The Standard Form Rejection Revisited

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

First, as a refresher, what is a standard 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 similar language. Here are some examples from the hundreds I’ve received:

Standard Form Rejection 1:

Thank you for submitting [story] to [publisher]. Unfortunately, I have decided not to accept it for publication.

Sometimes form rejection are short and to the point. I appreciate that. This letter says all that it needs to say. They read the story and they’re not going to publish it. It’s important to note that brief is not the same as rude, and I don’t mind a rejection letter that gets straight to it. Interestingly, extremely brief rejection letters like this are not particularly common in my experience. Most editors will add a few softening touches, as you’ll see in the next letter.

Standard Form Rejection 2:

Thank you for submitting [story] to [publisher]. We very much appreciate the chance to read your work, but we are regretfully saying no to this submission. We wish you luck with placing it elsewhere and hope you will continue to consider us in future.

This standard form letter is very representative of the type, and the language here is pretty universal. It’s polite, lightly encouraging, but like any standard form rejection, it doesn’t include any real information other than we’re not publishing the story. The last line resembles a higher-tier rejection because of the “consider us in the future” bit, but in this case, I don’t believe it is. There are a few publishers who use that language in their standard letters and change it up to something like “we look forward to your next submission” for a higher-tier rejection.

Standard Form Rejection 3:

Thank you for sending us [story]. While we appreciated the chance to read it, unfortunately we’ve decided not to accept it for publication. This doesn’t mean that your story isn’t good; it’s simply not quite right for us right now.

Please don’t be discouraged by the form letter. Because we work hard to reply in a timely manner, we’re unable to provide specific feedback for the vast majority of submissions we receive.

Thanks again, and best of luck placing this story elsewhere.

This is a great standard form rejection because the editor goes out of their way to actually explain why you might be receiving this rejection and that it may have nothing to do with the quality of your story. It’s an appreciated and encouraging peek behind the editorial curtain.

The rejection above leads me to my point with all this. Getting a form rejection or even a couple of them doesn’t mean the story is without merit. How do I know this? Well, just about every story I’ve sold received one or a dozen letters like the ones above before I sold it. That doesn’t mean the rejecting editors were wrong (far from it and not my point at all). It does mean exactly what the last rejection letter said: those stories weren’t quite right for those editors.

So. when you get a standard 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. Probably, even. Send that story out again because it might be a perfect fit for the next market.

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

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