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Sunday, March 21, 2010

TOPIC: Rejection Letters: "The Standard One" (Part 1)

As writers we all know that some stage in our journey to publication we're going to be faced with the dreaded rejection letter. Many, many, many times.

We send off our queries to agents and editors, our hopes pinned on that someone will be interested enough to want to read more, request more of our work, but the odds are heavily in favour of finding a rejection letter in our in-box/the mail. It's a great way to develop perseverance and that much lauded thick-skin.

One thing I've learned over the years of sending stuff out is that there are a variety of rejection letters. There's the standard rejection letter, the semi-personalised rejection letter, the almost there personal rejection letter, and the "holy grail" acceptance letter - the one we dream of receiving.

I'd like to share over the next few posts some of the ones I've received to give you an idea of what to expect if you're just starting down this path.

This week we'll begin with...

The Standard Rejection Letter
There are a few of different types. The first three are in response to submitting a manuscript to a publishing house through their slush pile. The fourth is one from an agent.


Dear Writer,

Thank you for sending your manuscript (enclosed) to Publishing House B for our consideration.

We have decided that it is not for us, but we wish you every success in placing it with another publisher.

Yours sincerely,
Submissions Editor
Publishing House B

This is the short and sweet, no mucking around rejection letter. Who knows why they rejected the manuscript - could have been wrong house, not acquiring this genre, it was a badly written ms from the slush pile, nothing appealed to me when I read it, it was formatted wrong, we don't accept unsolicited ms - your guess is as good as mine.

What can you learn from this? Not a lot, shrug it off and move on. Submit it elsewhere. Hope for more constructive feedback.


Dear Kylie, 

Thank you for your recent submission regarding your manuscript entitled Manuscript A.

After much consideration, we are unfortunately unable to take you up on your offer of publication as we did not feel that the work was suitable for the current "Publishing Company" List.

Thank you once again for writing to us and we wish you every success with placing your manuscript with another publisher.

Yours sincerely,
Acquisitions Editor

This letter tells you one glaring, blantantly obvious error that I made when I submitted this manuscript to the publishing house. Can you see what it is?

Yep, I targeted the wrong house. The give away phrase - "...we did not feel that the work was suitable for the current "Publishing House" List."A nice way of saying we don't publish this genre. And in my ignorance I never picked up on it. It was years later in a group chat at an RWAustralia conference that this topic came up and the idea of doing your homework and finding out what publishing houses accepted what genres made me realise I'd made Error 1 in my submission process.


Dear Author,

We regret that we are unable to consider your manuscript for publication. This is not a reflection on the quality of your proposal but rather on it suitability for our list. 

We wish you every success in placing your work elsewhere.

Editor X
Publishing House

Can you pick the error? Sound familiar? You got it - I hadn't done my homework and targeted the wrong publisher. Again. D'oh! As newbies sending stuff out into the big, wide world of the writing industry we need to accept that we're going to make some very Basic Mistakes to begin with. The best you can do is learn from them and move on.


Dear Kylie,

Thank you for submitting sample material from your manuscript. After careful consideration I'm afraid I don't feel that we are the right agents to successfully represent your work, and I am returning your sample chapters and synopsis.

I'm sure that you can appreciate that an agent must be totally committed to a work to sell it enthusiastically to a publisher; to do otherwise is not in the best interests of the author.

Of course, another reader might have a completely different response, and I encourage you to send your work to other agents.

Thank you again for giving me the opportunity to read your work; I certainly wish you well with it and I'm sorry I was unable to be of assistance to you.

Yours sincerely,
Agent A

A lengthy standard rejection letter. No personal feedback, other than addressing it with my name. All the trademark standard phrases are contained within this letter - after careful consideration, you can appreciate that an agent must be totally committed, another reader might have a completely different response...

Believe it or not this is character building - it's testing your mettle in your journey to be published - spitting out the weak and hardening the determined. Keep going.

This series will continue in a fortnight (as I have a guest author scheduled next week) and we'll take a look at some semi-personal rejection letters.


  1. Very interesting Kylie! I look forward to the rest of the series.

  2. Stay tuned, Leah. I hope they're useful to you! :-)