Rejection Slips—Who Needs ‘Em?


by ARHuelsenbeck


In my file cabinet I have a thick folder packed with negative responses, many dating back to my freelance writing days in the 1990’s—my dreaded rejection slips. The big joke in my circle was that I’d eventually have enough rejection slips to wallpaper my house (actually, I probably do).

Some were neatly typed on an index card with a date and my article’s name, thanking me of thinking of [ name of publication here ], but unfortunately my work doesn’t match their current vision. Others were very bad photocopies of a generic rejection with no personal data whatsoever, sending me back to old notations on scraps of paper to try to remember which masterpiece was being turned down.

With the rise of email and electronic submissions and the virtual elimination of snail mailings, it’s rare to get a paper acknowledgement at all any more. For a while, I saved the email responses and toyed with the idea of printing them out and filing them in the “wallpaper” folder.

Now, many publications, agents, and editorial staff don’t even bother replying to submissions. They allow the deafening silence to speak for them.


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Eventually, I came up with a notebook system where I record my submissions, details, and expected turn-around times, and write a No next to the entry if or when a negative email arrives.

When I started my agent search, I tried the free version of Query Tracker, and liked it so much I signed up for the paid plan, a bargain at $25 per year. It’s so nice (?) to look up one of my titles and see the column of sad emojis next to the names of the agents who don’t believe they can sell it. (See what I did there? It’s not my fault, it’s theirs. Remember, a rejection from an agent doesn’t necessarily mean the writing’s bad; the agent just can’t think of a publisher who’ll snap it up.)

Today a lot of editors take submissions only through Submittable, and also send a decision through the program, which does an excellent job of keeping track of which pieces are still under consideration and which are not.

So, what about you? Do you remember rejection slips? Do you print out rejection emails? How do you keep track of your submissions and responses? Do you keep negative replies? Should I chuck my wallpaper file? Share your suggestions in the comments below.




Guest post contributed by ARHuelsenbeck. Former elementary general music teacher ARHuelsenbeck blogs about the arts and the creative process at ARHtistic License. She is currently writing a YA mystical fantasy and a Bible study guide, and submitting a poetry chapbook, with mystery and MG drafts waiting in the wings. You can follow her on Twitter, and see some of her artwork, photography, and quilts on Instagram.

14 thoughts on “Rejection Slips—Who Needs ‘Em?

  1. I use an excel spreadsheet, with stuff colour-coded for “under consideration”, “rejected”, “no longer being sent” and “sent to more than one place”, along with the number of times it’s gone out.

    Basically I’m a Nerd 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I really should collect my rejection slips, but as someone who got into fiction during the digital age, they’re all in e-mail form, and I really couldn’t be bothered to go searching for them now, lol. The only reason why I think I should keep track of them is to know which publishers I’ve sent what story to. Thanks for this post!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I only have one rejection slip… too often I can’t afford a submission fee, or the submission guidelines exclude me before I ever get a chance to click “submit.” I think that’s more depressing than having a drawer full of them… at least then I’d have some evidence to show I tried.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If we weren’t in the middle of a pandemic, I’d say go to a writer’s conference; but most have been canceled. Some have gone to an online format, and some are even free! I recently got an email about one, but do you think I can find the email?
      Please don’t give up. It’s a tough profession. Persistence and perseverance are key.


      1. Thanks for positivity. It’s one thing to write a book and another to sell a book. I even sent of 4 picture book stories that I still have and wait patiently for the rejection. But thanks anyway and good luck to you too.


  4. Just got my first rejection today. I have to admit it stung more than I thought it would. 6 hours later, I’m kind of split on how I feel about it. On one hand, it sucks because I felt really good about my short story. On the other, I’m relieved that it’s all over with. Any advice on submitting


    1. Sorry–I’m just seeing this today.
      By now, a little of the sting may have subsided. My best advice is, now that a couple of weeks have passed, look at the story again. See if any portion of it can be made to sing a little better, and send it out to a different market. Short stories are hard to place. It’s really a numbers game–the more you send it out, the better your chances. And be sure you’re reading lots of short stories in the magazines you want to be submitting to. It will give you a feel for what the editors are looking for. Good luck! Keep trying.

      Liked by 1 person

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