Letting Everyone Down

Some of you will know that I’ve started sending out emails of the “Sorry, we didn’t pick yours” variety, and this will be going on for the next several days. It’s a pretty dispiriting process, to be honest. And I wish it was possible to individualise these emails, to give at least a hint of why various proposals didn’t make the cut – but there simply isn’t the time. If you do have a burning question about why your proposal didn’t make it, feel free to reply to the “pitches33” email account and I’ll do my best to write back over the coming weeks/months…

It’ll still be another ten days or so before I can start sending out more cheery emails to those fortunate folks who have made the cut, due to the various meetings, forms, signatures required in the office.

In health news, does anyone know how to get ears back to normal after flying with a heavy cold? It feels like I need to stick pins in my eardrums.

63 thoughts on “Letting Everyone Down”

  1. Any idea where we are at this point in terms of rejection letters?I think David mentioned he thought they’d all be send out by this last friday, but as more are coming in, that seems unlikely.Any update on when we’re looking at seeing the lucky 20?Thanks!M

  2. David said: “If you do have a burning question about why your proposal didn’t make it, feel free to reply to the “pitches33” email account and I’ll do my best to write back over the coming weeks/months…”I think it would be helpful to those of us who hope to submit again if you provided some minimal data about the reason for rejection. Even just indicating one or more of the following would help:* We’d never do a book for THAT album.* Your credentials didn’t cut it, but if someone else had submitted this…* Weak proposal, try another approach to the same material.* Everything was fine, we just liked some others better.* We’d like to consider this for a non-33 1/3 book.I think that sort of data would help me know whether to propose the same album in the future and how to better prepare for next time.

  3. I am also a proud member of the Rejection Gang. I am still going to do the book in some form or fashion. When I saw the heading “33 1/3: Sparks proposal” in my inbox, I thought ‘yeah,’ and then I read the rejection letter and thought “oh no!”But I am happy to participate in the great adventure and to be part of the 33 1/3 Rejection Club and I am really looking forward to the future titles from 33 1/3. I really appreciate David writing the letters in such a manner as well its schedule. Thanks David!

  4. My advice (take it with a “grain of salt” as they used to say) is to always have several creative projects — if you can do it, come up with new ideas and do the research-and-development for it while you’re editing, or still in “production” on another, one that’s further along — maybe it’s already been accepted/picked up (or maybe you’re simply self-publishing or whatever) — and both of these projects while you’re in “post-production” on a 3rd project that is further along. That way, you’re always working on something at different stages, and you don’t get as bogged down. You can keep yourself interested and “fresh” by creating new ideas, when you’re not editing or honing your proofing skills. That seems to be what most creative types do — juggle several projects at once.

  5. My advice: Don’t think of it as “rejection,” and don’t misinterpret the refusal of your proposal as a negative criticism of you or what you’ve written. Sometimes these things happen because the right idea was pitched to the wrong editor-publisher (it might be exactly what another publisher is looking for). It can also happen because an experienced editor knows better than the writer that, while their idea may be perfectly good and interesting, it’s unlikely to recoup its investment — so they turn it down despite their own personal interest. Something I’ve learned over the years: anyone who can be discouraged from writing probably isn’t cut out to be a writer. (Actually, there’s no “probably” about it, but I don’t want to add to your discouragement.) A successful writer who is told “No” but hears “Try again, another way.”

  6. Hey guys, a question for all you seasoned and serious writers: how do you cope with rejection? I don’t mean it in the sense of “not taking it too seriously,” but in the sense of: what kind of concise steps do you take to become better in your path? Does this fuel sentiments of anger or serenity? What are the steps you have taken to become better?I’m very interested to know because I’m an aspiring writer, and this has been my first rejection (I haven’t been ambitious enough). I thought that while I’m at it, I can learn something from those who wish to share (or vent).

  7. Hey, as long as everyone is posting their rejected proposals, I might as well post mine. I think writing a 33 1/3 entry would have been a blast, but I’m okay going back to reading them instead. Good luck!

  8. I received my “thank so much, but” letter today, the day after my promotion game through at work. I even stopped writing rejection letters to authors to stem the karma, but alas, it was in vain. Ah well. Next time…or the time after that. Perhaps I will write it anyway and post the results to my blog ( for taking the time, Dave.

