If you live in the land of rejectomancy like I do, then you’re pretty damn familiar with the form rejection letter. It comes in a variety of different flavors, but they all essentially say the same thing: No. Recently, I have ventured into the golden sunlit lands of acceptance on a more frequent basis (I’d get a condo there, but the rent is ridiculous), and I have found this wondrous place has more in common with the blighted nether-realm of rejection than I would have believed.
One of those similarities is the form letter. Yep, form acceptance letters are actually kind of common, as I have recently discovered. Let’s look at a couple from my own collection:
Thank you for sending us “XXX”. We think it is a great fit and would like to publish it.
We will be in touch shortly with a formal contract and details for your review. In the meantime please email any question or comments to [publisher’s email address]. If you have not received a contract for review within two (2) weeks, then please do e-mail and give us a gentle nudge.
Thank you again for allowing us to consider your work. We look forward to working with you.
Yep, that is absolutely a form letter. I know because I’ve received two from this publisher. Let’s look at another one.
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 and mailing address, or PayPal email address if you’d prefer, 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!
Again, I know this is a form letter because I’ve been published previously by this market and received the same letter.
Why would a publisher send a form letter for an acceptance? Well, if you think about it, it makes even more sense than a form rejection. A rejection letter only needs to convey one thing: we’re not publishing your story. The rest is all welcome but unnecessary niceties. An acceptance letter, on the other hand, needs to get across quite a bit of important information, as you can see in my two examples. The publisher needs to tell you about the contract, about the edits, who to contact if you have questions, how to get paid, and so on. That’s a lot of information, and I certainly wouldn’t want to write that from scratch every time I accepted a story. A boilerplate letter with all the info an author needs makes a lot more sense, don’t you think?
Just like form rejections, you shouldn’t read anything into form acceptances other than what’s actually been said. For instance, if you look at my first example, you might think, “Hey, they didn’t say a bunch of nice things about Aeryn’s story.” Well, they didn’t need to because they said the nicest thing possible: We’re gonna publish your story. In my experience, you’ll find more specific and personalized praise in the manuscript the publisher send over for edits, often as a note at the end of the story. It’s the cherry on top of the acceptance sundae.
Are there publishers that send personalized acceptance letters? Of course, just like there are publishers who send personalized rejection letters. That said, I’ll take the short, bland form acceptance letter over a novel-length personalized rejection every day of the week.