First of all, if you’re going to argue with a rejection, don’t.
Second, if you are going to argue with a rejection, don’t.
This happens to me all the time. And on top of arguing with rejection, I get other replies…. I’m not sure if they are supposed to induce me to change my mind about my decision. Or just make me feel that my decision was incorrect.
I particularly like the ones where people reply to tell me how many other agents have requested their project after I have politely declined to pursue it. I got one of these last week. (Just as an aside, I’m already well aware that other agents might have different taste than I do. It’s really not a huge surprise since even my closest friends and I don’t always agree on the books we’re reading.)
Or the ones where they explain how awful I will feel when their book is published and a best-seller with a movie deal.
I’m also fond of the ones with the swearing and insults unto several generations of my family. (This used to remind me of the people on the street who ask for money and then start cursing at you when you walk past. It has definitely made me change my mind and give them a $20 to shut them up. No…. wait….)
Granted, this is a teensy tiny percentage with respect to queries received and responded to. Most people send either a sincere thank-you or nothing at all. Either of those is fine by me. But the others do tend to leave a sour taste in the mouth.
As for me, I agree that rejection sucks. I just had to write the hardest letter last week. I really liked the author (this was a conference request). And I found the concept utterly charming. But there were flaws in the execution, and I didn’t think I could sell the book. (This is really summing up.) I struggled with that letter. Truly. Heck, I even hate sending form replies to queries. Somewhere in there, part of my brain (the crazy part my side-kick would say) wants to offer personal feedback to everything. I think this is part and parcel to the fact that one of my favorite parts of being an agent is working with my clients on the creative things. It’s a rush to watch a project develop or to see a suggestion I make spark a creative storm. And seeing the writers grow over the span of several books. I just love that part.
So, yeah — rejection sucks. But that’s no excuse for rude behavior.
But that’s no excuse for rude behavior.
Unless they start it!
Not that you’re rude.
It is unfortunate that being a professional means you’re not allowed to send a reply on the theme of “You may someday learn to write, but perhaps you should invest that time with a good shrink instead.”
It reminds me of the time we got a response to a form slush reject that claimed (in aa scrawl on the corner of the original form letter) that the book we so crassly rejected had sold for a large sum (I don’t remember if they specified six figures or not) to another genre house within days of our foolish rejection.
The writer didn’t seem to realize that, um, we probably would have heard about this amazing new acquisition via the slush, at some point, SF editorial being an even smaller and more gossipy group than SF writers…
It’s a rush to watch a project develop or to see a suggestion I make spark a creative storm. *mutter*
I got a rejection from one agency and a request for a full from another. I sent a thank you note to the one who rejected with a comment that another had requested it. However, I did so to let them know that without the great info. they generously provided on their agent blog, I may not have gotten that far with the other agency.
You will feel awful when my book is a best-seller with a movie deal!
How do you feel about someone querying you after getting turned down by another person in your own agency? Do you share queries at DMLA?
I like that – not arguing with rejection. I’m going to keep that one in mind:) I’ve never argued with an actual person over it because that feels insane and defensive to me, but I have argued with myself about a few of them. I know my work/style is not for everyone so I try to look at it that way and thank GOD over the years, the form letters did slow down and the “yes” pile got bigger.
But now you’ve just gone and ruined any post-rejection plans I had! Jeez. Oh well, I’ve got time – my novel won’t be done for another year at least.
Some rejections are earned.
My query letter has been rejected three times. Most recently by you. However, not the same query letter. Each rejection has inspired me to improve the letter. I can’t change the concept of the book — so the only option is changing the way I present the idea.
Reading about the process from your perspective helped cushion the blow of receiving a form letter, but at the same time I can’t help but feel a little extra disappointment because I feel as though I’ve been rejected by someone I would really enjoy working with.
It is a bit frustrating to have a 100,000 word novel judged by a one page letter, and I regret not including a sample, but that’s a lesson learned.
The query letter I mail today will be better than the one you rec’d, and I’ll include a few sample pages, so at least my next rejection might be based on the substance of the book and not the very unusual high-concept — but that’s kinda scary.
I can handle being rejected by a blind date based on an initial, brief encounter; but getting rejected by someone when they get to know you a little better cuts a little deeper.
This advice applies critique groups also. The only appropriate response to criticism is “Thank you.” After all, the critiquer just gave the writer a gift of their time and thought. Even if the writer disagrees with the critiquer’s opinions, the only appropriate response to a gift is “Thank you.”
Ironically, even if the writer think the critiquer has an agenda and is a fundamentally toxic person, a polite “thank you” is the fastest and least painful way to end one’s interaction with such a person.
Yeah, rejections do suck for writers. For anyone, for that matter. It’s best not to respond or just thank the agent—nothing more.
Hee. Has this actually happened, do you have one of those “I turned down J K Rowling” stories? Yet? (If not, it will come. The interesting question is whether you’ll still feel you were right to turn them down…)
I don’t think this has happened to met yet. At least not on the best-seller scale. And even if it does, I will probably think I made the right decision. That writer obviously needed to be with the agent who had the right combination of enthusiasm, contacts, and so on to get them that deal. If I turned it down, it was because I didn’t love it enough to be that person.
