As I have said many, many times on this blog, (most) editors are not heartless monsters out to grind your hopes and dreams into a fine spreadable paste. Nope, they’re just regular and often passionate folks who happen to be in a position to judge your work. As many editor are writers too, it’s not surprising some of them might feel the sting of rejection vicariously when they have to reject an author whose story they like. Thus, the apologetic personal rejection, which, as far as rejections go, is a pretty encouraging one. Sure, they’re still rejecting your story, but they’re telling you why, praising your work, and they actually sound sorry about it. I mean, next to an acceptance, that’s about as good as it gets, right?
So, here’s the skinny: I’ve never actually gotten a rejection letter like that. (I guess I’m a love it or hate it kind of writer.) Not to worry, though. It turns out a few people actually read my blog (I know, madness), and some of them are writers too. What’s better is that some of these folks are so super fuckin’ rad and gracious they have offered to loan me their rejection letters to share on the blog. That’s just all kinds of awesome.
Anyway, the example letter in this post came to me from Rob Mammone, and here’s a bit about him.
Rob Mammone lives in Melbourne, Australia. He’s been published in Doctor Who Magazine and more recently in the anthologies Ill at Ease 2, Darker Minds, and Darkest Minds. He can be contacted at his blog and @dread_sinister on Twitter.
Now let’s have a look at that rejection letter.
Thank you for sending me “XXX”. If you are receiving this email, that means your story made it past my first and second rounds of reading. We received nearly 200 submissions for XXX, and so many of them were absolutely wonderful. But the sad fact remains that we cannot publish every great story that comes our way. For one thing, we would go broke. And secondly, when it comes to an anthology like XXX, every story accepted into the table of contents must benefit the others. They must share blood, even if it is distant. The atmosphere needs to be more similar to a family reunion, rather than an orgy of strangers, despite how much fun that sounds.
Therefore, I must regretfully decline “XXX.” Please understand this rejection has less to do with your skills as a writer and more to do with the anthology’s stubbornness to be built a certain way. Your story certainly fought hard for a spot here, and it came very close to succeeding.
I wish you the very best with placing it elsewhere, and hope to see more from you in the future.
Pretty cool, huh? First, the editor gives him solid (if not exact) reasoning for why his story was rejected. From the feedback in the letter, it sounds like the editor thought Rob’s story was just a hair off theme or took the theme in a cool new direction that made it stand too far apart from the other stories in the anthology. (Rob, feel free to throw us a comment if you have another theory.) The editor goes on to tell Rob that his story came really close, and it sounds like it was under consideration for some time. Finally, the editor would like to see more work from Rob, which, in my book, is the standard by which all “good” rejection letters should be measured.
If I were to get this rejection, I’d feel pretty good about it. Yeah, sure, it’s always a bit of a bummer when you get rejected, but there’s a lot of positive, encouraging stuff going on here. I’d send the story out again right away, and I would abso-fucking-lutely get another story in front of this editor as soon as possible.
Have you received an apologetic personal rejection? I’d love to hear about in the comments.
Again, my sincere thanks to Rob Mammone for letting me post his rejection letter on the blog. Do me a favor, and check out Rob’s blog and/or follow him on Twitter.
And if you’d like to share one of your own rejection letters on the blog, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Note, I’ve covered all the basics, so send me something different, funny, weird, whatever. I will not reveal the name of your story, the publisher, or the editor if I post and discuss your letter.