A Two Rejection Day

Yesterday two stories were rejected. Both stories are already on the way to other magazines, well, they will as soon as I finish this post and drop the second one off at the post office.

Two rejections on the same day, both arriving by postal mail, gave me the opportunity to compare how different editors handle rejecting a story.

The stories were sent to two different magazines, approximately two months apart.

Both magazines used a simple, and very similar, form rejection letter. The forms included lists of possible reasons for rejection, and other information.

The first noted the story name and date on the form, the second included my story’s cover page as part of the return and hand wrote an apology for the tardiness of the reply on the form–evidently they have had editorial staff changes. Additionally the second editor underlined the reason for the rejection on the form–it just didn’t work for the magazine–and also circled “try me again”.

The first is one of the top fantasy magazines, the second is a well respected mid-level fantasy magazine.

I learned nothing about how my story was received from the first magazine’s rejection. The story has fantasy and alt-history elements in it. Their guidelines are unclear if this kind of story is what they would accept. I will keep sending these kinds of stories to them, because their letter informs me that my story “may or may not” have been rejected for any of the reasons they listed on their form.

I learned a good bit from a few simple pen strokes from the second magazine’s rejection. This story, and presumably other stories of similar vein, are not what the magazine is looking for. They liked it well enough to encourage me to send more stories to them. And when I do you can bet that I will be more selective in what I send them, and not bother them with stories similar to the one they rejected.

I think I have said before that I like the idea of a rubric form rejection letter. A list of reasons for rejection that the editor can check mark if it applies. Easy for the editor, informative for the writer. The second magazine basically did this with a simple underlining of a phrase in a sentence. The first magazine could have done the same–they were already writing the story’s name on the form after all–but did not.

The first magazine may pay pro-rates and have a larger audience, but the second magazine surely put forth a more professional response to a potential author. In the future if I have a story that fits both magazines’ guidelines, I am going to be sending it to the mid-level magazine first.


2 Responses

  1. I’ve certainly heard the reasoning : “We’re not in the business of helping you learn how to write.” “Every moment we spend giving you feedback is time we would spend working on our magazine.”

    Fair enough. But it is still frustrating. I’ve had stories go through a critique group, get almost universal praise. Then the same story would sit at a magazine for months before I would finally get back a form rejection with no indication whatsoever of why the story didn’t work.

    Most markets have a series of slush readers. You would think it might be in the market’s best interest if they would train them to offer some quick, basic feedback (Grammar was bad, storyline too similar to others… whatever). It would go a long way towards making better writers. Oh well, it is the climate we have and we mostly just have to learn to live in it.

    I once got a (relatively) nice note from Gordon Van Gelder rejecting one of my stories. At least in that case he told my WHY the story didn’t work for him. Most of the time I just get back a quick rejection (at least they’re quick).

  2. David: Very cool about the note from Van Gelder. I do send stuff to F&SF just because they are so fast.

    I really think a rubric rejection would help the magazine as well. Some submitters would heed the advice and not submit stories that would garner the same check mark on the rubric, thus reducing the amount of slush.

    I agree–Oh, well!

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