Here’s a scenario for you. You receive a very encouraging personal rejection from a publisher, where the editor says something like, “Hey, good story. We’re going to pass, but we think you might consider improving the story by changing X and revising Y.” If you’re new to the submission grind, you might think if you addressed X and Y and sent the story back to the publisher, you’d have a good chance of an acceptance. Unfortunately, that’s called an unsolicited rewrite, and the majority of publishers won’t consider them.
Though well known to savvy submitters, the “no unsolicited rewrites” policy is often an unwritten submission guideline. New writers may violate this policy because a) no one has told them about it, and b) they’ve only submitted to a few markets who may not mention unsolicited rewrites in their guidelines.
But how do I know most publishers don’t want unsolicited rewrites? Three reasons.
1) First, it’s not an entirely unwritten policy, and some publishers do call it out in their guidelines. When a publisher does mention the policy, it’ll look something like this.
Unsolicited Rewrites: We DO NOT accept unsolicited rewrites of stories that we’ve already rejected. (That is a nearly universal policy among short fiction markets of all genres.)
This is an excellent example, and I really appreciate this pro market looking to help folks new to the biz. The kicker is in parentheses, of course, and as far as I can tell, it is a nearly universal policy.
2) Second, if a publisher wants you to revise a story and resubmit it, they’ll straight up tell you. Basically, they will solicit you for the rewrite. That’s often called a revision request, and it’s fairly common.
3) Finally, I know folks, unaware of this policy, who have sent unsolicited rewrites. What was the result? Nothing dire, just a very polite letter stating the publisher does not accept them. In the most recent case, I think the publisher was aware the policy was not in their guidelines, so being polite, professional humans (most editors fall into this category, by the way), they recognized an innocent mistake and simply informed the author of their policy and invited the author to submit something new.
So, to sum up, when you get good feedback from a publisher, revise the story and send it somewhere else. Send the encouraging publisher something new.
Thoughts on unsolicited rewrites? Know of any publishers that accept or encourage them? Tell me about it in the comments.