The Final Round Form Rejection

It’s been a while since I posted about a new type of rejection letter, mostly because I’ve already written about every type of rejection under the sun. Well, as it turns out, not quite. The rejection letter I want to talk about today is a subspecies of higher-tier form rejection that gives you a little more information about where your story ended up in the publisher’s decision process. Let’s call it the final round form rejection.

Example #1

Very sorry for the delay in getting back to you, but we just made our final decisions today. We are going to have to pass on the story, however. This is the hardest part of the job, having to decline stories that we enjoyed so much, simply because didn’t have the space to include them all. It was a real struggle choosing the final stories. I appreciate your patience, and hope to see submissions from you in the future.

This is one of those rejection you might think is a personal rejection at first blush, but on further review, I think it’s a form rejection. It’s a good form rejection, as all of these final round form rejections are.

Example #2

Thanks so much for letting us consider your story [story title]. While it made it to the final round of consideration, I’m afraid that we chose not to accept it. We had a lot of submissions and there were difficult decisions to be made. Best of luck placing it elsewhere.

This is very clearly a form rejection, but, like the others, the editor lets you know you got real, real close to publication.

Example #3

Thank you again for allowing us to consider your story, but it’s not a match for [anthology].

Your story made it to the final round. It was ranked among the best of the best. We had thousands of submissions from writers all over the world. Even some of our favorites, like your story, didn’t make it through.

Most of the time we don’t move forward with a story because it’s similar to another story in a different word slot. We’re striving for a diversity of sub-genres, writing styles and plot lines, in addition to stories of different lengths.

So that’s the bad news: Your story wasn’t selected for [anthology]. The good news is that there will be many more opportunities to submit to [publisher] in the future. Even though your work was not selected, you are a talented writer. We hope you will consider submitting to our future editions. 

So, I’ll admit, this one fooled me at first, and I thought it was a personal rejection. It isn’t; another writer pointed out that he had received the same rejection. Still, it is a final round form rejection.

Okay, you’ve seen the examples, now let’s talk about what makes these final round form rejections different than your typical higher tier form rejection.

  1. Further Consideration. Final round form rejections are usually preceded by a further consideration letter. Most publishers that use a multi-round decision process are good about letting you know your story has made it past the first round and they’re holding it until they make a decision. With anthologies, its usually a shortlist letter rather than a further consideration letter, but it amounts to the same thing.
  2. Longer wait. Because you’re dealing with a multi-round reading process, and often a ton of other submissions, the wait between the further consideration and the final decision can be longer than usual. In my examples, the first rejection came after 77 days against an average response time of 23 days for the publisher; the second rejection came after 81 days against and average of 10 days; and the final rejection came a 310 days against an average of 269 days.
  3. Closer than usual. With a standard higher-tier form rejection, it’s unclear how close your story made it to publication, and, honestly, with most markets you’d probably get a personal rejection if you got really close. That’s where the final round form rejection is a little different. Despite being a form rejection, you know your story almost made it to publication.
  4. Heart-Breaker. There’s no way around it. The final round form rejection is more disappointing than the typical rejection. It’s hard not to get your hopes up when you receive a further consideration letter and wait a long time for the final decision. Then, to find out you got this close to an acceptance but didn’t make the final cut, well, I won’t lie; that stings a bit. Still, it’s important to remember your story did make it to the final round and beat out hundreds, maybe thousands of other submissions. In other words, you probably have a marketable story on your hands. Case in point, two of the three stories in my examples here went on to acceptances.

Have any thoughts on the final round form rejection? Tell me about them in the comments.

Rejection Letter Rundown: The Good Story Rejection

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time,  you’ve certainly heard me say that a rejection does not (necessarily) mean you wrote a bad story. In fact, it can mean you wrote a good story that was rejected for a bunch of reasons you simply can’t control. Sometimes an editor might tell you your perfectly good story was rejected for one of those beyond-your-control reasons I mentioned above. In my experience, this type of rejection is pretty rare. I’ve never received one, and to write this post I had to borrow one from a friend. My writer pal Patsy Pratt-Herzog recently received a rejection where the editor was kind enough to share the reason Patsy’s good story was rejected. Patsy has graciously agreed to let me post the rejection letter here with my usual editorial scrub.

