Dan's picture
Dan from Santa Monica, CA is reading Beautiful You by Chuck Palahniuk October 26, 2011 - 11:19am

So when you receive that generic rejection email, do any of you reply with a simple "thank you" or maybe even ask for feedback or a reason why?

I thought that a "thank you" email the editors would find annoying. Even more so if you ask for feedback. But I just read an article in Writer's Digest that suggests you always reply with a "thank you" as a courtesy or as an attempt to get your name in the editor's head for when you submit the next time. 

The only time I replied with a "thank you" was when I got specific feedback on my story and not just a generic rejection.

What do you do?

Raelyn's picture
Raelyn from California is reading The Liars' Club October 26, 2011 - 11:23am

During theatre workshops we were always always always told to send casting directors thank you notes.  True, that is a completely different situation, but I believe it works in all scenarios.  It most certainly gets your name back in the editors mind, and hell, you don't have anything to loose by sending one.  

Brandon's picture
Brandon from KCMO is reading Made to Break October 26, 2011 - 11:27am

I never ask for feedback.  If they give me feedback, I usually don't say anything.

There was a time someone over at Spork Press gave me a paragraph of feedback rattling on about what was wrong with the piece.  I took that in stride.

What's interesting is that piece was accepted somewhere else a few days later.  No changes or edits.  They just happened to like what another person didn't.

That's why you should never get all bent out of shape about rejections.  A lot of being accepted is just finding the right place and good timing.

Alex Kane's picture
Alex Kane from west-central Illinois is reading Dark Orbit October 26, 2011 - 11:36am

Based on my experience, and what I've heard editors actually say, never reply to a rejection.

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs October 26, 2011 - 11:46am

As an editor, getting thank you emails in response to form letter rejections is pretty annoying and it clogs up the email account, but it's not like any editor will hold it against you. It's just really unnecessary. Although it might be polite of you to send a thank you email in response to a personal rejection containing feedback that you find helpful. That Reader's Digest article sounds idiotic. Perhaps it was referring to sending thank you emails to agents and publishers rather than journal editors (although I have no idea if that's a common practice).

I'm convinced journal editors would send a lot more personal rejections with feedback rather than form letters (assuming they had the time to spare) if it wasn't for the many writers who have shit fits and respond with angry emails after receiving a rejection where an editor was just trying to help them out. I stopped writing personal rejections for this reason (unless a story was good but not good enough to make the cut and I would provide feedback with the hope that the writer will improve with their next submission and I could accept it).

Although I made the decision to get out of the lit journal editing game about a week ago, although I'm sticking around to help my successor with things that she's inexperienced with.

jyh's picture
jyh from VA is reading whatever he feels like October 26, 2011 - 11:50am

Unless the email address includes "no reply" I think it's fair game.  If the magazine is small enough not to have a commercial-grade email system, it's small enough that you might be able to actually start a correspondence with the editor.  And if someone is going to blacklist you for saying "thanks anyway" they'll probably have already told you in the guidelines not to respond to rejections or ask for a critique.

Bekanator's picture
Bekanator from Kamloops, British Columbia is reading Ugly Girls by Lindsay Hunter October 26, 2011 - 12:14pm

I never even thought about sending a Thank You email.  I see the life of an editor as one of clutter and annoyance.  Athough it's the editors that are turning my work down time and time again, I'm sure their job is just as frustrating as mine is. 

@Bradley - Your post was really interesting.  How often did you encounter writers getting angry about the feedback you gave them? 

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs October 26, 2011 - 12:44pm

I actually haven't written the vast majority of the rejections for the submissions that my journal receives in a long time since I would work with a submissions editor who would "screen" stories for me and send me the good ones (and I would reject those myself unless I chose to accept any of them, although I rarely wrote anything besides a form letter email). But back when I was mostly running the journal myself years ago and often included feedback with my rejections, I would receive a few angry responses each month. My submissions editor (who will take over the journal assuming it works out) sometimes writes feedback and occassionally receives angry responses, although I think it happened pretty infrequently considering her feedback was sparse.

In the past, I would sometimes stumble across a blog entry where a submitter complained about getting their story rejected by us, which sometimes included the contents of the rejection letter (with the name of the journal often omitted: in which case, I have no idea how I ever came across blog entries like that).

There used to be an editor who worked for Clarkesworld Magazine who would include extremely detailed rejections and he was always posting the angry responses that he received on his livejournal (minus the submitter's name), which was really interesting to read. I think in the email's subject line, he would always write  "REJECTION" in capital letters (and I assume the name of the story and the publication), which gave the writer the opportunity to just delete the email if their skin wasn't thick enough to handle reading feedback.

misskokamon's picture
misskokamon from San Francisco is reading The Moonlit Mind October 26, 2011 - 1:28pm

Maybe a Thank You email isn't a great idea, but what about a Thank You card? I work as a digital artist and animator, and we were taught that after an interview/art test/portfolio review, it's best to send a thank you note via snail mail. I keep a packet of blank thank you cards with me at all times and send them off with a personalized note and my business card whenever I need to thank someone. 

