It goes without saying that every new writer should expect to receive pile upon pile of rejection letters. According to Duotrope.com, my overall acceptance rate for short stories is 13%, so if we want to view the glass as 87% empty then then that adds up to quite a few rejections (163 to be exact), and that doesn’t even figure in the 50 or so rejections from literary agents.
To make matters seem even more pathetic, well over half of those letters come in the form of “Thank you for submitting ‘Such and such’ but it’s not right for us at this time. Good luck placing it elsewhere.”
The thing is, receiving a form letter rejection is not pathetic at all.
It’s not personal.
I’ve seen a lot of writers in magazines and on internet forums really feeling down about getting a form letter, but really, form letters aren’t the big negative that people make them out to be. I’d much rather get a form letter rejection than no response at all.
There are various reasons a publisher will use a form letter rejection. For example, if it’s a pro-paying market, the sheer volume of submissions received in a month might make it nearly impossible to respond personally to each writer.
That’s just one reason; there are so many other valid ones. For instance, an editor may be able to tell in the first page if your story doesn’t fit their publication. It’s nothing personal, and it doesn’t mean your story is terrible, but they might not care for your voice, your character, your setting, or your genre, or something else, and decide to not even finish reading.
Or maybe your story wasn’t ready to be submitted yet, so they are rejecting it due to the writing. Would you rather get “Sorry, not for us,” or “Sorry, I couldn’t even stomach the first page?”
When a form letter is personal…
I do believe that some editors have a couple of different form letter rejections, though. Often, instead of “Good luck placing this elsewhere,” the form letter will say something like, “Please consider submitting to us again in the future.” I’d like to think that if an editor thought your writing was garbage, they wouldn’t invite you to continue adding to their slush pile.
Anyhow, back to other markets’ rejections, while form letters aren’t evil by any stretch of the imagination, personal rejection letters are a lot less painful. I’ve actually gotten some really good advice in a couple of rejection letters and just realized that of my last three accepted short stories, two of them were improved because of the advice the rejecting editor gave me.
So don’t feel so down about it.
If you are feeling down with form letters, just roll with the punches as they say, and keep submitting. And if you’re fortunate enough to receive a bit of feedback with your rejection letter, seriously consider the advice and send them a quick note of thanks, if you feel so inclined.
And just for fun, my favorite form letter rejection came from a publisher addressed to a guy who’s last name started with “Ba…” They forgot to cut/paste my name into the email form letter that they had just sent to the guy who fell in front of me alphabetically.
Not a big deal, but it gave me a bit of a chuckle to read.
And just for fun, I’ll mention that my own ezine, Theme of Absence, is listed in Duotrope’s top 30 Markets that send personal responses. So even if I don’t mind receiving form rejections, I often avoid sending them 🙂
What about you? What are some of your best or worst rejection letters?