The art of rejection

I’m into my fourth week reading correspondence between editors, publishers, and writers, and I’ve read so many well-phrased rejection letters that I generally tune them right out. But the combination of diplomacy and sheer wordiness of this one caught my attention:

November 6, 1901

Dear Sir:-

We are sorry to say in reply to your letter of the 2nd addressed to the Riverside Press that we cannot feel sufficient confidence in our ability to make a success of your book to warrant us in asking you to take the trouble to submit it to us.

We thank you, however, for bringing the matter to our attention, and we are

Yours very truly,

Houghton, Mifflin & Co.

Though not a shining example of concision, I remain impressed with the tactfulness with which the letter basically says, “Not only do we not want to publish your book, we don’t even want to read it.”

Citation: MS Am 2030 (214), Houghton Library, Harvard University

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