But I've always done that after being considered, not after a rejection. I've actually never submitted my work in hopes of publication before, so I don't know if that process is possible or makes any sense...

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs October 26, 2011 - 1:43pm

A thank you card in response to a rejected story would definitely be unique and it's doubtful that it would be annoying. I've never heard of anyone sending such a thing. It may (or may not) cause the editor to remember your name when he or she receives another submission you in the future. Although I don't know if it would help out in any way as far as getting a story accepted. It's always possible.

Renfield's picture
Renfield from Hell is reading 20th Century Ghosts October 26, 2011 - 2:35pm

Responding with a better written story might be worth a shot.

XyZy's picture
XyZy from New York City is reading Seveneves and Animal Money October 26, 2011 - 3:23pm

I've only been doing the editing gig for a year, but I have to agree with Bradley. If I sent you a form rejection letter, a response is unnecessary. And a 'thank you' while nice and polite, isn't going to really put your name in my head or help me remember you better for the next time. What's going to do that is a story that I really like and want to publish. Then I'm going to remember your name.

And this actually works in your favor, though I'm sure not all submissions processes work this way, but in my case, if you submit a story, and I can't find anything personal to say about it and you get a form rejection... do you really want me to remember your name for the next time you submit? Can't you just imagine me in my dank cave, pouring over emails with my finger just itching to use my newly-installed "INSTANT-REJECTION" button: "Oh, look. Another submission from Janet Dough who wrote that awful piece of tripe. I'm so glad she was polite enough to thank me for my form rejection letter so now I can remember her name. I don't even have to open this one." Click.

Doesn't anonymity sound better? And really, my cave is actually rather comfortable since I installed the dehumidifier, but a 'thank you' isn't really going to help you with getting published, and may hurt if that editor finds them annoying and choking up the system. Editors publish stories that they like, not stories from polite people. My cousin is one of the nicest people I know, can't write a story to save his life, and so I will never publish him... so yeah, screw nepotism as well. Of course, I may just be in a minority.

And Brandon makes an interesting point as well about editorial feedback. Unless you really really want to publish with that particular market, it isn't necessary to change your story at the whim of every editor that rejects one of your pieces. They are only giving you advice about stories they would like to publish. Another editor may like your story just the way you had it. And another editor isn't going to like it no matter what. If you get the same advice from a number of editors, then there probably is an underlying problem that you should look into, but other than that... unless it's advice that really resonates with you and you think will  help the story, then take it with a grain of salt and move on.

Also, what Renfield said.

spence's picture
spence from planet is reading Books October 27, 2011 - 5:28am

If it's a form rejection, i file it away and move on. If it's a personal rejection, i thank them for reading it.

Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading various anthologies October 27, 2011 - 9:08am

Don't respond to a form rejection. If you get a rejection with a little bit of feedback, or an invitation to send more work, maybe send a thank you, or ask a quick question. What I've seen some people do is send a thank you card when you get an ACCEPTANCE. Especially to the places that are bigger, in print, and actually have an address out there for you to send it to. Obviously, if a story gets accepted, I assume you all say thank you and how excited you are, etc. via emal, so that's a given. And especially do send a thank you when you get a response from an agent, if it's more than a standard form rejection. You could see them again soon, and you always want to keep the door open for the next book. On the agents that took some time on Transubstantiate, but passed, I asked them all if it was okay to approach them with my next book, and they all said yes.

But no, don't send anything for a form rejection on a story or novel submission.

Good post, Dan!

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs October 27, 2011 - 9:42am

Once I accepted a story for my journal and received no response. So like a month passed and I sent a "You know I accepted your story, right?" type of email. And he was like, "Oh yeah! Thanks!"

ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading Wanderers by Chuck Wendig November 1, 2011 - 9:58pm

I've gotten a lot of no-responses, and one actual rejection. It was a form, and then a couple paragraphs of feedback, generally pretty positive, an invitation to send it back after revision, or send something different, and even a "suggested reading" to show what the editor meant. This rejection also came within a week of me submitting, so I sent an email that said "Thank you for the quick response and feedback".

I did it not for any ulterior motive, or anything, but because I was truly impressed with the thoughtful feedback and generally encouraging feel of it,

Dean Blake's picture
Dean Blake from Australia is reading generationend.com November 15, 2011 - 4:45am

I agree with Alex - I've always been told not to respond.

However, there was one case where an editor rejected me by email. I responded and asked if he'd be interested in another manuscript of mine. I gave him a quick summary of it and he sounded interested and asked me to send him the entire piece. 

In the end, he also rejected that piece but recommended some other publishing houses that specialised in my style of writing.