Monday, October 8, 2012

To Reply or Not to Reply - That is the Question...

When you're trying to break into writing, you hear "submit, submit, submit" and "query, query, query," but what you don't hear is what to do when you receive rejections in response to submitting or querying.

The first couple rejections I got, all form rejections, I wrote back a quick "Thank you for your consideration," or something along those lines.  Then I read a blog post by someone stating that it's a bad idea to respond to a rejection, because you're just wasting the time of the editor or agent who wrote you.  If every rejection gets a response, that's almost twice as many emails for them to wade through, right?

So I stopped, worried about being that irritating person who jumbles up their email.  I imagined that person on the other end of the email getting the email and groaning.  "Don't they know how full my inbox is?" they'd ask themselves.  "How annoying!  Adding that name to my list of people never to publish..."

But the person inside me who is accustomed to writing thank you notes and being polite and acknowledging contact in some way, shape or form, winces every time I get a rejection and don't respond.

CC by Sean MacEntee

I received a very nice personal rejection on September 30.  I actually closed that emailed rejection feeling more confident than when I submitted in the first place.  You see, it was a big magazine, one that has published many huge names, and I submitted because I was afraid to.  Doesn't make sense?  I wanted to challenge myself, and because my first reaction was "No way will I make it into this magazine," I decided to submit anyway.  If you don't do what you fear, how can you get where you want to be?

It may seem like my fears were justified by this rejection, but no.  Specific things were complimented, but I was told the storyline wasn't different enough from others they had published.  It closed with an invitation to submit a different piece, along with the date they'd be reopening for submissions.  I think that's a positive thing.  And if it isn't...don't tell me.  How often does one get to feel good about a rejection?

Back to the topic, though, I didn't send back a response.  It ate at me, though.  I felt like he had taken the time to send a personal response, along with feedback, and I owed a thank you.  But I flashed back to that blog discussion and was afraid to hurt my chances.

Finally, I went online and started looking around.  I only had a few minutes, but I found a few interesting tidbits.  One thing that I found quite valuable was an editor talking about why he stopped doing personal rejections.  He said it took time, but he was glad to do it.  That is, until it became an invitation for people to argue with him.  Somewhere in there he mentioned that it was always nice to get back the note saying "Thank you for your consideration" or thereabouts.  He didn't say it helped in the future, but that's not why I wanted to send them.

The conclusion I came to, after my little bout of research, was to respond with a polite, but sincere, email in response to personal rejections only.  There's no need to respond to a form letter.  I intend to continue researching this, though, because who knows...perhaps some day I'll get a personal letter from someone who previously sent a form letter, all because I didn't try to fight the rejection and sent a quick thank you.

My current stats:
4 pieces submitted
1 piece accepted
3 pieces rejected

I'd love to hear your feedback on how you feel about thank you notes in response to rejections.  Do you send a thank you?  Do you skip it?  Or does it depend on the rejection?  Ever had an actual editor or agent tell you whether it was a good idea or not?

May you find your Muse.


  1. A personalized rejection is different and I think I replied to a couple. The form ones, no.

  2. I have only submitted twice for publication: the first was for a magazine, and my articles were promptly rejected. I did not send a thank you. The second was an essay for consideration in an anthology, and was accepted. Of course this warranted an immediate reply from me :-) I think your philosophy sounds about right, though. Form letters probably don't require a response, but a personal note - even if it is a rejection - is certainly worthy of a quick "thanks for your consideration and for the constructive tips for improvement" etc. Good luck!

  3. Thus far I have not responded to any rejections, personalized or non. I figured they got enough email.

  4. I ALWAYS respond with a thank you if the agent gives personal feedback. And they've usually responded back after my thank you, thanking ME. LOL. I always think it's better to be nice--though I agree to not respond if it's just a form. :)

  5. I respond to rejections on partials or fulls (book manuscripts) only, by putting "thanks" in the subject line. It's up to the agent to decide whether or not this bothers him/her. But I can't help being polite and saying thank you, and I simply want the agent to know that I appreciate the time he/she took to consider my manuscript.

  6. I have to agree, if someone takes the time to reject you but compliments your work, they deserve a personal 'thank you' back.

    And too, you can't always believe what you hear and read.

