." = I have no idea what this is about.

  • "It's a new classic." = Same as an old classic but the names are changed and it probably has vampires.

  • "Literary-commercial cross-over." = Has a plot but not too many adverbs.

  • "The author is highly promotable." = The author is smoking hot.

  • "Sorry but our list is currently closed" = We are too busy chasing celebrity deals to bother with hoi-polloi.

  • "The novel never quite reached the huge potential of its promise." =Your pitch letter was better than the book.

  • "Fast-paced page turner." = Lots of one line paragraphs and short chapters.

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