Responding to rejections: a comparison

Nov 9th, 2009 | By | Category: CG Blog

In the past couple of days, we sent out a lot of rejections, mainly to Issue 13 submissions. We use a form letter: we simply don’t have time to respond personally to all the submissions we get. However, rather than use a plan rejection (“Thanks for submitting, we’ve decided not to use it, best wishes”), we use something which we hope makes clear to people that the rejection may be for any number of factors, and they shouldn’t take it as an insult to the quality of their work. Here’s a typical rejection letter from us:

Dear [AUTHOR’S NAME],

Thank you for submitting your story, “[TITLE]”, to Crossed Genres. At this time we’ve decided that it doesn’t fit our needs.

Please do not take this as a reflection on the quality of your work. We receive far more submissions than we can possibly use, and have to make tough decisions on which to accept. And because of the nature of the magazine’s changing monthly genre, we usually can’t hold submissions to be used in future issues. We would happily welcome submissions from you in the future.

We wish you good luck in placing your story elsewhere. Sincerely,

Bart Leib & K.T. Holt,
Editors, Crossed Genres

While we know it can be frustrating to receive rejection letters, and even more so if they don’t give you specifics as to why, it’s a pretty common practice. We hope that everyone at least takes us seriously when we say not to take it as a reflection of the quality of your work (For more about why it doesn’t, please read my old post about what rejections really mean.)

Today, in response to our recent round of rejections, we received two different responses from two different writers. These two people received exactly the same form letter, only names and titles being changed. They are an interesting study in contrasts. I’m not going to pick them apart bit by bit – I’m just going to post them both here in their entirety (minus names & titles), all spelling and punctuation as we received them, for you to compare:

RESPONSE # 1:

I have difficulty understanding the term “Meet Our Needs”

It’s as if I must guess what your needs are. I thought publishers were interested in the crearivity and imagination of writers, not, “Guess what story I have in my mind and I’ll publish it”.

What a way to kill creativity. I have sent a number of stories that I believe have a good deal of merit and all I get is, ” It doesen’t meet our needs.”, which is just another way of saying, “We don’t know what the hell we are doing.” I won’t be sending in any more stories because frankly, You Don’t meet My Needs.

Dissapointed in Your evalation practices,

[NAME WITHHELD]

RESPONSE # 2:

Thank you for the opportunity to submit.

If I might ask a boon, this is the 2nd story that I’ve submitted that fit exactly into your theme (the previous was westerns.) I’m not upset, but more curious where this story fell short, if you have the time to tell me. I know how busy putting a magazine is. If you could tell me how I could improve this story that I believe in, I’d like to find a home for it elsewhere.

Thank you for your consideration.

[NAME WITHHELD]

…see the difference there?

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4 comments
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  1. The first one would have me banning them from your magazine… the two magazines I read slush for and every single anthology I edit for years to come. And to pass their name/email address around as someone not to work with. Also, I would post (yet another) blog entry on now not to impress an editor.

    The second one would have me sending them a short note saying I will get back to them when I have a moment to breath. Then, I would go back, look at the two submitted stories, and give a specific answer to why I would not accept the stories (Already bought similar stories, didn’t feel right, etc.) and the top 2-3 points I would change to make the story better.

    ~Jennifer Brozek

  2. I’ve gotten a lot of rejections, lately, and the only one I’ve ever replied to was a rejection from an editor who took the time to tell me where my story fell short — I was surprised that they’d taken the time and grateful for the information.

    For me, my reaction to a rejection has more to do with how good I think the story is. I recently got a rejection for a story that (in retrospect) is insipid, juvenile, silly, and downright bad. That it was rejected should not have come as a surprise; the pain of that rejection was mitigated by realizing that I didn’t write the best story I could have. Heck, the rejection letter was downright sweet, in its impersonality; the editor could have rightly shredded every sentence of that story and they wouldn’t have been wrong.

    On the other hand, I’ve gotten rejections for a couple of stories that I really loved, that I had worked hard on and that I thought were as good as they could possibly be. It hurt, yes, but it never occurred to me to be snotty toward the person who rejected them. (I did think about asking why?, but editors are busy and I didn’t want them to think I was whiny instead of curious.)

    I hate getting rejection letters, but I try to keep in mind the fact that every single author in existence has at least one rejection letter. Mark Twain was rejected; Herman Melville and Ernest Hemingway, too. Stephen King and J. K. Rowling, Neil Gaiman and Jay Lake. All of them have been rejected, declined, have not met the needs of publishers and editors.

    Also, the other thing that I try to keep in mind is that someone said yes to Stephanie Meyers and Dan Brown, so there’s that.

  3. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by crossedgenres: New blog post: Responding to rejections: a comparison http://bit.ly/1OnVBe

  4. […] at the Crossed Genres blog today, the editor posted two author responses to rejections that I found were spot-on to my own experiences. They made me laugh a little, but they also made me […]

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