How to write a rejection letter

Written for a how-to video series for businesses 2010

How do I write a rejection letter?

The writer Evelyn Waugh had a simple and instant method of rejecting proposals from strangers. He sent out a printed card with the words: “Mr Evelyn Waugh cannot do what you wish.”

Waugh did not care if he never heard from the recipient again. In fact, he preferred it that way. For most other people, and for any business or organization, it is worth taking more trouble with a rejection letter.

Even an unwanted proposal represents a free offer to you or your organization. For the sake of good manners alone, it deserves a proper reply. The person making the offer is an actual or potential customer, or partner, or supporter or voter – it’s not just bad manners but bad business to offend him or her. Above all, the next proposal from that person could be of real value to you. Make sure that you get it first, not a competitor.

If you want to stay friends with someone when you send a rejection letter, make it a personal letter not a form response, and follow three basic rules:

• Good manners
• Give the bad news
• Leave the door open for another offer – but make sure it is something you might want

Good Manners

1) A personal letter, not a form. Put your name on it and show your status.

From John Slushpile, Associate Director Non-Fiction, Bingo Publishing

2) Be sure you have addressee’s name right

Mr Augustus Fitz-Wattle Fink-Nottle
Bassett House
Market Snodsbury

3) Say thank you and show appreciation of the rejected offer

Thank you very much for sending us the manuscript of your proposed Complete Guide To British Newts. We were extremely impressed by its painstaking scholarship, particularly on the mating habits of British newts, and by your colourful account of the male newts waggling their tails in the moonlight.

Give The Bad News

1) Give the bad news plainly

However, I have to tell you that we will not be publishing your book

2) Give a clear, understandable reason for your decision

The costs of producing the work at the length you propose (over half a million words) and with so many full-colour illustrations would be prohibitive, and we do not believe that it would find sufficient buyers to recoup them.

3) Make clear there is no appeal against the decision

Our decision on this is final and we cannot enter further correspondence about it.

Leave Door Open For Another Offer

1) Refer to a specific offer if your organization would be ready to look at it.

I did pass your proposal for a children’s story, Finding Newto, to our Children’s Department. If you wish to develop this further, they would be glad to consider it. Please follow their Submission Guidelines, which I enclose.

2) Otherwise, steer addressee in the right direction

Most of our non-fiction list is based on popular history. You may consider writing a book on famous newts who have changed the world. If so, we would very glad to look at it.

03. December 2023 by rkh
Categories: Belles-Lettres | Tags: , | Comments Off on How to write a rejection letter