The Form Rejection Letter Decoder Thingy
February 10, 2014 § 55 Comments
A helpful blog entry from Brevity’s managing editor Sarah Einstein. Sarah will be talking about rejection, acceptance, and writing as part of the panel “Getting Short-Form Nonfiction to Readers: A Publication Panel” on the Friday morning of AWP Seattle:
Every couple of weeks, a writer-friend sends me an email or a Facebook message with the text of a rejection letter in it, asking me to help them decode it. Most often, they want me to help them figure out how close they got to being published, which is an impossible task. I couldn’t even tell you that if it was a submission to Brevity… ultimately, either we took the piece or we didn’t. We do have tiered rejection letters. If you got our “close but not cigar” rejection, you should probably turn around and submit that piece to five other places right away because we thought pretty hard about taking it. But if you get our standard rejection, that doesn’t mean you weren’t close. It might mean that we really liked it, but that we had recently published one that seemed too similar for us to be ready for another in the same vein. It might mean that we really liked it, but we could already tell from other choices we had made that it wasn’t going to fit well into this issue. It might mean that it is perfect for PANK / Diagram / Quarter After Eight but just not perfect for Brevity. The list of things it might mean is infinite. And the truth is, there is no way for you–the author–to know. We don’t have time to write to each author and explain why we didn’t take a piece. I wish we did. I really do. I face the same issues with my own work.
And, really, we all know that you can’t actually get any real information out of a form rejection letter. We know that the fact that it took four months to hear back from a journal might mean they spent a long time considering the work and it got pretty close, but it also might mean someone at the journal got sick/married/arrested and just fell behind. That journals don’t have secret codes embedded into the form emails that explain how to become the next Jill Talbot or Anna March. But that doesn’t stop us from looking for clues that aren’t there.
So, writer-friends, I’m giving you this little present. It’s a Form Rejection Letter Decoder Thingy (PDF link here). Surely you remember these from elementary school, when you probably called them “Cootie Catchers.” Just pick a color, pick a number, and the FRLDT will give you a perfectly possible reason that your piece was not selected for publication. Sure, the reasons it will offer you are all on the sunny side of things. It won’t ever tell you, for instance, that the editors thought your narrative was great but prose was stiff. Or the other way ’round. But since all you got was a form rejection, let’s just assume that–as is far more often the case than writers believe–the reason your piece was rejected does have everything to do with the needs of the journal and nothing to do with your work.
That said, it’s probably not a bad idea to take a second pass at revision before you send it out again. Because you always want your work to be your best.
Haha, I love the decoder. There isn’t an “it sucks” on it anywhere!
I thought the same thing.
Haha! Good point.
Reblogged this on Writers for Dinner and commented:
My thoughts on rejection and a handy little “tool” for decoding form rejection letters, on the Brevity Blog!
Reblogged this on Laconic and commented:
Form rejection letters are frustrating, silence more so, but either way submitting is the only way to get published.
So clever. I must share!
i remember getting a form rejection letter with a hand-scrawled “try us again” on the bottom. i was happy for months.
[…] The Form Rejection Letter Decoder Thingy. […]
Thanks for the Decoder Thingy, but I was looking for an acceptance notice in a fortune cookie.
Reblogged this on gracerellie and commented:
My friend and I were talking the other day and we realized something very important. In the past years our supply of articles sent out had faded to almost nothing. Some years it was nothing. We kept going to our writers group regularly and kept writing. We didn’t stop. We just stopped sending things out. Stupid yes, but that’s the habit we’d developed.
This past year she wrote a novel in a month and sent it out. It was 1 of 2 things she’d sent that year. She was a top 5 finalist for the contest. I sent 1 short story out and it was published. Our conclusion: if we had sent out more, how well would we have done? We did good with only 3 between us.
maybe the quality of new writers have deteriorated, keep trying, I think the pool of competition among the younger Y generation is drying up (they’re more into computer games these days), keep at it!
Thanks. I know in years past my writing was not up to snuff. Reading it now I easily see the problems that caused a rejection note to come my way.
My writing style has much improved. Now when I hand something to a friend and don’t tell them I wrote it, they ask where I got it. That to me is a huge compliment.
I will once again enter the sending out circuit but first I need to fix the manuscripts of the past and finish those that are new. Writing has become fun again and I think that translates to better quality.
I think you just hit on all the reasons some of us don’t submit to major or even minor publications. Unless of course the New Yorker Caption contest counts!
