Form Rejections: What Do They Actually Mean?

As a longtime student of rejectomancy, I’ll be the first to tell you the arcane art of divining meaning from rejections only gets you so far. Sometimes a rejection just means what it says and nothing more. Attempting to read complex hidden motives into a simple “no thanks” can lead you down a dark, miserable path of self-doubt. In this post, we’ll discuss how to avoid that path with some examples of form rejections from my own collection and a little rejectomantic analysis.

Form Rejection #1

Thank you so much for thinking of [publisher]. Unfortunately [story title] is not quite what we’re looking for at the moment. We wish you the best of luck placing it elsewhere.

This is a standard form letter, using very standard language. Things like “not quite what we’re looking for” and “best of luck placing it elsewhere” are the stock in trade of form rejections. There’s no point in reading further into a letter like this, and let me give you two reasons why. One, this story sold on it’s next submission. Two, this market published the last story I sent them before this one. So, I KNOW this publisher likes my writing enough to publish it, and I KNOW this story was good enough to sell elsewhere. That data tells me this form letter meant one thing: the story wasn’t a good fit for THIS publisher. That’s all.

Form Rejection #2

Thank you for submitting [story title] to [publisher]. We appreciate the chance to read it. Unfortunately, we don’t feel it is a good fit for us and we’re going to have to pass on it at this time.

Thanks again. Best of luck with this.

Another standard form letter. “We don’t feel it’s a good fit for us,” is just another entry on a long list of boilerplate phrases that make a form letter a form letter. Again, there’s no need to read further into this. There’s no feedback here, just a polite no thanks. Move on and send the story somewhere else. That’s what I did, and this story sold a few submissions later. One more thing, this story was rejected nine times before it sold, five of those rejections being ones just like this. The point is a bunch of boilerplate nos doesn’t mean a yes isn’t right around the corner.

Form Rejection #3

Thank you for submitting your story, [story title], to [publisher]. 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.

Best success selling this story elsewhere.

This is a form rejection, but I like that it breaks down some of the reasons why you might be receiving it. Wrong fit, similar theme, etc. are all perfectly valid reasons for a story to be rejected, even a good one, even one the publisher likes. In other words, they’re kind of saying what I’ve been saying all throughout this post: don’t read into form letters. Like the other stories rejected here, this story eventually sold to another publisher.


So, what did we learn from these form rejections? One, they generally don’t mean much other than no, and, two, each of the stories rejected here went on to sell somewhere else. If I had read dire meaning into any of these rejections and stopped submitting those stories, well, I’d have three fewer acceptances to my name.

Look, form letters are just a polite and efficient way for an editor to reject a story when they don’t have the time or need to offer more feedback. But, hey, I get it. If you’re new to the process, something like “don’t feel it’s a good fit” might send you down that aforementioned dark path in search of the TRUE meaning being the word “fit.” Let me turn the light on and save you some time. It doesn’t mean what you think it means. It’s just a no, nothing more, and one of dozens and probably hundreds you’re going to get if you keep sending out submissions. Move on, don’t read into it or dwell on it, and send that story out again.

Thoughts on form rejections? Tell me about it in the comments.

4 thoughts on “Form Rejections: What Do They Actually Mean?

  1. At this point, the form rejections are mostly painless. It allows me to quickly turn a work around and submit to a new market. I recognize that last one and have always liked it, as far as form rejections go.

    Reply
    • Yeah, the more you submit, the easier it is to put form rejections in the proper perspective. It can be tough when you’re just starting out, though.

      I’ll bet tons of people are familiar with that last rejection. 🙂 I’ve yet to break through there, but I’ll keep on trying.

      Reply
      • The third rejection? I just got my first from them and I’m rather proud of it. At last I felt I had something that was seriously worth a punt. The story is back out again now.

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