Editors and Your Stories
The words, “this is not for us,” can evoke many emotions from writers. The first reaction can be disappointment, while the second tends to be mild annoyance, and the third is resignation. Occasionally, a long rejection letter manages to put a smile on my face. If I’ve submitted to the magazine before, the editor and I may discuss suggestions for revision on previous tales. I’ve found that the benefits of rejection involve striving to submit better stories and building relationships with editors.
My first rejection letter came from Asimov’s Science Fiction. I had written a tale as a birthday present to my choir teacher, thought it was good, and sent in a hard copy with a self-addressed, stamped envelope to the magazine. The SASE came back a month later with a printed form rejection. I took it happily and prepared to try again. Someone in my family, probably my older sister, told me that sending by post was a waste of stamps, so I switched to magazines that would accept electronic submissions. I was twelve, I think, and my first short story acceptance happened when I was fourteen.Rejection can serve as a barometer for writing quality, and for the editors that enjoy your work. It’s much like receiving a detailed letter from an acquaintance and getting insight into their character. How one responds to the letter also reveals the writer’s character; authors that take a customized rejection too personally, for example, may provide a scathing retort and provide an incentive for editors to deliver form envelopes.
When an editor gives reasons for rejection, especially when their guidelines state that personal rejections are not likely, they respond to the talent they see in the prose. One editor delivered my favorite rejection letter, for example, for a sad story about a girl writing letters to her father, an astronaut who dies in a shuttle explosion; he disliked the tale because of the depressing overtones and attitude towards space travel. Disliking a story for not encouraging space travel reveals a need for stories that uplift the potential of space exploration, while showing that the story touched a nerve. Touching editors’ nerves reveals more
strength in the prose than not evoking an emotional response. This editor would later accept stories that fit magazine briefs more easily, and we’ve become good friends online.
Rejection also provides the incentive for a writer to improve on quality, to push their limits and write a fantastic story. As of this writing, about three magazines to which I’ve submitted for at least a year have asked for me to submit again after rejecting various pieces. Several editors have expressed joy in seeing these submissions, and often have suggestions for improvement. When I send pieces, as a result, I send what I consider my best work and I double my efforts.
A 2016 MBA graduate and published author, Priya Sridhar has been writing fantasy and science fiction for fifteen years – and counting – as well as drawing a webcomic for five years. She believes that every story is a journey, and that a good tale allows the reader to escape to a new world. She also enjoys reading, biking, movie-watching, and classical music. One of Priya’s stories made the Top Ten Amazon Kindle Download list, and Alban Lake published her novella Carousel. Priya lives in Miami, Florida with her family and posts monthly at her blog, A Faceless Author.