Thank you for sending us this piece. We appreciate the chance to read it, and we thought it was a great story (love the Cinderella twist!), but unfortunately, this is purely a case of getting two similar pieces and having one fit better with our vision of the book than the other.

A rejection that calls your story great and gives you a totally legit reason why it was rejected is like finding a diamond on top of a unicorn at the end of a rainbow. In this case, the editor received two good stories that were very similar and had to make a tough decision. I think this kind of thing happens fairly regularly, especially with themed anthologies. Yeah, an acceptance is always better, but a rejection like this means you can send that story on to the next publisher with real confidence. So keep this rejection letter in mind the next time you get a form rejection or even a personal rejection that says the story just wasn’t a good fit.

Thanks again, Patsy. Best of luck finding a great home for your story!


Have you received a rejection letter like this one? Tell me about it in the comments.

4 Reasons for the Same-Day Rejection

Here’s the scenario. You fire off a short story submission, fully prepared to wait the two weeks or one month or however long it takes for them to read your story and make a decision.  You check your email a couple hours later and BAM! They’ve already sent you a form rejection. Yep, it didn’t take months, weeks, or even days for the editors to decide your story wasn’t a good fit. It took mere hours.

Cue the alarm bells.

Was your story that bad? Are you a terrible writer whose work is such monumental garbage the reek of it nearly caused the editor to blow chunks all over his or her computer after reading a single sentence? Well, probably not to both questions, but let’s unpack this a bit.

Normally, I don’t like to spend a lot of time on form letters because they just don’t tell you much other than the publisher isn’t going to publish your story. The same-day rejection, however, can be jarring because, hey, you kind of expect a mulling-over process with your submission and not instantaneous rejection. So let’s talk about four possible reasons for the same-day rejection based on my own experiences. Remember, this isn’t absolute fact, it’s hypothesizing based on anecdotal evidence; in other words, we’re gonna rejectomance this motherfucker.

  1. You didn’t follow the submission guidelines. Pretty self-explanatory, right? This is the only reason on the list that isn’t rejectomancy; it’s cold, hard fact. If they asked for your manuscript in Courier New and you sent them Times New Roman, you’re gonna get rejected, and fast. If they asked you to put your story in the body of the email and you sent it as an attachment, you might get a rejection in minutes instead of hours. In other words, and say it with me, kids: ALWAYS FOLLOW THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES.
  2. They’re just that fast. Yep, there are a couple of spec-fic markets that are well known for same-day rejections. If you routinely submit horror, sci-fi, or fantasy, then you likely know the ones I’m talking about. But how are they so fast? The possible answers to that question could fill their own blog post, but the two most likely reasons are they have a sizeable staff of first readers who read submissions the instant they come in, and/or they can tell from the first few paragraphs that a story is not for them. I can’t say for sure those are the reason these markets respond so quickly, but they make the most sense to me. To sum up, if you get a same-day rejection from one of these markets, don’t worry about it. For them, it’s just SOP.
  3. First in line. Sometimes when you send in a story right when a market opens the flood gates on their submission period you get lucky and end up at the front of the line. It’s just luck of the draw that your story happened to be one of the first the editors read, and if it’s not for them, then a same-day rejection could be the result. One thing to keep in mind is that for many markets the reason it takes weeks or months for them to get back to you is there are dozens even hundreds of submissions to read before yours. It really doesn’t take an editor too long to read and make a decision on a short story, so if you get read first, your chances of a lightning-fast rejection are pretty high.
  4. They like your stuff. One thing I’ve noticed is that markets that have previously published my work generally get back to me quicker with subsequent submissions. Sometimes they even get back to me in the same day. This could be because they recognize my name, remember they liked and published something I wrote, and move my submission to the front of the line. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re more likely to publish what I’ve sent them, but it might mean they’re more likely to read it first. And if they read it first, well, then my chances of a fast or even same-day rejection increase dramatically. I’ve received form rejections and personal rejections in the same day under this scenario.

