Rejection Letter Rundown: The Acceptance Letter

Rejectomancy Points + 10 (What’s this?)

Imagine, if you will, a writer of dubious talent opening his email and finding a subject line that looks something like this: RE [Awesome Stories of Awesomeness] Aeryn’s Awesome Story. The author sees this email and thinks, “Great, another rejection letter. That’s the eighth one this week.” He opens the email, girding himself for yet another “does not meet our current needs” or “we’ll have to pass” or “go fuck yourself, you worthless hack.” Instead, he sees strange words in the first sentence that combine to make weird, alluring phrases like, “we loved it” and “publish in our next issue.” Then it hits him. He pees a little, thrusts his fist into the air, looses what he thinks is a manly roar of triumph, and scares the shit out of his wife who thinks he’s having a stroke (he kind of is).

Yup, kiddies, let’s talk about that rarest of rare birds, the glorious, treasured acceptance letter.

Here’s one of mine, removed just this morning from its hermetically sealed display case so you might marvel at its loveliness:

Dear Aeryn,

Thank you for sending us “XXX”. We love it and would like to publish it in the next issue of XXX. Your contract is included in this email. Please accept the contract by following the link at the bottom of this email and include your 100 word bio in the Requested Information box. We’ll send an email with editorial suggestions two to three weeks before the issue publication date.

Thank you for your submission and we look forward to working with you!

I won’t lie; finding one of these little gems in your inbox can make your whole day. Previous rejections are forgotten, and the future seems a bright, welcoming place filled with adoring fans and phrases like “award-winning” and “best seller.” But, hold your horses there, champ; you’ve still got work to do. Because, even though a publisher likes your story enough to publish it, there are still plenty of opportunities to fuck this up. How do you fuck this up? By falling prey to SSD (special snowflake disorder) or FTFFD (failure to follow fucking directions).

You’ll notice along with the nice things they said about my story and the fact they’re willing to publish it, they’ve also given me some instructions. Every acceptance letter will do that. Publications need certain things beside your story to publish your piece. What this one asks for is very standard. They want me to sign a contract, and they want me to send them a short bio (we’ll discuss those things in later posts). When should you get these things to the publisher? As soon as humanly possible. Trust me, editors don’t like waiting on authors whom they’ve graciously agreed to publish to  follow simple instructions. So get on it, and get them what they need.

Got a recent acceptance letter you’d like to share with the class? I’d love to see it in the comments.

16 thoughts on “Rejection Letter Rundown: The Acceptance Letter

  1. This is sooo wrong. Professional editors should and do show all edits to their authors. That’s how publishing works. Stop giving incorrect information out.

    Do not demand to see edits from a publisher that doesn’t offer them (you’ll usually know if they send edits back to authors because they’ll put it in the submission guidelines). You’re probably not an editor, and making editorial demands on actual editors makes you look like a pretentious asshole. Editors, as a rule, do not like pretentious assholes. Remember, the goal here is to remain on the editor’s good side throughout the publication process. If you make that process an easy one, it’s entirely possible they’ll want to publish your work again.

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  2. But I think he is actually right. All my contracts (big and small publishers) have a clause that allows them to make minor edits without my approval. Minor being anything that doesn’t change my words or story. So they can go in and fix grammatical crap at their discretion. In a short story or article, I’d imagine the changes are always very minor, more so than in a full novel. HOWEVER, anything more than a few misplaced commas and the manuscript comes back to the author. I think the point he’s making is, don’t be a thorn in your editor’s side about every tiny detail. If they spot a minor issue as they are formatting, they can go in and fix it without having to wait on your approval. They are professionals and that’s their JOB.

    That said, I have also had experiences where editors went in and re-wrote or demanded changes on huge sections of my work, wanting me to use their words instead of my own. Let me stress this, it is always ok to say no, or to tell an editor you aren’t comfortable with a change. YOU are the author. Be polite and professional, and open a dialogue. Most editors are happy to explain why they think something might work better another way. It’s a delicate balance between being willing to take advice and being in control of your own art.

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    • Almost every contract I’ve seen like that allows the writer to add (with the author’s permission). This is a crucial protection for every writer. But almost all publishers confer (through the editor) with their authors about changes to a ms.

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      • And no, short stories can require a LOT of editing. I often have my writer revise-more than once.
        Sherry: if the writer isn’t alerted to a change, who would she know to stet it?

        Obvious typos are different.

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    • The truth is those last two paragraphs were poorly phrased. Part of the point I was making, as Sherry points out, is don’t be a pain in the ass and let the editors do their jobs. I’d stand by that, but I was likely a bit too emphatic with the rest. Although what I said is drawn from my own personal experience, it obviously differs quite a bit from the experience of some very well respected and knowledgeable editors. As someone said, when Ellen Datlow corrects you on editing, you should take heed.

      I’ve seen something very similar to what Sherry mentions above in my own contracts: minor edits may be made without the author’s approval. In each case, those edits were indeed minor, and I had no issues with them.

      Ellen, if you’d be gracious enough to answer a question. Where do you think writers should draw the line? Should they ask to see all edits? Are there some things you consider trivial enough to change without the author’s knowledge?

      Thanks for your input. I do appreciate it.

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      • Hi Aeryn, Most of that I answered above. (and just below your question). I will fix commas if they seem obviously wrong to me without asking. But I may say to the writer that I think there needs to be more of a pause and that a sentence needs a dash or a semi colon…or something. If I make changes the author is still going to see what I’ve done when she reads over the story –hopefully she’ll notice if I’ve added a comma she doesn’t like. The material goes through several stages: edit, copy edit, proofreading (although Tor.com stories only have my edit and a professional copy editor). The author should see ms during all those processes.

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  3. Also, it’s important to distinguish between your publisher and your editor in book publishing. The contract is with a publishing house. But you work with your editor. So you need to trust your editor to work with you in a professional manner– which includes discussing all edits with you. If you tell your editor you don’t care about commas, she won’t ask you about them but might change them. Yes, it can be annoying to the editor, but some writers are very wary because of bad experiences, or have a distinctive style in which they may use grammar or punctuation oddly because it works with the “voice” they’ve created in the book/story.

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  4. To Aeryn — If any publication says it will do actual rewriting of your work — beyond basic copyediting — withoiut conferring with you, don’t publish there. Period. It’s your writing and you’ll always be responsible for it. (The Japanese pictogram for “integrity”) is literally a man standing next to his word. Working WITH an editor — including a wonderful one like Ellen Datlow — until both of you are satisfied is a whole different ballgame. But never relinquish your right on what the finished product of your work will look like because it will be like that mosquito stuck in amber from “Jurassic Park” — unchanging forever. It’s YOUR product, new writers, no matter how much you ache to be published. — Dan Simmons (HYPERION, etc.)

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    • Thanks, Dan. This is great advice from a great writer, and I am both humbled and very grateful you would drop by my little blog to deliver it.

      No to sound pandering, but I’m a fan, and I’ve truly enjoyed your work for years. I recently finished “Hardcase,” which left me with a question. Is there a genre you CAN’T write?

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