Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Personal Rejection Letters

When I first began submitting stories more than ten years ago, I was quickly introduced to the type of form letter used by most magazines and agents who weren’t interested in my works. Form letters in general were nothing new to me, but I was foolish enough to believe that such things weren’t used in the publishing industry.

Within a year, I became bitter at the form letters. Why was this piece rejected? What didn’t the editors like? A series of such questions went through my mind, and the question I most wanted answered was: what, if anything, can I change in this story so that it is accepted by another publisher? Without any feedback, I felt lost and completely uncertain of my writing skills (or lack thereof).

When I finally began to receive personal rejection letters on occasion, I felt like my questions were answered. I would change what I could with the feedback provided in hopes of making the story better. Unfortunately, I didn’t understand that each editor has his or her own viewpoint. They aren’t all hanging out in the same club waiting for a new revision to satisfy a common desire in storytelling.

I’m now at a point that I prefer form rejection letters. I’ve realized that magazines need to stay focused on their core business, which is publishing stories. Commenting on rejected stories doesn’t make any money. As writers, we need magazines to stay in business and keep up with their deadlines, and I would rather receive a form rejection that came from an editor reading two paragraphs of my story if it meant that the magazine remains profitable and on schedule. Even if I look at it with a purely selfish motivation, what good would it do to have a story accepted at a magazine that has to close because it can’t meet its own business needs?

As writers, if we want feedback on our stories, we need to seek other writers, critique groups or seminars. It isn’t the responsibility of editors to make us better writers. They need to focus on the works they have accepted and on the other priorities necessary in meeting deadlines and growing subscriptions.

Form letters are a good thing. All we need to know is that a story was not accepted. Put a fresh manuscript in an envelope and send it to the next place. Trust me, the time I spent in years past grumbling and complaining was wasted. It’s fun to get a personal note at times, but don’t use it to guide your entire writing career.

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