Enduring and surviving rejection is part of every writer’s successful career. Rejection letters can be part of a writer’s toolkit to success. This comes from objectively perceiving them as opportunities in a long process of relationship-building and the business of writing and publishing.
Writers often witness an evolution in rejection letters as they learn more about their craft and about their markets. The ability to recognize the evolutionary steps can be useful in determining your next move in that particular market.
Below I describe one sequence of a manuscript’s evolutionary path. These don’t necessarily follow a chronological path for any particular manuscript; nor am I suggesting that your personal writer’s path will follow this particular pattern. Take these for what they may represent to you for any particular manuscript’s journey to success.
Lowest form: the form-letter, with no name or signature—you get no information from this except that they’re probably swamped with submissions. File the letter and try them again with another story; you can even play a game of it to see how many submissions it takes to get “recognized”. Meantime send the rejected story elsewhere.
Next lowest form: Personalized form letter with your name on it and a name and signature on it. Congratulations! You are now a person. And you will likely be remembered when you submit another story here.
Higher on the Evolutionary Path: a form letter that includes a personalized note about your work and why it was rejected (often with an added comment about the story or your writing). You have made a mark. Try them again!
Even Higher on the Evolutionary Path: a personalized letter that explains why your story was rejected—this says as much about the editor as it does about how they felt about your story; that they are taking the time to write to you and give you suggests means you are worth their valuable time. You have an opportunity to begin a relationship with this editor. Play fair.
Highest on the Path: a personalized, perhaps even handwritten, note that specifies why they rejected your piece with suggestions for revision (and resubmission) or invitation to submit another piece. Congratulations! This is the beginning of a relationship. Revise and resubmit.
I’d love to find out about some of your rejection letters…