Form Letters from Heinlein

Very funny – the letter Heinlein would send to his fans.

This reminds me of the rejection letters as handed out by OnSpec magazine, which are some of the best possible rejections you can get. They tell you exactly what was wrong.

I cannot find it right now, but somewhere in the mists of the internet there’s a very helpful article from an author speaking about rejection. In a very loose paraphrase, he suggested that there are few reasons for rejection, and here are the main ones:

  • Your craft isn’t there yet
  • Your story’s not for this market
  • You can write, and your story does work, but for this particular editorial run someone else is a better choice. Send something else later!

The vast majority of rejections, so this author said, are from category 1. So work at it, and keep submitting.

However, he also suggested that it would be Really, Really Helpful if people doing the rejections had a wee checkbox telling you which one of those issues you were having. The problem is, the vast number of writers in that group are just learning and might take it personally. Some will try to argue. This makes a very bland rejection letter the best editorial defence.

Which is likely true. I feel pretty benign about rejection (especially after looking at the pictures of the slush piles of Tor) but it wasn’t that way at first. I’m building up a tough callous after many. In the first while it really did feel shitty to get “No” coming through the mailbox.

I didn’t argue with editors, but I would have crossed the street to avoid speaking to them.

Which means that the OnSpec folks, whose checkbox list is substantially more informative than this group of three suggestions, are quite brave. For that, I salute them.

I suggest that if you write speculative fiction  – and you’ve really polished your piece – you submit to them.  For, if nothing else, the instructive rejection.


  1. I could dig up that Tempest story – but I suspect it’s too long.

  2. I think they take to 6000 words.

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