Often times, when you submit a story to a publisher, there isn’t a single editor reading your submission. Many markets have multiple editors/readers who provide feedback on a story before a decisions is made to accept or reject. Sometimes, you, the author, never know how many folks have read your piece when you get that rejection. Other times, the market is more transparent and provides you with some of their readers’ comments. The latter can result in the multi-reader rejection, which looks like this:
Thank you for submitting to XXX. We have decided not to publish your piece, “XXX”. Some reader comments:
“Although the idea is interesting, it starts slowly and doesn’t end with any closure. I don’t see a full story here.”
“I found the first sentence ungainly. This scene gives no indication of something I can take away (other than ‘the bad thing kills people and goes away to kill more’). I needed the kind of content and context which would make these happenings important to me.”
“The story isn’t complete.”
“Didn’t hook me in, and didn’t pace quickly enough for a flash, in my opinion. I didn’t feel I really got to know these characters enough to invest in what’s going on here (they were fairly stock to me; types, not individuals). This reads more like a solid excerpt from a commercial novel more than a flash. Not really my cup of tea.”
“I’d have liked this a lot more if there were an explanation to what the “fire” is. It’s an interesting enough premise, but it feels incomplete to me.”
Best of luck, and please feel free to submit to us again in the future.
As you can see, my multi-reader rejection included five sets of feedback, ranging from short and sweet to fairly detailed. I’ve received a couple of these, but this one featured more reviewers than any of the others.
So, what is the benefit of the multi-reader rejection? Well, it’s a type of informative personal rejection that can tell you a lot about your story. You might dismiss feedback from a standard single-reader rejection as the editor’s personal taste, but if you’re getting consistent feedback from two, three, or more people in a multi-reader rejection, it can be hard to ignore. For example, you can see from the comments in my rejection that all five readers didn’t feel my story was complete. I’d be pretty foolish to ignore that kind of quorum and not take a good hard look at the piece (which I’m totally gonna do).
Though not a benefit of the rejection itself, I’ve found most of the publishers that send multi-reader rejections do so with the vast majority of rejections. For example, this particular publisher has a 90% personal rejection rate out at Duotrope. In other words, you’re very likely to get some kind of useful feedback from them when you send submit a story.
There are potential downsides to the multi-reader rejection, though. If you get the opposite of what I received, and your five reviewers present wildly different or conflicting feedback, then it’s just confusing, and the feedback is of no real value. That’s rare in my experience, but there’s always a chance of that happening with multiple reviewers. My guess is that in a case where the readers aren’t providing consistent feedback, the publisher is likely to just send a form rejection.
The other downside is that getting one of these is kind of like receiving five rejections at once, which can be a somewhat disheartening. Though, it’s a small negative compared to the very real benefit of getting good feedback on your submission.
Have you received a multi-reader rejection? Tell me about it in the comments.