Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Writing (Instead of Receiving) Rejections

Rejection is always a disappointment.  No matter how prepared you are, it doesn't shield you from the blow completely.  And it feels worse (for me) to be the rejecter.

When I started The Handy Uncapped Pen, I knew rejecting submissions would be a (hopefully small) part of operations. I've had to send a mere two rejections because of the lack of submissions, but I hated it both times.  I have this urge to say yes to people, even if I know the content on offer isn't right for my publication.

I hope H.U.P. will never be so big that I need a template rejection.  One of the few things I can give my submitters is a bit of my time to respond with genuine feedback or compliments.  Perhaps it softens the blow, to feel they aren't just a means to an end for my blog.  It isn't easy being a writer, it's worse when you don't feel appreciated or respected.
Components of my rejection:

1.  I thank the person for submitting to me.  I mean my gratitude and say it within the first two sentences.
2.  I clearly tell the person I'm declining/passing on their work.  No flowery words, no confusion.  
3.  I try to offer honest feedback or praise.  I want people who submit to know their pieces were read by someone who engaged with it enough to have an opinion beyond "no".
4.  I ask them to try submitting again.  There might come a day where I hope someone never sends writing to me again, but it hasn't happened yet.

I don't tell people "art is subjective".  Artists know it is.  
Have you ever had to reject artists for a project/publication?  How did you deal with it?
What makes a rejection letter/email easier to take?


  1. This isn't the same, but the closest I ever came to having to writing a rejection was helping my director draft emails to let students know we would not be hiring them at the college writing center. I was hard to not only write, but make the decisions! There was so much talent, and we just didn't have enough demand to be able to hire everyone who applied.

    Most of my experience receiving rejections has been from graduate schools, so again it isn't the same. But having some *concrete* reason for rejection would be nice. Was it my background education? My GRE score? Was my personal statement (or even the letters of recommendation) not compelling?

    1. It is difficult, knowing you're giving someone disappointment. It feels like being a villain.

      Hmmm... a reason why is hardly ever given by editors. I think I'd find it helpful, if done tactfully. I'm just afraid people will argue with me if I point out the specific flaw.