Four Decline Letters from a Literary Magazine Plus a Follow-up Acceptance Letter

Decline Letter A:

Dear Writer,

In your cover letter you mention that you’ve been published in over a hundred literary magazines and then proceed to enumerate them. Just laying them out has covered almost the entire first page of your two-page cover letter and makes for an exhausting read. Perhaps you are confusing a submission letter to a magazine with a resume. I am not looking to hire you, and from how you are talking about yourself, I probably couldn’t afford you anyway. I must reluctantly decline your submission. But what do you care? In the time I’ve taken to write this decline, you’ve probably been accepted by ten other publications.

Decline Letter B:

Dear Writer,

You mention in your cover letter that you’ve devoted your lifetime of employment to occupations other than writing and literature. But in your spare time, I presume when you’ve gotten bored with all your other activities, you’ve decided to fill time by writing stories. I think that’s fine. But there are writers who have devoted decades of their lives to writing poetry, stories or creative nonfiction often with very little or no recognition. You’ll have to excuse me, I hope, if I grant the greatest respect and consideration to them. I respectfully decline your submission, but please keep up with your writing…provided you can find the time for it.

Decline Letter C:

Dear Writer,

I’m happy that you’ve discovered the joys of writing. I wish you every happiness from it. But in your cover letter, in the enumeration of your interests, there’s no mention of any other writers or any other reading. Nor can I tell from the style of your submission if you have read anything. It seems incongruous that someone devoted to writing, as you say you are, would have no interest in what other writers have to say. A writer who seems to have no interest in the books of others! I know you’ve said that you are too busy to find the time to read. But it seems to me that people find the time to devote to what really matters to them. I call it “putting your feet where your heart is”, an awkward expression, I know. I think you should “place your body where you heart is” …another clumsy expression. Or lay down in the place where the love is. I regretfully have to decline your submission. Perhaps you’ll find that out if you have the time to read my decline letter.

Decline Letter D:

Dear Writer,

I can’t help being puzzled that you have submitted your writing to me. It didn’t take me long to realize, as I opened your submission file with such eagerness, that you had broken ninety percent of my submission policies. Pardon my skepticism but I doubt that you bothered to read them. Those submission policies have evolved over the past seven years in order to give both of us the best possible submission experience. And now you’re going to be puzzled by my swift decline. But you’ve submitted pieces to me five straight times, in every case ignoring my magazine’s policies as if they weren’t there! Maybe you’re going to tell me I should have explained them to you. But maybe I would respond that you should have read them.

Follow Up Acceptance Letter

Dear Writer,

You thank me for “taking a chance on you” when you’ve never been published before. There’s no disgrace or disadvantage, really, in not being published before. Maybe you don’t realize it, but it’s a great compliment to me that I’m able to recognize your talent and originality. There’s nothing more wonderful than being a new writer and making a fresh start to the art of literature with your first pages. I can tell also from these early pages that you have done your homework and have read great works by other writers. I can even tell who some of them might have been.

The use of language is such a complicated art. It seems that everyone who writes badly writes the same way, and everyone who writes well discovers their own style. To write well is to give our language new life. To give vision to our language which is always in danger of losing its way into incoherence.

Thanks for being a writer. I know your writing will evolve over time. If you’re a fine writer, it’s certain to evolve. I may not see the final moves of your writing journey, but I’m privileged to be present at its start. I’ll follow your work as long as I can. Thanks very much for your submission.