4 Types of Rejections All Writers Have Found In Their Inboxes


Rejection. Is. The. Worst.

You know it’s just part of the game.

But still.

You’ve probably gotten some of these rejections before. How did they make you feel?

The “it was nice working with you, but please go away”

“Hey, thanks for all your hard work, but we’re switching to an internal model and won’t be outsourcing any of our production to freelancers anymore. Bye.”

This isn’t the most traditional type of rejection, but it’s more common than you might think. In most cases, they’re not just saying this to get you to stop working for them — freelancers are kind of expensive … but it still strings. More than one well-paying, trustworthy client has dropped me this way, and even though it’s usually not your fault, you can’t help but wonder: “Did I do something wrong?”

The “thanks for trying, but …”

“Dear writer, thank you so much for your submission to our publication. Unfortunately, your work has not been selected for publishing.”

These are usually the “template” emails — the generic, “we’re sending this to mass quantities of people who are all getting rejected, we don’t actually care” emails. I wish writers never had to see these. I understand why they happen. I was … fortunate? … enough to work for a small magazine where I could actually respond individually to every person who wasn’t getting their work published. It was a lot less terrible, as an editor, to send rejections when I was genuinely trying hard not to discourage them too much.

The “we’re not accepting submissions right now”

“Thanks, but we’re not selecting any new work for publication at this time …”

Maybe their submission forms were outdated. Maybe you got a date wrong. Maybe they just need an excuse not to bother with you. It’s these kinds of rejections that are most frustrating for me. Does it mean I can submit again later? Did I do a bad job and you’re just not telling me? I need to know! Well, this is just how it goes. In some ways, this is also the easiest type of rejection to react to — you just move on to another publication with slightly less deflated hopes.

The “we actually sort of care about you but still no”

“I’m glad I got the opportunity to look over your work. You’re a great writer, and I hope you’ll continue to create well thought-out content like this. This piece doesn’t quite meet our requirements — we’re looking for something about topics our audience members are interested, like x. Feel free to browse our archives to get a better idea of our scope and style, and please, submit again when you’ve come up with something.”

You’re probably not going to get rejections like this. They’re the least painful to write, but extremely time-consuming — I just threw this together as a shaky example, and it still took longer than most editors will have time to craft. There are probably some editors out there who really do wish they could say yes to you, but just can’t. You’ll be OK. You’ll find somewhere else.

Rejection is terrible. But in a world full of writers who have dealt with it before, at least you’re not alone.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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9 thoughts on “4 Types of Rejections All Writers Have Found In Their Inboxes

  1. I’ve been reading up on rejection myself, I’ve only learned that writers can spend so many years getting rejected that the level of self confident needed to be one has to be at an elite level. Looking at some of the examples that you’ve shown, I do wish that writers could be given pointers on how to improve their work more regularly.

    1. There’s just not enough time. :( Even working at a small publication, for example, as much as I would have loved to give personalized feedback to every single writer who submitted an article, it’s just not possible. I think many writers can benefit from feedback from other sources, like critique groups, though I don’t know how popular or effective things like that actually are these days, especially online. We want to hear it from the people rejecting us, but there’s just too big of a gap. How do we fix this? I wish I knew!

  2. Rejections are painful, particularly after a writer has put all their effort into a project
    To be fair to the recipients of the work, sometimes the sheer volume of unsolicited copy received must be daunting.
    So…rejection…. ‘it goes with the turf’ as the old saying goes.
    I am however suspicious of those who cheerily request writers to submit work for consideration, then return it so quickly and with nothing more than a ‘Sorry. Not Suitable’ response you wonder how much reading time they put in on your work and they just trawling for one narrow type of story, without bothering to telling anyone. For them I reserve a shrug and a muttered ‘Your loss kiddo’
    At the end of the day a writer has to fall back on the old adage… ‘Keep on keeping on’

    1. It’s definitely tough. It’s really hard for editors to be encouraging yet honest/realistic. And there’s only so much time, on both ends (writing and editing). Everyone wants their work to be given the same amount of attention. It’s just not possible. We have to wait until we write something that stands out to someone in particular, and there’s just no way to know when that might happen.

      1. From my days in UK public service I can relate to the broad parallel of dealing with an expectant public.
        And as it all human endeavours, there is that sometimes imperceptible smidge of luck.
        The one day an editor in one particular mood picks up one particular piece and maybe just one passage catches and resonances with the way they feel in that instance.
        Or maybe the writer who has been plodding along in their own furrow just by chance suddenly sees, hears, or reads something which sends them off along a whole new direction.
        In the meantime, we keep on keeping on. Doing the best we can, as we can, when we can.
        Best wishes Meg

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