  9. mine was to be a mix of music and lyric criticism with a decided literary bent and fiction…I’d started writing the fiction part and might acutally like it better on it’s own…maybe make a novella of it or something and add that into my rotation of stories and a novel that I’ve been mailing out for the past 7 months or so.

  10. to Anonymous from 12:35 PM:i plan to do *something* with the album and concept that became the germinus for the proposal. this whole experience has blossomed into an integrative thing that has woven in several different ideas i’ve had floating around (in the ole duder’s head) for some time. i feel duty-bound to see some of it out, some way. we’ll see how it goes. i’m totally psyched and ready to get ready rockin like christopher walken jamming to dokken.what about you?-Johnathan S.

  11. seriously folks…your proposal would have to be well above average on SO MANY LEVELS to be accepted that nobody should feel at all rejected. i imagine they will have to turn down many many great proposals simply because the great albums they are about simply won’t move enough books. to say nothing of the poor writers who choose the same artist as, say, nick hornby or michel azerrad…they will never even have had a chance! sad but true.

  12. Tim Lucas, you are this generation’s Michael Weldon. You are an inspiration to everyone following difficult cinema and for that you shall always be a golden demigod.

  13. Hey, Anon., some of the apostrophes came through as little squares–that is, there was a computer glitch. As an English Prof who has published 5 books and 20 essays–how’s that for horrid credibility?–I can testify that there’s nothing resembling ungrammatical stuff in the message. Curt, yes, but polite, too.

  14. The rejection notice was a joke. It has typos, terrible grammar, and two punctuation marks total. I’d have rather been left hanging than be insulted with an e-mail they were too lazy to spellcheck even though they sent it to hundreds of people. Saying “there simply isn’t time to address everyone” is a valid reason to not go into depth about why a proposal was rejected, but it’s not a defense against being so lazy that you can’t put apostrophes in.

  15. I’m curious, is there anyone here who is intending to write their book even if they are rejected? Anyone here who got so into the idea that they feel they want to do it anyway? Though you have to deal with the idea of selling the idea to another publisher, there are upsides, like being able to different things with the format and not having to stick mostly to one album!

  16. “Recognize that if you don’t get picked, it’s not a rejection of you, but a rejection of the proposal and your writing skills.”Gee, thanks, I wouldn’t have guessed that! So it could just be that my writing sucks. Phew. You’ve made me feel so much better!

  17. “by the weekend”ack! the drama! the suspense!there’s more than enough of both here for an oscar winning movie. gotta love it though, it’s cliche, but this is what it’s all about.And while I’m still hopeful and unbiased I’d like to add: how wonderful it is that this series has come this far? This hubbub has to represent some sort of tipping point. And it’s encouraging to see something that so transparently started as just a seed of an idea, now having carved out a place for itself. Win, lose, or standalone book, we can all be inspired by this experience.

  18. “I’m a twice-published novelist, a screenwriter, an award-winning magazine publisher-editor and columnist, and (as of the other day) an award-winning blogger”Wow, and I’ve still never even heard of you. Congratulations.

  19. I admit that the last few days I allowed myself to hope, but the rejection came easily. 4% is remarkably good odds for something like this. Still, I reject people (bands) on a daily basis so it’s nothing new to me and quite easy to understand that for some unknown reason, my kickass proposal didn’t fit Continuum’s schedule or aesthetic.That being said, I’m disappointed in the series’ continued lack of heavy metal coverage (no GnR doesn’t count).I would like to hear from any of the other folks that submitted metal proposals. Sabbath, Metallica, Slayer, Celtic Frost, Terrorizer. You know who you are. Drop me a line. Best of luck to those who haven’t yet been rejected!

  20. It’s not my intention to boast, but to make my point: I’m a twice-published novelist, a screenwriter, an award-winning magazine publisher-editor and columnist, and (as of the other day) an award-winning blogger. I got a note on Saturday telling me that my 33 1/3 proposal — for Jefferson Airplane’s CROWN OF CREATION — was rejected. So I don’t think credentials are all that important; I think acceptance has more to do with which “33 1/3” books you list as your favorites.Just kidding about that last part! Choice of album and how well you sell your unique approach to that album would seem to be the decisive factors. One or the other of mine didn’t work in my favor, at least not as well as 20 other proposals. I’ve already written my book and am thinking about self-publishing it — not the same as having it be part of the 33 1/3 series, but that’s how things worked out.Good luck, everybody! I await the final list as eagerly as the rest of you.

