Rejectomancy is the art of holding a form rejection letter up to the light and peering between the lines to try to divine more information about what the agent or editor really meant than the message itself provides.
This weekend at FOGcon, on the “You Are Not Your Rejection Slips” panel, I learned a lot about how other authors and aspiring authors view their rejection slips, how they try to interpret them, and what they wish the form letters would tell them. I learned that authors would rather know when a story gets a “close no” than not know. I got to answer questions, alongside esteemed editor John Joseph Adams, about what the phrases in our rejection letters really mean and how seriously we mean them.
In the spirit of that openness, I thought I would post the template for Dragon Moon Press’s standard rejection letter.
Thank you for offering Dragon Moon Press the opportunity to consider your manuscript [sometimes replaced with manuscript title] for publication. Unfortunately, the manuscript is not a fit for us at this time. Please keep in mind, however, that the publishing business is a subjective one and there may very well be another publisher out there for whom your work would be a better fit.
We regret that we are unable to give you a personalized reply or offer any additional feedback on your query. We appreciate your interest in Dragon Moon Press and wish you all the best!
Dragon Moon Press
* “at this time” is, I’m learning, a hated phrase. In our case, it’s more polite than heartfelt. It doesn’t mean “but try again in three months, and you might have a chance.” It just means no. After the great feedback we got from writers this weekend, I’m now thinking about removing it.
* “there may well be another publisher out there…” means “keep your chin up and keep submitting.” I know that writers hate seeing, “Well, it wasn’t for me, but I’m sure you won’t have any trouble placing it elsewhere!”…especially when EVERYONE tells you “Someone ELSE will surely snap this up!” but no one does. I think I’ve only said that in two or three rejection letters, and only when I really meant it, when it was a manuscript I really bonded with, but which unfortunately just wasn’t close enough to what DMP prints.
* There is no “but, please do submit other work to us in the future” line in this letter. Some publishers make that part of their standard form. We only say it when we really mean it. This manuscript just wouldn’t work for us, but we like your writing. We’ll often be even bolder about it and say “Do you have anything else completed that we can see?”
* “we regret that we are unable to give you a personalized reply…” Well, obviously it’s not that we’re UNABLE to. We’re capable of typing. Our hands won’t fall off if we try to personalize our responses. But in the perspective of time constraints and workload, it is true that if we replied personally to every manuscript, we probably wouldn’t get anything else done. If we say nothing personalized, it’s not because we have nothing to say, it’s because we have nothing to request. There are no revisions we might ask for that would change our minds, there’s nothing further we want from you. A story we can’t use might be perfect for some other editor, so we don’t want to give critique that might harm your chances elsewhere (on a manuscript which we know we won’t take, even if you change it).
* There really is a Submissions Team. I’m the most vocal member of it, and the one usually doing most of the legwork (by choice), but I don’t make decisions in a vacuum. I consult with my boss. I invite feedback from my assistant. We say “Team” to convey that it isn’t one person’s arbitrary decision. There’s a folklore that slush-reading is biased by what that editor’s morning’s commute was like and what they had for breakfast. I’m strongly invested in debunking the “crapshoot” myth, and I want you to understand that the decision to reject or accept is not made without due consideration. If you get a rejection that I sign personally, with my name and title, you can consider that non-standard.
I won’t go into further detail about specific submissions (not to clarify about yours, and not to quote from other real examples), but if you have any other general rejectomancy questions, please ask. I’ll answer as openly as I can.