Amid the stream of rejection most writers experience is the occasional personal note, an encouraging missive that lets authors know that, despite the journal’s final decision on publication, there was something in the writing that the editors found enjoyable or well crafted.
At TLR we believe it’s important to let writers know when we like something, even if we don’t choose to publish it, so Kelly and I write a lot of those emails.
But just what does it mean when we send a personal rejection? Since there may be some misconceptions regarding those notes, here, at least, is how I view them:
Your story intrigued me on some level that, usually, I will mention in the rejection note. I may even, with trepidation, make a comment or two regarding how it might have been improved. But unless I specifically say I would like to see a revised version for possible publication, my note is still a rejection.
Keep in mind that a personal note doesn’t necessarily mean the story was close to selection for publication, unless we specifically say so (which we do from time to time). Although we haven’t yet published our first issue, we already receive too many submissions for writers to make that assumption. Sometimes I will comment to encourage what I see as promise in a writer rather than in the story in question.
Does receiving a note imply I would like to see more from you? Yes, of course, but that doesn’t mean you should fall over yourself to get another piece submitted, despite what they tell you in MFA programs and writer chat rooms about responding immediately when an editor sends a personal rejection. My advice is to wait a bit. I won’t forget your name. Reread the guidelines about what I’m looking for. Maybe wait until our first issue is published and read the stories we selected (the e-reader version will be free, or you can order a print copy). Get a better sense of what floats my literary boat. TLR reads year-round, so have no worries about missing a reading period. If you do submit again, feel free to remind me of what I said about your last story.
Finally, please don’t assume I want to conduct an email conversation over the rejected story. Like all other journal editors, I’m busy. Ridiculously busy. Too busy to communicate personally with submitters, but I do it anyway because I believe it’s critical to encourage the kind of writing I would like to see more of in the marketplace. But please leave it at that. Our aim at TLR is to be as honest and transparent as possible, but it’s still a business, and we have to establish limits within which we can operate. Catch me at a conference or workshop and buy me a coffee/beer/cabernet. Then I’ll talk.