When Editors Have to Say No, No, No

By Jack Limpert

In yesterday’s post about what it takes to be a great editor, I said one requirement was having a good boredom detector, with the editor saying things like “No, that’s kind of interesting, but we’ll pass” and “Yeah, we’d run it, but at 2,500 words, not at 6,000.” I also mentioned the need for an editor to have an interesting mind, and came up with 14 names .

One of the 14 promptly emailed me to say: “I  used to have two rubber stamps that I metaphorically—and sometimes literally—applied to queries and, sometimes, manuscripts. One read LTS (Life’s Too Short) and the other SOS (Same Old Shit).”

I emailed him back:

“Some wise guy in New York came up with a rejection slip with boxes you could check off. One box was ‘This is an affront to Western civilization.’

“But mostly we said, ‘This is interesting and well-written but…’

“I did have what we called a DB list of writers—over my dead body will we use anything from anyone on that list.”

Another editor emailed me to say he’d just write “Let’s skip” on queries and manuscripts that he was rejecting. He also mentioned an editor he knew who dealt with especially annoying people with this kind of note: “Some crackpot is writing idiotic letters using your name. You should contact the authorities.”
Some perspective about this email venting: It’s about coping with incoming stuff that clearly wasn’t going to make it into the magazine. One time management challenge for an editor is dealing quickly with what isn’t going to work so most of your time and energy can go toward finding and encouraging the good stuff. More on that in another post.



  1. That’s pretty funny, about the editor who’d tell the letter-writers to contact the authorities. I wonder if it worked?

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