Ask the Editors | Ouch! Form Rejection Letters

RaeBryant-Bryant__Editor_in_Chief-rae_bryant_iiDear Editors,

Five rejections, five form letters. My head hurts.




Hi Ouch!

Yes, five rejections. We were surprised you had submitted more than one work at a time because we ask specifically in our guidelines to submit only one work at a time through our regular fiction submissions. You can submit more than one through our Gertrude Stein Award but you had submitted through regular fiction. We’ll be happy to read more work from you but we do ask that you pay close attention to our submission guidelines.

With that said, we do understand the hurt and difficulty of having work declined, which is the word we prefer to use. Declined. Rejection is such a loaded word. Declined is a much more accurate way of saying, we value the opportunity to read your work and thank you for trusting us with it. It just wasn’t for us. Perhaps a future work will be and we wish you the best in extending this work to other journals.

We are a volunteer staff and work very hard to publish Eckleburg and offer an unsolicited submissions opportunity, which is not a requirement of journals but rather a service many journals offer because finding new voices we love as editors is important to many of us. Some journals charge a fee for unsolicited submissions year-round. We do not, though, we run our Submitters are Readers Too fundraiser in order to help cover operational costs and raise awareness of our print and digital issues and the fantastic contributors published within them.

On form declines. Yes, they are difficult to receive. We know. The truth of it is journals are not only artistic outreaches but also businesses. Our staff are real people who really read your submissions. We receive many submissions and so our time is limited in how much we can spend on unsolicited submissions while publishing the journal, tending to our families, writing our own stories and novels, as well as teaching classes, etc. We must manage our time strategically in order to make the journal sustainable. We’ve seen too many fantastic journals fall under because of talented and well-meaning editors over-extending their services and their abilities to sustain. For this reason, we do not often give personal detailed feedback. We do sometimes but not always. We will sometimes offer “we did like something” general feedback which means we did like something but because we are not a workshop submissions basis, we do not feel it our place or responsibility to instruct submitters on how to change their stories to suit our ideas of perfection. We are not the end all of aesthetics, though, we try to be very eclectic. Offering personal feedback on works that we haven’t fallen in love with would be like that guy or girl in high school who was into you but decided you weren’t the one for him or her because your laugh was a certain way or because you wore Lee jeans instead of Levis and so he or she tried to change your laugh or jeans brand in hopes of finding you more attractive. What a dick.

Remember this “love,” this artistic aesthetic and preference is very subjective. No editor is completely objective and we feel editors should never claim to be. Therefore, one journal’s response to one work does not in any way validate or invalidate a work. Aficion comes with preference. It would be irresponsible of us to instruct submitters on how to write their stories “better” when really we would be instructing submitters on how to write stories “our better.” Again, Levis instead of Lees. If you like to write Lees, go for it! In fact, once you have formed your Lees so perfectly to your butt and thighs and calves and have perfectly worn out the knees, we might even find that we like Lees too! But changing your Lees to suit us is not the craft of an editor. Change must come from within the writer. Even a single line of constructive feedback, though well meaning, can derail a direction a writer was on and potentially kill what would otherwise have been a fantastic end product. If we had the time to sit and have coffee and debate and discuss the values of Lees and Levis with you and how they fit into your craft overall and in your story specifically then perhaps we would be that writing feedback you deserve. We are able to do this for you in our Eckleburg Workshops but not in our submissions system. We consider personal feedback to be appropriate in workshop venues and/or in response to a submission only when a work is so close to our perfection already that we cannot forget it, whether or not we felt the work met its full potential or not. 

FIRST RULE: Be true to your voice and then read, read, read Eckleburg and if you love us and still want us so badly you stay up at night fantasizing about us then keep reading and writing until your work and Eckleburg have become so simpatico that we are lovers meant to be. We hope to one day be this for you but we understand if we are not. There are many journals and many editors from which to choose and we would encourage you to stick with the same plan. Read, read, read that journal until you decide you are meant to be or not. Either way, the onus is on the writer to decide if his or her work suits the journal and vice versa after reading the journal obsessively. Really. Read it obsessively. No better way. Unless an editor solicits you, which is very cool. We do solicit sometimes if an editor finds a writer and craft we adore. If we do end up providing personal feedback at some point then fantastic but it shouldn’t be a determining factor. One story might not strike us at all and then the next story might hit so perfectly we’re astounded. Such is the way of it sometimes.

You might read this and think, they could have given me personal feedback on my story faster than typing this letter! And you would be right. But again, we do not use our submissions system for “teaching” writers how to write for Eckleburg. We feel that would be arrogant of us and would not respect the first priority to individual voice and development. We have workshops, yes, but our focus there is teaching writers to write for their own voices, not Eckleburg. Focus of voice and Eckleburg sometimes coincides, yes, but we neither expect it nor require it at our workshops.

All of us at Eckleburg are writers as well as editors and we approach our responsibilities with sincere interest and energy. We consider it an honor to be trusted with your work. We hope that one day your work and our work find that relationship we all want so very much but we’re willing to wait for it. You are worth the wait. We hope we are worth the wait for you, too.

Thank you for your input. I believe your time will be better served reading Eckleburg to see if it is in fact the best market for you. If you believe we are then I suggest you thoroughly read our guidelines and submit accordingly. And remember we are only a handful of minds and hearts trying to do our best for a wide readership. Because our submitters and contributors are first and foremost Eckleburg readers, we know you understand. 

All best,

Rae Bryant

Editor in Chief


The Editors