Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Too Friendly, Detailed Form Rejection

So this is what passes as a form rejection down at Eclectica Magazine:
UPDATE: Given Ellen's considered response in the comments I feel it's useful to point out here and now that while I disapprove of the following I don't mean to indict Eclectica for it in specific -- just offer my opinion for why I disagree with this practice and using Eclectica's as an example of the practice in action. Certainly Eclectica is a fine publication and they are also not the only publication to reject in this fashion.)
Dear Matt, 
Thank you for your submission to Eclectica Magazine.  After careful consideration, I have decided not to select it for publication. There are many possible reasons for why a particular piece isn't selected, and I regret that I am unable, given time constraints, to offer further explanation as to which of those reasons applied to your work. I will say that you're in good company; as always, there were many authors and many pieces that I would have liked to include. 
Best of luck with your writing and in finding a home for this work. I appreciate your support of online literature in general and Eclectica in particular, and I hope you'll try us again in the future. 
Tom // Eclectica

Don't get me wrong. I understand the good intent here. Or I think I do. But it's still misguided / misplaced if you ask me. If you decide to reject someone in a form way make it a form. Don't attempt being personal because that makes you seem like those dishonest salespeople who pretend they're all about good relations and honest sales practice but then find ways to subtly lose your confidence, allusions to things that suggest their inventory is limited and demand has been high, and sort of disingenuously pressuring you to buy. It's like either you be cold and streamlined, literary publication, or you legitimately put the legwork into actually being warm and friendly. This "happy medium" is unsettling and perplexing and makes me want to ralph on you, on one of you.


  1. I'm not sure I understand the purpose in critiquing rejection letters; to be honest, it seems a little childish. Writing a form rejection that isn't too blunt and impersonal (surely this two paragraph rejection is better than the insulting one-liner, "Thank you for your submission but we will not be accepting your story") is not an easy thing to do. Why criticize a publisher that has come up with a form rejection that tries to break the news gently? Further, I'd guess that when it comes to burning bridges and future publication opportunities, a public airing of a rejection letter does about as well as responding to a rejection with that cringe-worthy beginner's mistake of emailing the publisher to detail the reasons why their publication isn't worthy of the rejected story.

  2. I understand your point to some extent Ellen. I considered it to be sure. But as an editor myself I feel pretty strongly about this. Certainly you're free disagree.

    I wouldn't agree it's childish to begin. If someone posted a rejection I put forth at Untoward and argued my response was somehow in their opinion falsely personalized (or had any other critique to level against me and what I do) then I'd prefer it put out there for discussion/debate -- and possibly to offer another perspective that I hadn't considered -- something I've tried to do here. It's my personal opinion that a form should be cold and straightforward. To me conveying a false sense of intimacy is worse -- for the reasons I mention. It's equally superficial but has this unpleasant subtext to it too. Like they're trying to pull the wool over your submitter's eyes. My point is this: if you can't be sincerely personal then don't attempt it at all. It evokes a very negative response in me.

    As for burning bridges -- I don't really worry about that as a rule. Maybe I will but I'm not too concerned about it. I'd rather engage people -- for better or worse.

    But I'm glad this has encouraged a response from you Ellen. I respect your opinion and it has definitely given me food for thought.

  3. The great Randall Graves said: "You gotta shit or get off the pot". I understand your point, Matt. If you have something bad to announce to somebody, you don't do him a belly dance as a silver lining. Raw honesty is better because it will allow the writer to shift to another story right away.

  4. That's another part of it, too, Ben. It's very evasive. Take ownership of it. I might be pissed that my story isn't selected when I get a clear and definitive no, but ultimately it won't be because of the way the publication handled my rejection. I'll be interested to see if Eclectica forms this way every time. I won't name names, but there are other places that really drop the same sort of too-personal-seeming form every time. It starts to feel like mockery.

  5. "There are many possible reasons for why a particular piece isn't selected, and I regret that I am unable, given time constraints, to offer further explanation as to which of those reasons applied to your work"

    It's that part I find deplorable. I mean, give the reasons or don't. Ya know?