a theoretical situation

Last Christmas I really wasn’t in a position to do something like this. There were a few people I could ask – but not the wider sampling I might get here (if I’m lucky). This is for the writers out there….

Imagine that you’ve written and finished a novel. You’ve sent out queries, and had a partial requested by a literary agent. Unbeknownst to you, that partial has been read and assessed. It’s barely a week before Christmas/Solstice/whatever. If the agent is interested in reading more of your work, getting the letter would likely improve your outlook (unless you haven’t finished the manuscript, that is – in which case, the holiday might include rewriting panic). However, suppose the agent has decided not to pursue the work. Would you prefer to get that letter during the holiday season and have those days to regroup and/or send out more submissions, or would it ruin your sense of holiday spirit and just be royally depressing? Rejection is never desirable, but it is worse at this time of year?

51 responses to “a theoretical situation

  1. I’d rather be rejected… but then, I like *knowing*. I’ve realized I’m likely not hearing anything back until after the holidays on the stuff I have out, just because people are busy. But I wouldn’t mind a rejection now, because then I *could* turn it around and get it back out.
    Of course, I could just be weird, too.

  2. I always wrestled with this too. My decision usually went by what kind of mood I was in. 😉 Honestly, if I were the author, I’d rather find out after the holidays.

  3. I always prefer to get information sooner rather than later. If someone (an agent or an editor) knows they’re not interested in my work, I want to know as well, so that I can move on and get the project out to someone else.
    If anything, I’d be a little be miffed it I somehow knew that a decision had been made weeks ago, and I hadn’t been told out of respect for my feelings. I consider the emotional aspects of getting rejected my lookout, not that of whomever I submit to.

  4. I’d rather not get it till after Christmas, assuming that I celebrate Christmas or some other holiday that hasn’t happened yet. If I’m purely Jewish, Hannukah’s over. I’d rather get it now so that I can be working productively on it while everyone else is busy with the holidays.

  5. I’d want to know after the holidays. 🙂

  6. The fretfullness of Not Knowing is more likely to ruin my holiday than getting rejected. The sooner, the better.
    I’m more a single agonizing rip type girl, rather than a series of excruciating jerks. *g*

  7. I’d rather know sooner. Especially given that the rumor mill has it that the publishing industry basically shuts down during the month of December. Seems like after the initial disappointment ebbs, that it’s the ideal time to sit down and do some research and prep to send out new queries/submissions after the New Year.

  8. I’d vote for after. But not too long after. Like maybe January 2. But… that does put a damper on the new year. Maybe you could add a nice, encouraging bit to soften the blow?

  9. I’d rather know sooner. Not only would it give me one less thing to worry about, it would give me a reason to be cranky with my relatives. Also, it would keep me from making the rounds with the, “You know, I have an agent looking at my novel right now. I’ve got my hopes up – it’s really pretty good.” I would later have to avoid the topic every time they asked by clenching my jaw for a five count and then asking if they’d gained weight recently. If I suffer, everyone suffers….

  10. I say wait. I get enough family stress over the holidays as it is. (Plus there are a lot of folk in the world who scoff a bit on the whole writing thing and ask in a nasty way how it is going. I know more than a few people who have them in their family. No one needs an “I told you you would never get published” during holiday dinner.)
    I almost certainly wouldn’t be focusing and fretting on the parital during the next week anyway – too much to do. But I would dwell a bit on the rejection

  11. Speaking as someone who just got a (short story) rejection, I hve to say it sucks no matter when. 😦
    As an editor, I sent rejects out at the end of the year because I knew that a lot of people (myself included) do year-end tallies, and it’s better to know that to have something carry over, unless the carry-over is a positive “we’re going to wait and see” kind of thing.

    • Pretty much have to agree with … that rejections suck no matter when.
      In my case, the longer I’ve got to wait, the longer the hope builds up. Waiting is hard. I’d rather know, get the knowing of it over with, add another tick to the appropriate column for my tracking, and then either take the time to regroup and figure out where I went wrong, or just shove it back in the mail so I can start the waiting game all over again.

  12. I think getting a rejection letter right around whichever of the major December holidays would be hard. This time of year is really rough on a lot of folks. If possible, I’d wait until just before the New Year – and then, maybe take a few extra minutes to make a few suggestions as to how the author could improve the draft. I think that would soften the pain.

  13. I’d rather have the rejection. I’d even rather have it on a major holiday. Especially if it’s been awhile and I’m starting to think I’ve gotten lost in PO limbo.
    You never know what’s going to be going on in someone’s life. If you wait for after Christmas, you may send it so it arrives on their birthday, on their wedding anniversary, on the day their beloved relative dies, in the week they have finals at school or a big presentation at work…you just can’t know. I’d just send ’em out.

