Submission Guidelines For Writer Rejections: A Guest Post By Author Janet Josselyn

We’ve all gotten them. Rejection letters. They run the gamut from leftover napkins scrawled with obscenities to carefully worded and helpful emails that enable us to shelter a bit of self-esteem. Wouldn’t it be fabulous if we could dictate how those letters were written? After all, if we’re going to get them, shouldn’t they meet OUR guidelines?

Author Janet Josselyn thinks so! And I agree!

Please welcome Janet to Women’s Fiction Writers!

Amy xo

Despite Its Evident Merit—Submission Guidelines for Rejections

by Janet Josselyn

Rejection is a staple of a writer’s diet and it comes in many forms and guises.  My personal favorite, however, is the rejection that describes how talented my writing is while simultaneously rejecting what I have written.  I have a stack of those backhanded compliments.  I culled the most flattering and they appear at the beginning of Thin Rich Bitches.

Some editors, on the other hand, don’t even attempt to say something flattering in their form rejections.  “We’re sorry to say that your piece ‘The Comely Behavior Manual for U.S. Army Generals’ wasn’t right for us, despite its evident merit.  Thank you for allowing us to consider your work.”  Apparently the “evident merit” wasn’t sufficiently evident.  In response, I have this to say:

Dear Editors:

Thank you for submitting your recent rejection of our latest submission.  Unfortunately, the rejection isn’t right for us at this time, despite its evident merit.

Before submitting a rejection in the future, you might want to familiarize yourself with our Submission Guidelines for rejections:

  1. Ditch the happy face after the part where you assure us that there is a publication “somewhere” that will appreciate our work.
  2. There are only so many chuckles you can get out of making fun of conservative white men who work and have female wives.  Open the humor up a little, please.  Sometimes it’s actually funny to make sport of people who look or act odd.  People who go all crazy-ass on people who eat meat can be really funny.
  3. Are all of the published authors of your journal related?  We are not suggesting incest-style “related,” but we are suggesting “old boys club, wink-wink, nod-nod, not-if-you-are-a-girl-writer related.”  Okay, just had to play the gender card.  You guys are liberals, right?
  4. Evident merit comes in many sizes.  Despite its evident merit, a rejection should evidence sufficient merit or it will not be right for us at this time.

Thank you for allowing us to consider your rejection.

Best regards,

Rejected Writers Everywhere

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Janet Eve Josselyn graduated from Colby College, Harvard Graduate School of Design and Boston College Law School.  She is an attorney and an architect.  She has published one novel, Thin Rich Bitches, and has written numerous articles for publications in the US and the UK.

25 thoughts on “Submission Guidelines For Writer Rejections: A Guest Post By Author Janet Josselyn

  1. I have mixed feelings about rejections. On the one hand I think, Just roll with the punches and send it somewhere else. But on the other I wonder Why? Why couldn’t you just say yes? But a reputable editor has a line-up, a vision and commitments. I’d still rather be the writer creating new work and eventually getting work out there, than an editor with budget worries reeling off pithy letters that often don’t mean a thing. That said, I have also received encouraging and very useful criticism from literary reviews, so it’s really a double-edged sword – and never good to receive bad news on a weak day. Best luck to you with those thin rich bitches!


    • Thanks, Catherine! Thin Rich Bitches is doing well on but I do get rejections on the shorter pieces that I send around to The New Yorker, for example!!


  2. As you’ll see in the post I wrote for this blog (coming out on Dec. 6), this is a topic near and dear to my heart, Janet! I once went to a Halloween party dressed as a rejection slip, literally stapling all of my rejection letters to a slip…my favorite such letter was one I received after sending a story to the Atlantic, saying, “This does not amuse.” Jeez Louise. It was a story about grieving a dead kid!


    • OMG . . . . ! LOVE the idea of the rejection slip Halloween costume!! I intend to wallpaper a small bathroom with mine as soon as I ink a deal for the movie rights (that no studio has offerred me yet, mind you)!!


  3. I am feeling inadequate. Some of you are more experienced with this rejection stuff than am I. Your strength compels me to continue the publishing quest. What are they missing?


    • I wish I felt inadequate because I had not received enough rejections! I am experienced with rejection! A rejection from The New Yorker magazine prompted me to write this and they accept very little from the great unwashed! So I decided to have a little fun at their expense!


  4. Just love the piece and the Halloween costume and powder room wall paper idea. All of it so environmentally responsible. Makes me green with envy.


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