There is a neat white 9″ x 12″ envelope sitting by my front door. I spent the afternoon getting one of my essays ready for submission and putting together a cover letter. It took longer than I expected to make sure I had name, address, and word count in all the right places and none of the wrong ones, and to set everything up with the correct font, spacing and margins. I swear the submissions guidelines for some of these magazines are designed as skill-testing questions.
This isn’t my first submission, but it’s the first one I’ve had to do in hard copy. Back in March I submitted a different essay to two magazines using Submittable. I have a matched pair of rejection letters for that one that I’m actually quite proud of.
The first one was the best possible rejection:
Thank you for submitting your Creative Non-fiction to [such-and-such] magazine. While we are unable to accept Character Sketch for publication, we would like to see more of your work.
Your work was almost there. We liked it, but felt it was not quite ready to be forwarded to an editor. We would like to encourage you, however, to send us more of your writing in the future. You can find out what themes might be under consideration by visiting our website.
We look forward to reading more of your work.
I’ve written two more drafts of the piece since then – they were absolutely right, it wasn’t ready yet – and I’m confident it’s getting closer. I’ll find a new home for it when I’m satisfied it’s good to go.
The other rejection was more generic:
Thank you for submitting your work to [such-and-other]. We have read and considered it, and have decided it isn’t right for the magazine.
Our editorial decisions have more to do with our own tastes and preferences than the quality of your submission, and we hope you find the right home for the work.
I knew the essay was borderline when I sent it. The piece is a lyric essay with a unique structure, and the magazine had occasionally published non-traditional essays, so I thought I’d give it a shot. It was gratifying to hear they didn’t think it was bad, just not right. I can totally live with that.
So yes. I’m ready to add to my collection of rejections. I’ll take my envelope to be mailed in the morning. And now, to work on the next piece.