how to write a perfect rejection letter

*inserts tongue firmly in cheek*

I’m a writer. I send lots of submissions, so I also get lots of rejections. Sometimes I even sell something, but I’m not talking about that now. One could say that I have a lot of experience in getting rejection letters, and I could tell a thing or two about what a rejection letter should look like.

You know those letters that go somewhat like this?

Hi,
Thank you for submitting (story) to (magazine). Unfortunately, we won’t be using this story for the magazine.

The above is really all an author needs. Sometimes you get an additional line that goes something like this:

We regret the impersonal nature of this letter, but we receive a lot of submissions, many of good quality, and can only use (number) each month/quarter.

Okaaayyy, we’re into cover-my-arse territory now. I suppose a magazine hopes they’ll get fewer backchats from authors who are irate that teh stoopid magazines don’t recognise their jeeeenius. I’m thinking these authors will backchat anyway. But cool. There’s no need for explanation, but if you feel you absolutely have to… go ahead.

Lines like:

Please do not take this rejection personally

or

We know how hard it is to receive rejections

convey an empathy that, to my mind, doesn’t ring true. Not only that, after you’ve had three or four of those rejections, those fake we-know-how-hard-it-is-poor-you lines really, really start to grate.

I love hearing things like:

Please consider submitting to us again

or

We liked your story, but have no room for it in our publishing schedule

especially if the magazine in question doesn’t usually say this. Specific comments can also be good.

But, generally speaking, if you’re an editor:
– you only need to say ‘we won’t be taking this’
– you don’t need to apologise
– you definitely don’t need to include ‘we know how hard it is’ messages

Keep it short, keep it business-like.

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4 comments on “how to write a perfect rejection letter

  1. You are soooo right. I especially hate the ‘ we have so many class authors it’s hard for us to consider somebody new’. Thanks, that’s really sexy, not classy at all, then.

    My absoluter favourite (by a top- flight agency) starts ‘As to your materials…”

    Vomit.

    For the best is ‘ thanks, but not for me.’

    • the agency rejections are another class by themselves. I must stress that most are professional, but you do get the ones with formatting problems, and the ones that insert the standard text after a copy of your letter, or the ones that use only the subject line as rejection. Seriously, it doesn’t take that much to set it up properly, what are these people doing? Well, actually, I’ll know next time where NOT to submit.

  2. Mine:

    “Thank you for the opportunity to review your submission. Although we considered your submission, the Acquisitions Committee has decided that it does not suit our needs at this time.”

    Perhaps the Acquisition Committee should have told when the time will be suitable.

    • I think this is a perfectly acceptable rejection letter, and have had plenty of those.

      A publisher is not under contract to tell every one of their 5000 submitters why they’re not buying the manuscript. All they’re required is not to be rude in rejecting you.

      You are probably lamenting the impersonality of it all. If you want personal comments about your manuscript, you should join a critique group. They not only give great feedback, but give you an idea for where you are in the writing game.

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