The Weird Thrill of a “Good” Rejection

I wrote a new short story just before Sol was born, and I tried submitting it to, which is aiming high—they’re currently the best-paying fantasy market that I know of. Today I got a rejection note, but it was a nice rejection note: “Thanks so much for submitting to, and for your patience while we evaluated your story. Unfortunately, I’m afraid that ‘The Fairy
Midwife’ isn’t quite right for us. It’s always hard to reject a good story, and this is fun and inventive. I think it hasn’t lived up to its potential—there are tools here for a deeper emotional impact than I felt—and so I wish you the best of luck placing it elsewhere. Please send us more of your stories in the future!”

This is indubitably a “good” rejection. Good rejections are when you get personalized feedback (as opposed to the generic “does not meet our needs at this time”) and the editors express a desire to see more of your work. I think I went through like a dozen rejections before I made my first short fiction sale (to Dragon magazine back in 1994), and they got progressively nicer and nicer until I finally sent something they actually bought. First it was just the printed slip; then it was the printed slip with a handwritten note on it; then it was an actual letter from an actual editor with detailed and specific feedback; and finally it was an offer letter with contracts to sign. So there’s definitely a hierarchy of rejections. And a good one can kind of make my day.

I don’t actually have anything else to send to right now—before this story, I hadn’t written any short fiction for a long time—but I’ll send “The Fairy Midwife” somewhere else. It’s fun and inventive, after all!

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