July 1, 2006
Thank you very much for letting us seeÂ your submission.Â Unfortunately, it does not suit the needs of the magazine at this time.
Your submission has been read by an editor, but the press of time and manuscripts does not permit personal replies or criticism.Â For your general information, though, most stories are rejected because they lack a new idea or theme.Â A great many of the ideas that may seem innovative to an SF newcomer are in fact overfamiliar to readers more experienced in the field.Â The odds greatly favor this being the cause of this rejection.
After reading this letter, I envisionedÂ someone at Asimov’s reading the story (or at least part of it), attaching a Post-it marked “Unoriginal” to the printout, and giving it to a lowly intern who attached the “unoriginal” rejection letter variant to the printout and mailed it back to me.
And yet I feel oddly inspired.Â Perhaps the story was unoriginal in concept; I’ll submit a more original concept to Asimov’sÂ next time. Â I think perhaps I needed to get past the mental block of submitting the story and getting someone to look at it – lucky I have a number of other stories to finish off and send out.
I was even more encouraged when Googled “rejection letters,” and came across the following page at http://lettersofrejection.com/displayletters.php?qryID=53:
Dear Contributor:Thank you very much for letting us see the enclosed submission. Unfortunately it does not suit the needs of the magazine at this time.
Your submission has been read by an editor, but the press of time and manuscripts (approximately 850 per month) does not permit personal replies or criticism. For your general information, though, most stories are rejected because they lack a new idea of theme. A great many of the ideas that may seem innovative to an SF newcomer are in fact overfamiliar to readers more experienced in the field. The odds greatly favor this being the case of this rejection.
Another common cause (all too common, we’re afraid) of rejection is the obvious lack of basic English compositional skills on the part of the author. By this we mean that the writer has misspelled or misused everyday words, and/or mispunctuated same. Stories are rejected on this basis because a writer must be familiar with the tools of his or her trade, just as an electrician or carpenter must.
Finally, your story may have been rejected, not because it lacked a new idea, or was misspelled or mispunctuated, or because the writing was not “professional” enough, but simply because it failed to rise far enough above the other 849 seen that month.
TheÂ rejection letter above was last updated 9/25/03.Â It’s possible they just deleted the last two paragraphs, or maybe they’re saying I have “basic English compositional skills” by sending the shorter variant!Â (Okay, they’re probably just saving on toner but I’ll take encouragement where I can.Â
I’m reluctant to mail the story to the other addresses I’ve collected, even though I have a number of envelopes, stamps, and printouts downstairs ready to go.Â If the story is indeed unoriginal, I may just be wasting postage by sending it out for more rejection.Â Then again, I may at least get some more constructive criticism in future submissions.
What the heck – I’ll send at least send some printoutsÂ to the other sci-fi magazines, just to see what their rejection letters look like.Â www.lettersofrejection.comÂ has a pretty good collection of rejection letters, but I also started a page at http://joesanswers.com/index.php?title=WritingÂ to track my own rejection experiences.