Should you reply to rejection letters? A good question, and 99.9 % of the time my personal opinion is a resounding NO. The most compelling reason is that many publishers will straight-up tell you not to reply to a rejection in their submission guidelines, and we always follow the submission guidelines, right? That said, here are some reasons writers sometimes DO reply to a rejection letter (and my opinion why they shouldn’t).
- To say thank you for an encouraging, personal rejection. A nice thought, but I think it’s generally unnecessary. Editors receive a lot of emails, and there’s a chance you’ll just be cluttering up their inbox with a (well meant) thank you. I think it’s kind of implied that you appreciate the editor’s time and consideration of your story, but if you really feel you need to say thanks for some encouraging words, I’d put a short note in the cover letter for your next submission to the publication. I’ve done that once or twice.
- You disagree with feedback. If you get actual feedback in a rejection and disagree with it, just ignore it and move on. This is a subjective business, and there are times an editor is going to give you feedback that doesn’t work for you. Replying to “correct” the editor isn’t going to get you anywhere, and it might hurt you chances at future publications with the same market. Now if that feedback is just off-the-wall bonkers, you might avoid submitting to that publisher again. In general, though, save your arguing for feedback on a story that’s been accepted.
- Because they were rude. Were they, though? I’m sure editors have been rude to authors in rejection letters, but out of the many, many I’ve received not once has an editor been anything but polite. When I see authors getting upset over rejections (and talking about it publicly) it’s often because they received a short, to-the-point form rejection which they’ve interpreted as clipped, terse, or dismissive. Editors are busy folks, and sometimes all they have time for is a short “No thanks” or “Doesn’t meet our needs at this time.” Don’t take that stuff personally, and absolutely don’t send a snarky reply. Again, it’s not going to get you anywhere, and it’ll likely hurt your chances for future publications.
Now for the big question: When should you respond to a rejection?
In my career there has been only one instance where I felt it was appropriate to respond to a rejection letter. Here’s why. I received a rejection that wasn’t meant for me. The publisher made a mistake because my story and another author’s story had very similar titles (an understandable error). When I received the rejection and realized it wasn’t for my story, I replied with a polite “I don’t think this was meant for me” and received an immediate and professional apology rescinding the rejection. My story was eventually rejected, but the publisher’s professionalism in correcting the mistake definitely left a good impression. I’ll be submitting there again.
So, that’s my opinion on when you should respond to a rejection letter, i.e., almost never. I’m willing to be educated on this point, though, and it you know some good reasons to reply to a rejection (or disagree with my reasons not to), please tell me about them in the comments.