A few years ago, I posted the rejections I’d received from a pro market I’d been trying to crack from some time. The point of that post was to illustrate that rejections often indicate if you’re making progress with an editor/publisher and getting closer to an acceptance. This formula, in my experience, works best with the bigger pro markets, who tend to have tiers of rejection letters. Anyway, I recently received a rejection from another pro market that I believe shows I’m getting closer. To demonstrate what I mean, let’s look at two older rejections from this market and then the latest one to see what can be learned.
Thanks for submitting [story], but I’m going to pass on it. It didn’t quite work for me, I’m afraid. Best of luck to you placing this one elsewhere, and thanks again for sending it my way.
Analysis: This is a basic form letter. I’ve received a handful of these over the years, and the phrase “it didn’t quite work for me” is a pretty good indicator that this is the standard form rejection. No complaints here. This is perfectly polite and to-the-point rejection, which is what I prefer. I’m able to guess this is a basic form letter because it serves as the template for the other letters, which change slightly as I get closer to what the editor is looking for.
Thank you for submitting [story] to [publisher], but I am going to pass on it. The body horror is nice, but overall it didn’t quite work for me. Best of luck placing this elsewhere, and thanks so much for sending it my way.
Analysis: You’ll notice a couple changes in this letter over the basic form rejection. One, the phrase “I am going to pass on it” is used instead of “it didn’t quite work for me.” I’ll admit to a little rejectomancy there, as different editors might use different basic phrases like this or the same editor decides to change things up. The big difference here is the short personal note. The editor points out what they liked about the story, which is crucially important information and informed my next submission.
Thanks for submitting [story], but I’m going to pass on it. We had a good time reading it, but it’s not quite the right fit for me right now. Best of luck to you placing this one elsewhere, and thanks again for sending it my way. I look forward to seeing your next submission!
Analysis: Again, the same basic template, but now we have a personal note, the phrase “not quite the right fir for me right now”, and a comment about my next submission (a first). This rejection also took quite a bit longer to show up than the others. At this point, I’m a full-on rejectomantic haruspex , but the changes in rejection letters, albeit small, I think tell me I’m getting closer. Also, I remembered the comment from the second rejection, and this story I submitted here was also a body horror piece. I learned two things with this rejection. One, the story I submitted probably has legs, and I’m going to send it out again right away. Two, I’m getting closer. How close? I simply don’t know, but it feels like progress.
In summation, take note of the rejections you receive when you’re trying to crack a big market. Often times, small changes in the letter can tell you if you’re getting closer, sending the right kind of story, or a bit of both.
Thoughts on this rejection progression? Tell me about it in the comments.