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Ranking rejection

All writers will receive rejection letters, but all "no's" are not equal.

Rejection letter
A rejection letter. Image by KenoKickit/Shutterstock
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I can almost like a rejection letter that uses my name and gives a reason for not publishing that is encouraging about the actual writing. Maybe they loved my research or character development. Maybe they even passed it on to another editor in their publishing house for whom it was better fit, but it fell a little short in the end. After a brief pity party, I find myself basking in the glow of the praise.

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Nearing the top is an encouraging letter saying how much the magazine editor loved the article I sent, but apologizing because she had just bought a similar one and can’t use two. (Seeing that article in the magazine a few months later verified the truth of her rejection.) One such letter encouraged me to pitch that article somewhere else, where it was ultimately published by a different editor.


Closing in on the peak is a rejection from an editor, closed to unsolicited submissions, saying her door is open for me and giving encouragement to send other manuscripts. My philosophy is, “When opportunity knocks, open the door.”



An almost perfect response is a letter saying the editor liked the first 10 pages (or first three chapters, or whatever sample they asked me to send) and wants to see the rest of the manuscript. I send these back by return mail.


Need I name number 10, that technically doesn’t even fit in this category? These bring a sight for the neighbors as I dance to the house from the mailbox. Just last week a letter began, “Dear Virginia: Guess what! Your manuscript ‘Missing Letters to the Folks’ has been accepted for publication in the autumn 2017 issue of THEMA, The Missing Letters.” A perfect 10 for THEMA’s editor and a perfect 10 for me.


Do the editors care about my rankings? I think not. They are blissfully unaware that they are being rated – not even the editor who sent the worst letter of all. (It began, “Dear Mildred,” and I saw she had corrected with a red pen what she took to be a misspelling of a proper name in my manuscript. She could easily have looked it up. She would have seen that I spelled it correctly.)


So what use is my ranking system? Simple: It gives me the illusion of having a bit of control of the process. I have little power over whether my work is accepted, but I get some satisfaction in rating the rejections.

The second reason is knowing to never again send work to someone who calls me Mildred – a fine name that doesn’t happen to be mine.

The third is knowing that improvement in rankings for my rejections means I am making progress and, perhaps, am moving closer to the top myself.



Virginia McGee Butler has acceptances from HighlightsCricket, and Thema and rejections from other highly respected publishers. She writes a twice-weekly blog called “Readin’, Ritin’, But Not Much ‘Rithmetic” on her website,