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View Full Version : A rejection letter we can all learn from


Steve Colle
09-15-2016, 02:23 AM
In September of 2002, I submitted a Captain America story proposal with script for the first three pages to the Submissions Department at Marvel. Not even two months later, I received the following response from then-Submissions Editor Scott Elmer:

Dear Steven,

Thank you for submitting your Captain America story proposal for review. Although it was very well written, it is not what we are looking for right now. If you are interested in becoming a professional comic book writer, one suggestion I can make is to not send your submissions solely to Marvel Comics. Most writers get their starts at smaller presses, where they can establish a portfolio of professional work. Believe me, there's a lot of different publishers out there so don't limit your search to the bigger companies. I realize you have worked for the smaller presses previously, but this is still the best advice that I can give you at this time.

It would be wise to pick up an issue of THE COMIC BUYER'S GUIDE. This is a weekly newspaper that's jam packed with news and articles about the industry. In it you'll also find ads from people looking for writers, pencilers, inkers and all sorts of talent. This one paper will probably give you more leads than you have stamps for.

Thank you once again for your interest in Marvel Comics. I hope that my suggestions prove useful and helpful. Best wishes and have a nice day.

The reason I'm sharing this isn't as a personal story or even to highlight this amazing editor who took the time to actually provide guidance. What this is about is what he focused on: building a portfolio with smaller press and, in this day and age, using the webcomic format to get published and seen. Though I wouldn't consider looking at THE COMIC BUYER'S GUIDE (they ceased publication in March 2013), there are numerous sources in seeking and finding creators looking for collaborators, such as here on DW.

Another thing that I got out of this letter was hope. Just because Marvel wasn't interested didn't mean I should give up writing. Go those other directions and build up that portfolio. This guidance applies to you, too, in whatever creative role you may play.

As a writer, I've been lucky to have received this response providing guidance, but I've also received a form letter rejection (from DC's nameless Submissions Editor in 2000) and the ever popular "no response". The best advice I can give is this: a rejection isn't the end unless you make it the end.

Keep being creative.

maverick
09-22-2016, 04:04 PM
In September of 2002, I submitted a Captain America story proposal with script for the first three pages to the Submissions Department at Marvel. Not even two months later, I received the following response from then-Submissions Editor Scott Elmer:

Dear Steven,

Thank you for submitting your Captain America story proposal for review. Although it was very well written, it is not what we are looking for right now. If you are interested in becoming a professional comic book writer, one suggestion I can make is to not send your submissions solely to Marvel Comics. Most writers get their starts at smaller presses, where they can establish a portfolio of professional work. Believe me, there's a lot of different publishers out there so don't limit your search to the bigger companies. I realize you have worked for the smaller presses previously, but this is still the best advice that I can give you at this time.

It would be wise to pick up an issue of THE COMIC BUYER'S GUIDE. This is a weekly newspaper that's jam packed with news and articles about the industry. In it you'll also find ads from people looking for writers, pencilers, inkers and all sorts of talent. This one paper will probably give you more leads than you have stamps for.

Thank you once again for your interest in Marvel Comics. I hope that my suggestions prove useful and helpful. Best wishes and have a nice day.

The reason I'm sharing this isn't as a personal story or even to highlight this amazing editor who took the time to actually provide guidance. What this is about is what he focused on: building a portfolio with smaller press and, in this day and age, using the webcomic format to get published and seen. Though I wouldn't consider looking at THE COMIC BUYER'S GUIDE (they ceased publication in March 2013), there are numerous sources in seeking and finding creators looking for collaborators, such as here on DW.

Another thing that I got out of this letter was hope. Just because Marvel wasn't interested didn't mean I should give up writing. Go those other directions and build up that portfolio. This guidance applies to you, too, in whatever creative role you may play.

As a writer, I've been lucky to have received this response providing guidance, but I've also received a form letter rejection (from DC's nameless Submissions Editor in 2000) and the ever popular "no response". The best advice I can give is this: a rejection isn't the end unless you make it the end.

Keep being creative.

Not wanting to burst your bubble here, but this looks like a form rejection letter to me. Doubt the editor "took the time to actually" do anything.

A response that provided actual guidance would have included a critique on your story, script, writing, etc., other than saying it was "well written." It's doubtful he even read it. Sorry.

Steve Colle
09-22-2016, 05:59 PM
Hi Maverick,

I'm sure there are parts of a form letter in there (undoubtedly), but I also know there are sections that are straightforward not copied and pasted. Those are the parts I know were not generic and are probably ones that only I will know about.

I've worked in submissions before and know the immense time dedication involved in more substantive commentary, even from a small press standpoint. Hell, even writing comments to writing and art threads (including inking, colouring, and lettering) here on DW takes time, time that isn't always available but made nonetheless.

Notwithstanding the status of form letter vs. professional contact, that wasn't the point of this thread. It seems that may have been missed in interpretation.

lonelybrick
09-23-2016, 10:54 AM
It's a good message to remember, it's quite easy to let rejection knock you down, be it with writing or job applications, indeed many many other aspects in life that we all encounter on a daily basis. It's easy to give up, but those who are successfull tend to be the ones who stick at it. I can think of multiple interviews with big authors who recieved dozens, if not hundreds of rejection letters but just picked themselves up and tried again the next day. And as for if this is just a standard reply from the editor my thought would be how nice he replied you could of just been left wondering what happened to your letter with no response.

JamesVenhaus
09-23-2016, 11:16 AM
Jim Lee posted his rejection letters some time ago. I'm less inspired by the rejection letter itself than I am by the fact that Mr. Lee KEPT them all these years and they served as a source of inspiration for him. Here they are if you haven't seen them:

http://comicsalliance.com/jim-lee-rejection-letters-marvel-dc/

JamesVenhaus
09-23-2016, 11:22 AM
Todd McFarlane has some thoughts on the subject as well:

https://www.facebook.com/liketoddmcfarlane/posts/765946693449415

Stewart Vernon
09-23-2016, 05:38 PM
I haven't been rejected in comics world yet... haven't really submitted myself to be rejected as yet, not formally anyway... but IF I ever did, and ever get rejected, I would keep those letters.

They are indications of progress... kind of like a retailer keeping their first earned dollar.

Afro
09-23-2016, 08:30 PM
I used to keep mine when I applied to the big companies. I stopped submitting and did my own thing. I just mail them comics I did. Never get any rejection letters , no new jobs either.

Bulletboy-Redux
09-28-2016, 11:29 AM
Yeah I gotta admit I never got the thing about saving rejection letters. I hate them. If it's personalized, that's different. There might be some worthwhile advice in there. Some editors make an effort to be as helpful as they can. I always appreciate that. But if its a standard robo-rejection I treat it like the junk-mail it is.