    Hugs and chocolate,

  7. If an agent has personally sent me a note of rejection, I do thank him/her personally. All others I think - they won't really care.

  8. for me the fear of rejection keeps me from submitting plus i'm never sure exactly were to submit my works as it is only poetry

  9. Wait wait wait! You got something accepted? Did you already tell us this and I'm just forgetting? I don't remember that, though. I'm wanting to believe that my memory isn't getting that bad, but, hey, what do I know about it?

    I don't have this issue with responding to rejections, so I don't know what I would say. Probably what you're doing, though.

  10. wow congrats on getting a work accepted. i have had rejections, n then to add to it, my laptop crashed. since i didnt back up my files i lost all my work, so i have to start all over again. so i understand you on the writing journey. it is not easy at all, especially for African writers. saw your responds on Myne whitman's blog and i love your story. I had something similar, as well.

  11. I think its a good idea to send thank you responses to personalised rejections. At the very least it keeps you in their minds :)


  12. I figured they were busy and wouldn't want to hear back, but I wish I had written back for personalized rejections.

  13. If someone has taken the time to comment then, even if it's a rejection, it does feel different. I woulod alwyays send a polite response and thank them for taking the time to read your submission. It never hurts to keep people on side! Great post, Shannon!

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  15. I've had this debate with myself several times. I respond to boilerplate rejections with a "thank you for your time". The few personal responses/critiques I received were answered by my expressing gratitude that they took the time to write me a personal note and offer feedback. I feel as though I have done my part, and the editor/publisher can decide whether to read the email or just delete it (if they are that busy).

  16. Congrats on the positive rejections and for getting a story accepted. Thank you is a lovely phrase. It can mean alot, but it can also mean nothing but another email to wade through. Since publishing is a business, I look at a thank you note as any business dealing.

    If the situation calls for it, scream it, but if you get a rejection, and it's both impersonal and doesn't impart anything helpful, delete it and move on. The only thank yous I do are the times when someone has taken a personal interest in my work. For example, Betsy Mitchell once rejected me after we'd had a very nice chat at lunch during a conference. She got a heartfelt thank you. The agent who I queried because of their website, nope.

    Overall, it is not expected in the industry and you won't be penalized for not saying thank you for a rejection.

  17. Alex, good to hear that seems to be a valid way to do it.

    Dawn, thanks for your feedback. You planning on submitting any further?

    Marcy, yeah, that's what worries me.

    Morgan, great to know, thanks! Cool that they wrote you back.

    Linda, that is a really good idea (the thanks in the subject)! I think I will do that in the future so they know what it is and can delete as they please.

    Shelly, definitely true that you can't always believe what you hear and read. This was actually by someone I know who is a quite prolific writer, so it carried extra weight with me.

    Em, I imagine you're right. Thanks for the feedback.

  18. Becca, don't let that fear hold you back! Believe me, they're not going to be mean about turning you down, and it's really not so bad unless you desperately wanted a specific publication. Even then, it's not that bad.

    Andrew, I keep waiting on the official publication date to arrive so I can make an announcement, but it keeps getting pushed back! I may have mentioned it in brief months and months ago, but I don't think I did a full post on it or anything. Right now, the tentative release date is Halloween, so I'm hoping that sticks, but I still haven't gotten my final contract to sign, so I'm thinking maybe not...

    Ibifiri, it's always good to "meet" someone who has gone through the same things. Thanks for coming by from Myne's page! I'm so sorry to hear about your work! I try to be good about backing things up, know I should, and yet I go months (years) thinking I should do it. That is one of my biggest, non-life-threatening fears. Good luck as you start again.

    Jamie, thanks, that's what I hope!

    Medeia, that is good to hear, as a hindsight reflection. I was figuring the same thing until I got that rejection and couldn't stand not writing back.

    Pat, thank you for the feedback! I think being polite gets overlooked, or people are unsure, like me, so it gets skipped so as not to bother someone.

    Sonnia, thank you, I appreciate it! Will be by shortly to collect and thank you at your blog.

    Li, thanks for your take on it! Someone mentioned above putting "thanks" in the subject line so they know what type of email it is and can skip it if they like.

    Julie, very helpful, thanks! I'm going to send you random thank you's and see how that strikes you... ;-p

  19. Well, I'm sure you'll keep us posted, so I'll be looking for details.