  14. Personally, I’d much rather get the rejection during the holidays. Then I have that time, when I can’t get much writing done anyway, to regroup. Also, given the long waiting times (not necessarily yours but elsewhere), the sooner the better.

  15. I’d rather know sooner than later, but I’d also rather not get rejections on Christmas itself. (That happened to me last year — oh, the glories of email. *g* )

  16. This is really interesting, as it seems to be evenly split. I honestly think it depends on the author (which helps you not at all). Personally I’d like to know. I try to be realistic and prepared for rejection, and I love the holidays so it’s unlikely to get me too far down.
    I am also Instant Gratification Woman, and want to know NOW NOW NOW. Even if it’s bad news, I want to know as soon as possible.

  17. I would rather KNOW. But then, all I’ve had so far are short story rejections, and those don’t generally ruin more than a half an hour at most–certainly not my whole day. 🙂 If I had gotten so far as to have an agent ask for more of my manuscript, that would probably be enough to send me over the moon for the holiday. Heck, rewrite requests still make my day.

  18. The sooner the better. I hate waiting.

  19. I’d rather know as soon as possible; not knowing is far worse than rejection. But then again, I have a hide like rhino skin where it comes to rejection, so I’m probably not typical. *g*

  20. Thinking about this some more: if I were in another business–say, building construction; and I’d put in a large bid, and the company hiring had chosen to go with someone else–neither of us would expect the company to wait until after the holidays to tell me so. That would be unprofessional: because we both have businesses to run, and I’d have other building contracts to look for, so I’d need to know so I could begin strategizing, rather than remaining on hold and losing business as a result.
    We all tend to think about writing in more emotional terms, but I’m not sure the logic would really be much different. It’s a business, for you and for the writer.

    • I read through most of the replies, and Janni puts it best for my opinion as well — if you’re a writer, rejections are just part of the business. And since it is a business, it should be treated as such — not wanting to receive a rejection just before a holiday is not really treating the whole affair professionally, but rather emotionally. And besides, for me, that’d give me a good couple of weeks at least to send it out again.

    • Being in building/construction, *g* is correct. Give me the news now, let me move forward.

  21. Just getting a response would be helpful, regardless of timing.

  22. I once picked up a novel rejection at the post office on my way out of town to celebrate my birthday. It sucked, but there you are.
    I’d say send the rejections and the acceptances, same like you always do. Trying to second-guess when — or if, or which — people are more fragile is a losing game.

  23. In the spring of 1999, an editor requested a novel MS from me. He emailed a few months later to say he’d been really busy but hoped to get to it “by fall.” I’ve heard from him since about other things, but for whatever reason (maybe he didn’t want to spoil my Christmas?) he’s never mentioned the MS. Did he lose it? Hate it? Or has he still not read it? I finally gave up and sent it elsewhere, but the not knowing still bugs me.
    My vote — send the letter now so the writer can either start reworking the MS or send it elsewhere.

  24. I vote for timing it so they get it at the beginning of a new year, rather than in time to wreck Christmas. 🙂

  25. I’d rather know as soon as the agent decides. But then, I don’t do a lot of family gathering over the holidays so I wouldn’t get the “I told you you’d never do it” remarks. I also hope my family wouldn’t say something so mean!
    But yeah. I’d rather know. 🙂

  26. Well, speaking as someone who wrote a novel, sent out queries, and had an agent request a partial a few weeks ago…
    …I’d rather know sooner. I’m going to be bummed no matter when the rejection comes, and I don’t think the holidays will make it any better or worse. And the sooner I know it’s been bounced, the sooner I can deal with it and get on with the next step, which is sending queries to the next few agents on my list 🙂

  27. I’d rather know.
    Besides, given the inevitable Mail Delays (T.M. of U.S.P.S.) over the Holidays, even if you intend for the news to arrive before the Holidays, it may not actually arrive until after anyway!

  28. I’d just as soon know now. That way I can tell everybody what a fool the agent (or editor) is, at Christmas. 🙂

  29. I’m with the “send it out” people. Better to get it over with, include it in your year-end calculations and start again in January. It really does seem to be a split between “writing as emotional endeavor” and “writing as business.” I guess I fall into the latter camp. Once that story leaves your hands, it’s business, baby, and the sooner people learn that, the better.

  30. Don’t torture me! Just reject me, quick-like. I’ll live. And my time is precious. 🙂

  31. While I think it’s nothing short of amazing that you’re putting this much thought into it (and kind thought at that), I have to point out that you can’t control how someone takes the news, so you may as well deliver it on your own time schedule.

  32. I’m in the Sooner Rather Than Later camp. And…I agree that if all it takes is a rejection to ruin one’s holidays, well…I think that’s an issue for the writer to deal with, not the agent or editor.

