Cool It, Man!

Fact: Everyone gets rejected at some point in their life.

Fact: Rejection stings.

Fact: Some people need to think before responding to said rejection.

Over the last few years, I’ve seen many a rejection letter. I’ve gotten them myself when querying, and applying for internships and jobs. I’ve also written them in regards to all sorts of submissions. And you know what? Neither is enjoyable. Nobody likes to open their email to find a pile of rejection letters that have stacked up over the course of a few hours’ sleep. Also not enjoyable? Having to tell someone their work isn’t right for you.

Here’s the thing, though. In my time working in publishing, I’ve seen many an author act before they took the time to think things through. It’s resulted in some incredibly embarrassing emails on their part, and frustration on mine.

So here’s what I propose — some handy dandy step-by-step instructions on how to handle a rejection letter.

1. Open letter.

2. Read letter.

3. Re-read letter.


5. Take a deep breath.

6. Go do something else. Preferably something non-literary. Like mudding. Or watching mindless hours of television.

7. Re-read letter again.


9. Cross off magazine/journal/agent/editor from your list.

10. Move on.

If you didn’t catch my subtle hints, I’d suggest not responding to rejection letters. Make a note on your chart that someone passed and move on. The worst thing you can do is write a response that’s mean-spirited, condescending, and angry. You’re giving the person you queried yet another reason why they shouldn’t work with you, not to mention the fact that you’re giving yourself a bad name. People talk, and if you make a big deal out of one lousy rejection letter, it’s fairly likely that other people are going to hear about it and won’t be so interested in working with you.

The only time it’s really acceptable to respond is to send a quick note thanking the person for their time, especially if you met them in person, or were referred by someone else. Aside from that, it’s best to just move on. A lot of agents have interns who handle their email, so chances are they may not see that response you send anyway. Unless it falls under the category of majorly unprofessional, in which case I can guarantee they’ll see it.

So, when it comes to professionalism, the bottom line is you need to maintain it at all times. Even when you’d rather not, it’s always best to think before you speak.


7 thoughts on “Cool It, Man!

  1. Awesome points, Sammy! So many people rush to respond right away–to just about anything. Taking some cool off and processing time saves a lot of trouble down the road. And honestly? For me, if a rejection has nothing in it but “not for me” I don’t even bother rereading. It just gets filed in my “concluded correspondence” folder and I move on to something else. Don’t dwell–do something productive!

    1. People do! But taking even five minutes to think things through would probably result in a much larger percentage of good decisions! I keep hoping people will refrain from responding angrily, but I guess there are some things we just can’t change :-p

  2. OMG, LOL! It would never even OCCUR to me to respond to a rejection letter. Do they think you guys have nothing to do all day but think up ways to hurt my feelings? It’s very easy – they didn’t choose your offering, offer it to someone else, possibly improving it first if the very busy person did you the favor of giving you any sort of constructive criticism whatsoever. Maybe it helps that I’m over 40.

  3. I’ve responded to non-form rejection letters, which I think is okay. But only when they say they really liked it, it wasn’t for them–give some very specific constructive criticism, which proves it’s a personalized letter and helps me understand what I should avoid integrating in future stories–but that they’d like to see some other things from me in the future. I always send a thank you and make sure I mention that I will send new material soon–I want them to remember my name and that they liked my prior work!

    1. I’ve responded to a few non-form rejections as well. Most of those came from people to whom I’d been recommended, so they were kind enough to point out what they did and didn’t like, which ended up being immensely helpful. THOSE people you can totally thank. People who offer advice took time out of their busy day to help, and it’s only polite. It’s the responses to form rejections that get me, lol.

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