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.