5 Nice Things About Editor Rejection Letters

Okay, many authors who read this post will think I have been indulging in my favorite scotch while wallowing in the final agonizing throes of self pity before I pass out in front of reruns of “Wheel of Fortune”. But such is not the case. (I don’t get drunk…ever, only drink my scotch on special occasions and I hate TV game shows)

So what is prompting me to write today’s post? Well, I just received another rejection letter (technically, an email) for a story I submitted. The truth is, I don’t feel so bad about it.

In every book on the craft of writing that I have read, there is always the caution to expect rejection as an author. Apparently, some people are devastated when their opus magnum is not initially recognized by an editor for it’s Hugo and Nebula award winning prose. Of course I am talking about submitting short works to Science fiction and Fantasy markets. I must admit that the first one I received affected me more than I had imagined. But, hey, I got over it and I started to realize that in the world of rejection letters, it’s not such a terrible thing.

Five reasons why rejection letters are okay

  1. They aren’t personal. Even though your name is on it and everything, despite how it feels, it is not a letter about you. They are not critical of your quirks or lifestyle choices. They just didn’t want to publish this story.
  2. They are mildly encouraging. They don’t come out and say that the story is an unpublishable piece of crap that would be better off lost on your hard drive than sent to a serious magazine. No, they say something like, thanks for the submission, blah, blah, blah, not for us at this time, blah, blah, blah, good luck on your writing career, blah, blah, etc. Even if the story was an unpublishable piece of crap, they are much too polite to come out and say so. After all, you might be the next Asimov or Clarke, just starting your career and they will want to publish some of your better work some day. So they won’t tell you your work is crap. That’s what your critique readers are supposed to do.
  3. They sent a reply. This one means a lot to me, because I am old fashioned and somewhat fossiliferous. Back in my youth, before email, when I applied for a position with a company, whether it was an advertised one or not, if they didn’t want to consider me I was always sent a very polite form rejection letter. We called them PFO letters (as in, Please F&@# Off). Nowadays, one never even gets an acknowledgement that their resume was even received, let alone a form letter reply. People are just rude, these days. But what I appreciate about the publishing industry, despite the volume of submissions they must receive each day, they take the time to send a response, giving the author closure on that particular submission effort. I like that.
  4. Somebody Read Your Stuff. Okay, maybe they didn’t read the entire thing. Maybe they read the first sentence before quietly throwing up in their mouth and sending it to the PFO list. Maybe they struggled through the entire thing before deciding they could take no more of your fractured prose, then sent it to the PFO list. Maybe they read and loved your mastery of the English language but the story didn’t do anything for them. But at least somebody other than your mom or your spouse read it.
  5. You’re getting your stuff out there. I call it shots on goal. If your writing is readable and you can tell a story, then it should be just a matter of time before the right story lands in the right inbox at the right time. It’s like Hockey or Football ( real football as the majority of the world plays it…with a spherical ball using only the foot. That other abomination should be called Hand Egg ) the more shots you take on the other team’s goal, the more chances you have of getting one in.

I think too many authors take on the same attitude in their submissions that they took in their dating years. Back then, if the girl or guy you were crushing on gave a stink face look when you asked them out and said something like “Eeeuw!” it tended to feel personal. Submitting to markets is just business, and not such a bad part of the experience. So get off your ass and send that story back out into the world. That’s what I am going to do after I post this.


Pax Vobiscum