So, as alarming as a same-day rejection can be, you probably shouldn’t view the the speed of the response as a measure of the quality of your work. As with any rejection, there are lots of things happening behind the scenes you’ll never know, and few of them have anything to do with the how good or bad your story might be. Take a deep breath, and send that story out again.

Do you have any experience with the same-day rejection? Tell me about it in the comments.

Rejection Letter Rundown: The Considered Rejection

Often you have to wait quite a while for a publisher to get back to you about a submission, which is just a reality of being a writer, but when you have good reason to hope your story will be accepted, the waiting can be pretty nail-biting and the possible rejection all bit more disappointing. The rejection letter du jour is the considered rejection, which is a whole process that begins with an encouraging note like this.

“XXX” has been accepted into our final round of consideration. We will be letting you know before the end of [the month] whether or not it is accepted.

What we have here is a further consideration letter, which is always a good thing. It says the publisher liked your story, and they’re, well, considering publishing it. I appreciate these largely because they often come from markets that can take a while to get back to you, so it’s nice to get some notification that a decision is in the works. Now, of course, getting a letter like this is no guarantee of publication, because it might eventually result in a letter like this:

Thanks so much for letting us consider your story “XXX.” While it made it to the final round of consideration, I’m afraid that we chose not to accept it. We had a lot of submissions and there were difficult decisions to be made. Best of luck placing it elsewhere.

Ouch. Bummer, right? My story was under consideration for about three months before they decided to pass on it. This is all part of the writing gig, and I have no doubt my story was up against some stiff competition. So what’s the takeaway from a rejection letter like this? Simple. I got close. The story got close. I like to think that’s evidence the story is pretty decent the way it is, and I should send it to another publisher right away, which is exactly what I did. If this publisher liked it enough to seriously consider it for publication, the next one might like it even more. We’ll just have to see.

Have you received a considered rejection? Tell me about it in the comments.

Rejection Letter Rundown: The Shortlist Rejection

Sometimes you have to wait a while for a publisher to get back to you about a submission, which can be hard, but it’s just one of those things you have to accept as part of the whole being a writer thing. That said, when you have good reason to hope your story will be accepted, the waiting can become rather nail-biting and the possible rejection all the more disappointing. Today’s rejection letter du jour is the shortlist rejection, which is a whole process that begins with an encouraging note like this.

“XXX” has been accepted into our final round of consideration. We will be letting you know before the end of April whether or not it is accepted.

What we have here is a further consideration letter, which is always a good thing. It says the publisher liked your story, and you’ve got at least a fifty-fifty shot at an acceptance. I appreciate these largely because they often come from markets that can take a while to get back to you, so it’s nice to get some notification that a decision is in the works. Now, of course, getting a letter like this is no guarantee of publication, because it might eventually result in a letter like the following.

Thanks so much for letting us consider your story “XXX.” While it made it to the final round of consideration, I’m afraid that we chose not to accept it. We had a lot of submissions and there were difficult decisions to be made. Best of luck placing it elsewhere.

Ouch. Bummer, right? So my story was under consideration for about three months before they decided to pass on it. I’m not angry or anything—this is all part of the writing gig—and I have no doubt my story was up against some stiff competition. So, what’s the takeaway from a rejection letter like this? It’s pretty simply really. I got close. The story got close. To my mind, it means the story is pretty good the way it is, and that I should send it out to another publisher right away, which is exactly what I did. If this publisher liked it enough to strongly consider it for publication, the next one might like it even more and publish it right off the bat. We’ll just have to see.

Have you had any experiences with the short list rejection? Tell me about it in the comments.

Rejection Letter Rundown: The Referral Rejection

In the hierarchy of “good” rejections, the referral rejection has got to be near the top. What is it? It’s a personal note from an editor often telling you why they didn’t accept your story and then referring you to another market that might. Pretty cool, right? Here’s one I recently received.

