What to Do with Encouraging or Personalized Rejections

When we send out our work and get a bunch of form rejections, it can be really disheartening. Usually an encouraging or personalized rejection can help ease the pain a bit, but, obviously, an acceptance would help it a lot more.

An Encouraging Rejection:

Encouraging rejections are still form letters, but they specifically say something to the effect, “We like your work, but had to pass on this at the moment. Please send us more.” Sometimes these even go so far as to say, “This is not our customary rejection. We hope you’ll keep us in mind in the future.”

Despite the fact that they are still form letters, they are a big deal. An anonymous person liked your work enough to either click the “encouraging rejection” button on the online submission manager or put the encouraging rejection form letter in your SASE.

As a poetry editor, I gave encouraging rejections to people whose work I really enjoyed, but the pieces they submitted simply weren’t there yet. If there was a particular poem I really liked, I’d usually write that on the letter (someone’s HANDWRITING on your rejection is a SUPER big deal) in the hopes that the individual would send more work in like the poem I had liked.

As an editor for a journal run by graduate students, the staff changes every semester. If you get an encouraging rejection, send work in again, quickly, since the person who liked your work in September may not be on the staff in January. Include in your cover letter that you got an encouraging rejection. If someone wrote on your encouraging rejection, think about photocopying it and including it with your submission. Even if the person didn’t write his or her name, a lot of us on the staff know each other’s handwriting, and it can help you get a leg-up since we know who on the staff may have liked your work.

A Personalized Rejection:

Personalized rejections are the apex of rejections. These are when a specific editor sends us a little note like, “Oh-so-close! I enjoyed ‘[insert poem title here]’ especially. Thanks, So-and-so Poetry Editor.” Or, “I really enjoyed ‘[insert poem title here],’ but it didn’t meet our needs presently. Please consider sending more work. So-and-so Poetry Editor.”

While these may not seem like a big deal, THEY ARE THEY ARE THEY ARE. An editor CHOSE to include a special note to make you aware that they liked your work and/or a specific poem and to consider sending them work again.

These are soooo short of a publication that it can be painful. If I sent a personal note to a writer, I was basically saying, “I really wanted to publish this poem, but we didn’t have the space or the other editors didn’t agree with me.” These letters can definitely give a poet a sense of what poems he or she should submit to that journal again. SEND WORK IMMEDIATELY! Especially if you have other work in the docket that is similar to whatever work/poem they happened to like. Also include some left-fielder poems, poems that may be completely different from the poem or work they liked, just for the heck of it. Address your submission to the specific editor and thank them for the encouraging note. Tell them you hope they will like one of the pieces you’ve included. Consider also mentioning that you aren’t sending this work anywhere else (if, of course, that’s what you’re doing). Sending work you only want them to consider is really respectful, especially after you receive an encouraging note from a specific editor. If I took the time to send you a personal note and you took the time to send a submission only we were able to consider, I would definitely take note.


4 thoughts on “What to Do with Encouraging or Personalized Rejections

  1. So, if they say “we hope you’ll try again another time” or “we hope you’ll consider us again” really means that? Hmm. I just thought it was a gentle letdown.

    1. Some journals, I have seen, including Poetry Magazine, send little messages like that to everyone. Be aware of that, but most journals send taglines that obviously differentiate encouraging rejections from general ones, like the example I gave: “This is not our customary rejection,” etc. If nothing in the rejection stands out, then assume it’s a general rejection that they just formulated to sound super nice.

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