The Common Form Rejection Revisited

One of the first posts on this blog was about the common form rejection. In the intervening two years and change, my thoughts have changed some, and I find I have more to say about what they usually mean.

First, as a refresher, what is a common form rejection? Well, it’s the basic, boilerplate communication you’re likely to get from most publishers when they decide not to publish your story. They come in all shapes and sizes but tend to use a lot of the same language and phrases. Here are some examples:

Common Form Rejection 1:

Thank you for submitting “XXX” to XXX. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite meet the needs of our podcast. 

Thanks for submitting, and best wishes for you and your work. 

This is a common form letter from a top-tier speculative market. It’s a nice professional letter and a pretty standard one as such things go. As an aside, this is one of my favorite markets, and they’re one of the first markets I send new stories to.

Common Form Rejection 2:

Thank you for your submission, but this doesn’t quite catch my interest.

Sometimes form rejection are short and to the point. I appreciate that. This letter says all that it needs to say. Brief is not the same as rude, and “does not catch my interest” is not the same thing as “bad story.” More on that second bit below.

Common Form Rejection 3:

Thank you for submitting your story, “XXX”, to XXX. Unfortunately, we have decided not to publish it. To date, we have reviewed many strong stories that we did not take. Either the fit was wrong or we’d just taken tales with a similar theme or any of a half dozen other reasons.

This one of my favorite form rejections because the last sentence is key if you’re going to submit your work. It might sound like the editor is trying to be nice or soften the blow, and, sure, there might be a little of that, but everything this editor said is also true. Strong stories ARE rejected for half a dozen or more reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of the story.

The rejection above leads me to my point with all this. Getting a form rejection or even a couple of them does not mean the story is without merit. How do I know this? Well, every one of the rejections above is for a story I ended up selling. That doesn’t mean these editors were wrong for rejecting them (far from it and not my point at all). It does mean all those things the last rejection letter said are probably true: wrong fit, similar theme, or half a dozen other reasons.

When you get a form rejection, don’t read too much into it and don’t immediately jump to “bad story” as the reason for the rejection. Bad fit? Maybe. Send that story out again because it might be a perfect fit for the next market.


What are your thoughts on the common form rejection? Tell me about them in the comments.

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