Thank you for submitting your story “XXX” to XXX, but we’re going to take a pass on this one.

Not quite enough horror in this, I’m afraid, but I’m betting the folks at XXX will really like it: [link to referred site]. You might try this story with them. 

By the way, I’m super stoked about “XXX.” Keep sending stuff our way!

A quick note before I break this down. This market recently accepted a story of mine (you can probably tell that much from the letter).

Okay, here are some good things about this rejection. One, they tell my straight up why they didn’t take it. “Not enough horror” are three words that tell me A LOT. My story had horror elements, but is likely closer to dark urban fantasy than straight horror. It really gives me a good idea what to send them in the future, especially now that I can compare the story they accepted with this rejection. Two, it’s fair to say they liked the story, and the referral is to a fantasy market affiliated with them. Three, the last sentence is a legit invite to send them more stuff; that always great.

As you can guess, I fired this story off to the suggested market immediately. I feel pretty confident about it, but, you know, there’s no guarantees in publishing. Still, I like my chances with this submission a bit better than most.

If you’ve received a referral rejection, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Rejection Letter Rundown: The Multi-Reader Rejection

Often times, when you submit a story to a publisher, there isn’t a single editor reading your submission. Many markets have multiple editors/readers who provide feedback on a story before a decisions is made to accept or reject. Sometimes, you, the author, never know how many folks have read your piece when you get that rejection. Other times, the market is more transparent and provides you with some of their readers’ comments. The latter can result in the multi-reader rejection, which looks like this:

Thank you for submitting to XXX. We have decided not to publish your piece, “XXX”. Some reader comments:

“Although the idea is interesting, it starts slowly and doesn’t end with any closure. I don’t see a full story here.”

“I found the first sentence ungainly. This scene gives no indication of something I can take away (other than ‘the bad thing kills people and goes away to kill more’). I needed the kind of content and context which would make these happenings important to me.”

“The story isn’t complete.”

“Didn’t hook me in, and didn’t pace quickly enough for a flash, in my opinion. I didn’t feel I really got to know these characters enough to invest in what’s going on here (they were fairly stock to me; types, not individuals). This reads more like a solid excerpt from a commercial novel more than a flash. Not really my cup of tea.”

“I’d have liked this a lot more if there were an explanation to what the “fire” is. It’s an interesting enough premise, but it feels incomplete to me.”

Best of luck, and please feel free to submit to us again in the future.

As you can see, my multi-reader rejection included five sets of feedback, ranging from short and sweet to fairly detailed.  I’ve received a couple of these, but this one featured more reviewers than any of the others.

So, what is the benefit of the multi-reader rejection? Well, it’s a type of informative personal rejection that can tell you a lot about your story. You might dismiss feedback from a standard single-reader rejection as the editor’s personal taste, but if you’re getting consistent feedback from two, three, or more people in a multi-reader rejection, it can be hard to ignore. For example, you can see from the comments in my rejection that all five readers didn’t feel my story was complete. I’d be pretty foolish to ignore that kind of quorum and not take a good hard look at the piece (which I’m totally gonna do).

Though not a benefit of the rejection itself, I’ve found most of the publishers that send multi-reader rejections do so with the vast majority of rejections. For example, this particular publisher has a 90% personal rejection rate out at Duotrope. In other words, you’re very likely to get some kind of useful feedback from them when you send submit a story.

There are potential downsides to the multi-reader rejection, though. If you get the opposite of what I received, and your five reviewers present wildly different or conflicting feedback, then it’s just confusing, and the feedback is of no real value. That’s rare in my experience, but there’s always a chance of that happening with multiple reviewers. My guess is that in a case where the readers aren’t providing consistent feedback, the publisher is likely to just send a form rejection.

The other downside is that getting one of these is kind of like receiving five rejections at once, which can be a somewhat disheartening. Though, it’s a small negative compared to the very real benefit of getting good feedback on your submission.

Have you received a multi-reader rejection? Tell me about it in the comments.