I got a rejection letter today. This is what it said:
Thank you for sending us "(my story named here)". I've reviewed the story and decided not to purchase it. It was a little too much on the horror
fantasy side for us, we generally like to see horror stories that are
more grounded in the real world. You may want to try submitting it to
(named their sister mag).
Thanks for submitting, and I hope my comments have been at least a
tiny bit helpful.
THIS is the kind of rejection you want to get from a magazine. The editor actually said he READ the thing and commented on the specific reasons it didn't work for him. Nothing to indicate that my writing was the problem (yay!). And he ended it with an encouraging statement.
Now some magazines will tell you when there is a problem with the writing, and that is a good thing, too. What that generally means is that the problem is something fixable. I had a magazine tell me once that the pacing of my story was off. I reread it and cut some unnecessary passages. Problem fixed, and soon the story sold!
Any time you get a letter like this, take the comments to heart. And save the letter! This kind of letter is a step away from acceptance. It says that your writing was worth some time to the editor, and most editors are outrageously busy, so time is very valuable to them.
I'm of course bummed that the story wasn't accepted. And to be honest, I've already tried the sister mag. They didn't send a personal note, but their submissions state specifically that they don't take much dark fantasy, so I wasn't at all surprised.
Anyway, you have to keep plugging away when you get rejections. You may go through gobs of them, but you only need ONE acceptance. It's kinda like the old saying about finding something in the last place you look :).