A Perspective on Submission Rejections

Rejection is a part of life. For writers, it tends to be a BIG part of life. We lay our souls bare for editors to pick and choose, to which they most often say “no.” There are, of course, two sides to every story…and the rejection thereof….

Rejection A: The “no response.”

What the writer thinks:

Oh, crap, the submission never made it. Cyber gremlins ate it in transit. Should I resubmit? No, no…if I do, and they got the first submission, then I’ve submitted the same story twice and will be thought of as unprofessional. I better just leave it alone. I’m sure they got it. Which means, if it’s been this long, they’re not interested. So, I’ve been rejected. Sheesh, the least they could have done is sent a form rejection. I mean, come on. I took all that time to personalize my cover letter, and they can’t even bother to set up an automated response. What gives? Lazy editor. I don’t want to be published by them anyway if they’re going to be that rude.

(Half an hour later….Sniff…they hated my writing…)

What the editor thinks:

Submission number eight hundred ninety-seven thousand, two hundred twenty-four….


Rejection B: The form letter.

What the letter says:

Dear Author,

We’re sorry to say that your story did not fit the needs of our magazine at this time. We wish you the best of luck in placing your story in another market.


Mr. Editor

What the writer reads:

Dear Nameless (and therefore not worth my time),

We hated your story. It was the worst thing we’ve ever read. You’d be better off flinging yourself atop something serrated than continuing in this pursuit. Please don’t bother sending anything else to us. Ever. Seriously. Give it up.


Mr. Editor (who is keeping you from living your dream)

What the editor meant:

Dear Author,

We’re sorry to say that your story did not fit the needs of our magazine at this time. We wish you the best of luck in placing your story in another market.


Mr. Editor

(As he thinks: Submission number eight hundred ninety-seven thousand, two hundred twenty-four….)


Rejection C: The form letter with personal note.

The writer:

“Hm? What is that?”

The editor:

(We’re sorry, but we could not hunt down an editor who has actually had time to write a personal note lately in order to find out what goes through their heads. We would continue the search, but our calculations show there is a better chance of spotting the real Big Foot.)


So remember, dear writer, when you face another rejection letter, you are not alone. There are many of us right there with ya. In fact, about eight hundred ninety-seven thousand, two hundred twenty-four…


About Kat Heckenbach

Kat grew up in the small town of Riverview, Florida, where she spent most of her time either drawing or sitting in her "reading tree" with her nose buried in a fantasy novel...except for the hours pretending her back yard was an enchanted forest that could only be reached through the secret passage in her closet... She never could give up on the idea that maybe she really was magic, mistakenly placed in a world not her own...but as the years passed, and no elves or fairies carted her away...she realized she was just going to have to create the life of her fantasies. She shares that life with her husband and two homeschooling kids. Kat is a graduate of the University of Tampa, Magna Cum Laude, B.S. in Biology. She spent several years teaching, but never in a traditional classroom--everything from Art to Algebra II. Her writing spans the gamut from inspirational personal essays to dark and disturbing fantasy and horror, with over forty short fiction and nonfiction credits to her name.

19 comments on “A Perspective on Submission Rejections

  1. I made my tea and set it aside to read this. Glad I did, or I’d be buying a new keyboard. As it is, I’ll need to wipe tears and laugh-spit off my monitor.

    Something serrated. giggle.

    You, m’dear, are proof that rejection has nothing to do with ability.

  2. Awwww……thanks, Robynn. I made you spit on your computer. That is the highest compliment ever :).

    Seriously, thank you!!!!

  3. Hehehe…You know I love this post. 😛

  4. My dearest Kat,

    You are on fire girl, blaaaaaaaaaaaaaze! Very very good post!

  5. P.S.

    Simply love that cartoon!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. HAHA! Thanks for this.

    From an editor’s perspective, our (Tim Ambrose and my) mags are actually small enough that we really DO try to put a personal note in with our rejections, particularly when we feel the author has a lot to offer readers in general. It’s often nice to be able to let them know when their story simply doesn’t fit our magazine, but that we really think it’s worth publishing elsewhere. Or, sometimes, we might feel like it COULD be a great story, but would have benefited from honest critique. We don’t generally have time to give such a story as thorough a critique as we might like, but it’s nice to be able to encourage the author, and point them in the right direction. 🙂

    • Well, that’s ’cause you and Tim are awesome awesomeness. Ya’ll do give the personal touch, and that’s a rare thing. This was meant to capture the picture at large.

      Guess this puts you guys right up there with Big Foot ;).

  7. Whahah! How true. I hate (secretly) magazines that don’t send an automated response. Like you said, how hard could that be? I once subbed a story and received a email over a year after the fact, saying: please resubmitt for further consideration.

    What did that mean? They lost it, lost part of it? It sat in the ‘Maybe Pile’ for a year? Were they hoping I could buff it up some? That was back in Feb and I still have heard anything else. Welcome to LIMBO.

    But, take heart, I once read an article written by a guy who made his living writing stories. He said, on average, only 3 out of 10 stories ever get accepted.

    • Ironically, I got a rejection just the other day that was personal, but it took them a full year to reply–and she said my story *had* been sitting in the “maybe” pile. That’s definitely not the norm. Most often rejections are completely impersonal. I know some editors, so I know how crazy busy they are. But we writers still get frustrated!

      Three out of ten, eh? Not the best odds. But that’s encouraging to know that getting anything accepted is a serious accomplishment!

      • I actually got an acceptance out of the maybe pile in much the same way. I queried after a while (and by “a while, I mean something along the lines of 3-4 months), and was told he was still trying to decide whether it fit the tone he was looking for. Ultimately (I think another month later), it WAS accepted. Who knows what would’ve happened if I hadn’t asked.

        On the auto-response thing — I have to apologize to all authors everywhere on behalf of Tim and myself… we do NOT have an auto-response set up, and I’m actually REALLY BAD at letting authors know we got their work. No excuse… just an acknowledgement of the truth of the statement.

  8. Kat,
    I do hope you pursue your humor career. This was a hoot. I give it four and a half keyboard spits.

  9. Great post, Kat! Very funny, and unfortunately I can relate. For half of the things I’ve submitted I’ve never gotten a response, and for the other half it’s been the “Dear Author” letter. But let’s keep persevering, okay? 🙂

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