Rejections from The Rejectomancy Review

Let’s have a little fun and pretend I’m the editor of a new genre magazine. We’ll call this imaginary publication The Rejectomancy Review. If I were to run this hypothetical publication, what kind of rejections letter would I send? What would they look like? What would I want them to convey to the author? Let’s talk about that.

Before we get started, I should state that I have worked as a magazine editor in the past, and I’m occasionally tempted to try running a small genre zine on my own. Then I remember how much work heading up a magazine was, and I, uh, focus my creative energies elsewhere. Anyway, if The Rejectomancy Review was real, I’d use three tiers of rejection letters that allow an author to see a progression over multiple submissions. I’ve always liked that approach. Now, of course, I’m not saying markets that do not send rejections like this are doing something wrong. Not at all. There are factors like sheer volume of submissions and the limited time a magazine staff has to review them that might prevent them from sending anything other than a standard form rejection. This is just a “if I had my druthers” scenario, and, well, if I did end up running a magazine, I might immediately change my mind on how I send rejections. 🙂

Okay, let’s write some rejection letters. Like I said, we’ll do three tiers, and the language in these letters will be gleaned from or inspired by actual rejections I’ve received.

Tier One

This would be a standard form rejection I’d send for stories that didn’t work for me. It could be the writing, the subject matter, or even failure to follow submission guidelines, but, ultimately, it would be the rejection I’d send when I don’t have much else to say besides no.

Dear [Author],

Thank you for submitting your story “Zombies Ate My Homework” to The Rejectomancy Review, but I’m going to pass on this one. 

Best of luck placing this story elsewhere.

I wouldn’t want an author to read much into a letter like this, so I’d keep this one short and to the point. It should be noted that a standard form rejection does not mean the story doesn’t work. It often just means the story doesn’t work for that editor. I’ve gone on to sell stories that received this basic no many times.

Tier Two

Another form letter, but this one would be for stories featuring one or more elements I liked.

Dear [Author],

Thank you for submitting your story “The Care and Feeding of Kaiju” to The Rejectomancy Review. I read the story with interest, but the narrative developed too slowly for me. 

Thank you for your interest in our magazine, and I hope to see more of your work in the future.

As you can see, there are more encouraging notes in this rejection, and I state at least one reason why I rejected the story. I’d send this rejection for a good story that wasn’t to my taste stylistically or maybe had one major flaw (which I might mention in the rejection), but I’d want an author to see definite progress from the first form rejection to this one.

Tier Three

This form letter would essentially be my close-but-no-cigar, and it would look like this.

Dear [Author],

Thank you for letting me read “Werewolf? There Wolf”. I thought your take on lycanthropy was original and fascinating and enjoyed the piece overall. Unfortunately, the story is not a good fit for The Rejectomancy Review at this time.

I wish you the best of luck placing this story elsewhere, feel confident you will do so, and hope you’ll try us again with your next story.

The biggest difference here is that I’d turn this into a personal rejection with some personal notes on the story. I’d send this rejection for a story that has no appreciable flaws other than it being the wrong fit for the magazine. The final sentence contains some verbiage I’ve seen in other “good” rejections, things that made me feel a little better about the no.

So why would I or any editor reject a story they liked? It’s a good question, and one I’ve covered in this blog before, but here are three possible reasons.

  1. Too long. There’s only so much space and budget in any magazine, and if your story puts the editor over either, they might have no choice but to reject it. This is especially true with longer works, like novelettes, where a market might only accept one per issue.
  2. Too similar. If the market just published a story about vampire plumbers and you send in a story about vampire electricians, you might get a rejection. It’s just bad luck, but it happens, and I’ve received the “we just published a story like this” rejection a few times.
  3. Too different. If you stray a too far from a market’s usual fare, even if the editor really likes the piece, you might still get rejected. For example, if you submit a story to a sci-fi/fantasy magazine and your piece has a strong horror element, the editor might consider it a bad fit and reject it (while still praising the story). I’ve gotten that rejection a few times too.

So that’s how I might write rejection letters if I were running a genre zine. Of course, this is just one way to do it, and I based my theoretical rejections on what I like to see as a writer. The sheer volume of submissions often dictates what kind of rejections a market sends, and I my three tiers might be overly optimistic. 🙂

Thoughts on my faux rejections? Something you like to see as a writer? Tell me about it in the comments.

2 Comments on “Rejections from The Rejectomancy Review

  1. I like the progression in the second paragraph. It tells a writer if he/she is getting closer to a good story and a good fit. Like you said, it’s usual a time issue due to the volume of submissions, but I wish more markets did this.

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