  21. I’d love to see a list of the possibilities for the next batch–like a ‘maybe’ list?However, I’m glad I sent in my proposal. If what I sent in isn’t what they’re looking for, I feel like I’ve got the basis to start a different project. That’s not to say I won’t be disappointed to join the 96er club.Also: thirding the neti pot, even though I hate them. Guifanesin also works well to thin mucus out (and it’s now OTC as well–brand name mucinex).

  22. I don’t suspect it’s solely about the credentials: if the other person who pitched the album you did gets picked, it may mean he just had a more compelling premise and proposal on the album. It may mean he just writes better than you do. It could be a variety of different reasons.Recognize that if you don’t get picked, it’s not a rejection of you, but a rejection of the proposal and your writing skills. And those can always be improved.

  23. Ack! Rejection! I know it’s silly to be hurt, given that only slightly more than 4% of the proposals will be chosen (and that I really don’t have any credentials, a fact I tried to hide, but none too successfully I suspect, in my bio), but it does hurt a little. Now, for my pride’s sake–and also because I’d really like to see a book in the series about the album I proposed–I hope the other person who pitched the album I did was chosen and simply has waaaay more credentials than I do. That said, I concur with those who appreciate the timely and gentle way we were informed. I look forward to seeing the final list of proposals chosen. There are way more than 20 albums on the list that I’d like to see a book about.

  24. Geez, all this thanks-for-considering-my-proposal and it-was-an-honor-being-given-a-chance and you’re-doing-a-great-job stuff is very dispiriting–doesn’t anyone around here know how to hold a good healthy grudge? Joan Crawford, Billy Martin, and Richard Nixon are all hanging their heads in shame somewhere, deeply saddened by this public display of maturity, common sense, and acceptance. Let’s see a little ill-will, please–let’s see some hate. I got passed over the previous round, and while I’m past rooting for any of the responsible parties to plunge from very tall buildings, I do hope…No, the truth is, I’m still stuck at the tall-building stage.

  25. I hope to have nearly all the rejection emails sent out by this weekend. “Nearly all” because I need to hold back on one or two extras, in case one or two of the current selections don’t make it through the upcoming meetings here. Thank you all again for your patience, we’re doing our best to make this as humane as possible!

  26. Welcome to the wacky world of publishing. Your hopes may be raised, but that’s on you, not the publisher. There is no reason why David and Co should change their strategy and send out notices at the same time just for the benefit of your ego. I’ve been rejected twice and havd had no problem with how long I had to wait for notification. If you don’t make the cut, don’t let not being published by this company deter you. You might still want to tackle the project and find another outlet.

  27. One suggestion for next time: even if it takes you several days to write all the rejection emails, you should send them out all at once. I understand the desire to not leave people hanging, but by announcing that rejections are on the way and letting some folks go two days (and counting) without word, only leaves *those* people hanging and makes waiting (and a possible rejection) harder for those at the end of the list. (ie. me!)Believe me, I appreciate that notices are sent at all, but each hour that goes by without an answer only raises hopes artificially.Or alternatively: at what point will we know that all the rejections have been sent, and that those who didn’t get one have made the cut?

  28. Ditto from another 96er, David: thanks for the prompt response, and particularly for the assurance that you read all proposals and took them seriously. Not all publishers work this way. Thanks for your time and for the opportunity to submit a proposal.I remain seriously devoted to the 33 1/3 series!

  29. Is that last comment from a disgruntled 96%-er?Seriously…I got my rejection last night, and although I spent a wee little while feeling sorry for myself, I got over it quickly. The lingering resentment comes from those publishers and editors who don’t get you, who don’t respond to mail, and who are otherwise just big ol’ meanies. David, you’re a class act. And good luck with the ears.

  30. That’s really the best attitude to have. The great thing about any creative endeavor is that really, there’s no such thing as wasted effort. Even if you don’t get the result you were aiming for, the really good ideas have a habit of making their way into other projects. And (not to get too After-School Special about it) you learned something—and (I hope) you had some fun in the process. God knows I did.

  31. I got my denial today, and feel okay about it. It would have been a fun project to do, and I may yet just write up a MySpace blog or something, but I’m just happy to have been able to get my shit together enuf to actually write up a proposal. Best of luck to everyone — from one of the 96%-ers

  32. 20 books out of 450+ proposals means — assuming one has a proposal of average quality — there’s around a 4% chance of getting the proposal accepted. And with this many people, one can’t tell if his or her proposal is “above average” or not.In all, that means a 96% chance that it won’t be accepted.If anyone is truly let down by not being accepted, while I understand it’s not a pleasant thing, I have to say.. well, come on. 🙂 It’s alright. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to strive for a stronger proposal later, but also the final decisions come down to factors that shouldn’t be seen as a diss on anyone’s talent either.Kudos to the 33 1/3 staff for their hard work in going through all of this.

