The line between Form and Personal Rejection

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The line between Form and Personal Rejection

Postby cmmg » Sun Mar 18, 2018 8:19 am

Not sure if this is obvious, but I'm not 100% sure what counts as a personal rejection. I'm a little new submission, but the general consensus seems to be if an editor took the time to send you something personal about your story, then they enjoyed at least part of your story/personal rejections are better than "form" rejections. But of course, while I know the basic definition, it can be hard to see the line between them, especially when you consider things like "tiers"

Yet the first personal rejection I had, advised me not to "mix" genres in urban fantasy story, because it threw off the story. Which confused me, since there was only one genre (urban fantasy) and the only thing that might seem like a different genre was the inclusion of a solar panel (which happens NOW and is not a future concept but wotf017 ), which happened in the first paragraph. Which makes me think they didn't even read past that paragraph, but I still got a personal rejection?

Then I had a rejection that said "Unfortunately, I'm going to pass on this one. There are some interesting concepts here, but the story didn't quite work for me" Which excluding "there are some interesting concepts" is a pretty standard form rejection. But is the "interesting concepts" just apart of the regular form? Is that meant genuinely?

I know there's not like a little button people press that says form rejection or personal, but I heard a few people say when they give form rejections they just copy and paste, so it's possible there's something "nice" to say that's still not meant personally.

Basically, what does a personal rejection really mean, and where is the line between "generic personal" and "giving critique because the story was really close but not quite." How can you tell what's a higher tier form or not? Is everything a guess?
Last edited by cmmg on Thu Apr 12, 2018 4:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The line between Form and Personal Rejection

Postby Jeremyteg » Sun Mar 18, 2018 8:58 am

It varies from venue to venue, but in general a form rejection is going to be 90% identical to rejections being sent out to other authors. Some venues have multiple form rejections that they send out (for example, Lightspeed seems to have a few) but these are still forms, though some may be "higher tier" than others. (i.e. one form might represent a first round rejection, one might represent that they liked the story but it wasn't what they were looking for at the time, etc.)

A personal rejection contains some specific feedback on your story. Generally speaking, personals are "better" than form rejections in that the editor had something specific to say about why they aren't buying the story and cared enough to pass it along. Often, personal rejections are encouraging and include a request that you submit again in the future (though some forms have this as well). Some venues, however, give personal rejections to every story that comes through (BCS does, and Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores gives you the option to request feedback when you submit).

That said, not all editors work the same way, and this ephemeral distinction between "form" and "personal" rejections with "form" being worse and "personal" being better is more or less a construct of discourse between writers and not something that editors are necessarily thinking about when they send rejections. It's all part of the meta-analysis that we do in order to gauge whether or not we're improving in a desperate attempt to nourish our little writer souls with any scrap of encouragement we can find.

YM Pang
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Re: The line between Form and Personal Rejection

Postby YM Pang » Sun Mar 18, 2018 8:52 pm

Depends on the market is probably the best way to think about it.

For what it's worth, in my personal submissions tracker, I sort things into three categories: Form, Higher-tier Form, and Personal. Quite a few big markets give a slightly different form letter for stories that reached some second round, that the editors found compelling on some level (Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Strange Horizons). Usually these say something like "It was well written but not right for us" or "It's a good story but we've decided not to publish it." Think of it like an HM in WotF.

Personal rejections are tricky. Whether they "mean" anything (whether they're the equivalent of a WotF semi-finalist) depends on the market. I've received personal letters from editors who dropped the story on the first line. I've had form rejections from magazines that held my story for further consideration and passed it all the way to the chief editor. So while personal rejections commonly mean more than a form, it is not universal.

There are markets who do both. They have the "good story but not right for us" line to indicate that they saw something there. They may also give personal feedback. In some cases the personal feedback means you came close. In other cases, personal/no personal just depends on which reader you got and how much time they had.

So, if you're just starting out, don't worry about it too much. Once you have enough submissions (and rejections wotf019 ) under your belt, you'll understand how close you came for each specific market. Even then I would think of it only as a curiosity. A story can get form-rejected from a token-paying market but go on to delight a pro editor.
Michelle Pang
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