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Drafting a Rejection Letter

arcaedia, in this post, bemoans the necessity of form rejection letters from agents (such as herself). She asked people to take a stab at writing a form rejection letter themselves.

I'm pleased to note that the letter I drafted has been well-received:

http://www.livejournal.com/users/arcaedia/65484.html?thread=549068#t549068

I've reproduced my letter below:


Dear Writer,

Thank you for your submission. I regret to say that it does not meet our needs at our time.

I know that many people tend to read between the lines of form letters such as this one, searching for the "real" reason why their submission was turned down. To be perfectly honest, saying that a submission does not meet our needs is simply that -- a statement that what you sent is simply not what we're looking for.

I regret the necessity of sending you this form letter, but please understand that I receive well over five hundred (or whatever) submissions a month. If agents spent our time crafting personal notes when rejecting material, we'd never have time to accept material -- which is the eventual goal on both our sides.

Good luck with this submission elsewhere. If it is accepted by someone else, feel free to gloat.

Sincerely,
Agent

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Comments

If it is accepted by someone else, feel free to gloat.

I quite like your last line. More rejections need to encourage gloating . . .

Re: If it is accepted by someone else, feel free to gloat.

Well, I was rejected by a few other agents before I got mine. I kept wanting to gloat. :-)
So, what do you really mean by that second paragraph? : -)
Ha, ha, ha. :-)

Hidden Triple Meanings

I know that in the "rejection websites" where people gripe (sometimes legitimately, sometimes because the editors fail to recognize their deathless prose and throw J.K. Rowling money at them) this letter would nevertheless show up with various negative adjectives attached to it by numerous people.

But I still love it. :D

Re: Hidden Triple Meanings

Yeah, the fact is that a rejection is a rejection, no matter how much you sugarcoat it. I think, however, that the point of drafting as nice a rejection letter as possible is so the rejector can feel as least bad about having to send the letter as possible.

In case someone might actually use the letter

"our time" s/b "this time"
Nicely done. I like the last line.
But why can't agents come up with a short checklist to indicate *why* they reject submissions. Something like (insert "top ten" intro here):

10) does not conform to standards (e.g. wrong genre, too short, too long)
9) we are not accepting work at this time
8) weak plot
7) bad dialog
6) not enough plot or dialog
5) too much plot or dialog
4) agent having a bad day
3) agent doesn't like you personally
2) spelling errors!
and the number one reason to reject submissions:
1) Agent just didn't like it!!!

*throws index card into the air*
If your question is serious, it's because that even figuring out what box to check can take time. And people tend to come back claiming that what you chose isn't true, and then you have to reject them all over again.
Some short story editors actually do that. I'm not sure how helpful it is, though.
Here's the form letter I used for the vast majority of the submissions to Imaginings:

Dear Contributor:

My humblest apologies for the form letter, but I'm afraid that Albé-Shiloh is, in essence, a one-person outfit, and the sheer volume of submissions for Imaginings means that it is physically impossible for me to provide a personal response to each story sent.

As you've probably guessed, I will not be accepting your story for Imaginings. Keep in mind that the attrition rate is pretty high here: I'm rejecting over 95% of the submissions I'm getting, due to there being only ten slots to fill. So please don't take this rejection as a discouragement, and I would encourage you to send your story to other markets.

In any case, thank you for thinking of us, and best of luck placing your tale elsewhere.

I'm sorry the news wasn't better.


Best,




Keith R.A. DeCandido
Editor

You know what the funny thing was, Keith? I remember talking to you in person when you told me you'd probably be rejecting my story, and I told you not to bother wasting the time to write me a personal note, that the form rejection would be fine.

And then you went ahead and sent me a personal note anyway! :-)

(The form reject is pretty good, though.)
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