Reblogged this on Big Blue Dot Y'all.
Fun take on rejection letters! I like your sense of humor.
Reblogged this on warunglaris.
Reblogged this on The International Blogspaper.
One day, one day, when my novel is published, the end pages will be filled with my rejection slips. I’ve decided to be a glass hall full writer and keep writing…..Love the post
Reblogged this on nockstar.
Thank you! Henceforth, I shall interpret all form letters that appear to be declining publication of my efforts, to in fact be clearly saying (between the lines) “close, but no cigar”!
Reblogged this on Melissa Janda – A Time to Write and commented:
Another use for those pesky rejection letters…wallpaper, insulation (because we poor writers can’t afford heat), door stop, and now the rejection letter decoder thingy. Love it!
A fun and earthy blog summing up – about writing – the possibles and probables for rejection …
Too too great:) Refreshing!
Ha. How about “The editors have sat on your piece for four months because….eh…because…we’ve been sick…
From the outside, this seems ridiculous. From the inside, when a journal is run on the steam of very few people and most of those are volunteers, it happens.I’m not proud of this, but every author in the Brevity submission queue is waiting two extra weeks to hear back from us because I had meningitis a little while ago and am still struggling to keep up. Hopefully, in March that will be one extra week and in April we’ll be back to our hoped-for schedule. I get that it’s frustrating, but it’s important to remember also that we are all people living in bodies, falling in love, coping with grief. I could, indeed, read faster. But I know that if I do, I’m going to read with a less generous eye. And which do you want, really? A response two weeks early from an ungenerous editor, or one two weeks later from an editor who read your piece with an eye toward what there was in it to admire?
Wonderful post. Thank you!
Hey it’s nice to get letters these days! Even rejections. ‘I love you but…’ . Go to a cafe, get a coffee, maybe dress in black. Read a book by some lucky soul who got published.
Reblogged this on linguisticsandlanguagestudent.
Reblogged this on Simply Lexi.
[…] aspect of the writing life: constant rejection. In the meantime here are TWO smart links via Brevity and The […]
Funny. And I now feel empowered to freely use the word “thingy.”
“Thingy” is a great word. Everyone should use it. Maybe not in their submissions to Brevity, but everywhere else!
So funny. Fact is, editors don’t know much more than the general public (I can speak with some authority on this). Those letters are usually written in haste as the mood strikes them. Don’t ponder over them, just move on and submit elsewhere.
This is like a metaphor for high school. The only problem is every single form rejection I get is the same. “Thank you for giving me the chance… just didn’t connect with the material… good luck in getting it published… I secretly want to chain you up in my basement and cuddle your elbows…”
Reblogged this on tyme4recess.
Reblogged this on For My Musings.
So nice post!! keep it continue…
I love this! Thanks for the link as well. I am definitely going to have to use it.
[…] Brevity magazine has created The Form Rejection Letter Decoder Thingy [hint: you made one of these in 4th grade]. There’s even the Rejection Letter Wiki where […]
very well work done…keep going…i liked it…its nice…as am a new blogger in this world and i wrote just 1 blog (story) (http://mindtechnorms.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/when-god-granted-tittus-to-go-to-earth-for-1-day-part-i/) and unable to find my viewer as like you, can u please help me by reading my 1st blog what wrong with my writing…is really something wrong with my writing or am just expecting too early…your helpful comments will really inspire me… and please follow me…
Finally I understand what people are saying! No one has ever been this nice about my work though!
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Reblogged this on aalbanks and commented:
What a fantastic perspective! I’m new to all this and have recently stated my goal to get rejection letters this year, as it will be evidence that I am, at last, submitting. I’m looking forward to them even more now. Thank you for this.
Reblogged this on Carpe Jugulum. and commented:
This is cool, I livein this place!
Very nice. It preserves the ego. Which is all-important if you wish to continue writing.
Reblogged this on little bit cold.
I have a friend that was just given a message like one of these messages rejecting his piece. I wrote my first narrative and my prof made me post it to word press. YIKES
Reblogged this on MARSocial Author Business Enhancement group's Blog.
[…] Now is that nice? https://brevity.wordpress.com/2014/02/10/decoder-thingy/ […]
[…] The Form Rejection Letter Decoder Thingy, by Brevity’s Sarah Einstein, Feb 10th, 2014, […]
Reblogged this on Marrow and Bone and commented:
Revision, Revision, Revision! D.B.N.D. (Do Better/Never Done)