The Not So Secret Hierarchy of Rejection Letters

If you’ve been submitting stories or poems to journals for more than a day or two, you’ve probably seen something like this:

Dear Writer,

Unfortunately, the work you submitted was not the right fit for us. Best luck placing it elsewhere.

Best Wishes,

The Editors

It’s impersonal, not exactly brusk, but certainly right to the point. The good thing about these kinds of responses is that you know right away that the good folks at that prestige mag aren’t writing about your Pushcart nomination.

A week or two ago, the writing community on twitter had a laugh (and a justifiable “ew, David,”) about a round of rejection emails that opened with the word “Congratulations.” I think the rest of the email said something like “this piece wasn’t for us, but congratulations on being invited to submit to our next contest” or something.

I mean, that’s a pretty gross move.

If you’re new to all of this, I give you the Not So Secret Hierarchy of Rejection Letters.

1: The standard form letter like the one seen above.  Not very gratifying, but don’t take it personally.  You’re busy, they’re busy, and that’s just how it goes.


2: The form letter with your name and the title of your piece.  Pretty standard practice.  I think I get more rejections with this level of personalization than without.


3: The personalized rejection letter with a personal note telling you how much they liked your story, even though it’s not for them, and encouraging you to send them more. In the super-competitive and completely subjective literary world, this can feel almost as good as an acceptance.  When you’re at this point with a specific piece or a specific market, you know that the editors really looked hard at your piece, thought about it, and saw enough promise (or whatever they look for) to personally encourage you as a writer.  No one owes you that, so when you get it, it’s a good thing.  Follow up with a thank you.

The most important thing to remember?  We’re talking about subjective responses to art.  You will “fail” often, especially in the beginning.  The thing is persistence (and very often, revision).

Three New Pieces

I’ve been very fortunate to have three new pieces published at three awesome venues in the past few days. I’ve also really appreciated the feedback I’ve gotten from readers and fellow writers. Thank you! Here are my three new pieces:

My short story, “Clouds”, is up in the launch issue of Perhappened.

Yesterday, Schuylkill Valley Journal published my flash, “Behind the Eight” as part of their new Dispatches series.

Today, Rejection Letters published my short piece, “Anyway Here’s Wonderwall.”

Please check them out if you have a chance!

Forthcoming in June

I had a very encouraging string of publishing acceptances in May and now a new one in June. I’m going to use the phrase “very excited” in each of the paragraphs below, because I really, really mean it. Forthcoming for me in the next two weeks:

“Behind the Eight” at Schuylkill Valley Journal, part of their new Dispatches series. I’m very excited about this piece finding a home as part of this new series!

“Clouds” in the launch issue of Perhappened Magazine. The theme for this issue is carnival. I grew up in the mobile food concession business, so some of the story is from that perspective. I’m very excited to be included in this issue! Saturday, June 6.

“Anyway, Here’s Wonderwall” at the newly-launched Rejection Letters. I’m very excited to be included in the early days of this new project! Tuesday, June 10.

“A Decent Disaster” at Mineral Lit Mags June issue. I’m very excited to be part of this edition!

I’m particularly grateful that these pieces have each found the right home, and I’m even more excited by the chance to work with the editors at each of these venues, all of whom have been amazingly encouraging and wonderful to connect with in general.

A Helpful Reminder About Rejection

From the submissions page at Hippocampus Magazine:

Just because we pass on a particular submission does not mean it does not have merit; we publish 8-12 pieces per issue, and this often means turning away strong work. Sometimes it’s as simple as an essay with similar theme or style was recently published. Do not take editorial decisions personally. Just sitting down and getting your thoughts on paper is a task for which you should feel great pride—not everyone can do it. Every piece of writing has value. We feel it is important to spread the message of being persistent and diligent in your search for publication. Never let rejection discourage you from sharing your story. Just because it is not right for us or right for us at this time does not mean it will not find a more fitting or timely home. Write on.

Here.

Acceptance and Rejection on April Fool’s Day/Palm Sunday

Yesterday, I got two or three rejection emails for short stories I’m trying to place.  On Facebook, I asked my writer friends if there was any chance those mags were having some April Fool’s Day fun with us.  Truth be told, I don’t take rejections seriously or personally.  The stories have been through the processes they’ve needed to go through before I sent them out.  I love them and believe in them.  I know they’ll find a place in the world.

Then I got to thinking about how I might have felt if I’d gotten acceptance letters yesterday instead.  There’s a certain foreboding, isn’t there, in Palm Sunday adulation?