Rejection

Don’t Make These Post-Rejection Mistakes

My least favorite part of being a literary agent is saying no. Unfortunately, like my colleagues, I do it a lot. I review and, alas, reject dozens of submissions every month. (I prefer the word “decline,” but as a writer myself I know “rejection” feels more accurate to the recipient.) Rejection is hard. For writers. For agents. For editors.

Most of the time, when I or my assistant say, “no thank you,” we hear nothing further from the writer—until, perhaps, his or her next submission—which is absolutely fine. Sometimes we receive a short “thank you for your consideration” email in response, which is okay too (though not necessary, in my case, as I prefer fewer emails over more). But every once in a while, a writer will make a huge mistake in replying to a rejection, a mistake that all of us should avoid at all costs.

Here are three of the biggest mistakes you can make in response to a rejection, whether it came from an agent or an editor:

  1. Suggest (or say) that the agent/editor didn’t read your submission.

It always surprises me when someone says, like a would-be novelist a few weeks ago, “I’m sure you didn’t even read my submission.” Really? Why would an agent or editor, whose future prospects rely heavily on finding new talent, not open and read each new submission, expecting and hoping for gold? None of us is going to turn down something that is likely to make money.

To be fair, sometimes our review is like the cocky cowboy who, after the blacksmith warned him not to touch the horseshoe that had just come out of the fire, picked it up anyway and immediately dropped it. When the blacksmith said, “I told you it was hot,” the cowboy answered, “Naw, it just don’t take me long to look at a horseshoe.” Sometimes it doesn’t take us long to look at a submission before making a decision. But we look at them all.

  1. Call into question the agent/editor’s judgment.

One writer a few months ago responded to a rejection, “I’m not at all surprised, though I was hoping my work would broaden your scope of Christianity.”

If only.

Of course, we work in a highly subjective business; and what resonates with one agent (or editor) may not seem as promising to another. And believe me, you want an agent (or editor) who “gets you” and your work and sees the value of it. A rejection doesn’t mean you stink or your work stinks or the agent or editor stinks. Those possibilities are not all mutually exclusive, of course; but it’s never a good idea to tell an agent (or editor) that he or she is stupid, small-minded, or stinky.

  1. Get snarky.

Not long ago, I declined the opportunity to represent a writer whose proposal indicated virtually no platform, no reach or influence among the book-buying public. He responded by saying, “It’s okay. I’ve self-published three books that have each earned $300,000.” I inferred that he wanted me to regret my decision. I could be wrong. And his numbers could be accurate. But I’m skeptical on both points (especially since there was no mention of such success in his submission). I can only wish he had appended the rejoinder “your an idiot” to his email. That’s always fun.

 

Leave a Comment

Is Yours a Book or an Article?

The title question, “Is yours a book or an article?” comes up on a regular basis with nonfiction authors. Someone has lived an interesting life, survived a horrible disease, lost a precious loved one, suffered terribly (emotionally or physically) and feels led to write their story. But is it a …

Read More

4 Things I Learned from Rejection

Nobody likes to be rejected. Not middle-school dance attenders. Not job applicants. And definitely not writers. Unfortunately, however, rejection pretty much comes with the territory for writers—at least for writers who are brave enough to submit their work to agents or editors for publication. And it hurts. Every. Single. Time. …

Read More

Never Burn a Bridge!

The sale of Thomas Nelson to HarperCollins and last week’s sale of Heartsong to Harlequin brought to mind a critical piece of advice:

Never Burn a Bridge!

Ours is a small industry and both editors and authors move around with regularity. If you are in a business relationship and let your frustration boil into anger and ignite into rage…and let that go at someone in the publishing company, you may end up burning the bridge. And that person who you vented on might someday become the head of an entire publishing company.

Read More

Criticism Is an Unhappy Part of the Business

I would like to tell you about a most enjoyable day. Our agency’s guidelines request that unsolicited manuscripts come via the post (I know it’s old-school but it works for us), but we still receive e-mail submissions. I spent an entire morning going through that particular in-box, having an assistant send standard e-mail rejection letters, since none were anything our agency could/would handle.

Very soon I received three separate responses:

Read More

Even the Best Get Rejected

[/caption]

I’ve written about rejection before and yet it is a topic that continues to fascinate.

Recently Adrienne Crezo did an article on famous authors and their worst rejection letters. I thought you might enjoy reading a couple highlights of that article and some additional stories I have collected over the years.

George Orwell’s Animal Farm was rejected by Alfred Knopf saying it was “impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.A.”
Read More

Real Reasons Some Books are Rejected

Most authors and aspiring authors are open to direction and crave constructive comments to help them advance their craft and career. Hopefully, you have had a chance to be part of a good critique group which provided assistance in a manner you found energizing and helpful. When a book is …

Read More

When the Market Is Too Tight

Previously I posted about sending rejections saying the market is too tight as a reason for the decline. Let’s take a closer look. Subjective? “The market is too tight,” sounds objective, doesn’t it? As in, “There isn’t enough room for your book because no one is buying this type of …

Read More