Demystifying “a good fit”

The phrase “a good fit” is often deployed in rejection letters and is rarely expanded upon, leaving the recipient wondering WHY the piece wasn’t a good fit for that publication at that moment in time.

If you’re like me, you don’t care what the reason is, you just know that the editor wasn’t interested for some reason and it’s time to move on and find someone who is interested. Try, try again without stopping.

However, I know from being a professor and workshop leader that most writers, especially new writers, aren’t like me at all. Most writers want to know why. If for no other reason than to improve the piece for the next place.

Ah, disappointment. Those answers are rarely available, which leaves writers flailing in the dark, paralyzed by uncertainty. No concrete reason was given, no specific feedback or advice proclaimed, so this “good fit” statement must just mean my story sucks and I’m a terrible writer and I should just quit.

No, no, no!

If your mind gravitates toward such thoughts, stop that! 🙂

A good fit could be code for “we hate your story,” but I’ve come to believe that’s really not the case in most instances. Think about it. Why even say that if they really hate your work? Why make the effort? Perhaps I’m just an optimist, but I doubt a very busy editor is going to expend one precious second giving you ANY explanation unless she just doesn’t think the story fits in with the other stories that her team has accepted for the next four issues. And beyond that, if they DO hate your work, why would you care? There are journals aplenty to choose from. Go find another.

Consider, too, that perhaps the editors received ten pieces that deal with the exact same subject matter and they just prefer one over the other nine. And yours is in the nine group. Doesn’t mean your story sucks, just means someone else wrote about the subject in a way that struck that editor’s fancy more strongly than yours did.

A classic bad fit would also indicate the writer failed to do her homework by reading a few issues of the publication. Very often, writers submit works to publications that are a terrible fit in content or style, but because they didn’t read the guidelines or review at least a few pieces in an issue, they missed that and now it’s the editor’s job to point that out. I guarantee those rejections also do not come with an invitation to submit more work. Editors like writers who pay attention, at the very least.

In the end, “a good fit,” could mean anything. Don’t let it stop you from submitting that piece elsewhere, or writing more. Doing your homework and investigating publications a little bit before submitting is a good way to avoid an instant rejection, but it’s certainly no guarantee. There are too many elements, too many moving parts and personalities and genre needs floating around the editorial board’s table.

Don’t take the “it’s just not a good fit” news to heart. Just take the punch, don’t spend too much time overthinking your work, and re-submit elsewhere right away. Rinse and repeat until your work finds a publishing home.

You can do this!

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