I think that’s the ideal position; I do wonder how hard it would be to cling to, in the face of a mammoth success. (My last agent has premises one street over from Christopher Little; he has been heard to mutter, “Why didn’t Rowling send HP to me, instead of him…?” As you say – and as of course he knows – it really is all about specific enthusiasm and contacts and such, and the whole HP thing might never have happened if Rowling had gone to him; but even so…)
Believe it or not there are agents who turned down Grisham (I know one of them, and this agent is doing very well in spite of that).
But more to the point, writers need to realize it’s all subjective. And, the only need to thank an agent is when they offer helpful comments along with the rejection. Those comments, even though it’s a rejection, are like gold.
And that it is not personal at the time that’s it is subjective. 🙂
…someone has to supply the “thems (the evil you’s)” who are preventing fabulous writerly wealth and fame with snarky gossip material…
I particularly liked Bear’s line about – you know we TALK to each other – that brought up an image of someone’s head being used as a bowling ball – perfect for Halloween, of course…
If all writers were genteel and civil and respectful and well behaved, just think how boring things would get…
I’m not sure if they are supposed to induce me to change my mind about my decision. Or just make me feel that my decision was incorrect.
I think it’s because they don’t realize or can’t accept that whether you accept their novel is beyond their control. You have to realize that after a certain point, things ARE out of your hands, or you’re going to drive yourself and others nuts, and do silly things like argue with editors and agents over the fact that they didn’t accept your fiction. All you can do as a writer is to write the best stuff you can, act like a professional when submitting, and just keep plugging away.
I’m curious, is it ever a good idea to reply to a rejection at all?
For my vote, no, never.
I’ve replied to email rejects, thanking the person for their time. I think that’s OK. Just common courtesy.
Wow, what a letter. Thanks for sharing that.
Intent, Desire for Help, and Words as Children
When new to submitting, I made the mistake of writing back and asking for some feedback. The agent took my reply as a rude rebuff. It wasn’t framed that way, and it wasn’t meant that way. They took it further and used it as a bad example on their blog. They misrepresented my email.
I learned valuable lessons. I’ve never replied to another rejection unless it contained significant and helpful comments. Even then, I’ve been selective. I have a short list of the truly helpful that provided feedback. An editor at Harlequin made suggestions that changed my first chapter. A comment from Baen kept me going when I was about to quit. Miss Snark has my eternal gratitude. Rachael Vater’s hand written two paragraphs at the end of a rejection letter contained some pithy suggestions. I took them all. It was painful, but it worked. So, my book found a home and comes out next year.
I learned not to be an idiot … sorta. I learned that my comments can easily be misconstrued. I learned that submitting anything else to the agent in question would be stupid. We could never work together because she is rude. And of course, I never am. … Well, so I am sometimes. But I wasn’t to her.
I sell antiquarian books online. I receive unusual emails, some of them quite irritating. If they contain a question, I answer it directly and ignore any inclination to take offense. Many of my clients are from lands other than the United States, and one can easily mistake intent. I pretend the attitude I detect isn’t there. Often it isn’t. A good practice is to presume the best about people. Look for the best motive. It’s not unusual for those struggling to want help. I get emails like that all the time, especially from academics.
Writers forget that their words aren’t their babies. And believe me; writing isn’t at all like labour! Well not too much like it anyway. The pains are all in other places. Your words aren’t your children. The agent doesn’t hate your children, and they may not even hate what you wrote. They may only feel they can’t sell it.
Most of my rejections from publishers this last year were on the order of “this is great; but we don’t sell this.” Two of those asked for “something else.” And then I got the magic email! Yipeee. For the agents who took the time to write helpful comments, I am very grateful.
A couple of weeks back I received a form rejection from Ms Jackson on the same day the “What we’re looking for” list was posted here. In a fit of just-rejected pique I left comment on the lines of “But … but … that’s what my premise was!”
I instantly regretted it. I’m embarrassed to think about it now, and I’ll know in future to think before posting anything like that again. But at least I can feel a little bit better because I didn’t do anything like that person did.
Newsflash: I’m a writer and I don’t like rejections.
At this point I should be surprising nobody. Having said that, I don’t want to try and convince an agent who rejected my submission to try and take on the project. I haven’t got an agent yet, but I know one thing about the agent I’m going to get. They’re going to be enthusiastic about my work, and about me. If I didn’t spark that enthusiasm, I’m not going to manufacture it. It’s not going to happen.
I’d rather have an agent who may not have the best track record in the business but is excited about my work and really wants to push it, than to have someone with a stellar record who’s only going through the motions. I’ll start at the top, but the agent I want is the one with the fire.
I just don’t understand why anyone would want to burn bridges. Not only is it rude, it’s dumb.
Stupidity is almost as innate in humans as the desire to tell stories, and may predate it.
I’m an IT director so I get tons of emails with questions about this, that, and the other thing. When I fix something and email the person to let them know, I just hate getting “Thank you” replies, probably because it’s just another email I have to open and make sure something else hasn’t fallen apart.
That said, I never reply to rejections. There’s no sense in it, IMO. I really hate rejection, because I’m a very competitive person and hate to lose, but in this biz, there are no set rules. No sense in gumming up the works with emails that aren’t work related.
Just discovered your blog and love it. Very interesting and informative!
Talk about a smoking gun.