On the Chin… But Be Prepared to be Patronised

With submission for publication comes the possibility of rejection — and you learn to live with it.

Sometimes you get an explanation — “we wanted to balance the pre- and post twentieth century material” is one I recall from 1999 — and sometimes you don’t. You rewrite and submit elsewhere.

Take it on the chin.

Oddly — and this might sound like a brag — I’m been commissioned more than I’ve cold submitted. If someone asks me to write something, I will ponder whether I want to be in the venue, and more to the point work out if I’ve something to say.

I’m sufficiently instinctive that I often get this feeling that X and Y are connected — say that Mary Douglas’s Purity and Danger might be useful for thinking through The Sparrow. At that point, I hadn’t actually read Purity and Danger. It can be a high wire act — and it makes writing abstracts hard before there’s a chapter, although you don’t want to write something that’s going to be rejected.

So, there was a call for contributions, and I sat on it overnight, and applied the tests, and sent an abstract. Meanwhile, I was already thinking there would be other venues I could submit it to, but having written the damn thing.

Ten minutes ago I was rejected.

The editors were apologetic — lots of strong contributions — some hard decisions — consider the overall shape of the volume — it is with immense regret — and…

Well, whatever. That’s the job. You try not to publish rubbish, although that arguably rubs out most of my output…

And then:

“we want to persuade you to develop the proposed chapter into an academic article that will be well-suited to be submitted to any number of peer-review academic journals.”


I guess they were trying to be helpful. Maybe to soften the blow. Perhaps it was a standard rejection email sent to all.


I’m certainly acquainted with these peer-reviewed journals of what they speak. I even had a list in my head of who to try first, if it was rejected. I co-edit a peer-reviewed journal — but it would be Bad Form to submit there.

Somehow, I think a simple no thanks would not have left me feeling … a little patronised and certainly amused.

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