Monday, March 27, 2006

Rejection Comments

First of all, thanks so much to everyone who has sent a question. We appreciate the enthusiastic response to our blog and want you to know we will answer the questions as time permits. Until then, remember you can also make comments if you like. Right now, here is our response to a question about rejection asked by several blogsters.

“Why do so many agents refuse to comment in their rejections? Form letters are so impersonal, and I need feedback to improve my work.”

The main reason agents don’t respond with comments used to be that they didn’t have time, and that is still true. We receive many queries a day, and it takes a great deal of time to read through them all.

However, now we find another reason that many agents have stopped commenting on writers’ submissions is that their rejections have been posted online without their permission on blogs, writer sites or forums. We have heard many of our friends in the business complain about this, and we happen to agree. The few manuscripts we did comment on now receive a standard rejection. This is as hard on us as it is on the writer, because there are times we really, really want to point out a weakness that can be easily fixed, but we refrain from this because we don’t want our correspondence posted or our words twisted and thrown back at us.

We are often challenged when we include observations along with our rejections, even though what we write is just the opinion of one agent among hundreds. Sometimes we receive an appreciative note in return, which is nice but not necessary, but others return nastiness for our efforts. Because of this, for the most part, we now respond with short, very neutral, one-line rejections. We tried to be helpful when we could, but it seemed like we got more harsh responses than anything when we wrote extra notes.

One last item: If you are in the stage of your career where you are querying agents, then you should be beyond needing their feedback to make your work publishable. If you are using agent or editor feedback for anything other than gauging the markets, it is time to consider whether your work is ready to submit.


NL Gassert said...

In that case, thank you again for your kind words and gentle critique. I appreciate the time (and risk) you took.

Larkspur said...

Everyone in my critique group depends on those letters from agents to fix their work. Every week it seems like someone brings in a rejection and we all try to figure out what it means. We never really do. I get the feeling that most of the time they are filled with standard party lines, but I could be wrong.

Nice blog.

freek49 said...

I know I have problems with my query, but how much does a query overshadow the actual writing? You have said that the writing always counts but what good is a great book if no one actually reads it?

DanStrohschein said...

I agree with you on this point. It's sad that it only takes a few to ruin it for the rest of us, but I can understand the decision. Sometimes though, it takes a pair of well trained and industry biased eyes to see what's wrong with a manuscript. First time authors don't necessarily know when something is ready for submission or not. But then again, I am one of the people who sends thank you cards even after I am rejected.

Anonymous said...

First time ever on (any!) blog and I'm glad I did this, because it seems quite helpful. In my wildest dreams I'd never "depend" on rejection comments from an agent but the few times I've gotten unsolicited input it's made my day. Surely nobody expects agents to have more time than the rest of us? Sign me: Ann

Shelly said...

Three questions:
I don't understand why the issue (rejections posted online without their permission on blogs, writer sites or forums) is a problem.
1-Why don't you want your correspondence posted?
2- Have the "harsh responses" increased disproportionately?
3- Did the number of "harsh responses" coincide with your posting of "bad" query letters?