  33. For your ears: Breath in some air and then hold your breath. Pinch both nostrils with one hand. With your free hand , press your index finger (or thumb) tightly against your eardrum. Now *try* to force air through your pinched nose, slowly but building in pressure. Relax pressure as you feel your *unblocked* eardrum release air. Stop forcing air and holding breath and gently release your finger from blocked eardrum. Repeat process with other ear, and continue until full hearing and baance is restored. If sinus blockage is still painfull, the modern (and preferred) version of the ‘neti pot’ is available at a local pharmacy under the name SinuCleanse or NeilMed SinusRinse. Each are essentially a warm water and saline rinse applied to each nostril with gentle force. Quite effective in blowing your sinus gunk out. I have used the NeilMed with happy results.

  34. o and just to clarify, these cover mock-ups are for fun, a personal make-pretend attempt to create content that mimics your style and other conventions, as if i were given the greenlight to copyright violations from this guy. just having fun generating ideas and images and more words.slainte!JS

  35. i second that emotion. i am happy to have just tossed my hat into the ring with a lot of like minds.that said, i’m gonna keep working on it whether i get the nod or not. i’ve got a graphic designer pal doing cover mock-ups based on the series style (which i think looks awesome with it’s album-art-derived accent colors and so on), and i’m still writing and listening and daydreaming (my merle haggard LP’s are taking a beating, too). all the collaboration on art issues and styles has banked the ole fires pretty’s nice to make a fairly genuine win-win out of this, and i appreciate the consideration and time all the same. i’ll sweep out the ashes in the morning…Johnathan S.

  36. Ah well, once I saw the 400+ proposals I was 99% sure I was toast, so it goes, but I sure do appreciate your letting us know – I’ve been in many a freelance situation where pitches just seem to dissolve into a black hole somewhere, so your courtesy is appreciated!

  37. I take it if we haven’t heard from you yet we should be expecting the rejection letter in the next couple of days? Did you make contact with the people who put in accepted proposals?

  38. In light of the sheer volume of pitches you received, I thought your succinct rejection e-mail read just fine. (Which isn’t to say I wasn’t disappointed — but you let me down easy.)

  39. These are being sent out (not strictly, but mainly) according to the order in which the proposals were received, starting with those that were first to arrive. Oh, and thanks for the ear advice, everyone! I suspect Douglas may have hit the nail on the head: the doctor told my mum, when I was 2, that there was enough gunk in my ears to start up a candle factory. (Apologies if you’re currently eating lunch…)

  40. Are you doing the ‘no’ emails in a particular order? From what I can gather it might be alpabetical order in accordance with the original pitches list – e.g. ‘A’ artists, then ‘B’ artists, ‘C’ artists and so on.

  41. Advil Cold & Sinus always seems to do the job for me. Of course, I always buy the store-brand version, which is always at least 3 bucks cheaper. Now they make you ask at the counter for anything with pseudoephedrine in it, just in case you’re running a meth lab. Sorry that you have to be sick while sending out 430 rejection emails. Can’t be anything like fun, or even tolerable. Drink lotsa juice. Odwalla’s Mo Beta is nice. C Monster is nice when yer sick. Cheers!

  42. The best way to correct your ears is by listening to Cornershop’s wonderfully soothing When I Was Born For The 7th Time and then commissioning a book about it. Only joking, of course. Thanks(?) for the rejection letter and for not keeping me in suspense for another couple of weeks.

  43. You need to clear out the gunk that’s trapped behind your eardrums, actually, which has the problem that it’s not accessible from the outside of your ears. My solution, recommended by my doctor: using a neti pot twice a day for a couple of days. It feels like the weirdest thing ever the first couple of times you try it, but it does actually de-gunk your head.

  44. Hi David,There’s a product called “Cold Calm” that you can get at most Wild Oats/Natures type stores. I swear by these little white pills. The only organic solution I’ve found to the common cold. Highly recommended.The other more personalized solution I swear by is to eat a Greek Salad while listening to Ozzy…Feel better. NC

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