Arthur Catapano's picture
Arthur Catapano April 19, 2015 - 12:25am

Hi Everyone, 

I'm new to the world of writing.  As exciting as it is, there is so much to learn. I just submitted my first story recently to a few magazines and have already seen some form rejections. However, I just got this rejection today:

We've been discussing your submission "At the End of the Tunnel," and we've decided not to purchase it for our upcoming issue. I'm no longer offering feedback because we've had to reject too many good stories simply because they weren't right for our market, and I want our contributors, regardless of the criticism they may receive from professors, writing groups, MFA programs, etc., to follow their own instincts. With that said, I will say that your story was a strong contender: the ending was truly haunting.


Now, the ending of this email suggests this might be a personal rejection. Since I have no experience in the matter I was wondering if this sounded like a real personal rejection or if it is a disguised form rejection (which I've heard about from some people).

Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel April 19, 2015 - 2:05am

Personally, this sounds like you submitted the story to a place that doesn't publish that kind of story. Just send it somewhere that may be more accepting of what you have to offer. 

In the end, it may have been a need vs want rejection from a managing editor. 

Jack Campbell Jr.'s picture
Jack Campbell Jr. from Lawrence, KS is reading American Rust by Phillipp Meyer April 19, 2015 - 7:07am

That is certainly a personal rejection, since they specifically mention an aspect of the story. Even if they like your story, a lot of markets are still going to give you a form rejection, just as standard practice. 

There are a lot of reasons why you may not get accepted, even if your story is good. Your story doesn't fit the overall theme or tone of that issue. It's not the right length related to the other stories that have been selected. They need the slot for another, more well-known author.

Every issue is like putting together a puzzle. If the issue I am putting out has space for 12,000 words of fiction and I use four stories, if I have two 4,000 word stories, my other two are going to have to add up to the remaining 4,000. If you are over that, you are out. Beyond that, they have to fit together stylistically and not detract from each other content-wise.

Since you are new to the submission game, I will also a couple other tidbits, even though they don't relate to this particular rejection. 

1) Never respond to the rejection. There are writers who will email editors back about how they were wrong, or if they liked it, they would have bought it, or God knows what else. I never even respond with a thank you. Most are swamped with emails. The last thing they need is another one that doesn't do any work. Besides, it's a small world out there, and you may need to work with that editor someday. 

2) Get it back out there immediately. If I am rejected in the morning, I have that thing back out by the evening. Sometimes,  will read through it, just to make sure there is nothing that I want to tinker with, but I always get it back out right away. Rejection is nothing. Don't even think about it.

3) Remember that editors can be wrong. There is really very little difference between most editors and you. They are people who read a lot and probably write. They just happen to have a magazine or website that they are taking submissions for. If you do get rejected, the editor probably doesn't know any more than you do. Be open-minded about any suggestions that they send you, but know that they can be wrong.

You may do all of those three things already, but they always made rejection a lot easier for me to stomach.

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal April 19, 2015 - 8:07am

That's probably the best rejection I've ever heard of.

Tucson's picture
Tucson from Belgium is reading Late Essays - J.M. Coetzee April 19, 2015 - 10:31am

I'm having the same thing. I sent one in and got a rejection letter back saying they went with something else, but they encourage me (and probably others) to try it with a particular magazine. It looked like a standard rejection form, but I've never had anyone say "send it to 'this magazine'". Haven't sent it, though. "this magazine" they referred to is one of the top magazines in my country (celebrating its 160th birthday this year) and I feel my story isn't quite up to par with their publishings.


EDIT: I just checked this magazine's website and they don't even mention a way of submitting. Perhaps they don't take submissions.

Jack Campbell Jr.'s picture
Jack Campbell Jr. from Lawrence, KS is reading American Rust by Phillipp Meyer April 19, 2015 - 11:01am

Try looking it up on Duotrope or Ralan or something like that. Most have some way to submit, unless they specifically state that they don't take unsolicited submissions.

Jake Leroy's picture
Jake Leroy from Kansas City is reading Jesus' Son, by Denis Johnson, and Hot Water Music, by Charles Bukowski April 19, 2015 - 11:56am


Not only is this a personal rejection, it's a very good one. They said they discussed it. That likely means it made it to the senior editors, which means that the readers//first editors liked it enough to recommend it. Lit mags typically get too many submissions to have conversations about each individual story. As an example, for pieces we're reviewing now, the acceptance rate will be under 5%. Some lit mags are under 1%. The last line about the haunting ending is also excellent. My advice would be to submit this to a number of markets simultaneously. It sounds like your story is good enough that if you find 30-40 markets in your genre and submit, someone will likely buy it. It's purely a numbers game for good stories. Find enough appropriate markets and you'll sell your stories. Good luck.

Tucson's picture
Tucson from Belgium is reading Late Essays - J.M. Coetzee April 20, 2015 - 2:14am

I reread my rejection and it says:


"We're luckily not the only literairy project, so we'd explicitly like to encourage you to submit your work to our partners X, Y & Z." with e-mails to which one needs to send it to.


I'll give it a shot.

Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading various anthologies April 20, 2015 - 11:43am

Personal for sure. Good job.

Arthur Catapano's picture
Arthur Catapano April 20, 2015 - 11:56am

Thanks for all the advice guys! Also, I'm sure you need to get used to the rejections if you want to be a writer, so I'm just going to build off of this and keep trying.