4 Reasons for the Same-Day Rejection

Here’s the scenario. You fire off a short story submission, fully prepared to wait the two weeks or one month or however long it takes for them to read your story and make a decision.  You check your email a couple hours later and BAM! They’ve already sent you a form rejection. Yep, it didn’t take months, weeks, or even days for the editors to decide your story wasn’t a good fit. It took mere hours.

Cue the alarm bells.

Was your story that bad? Are you a terrible writer whose work is such monumental garbage the reek of it nearly caused the editor to blow chunks all over his or her computer after reading a single sentence? Well, probably not to both questions, but let’s unpack this a bit.

Normally, I don’t like to spend a lot of time on form letters because they just don’t tell you much other than the publisher isn’t going to publish your story. The same-day rejection, however, can be jarring because, hey, you kind of expect a mulling-over process with your submission and not instantaneous rejection. So let’s talk about four possible reasons for the same-day rejection based on my own experiences. Remember, this isn’t absolute fact, it’s hypothesizing based on anecdotal evidence; in other words, we’re gonna rejectomance this motherfucker.

  1. You didn’t follow the submission guidelines. Pretty self-explanatory, right? This is the only reason on the list that isn’t rejectomancy; it’s cold, hard fact. If they asked for your manuscript in Courier New and you sent them Times New Roman, you’re gonna get rejected, and fast. If they asked you to put your story in the body of the email and you sent it as an attachment, you might get a rejection in minutes instead of hours. In other words, and say it with me, kids: ALWAYS FOLLOW THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES.
  2. They’re just that fast. Yep, there are a couple of spec-fic markets that are well known for same-day rejections. If you routinely submit horror, sci-fi, or fantasy, then you likely know the ones I’m talking about. But how are they so fast? The possible answers to that question could fill their own blog post, but the two most likely reasons are they have a sizeable staff of first readers who read submissions the instant they come in, and/or they can tell from the first few paragraphs that a story is not for them. I can’t say for sure those are the reason these markets respond so quickly, but they make the most sense to me. To sum up, if you get a same-day rejection from one of these markets, don’t worry about it. For them, it’s just SOP.
  3. First in line. Sometimes when you send in a story right when a market opens the flood gates on their submission period you get lucky and end up at the front of the line. It’s just luck of the draw that your story happened to be one of the first the editors read, and if it’s not for them, then a same-day rejection could be the result. One thing to keep in mind is that for many markets the reason it takes weeks or months for them to get back to you is there are dozens even hundreds of submissions to read before yours. It really doesn’t take an editor too long to read and make a decision on a short story, so if you get read first, your chances of a lightning-fast rejection are pretty high.
  4. They like your stuff. One thing I’ve noticed is that markets that have previously published my work generally get back to me quicker with subsequent submissions. Sometimes they even get back to me in the same day. This could be because they recognize my name, remember they liked and published something I wrote, and move my submission to the front of the line. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re more likely to publish what I’ve sent them, but it might mean they’re more likely to read it first. And if they read it first, well, then my chances of a fast or even same-day rejection increase dramatically. I’ve received form rejections and personal rejections in the same day under this scenario.

So, as alarming as a same-day rejection can be, you probably shouldn’t view the the speed of the response as a measure of the quality of your work. As with any rejection, there are lots of things happening behind the scenes you’ll never know, and few of them have anything to do with the how good or bad your story might be. Take a deep breath, and send that story out again.

Do you have any experience with the same-day rejection? Tell me about it in the comments.

9 thoughts on “4 Reasons for the Same-Day Rejection

  1. Yup, I’ve received same-day rejections. I like that you pointed out that a story usually only takes a long time for a rejection because of the many others before it in line. It’s not because they’re thinking long and hard about it – they’re way too busy for that! I actually much prefer fast rejections – the waiting waiting waaaiiitttinggg for other mags is so much worse. A quick rejection might feel a little blunt, but at least I can jump back into submitting.

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  2. My fastest rejection – not same day but less than 24 hours – came with some very nice notes about what the editor liked and didn’t like. I’ll take it over the 6 month wait at that other magazine any day.

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    • Yeah, one of my same-day rejections came from a pro-market that had published me previously, and they gave me some great notes with that rejection. I agree; a same-day rejection with useful feedback is absolutely preferable to a six-month wait for a form rejection.

      Thanks for commenting. 🙂

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  3. Oh, yes indeed I’ve had a few same-day rejections. If I am recalling correctly, two of them were form rejections, but I’m moving toward the long view that y’all professional writers take. The sooner I get my rejection back, the sooner I can send it out again. I recently read (could it have been in reading Heinlein’s rules?) that you should send it out to another market the same day you get the rejection, if at all possible, and not only for psychology’s sake. I like the idea, though, that they enjoyed your writing (or something they’ve read from you in the past; maybe even your persistence) enough to get back to you quickly so you can start the process all over again with another reader.

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  4. I am always begging for honest appraisals so when “they are rubber and I am glue”, I suppose I should buck up and reassess my submission, post mortum.

    A fast rejection is a gift, it just sure-as-shit doesn’t feel that way.

    Appreciate your observations and many of the comments.

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