I very much appreciate you sending me the manuscript. I apologize that it's taken an unconscionably long time to get back to you, but everyone here really wanted to give this manuscript the time and thought we think it deserves.
Although you've heard it before, I'll say it again: your writing is an absolute joy to read. Your love of literature comes across as clearly as your grasp of the English language, and inspires any reader with even a smidgen of taste and sensitivity to share your enthusiasms.
Unfortunately, I'll have to follow up with yet another line you often hear: there's just no market to sell this type of book. Of course publishers and editors are going to appreciate a writer's reaction to great works of literature, but your fan base won't extend much beyond that. These "omnium gatherums" are very seldom reviewed because they are impossible to describe and deliberately eclectic. Without a real and substantial audience, miscellaneous collections like this are simply too difficult to sell.
I would love to find something to do with this work. However, as things exist today, there just isn't enough of a market for your kind of writing to make it a viable undertaking for a small and putatively "for profit" house like this.
I opened this letter, read it, then set it down on the kitchen counter and walked away. What else could I do?
Sure, tell me to bask in the praise. You're right: praise is lovely, and having this particular publisher praise my writing is a jaunty feather in my cap. And while you're at it, you might as well remind me that I've published other books, that all of the essays in this particular manuscript have appeared in famous literary journals. Remind me that other writers are far less fortunate than I am. All of this is true.
But it is deeply discouraging to be told that no matter how well I write, no one will read my book. I mean, deeply discouraging. I mean, why bother continuing to write discouraging. Although I am inured to routine rejection letters, this one has just about pushed me over the edge. There is something so exquisitely painful in being told that high success in my art has made my art unsalable. What do I do with that information? Try to write less well about things that don't matter to me?