  33. Timing of reject
    I’m only adding this because no one else seemed to, but if the writer researched you, they’d have a reasonable sense of your turnaround. They chose to submit at this time. They’ll be expecting the response. Withholding it only raises expectations as some have said. Remember that they set up the timing. You should not try to protect writers from themselves, especially when for all you know, they might not celebrate anything and might use December to get work done that they can’t normally because everyone else is making demands.
    MarFisk (not an lj member yet, but maybe someday :))

  34. You realize that every writer on earth from whom you requested a partial and to whom you have not yet responded is now on tenterhooks, writhing in agony, going “I know it’s me! I know it’s me!”
    Cruel woman.
    Of course you realize that….

  35. Since the worst part about publishing is the wait, I would prefer to know immediately, regardless of Holidays.

  36. I think if there’s any chance that the author is on lj, or knows someone who reads lj – then, might as well put them out of their misery now.
    Rejection might spoil the holiday for them. But they might as well get used to that possibility now – because it could as well be editorial rejection, or an editorial letter on their novel that finds fault with the plot, or bad sales figures, or realising the year’s nearly over and there’s a deadline coming and their writing sucks rocks… Most bad news is going to come when it comes – might as well be getting used to it.
    Christmas is fairly busy, and people can at least get drunk or tearful without drawing too much comment :o). That lull just after, when there’s no more treats, nothing on TV, and everything back to normal… probably just as bad a time for a rejection to arrive.

    • For me, I’d like to know before. The holidays give me a chance to get the writerly house in order, and with the new year comes a renewed sense of purpose, new energy, etc. Getting a reject a few days into my “renewed sense of purpose” might put a damper on things. 🙂
      (And if I were an agent, I think I’d feel the same way about cleaning house before the new year.)
      But I also agree there doesn’t seem to be any perfect answer. It’ll be up to the individual who receives it.

  37. I would rather know sooner.
    It seems cruel to let hope build up, especially over the holidays. Also, a lot of people have time over Christmas to regroup that they won’t have once the New Year starts.

  38. Imagine? Heck, been there, still waiting
    Hi Jennifer, and Happy Holidays, from a newbie lurker and curious wannabe.
    Speaking as one who has been waiting to hear an agent’s answer for almost a year (and is considering a follow up letter), I say send the letter now. It is better to know than to wait.

  39. Dear Arcaedia,
    If you start being so preemptively nice, you’re going to make all agents look like big meanies in comparison. I say Now. But try not to spend any more time worrying about this kind of thing and save your energy so you’ll love my friend’s book when you get it.
    Your friend,

  40. Huh. Tricky.
    Me, personally? After, I think. But knowing that half the industry is as absent during December as they are during the summer, I’d probably take that time to prep some more submissions anyway. I’m all thorough, and whatnot.
    (BTW, check your home PO box this weekend. I’ve sent you a nummy treat and it’s not chocolate…)

  41. From a business perspective, the sooner, the better.
    From an emotional perspective:
    During the holidays, I have the holidays to cheer me up. After the holidays, there is the post-holiday hangover slump to make me feel rotten. I’d rather have one lump of coal amidst my Yule-parties and good cheer than get it during the wretched doldrum that is January. (And I’m not just saying this because if you didn’t mail me something because of Christmas, I’d likely get it on my birthday.)
    If I get it sooner, I can go into the New Year with a resolution to revise. Nothing dampens a New Year resolution to do better at the writing business this year than a rejection in the first week of January, although I suppose two would be worse. (Personally I greet even rejections with a sort of relief; the waiting is the worst. Besides, a bigger stack of rejections makes me feel like a Real Author.)
    Then again, don’t ruin your own holidays by overwork. Send them if they’re done, but don’t feel obliged to push to clear your desk when you should be enjoying the season.

  42. I lean towards “after” — I’m as impatient as the next writer, but adding on the suspicion that the recipient just wanted your submission cleared off their desk so they could have an untroubled holiday is a bit more demoralizing than it needs to be. (Not to mention that I’m the sort who would hold off on mailing anything business-related during the xmas crunch season for fear of it winging off to Santa…)

  43. Following up
    FWIW, just received a rejection from an editor, delivered by UPS, no less. (Yes, I included a SASE, why they didn’t use it, I’m not sure.) And I’m still functioning. 🙂
    Interesting R, all in all. Actually, it begs the question of what exactly does this editor mean, since the last two lines read:
    “I look forward to receiving submissions from you at a future time. Find a home at another publishing house.”
    Seemed kind of odd, the first line indicating that he thought my writing was good, but then telling me to find a home at another publishing house. *shrug*

  44. I think the best course is to not take the holiday into account at all. In other words, send them out when they’re done, rather than either rushing to get them done early or holding back to send them later.

  45. Rejection is hard to accept at any time of the year, but I think having a rejection notice come during the holidays would be even harder. I personally would prefer to get the notice after the new year, when I’m already depressed and there’s not as far to fall.

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