But They Missed the Point!

Sometimes rejection letters reveal that the reviewer may have missed the point of an author’s proposal.

Upon rejecting a novel:

Dear Author:

Thank you for your submission. However, we are not seeking memoirs at this time.

Or, upon rejecting a book of satire:

Dear Esteemed Academic:

Thank you for allowing us to review your dissertation on the merits of Hades. However, in October, we have plans to publish “Sheol” by recognized authority S. A. Tan so we will decline your submission with regret.

The misunderstood author wants to (and just might) scream, “NOOOOOO!!!!!”

A maligned writer’s first impulse may be to type:

Dear Clueless Reviewer:

I can’t believe I received a rejection letter from you! You don’t get the book, or me, at all. Any idiot can see that 365 Ways to Cook Your Goose is NOT a devotional collection, but a REALLY, REALLY FUNNY work of art! I mean, wasn’t the picture of myself wearing a Mother Goose outfit, sitting in a huge skillet, a real hoot? Like, I went to A LOT of trouble and expense and bribed a friend (with an apple pie made from scratch) to take those photos. They took all afternoon to perfect! Any moron can discern that you do NOT have a sense of humor! I am going to find your CEO on Facebook and talk to him directly! And let me tell you this: You will NOT be receiving an apple pie from me! Ever!

A more reserved but unappreciated author might write:

Dear Reviewer:

Thank you for your reply. I’m afraid your rejection was sent in error, however. My book, which I thought I had pitched as a collection of humorous essays, is not meant to be used for devotional reading but for entertainment. Will you please give my book another chance and review it with fresh eyes?

You can choose to write either letter or move on to the next agent. That’s your choice, although I don’t recommend pressing “send” on the first version. Speaking only for myself, my office is not infallible; and we can misinterpret an author’s intention. As an agent, once I start working with an author, part of my job is to be sure, to the best of my ability, that an author’s work is presented to editors as the author wishes readers to perceive it. In the meantime, conversation with authors who want to work with me smooths the way. As an aspiring writer, why not make as many fans as you can along the way?

Leave a Comment

Why Was My Submission Rejected?

From Day One as a big, important literary agent, the least favorite part of my job—by far—has been saying no. It’s the worst. And it makes me feel like I’m the worst. Feel sorry for me yet? Seriously, the process of reviewing one submission after another, expecting to find one …

Read More

Ready for Pushback?

Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you (1 John 3:13, NIV). One of the lovely aspects (I’m kidding) of ubiquitous communication in our world today is that nothing goes out without a comment in return. Positive and negative comments abound. Something written in passing or …

Read More

Am I on a Deadline?

Many authors submit book proposals to agents and editors with the thought, If this doesn’t work, I’ll self-publish. That plan is reasonable. However, when strategizing your career, consider the timeline. As an agency, we set a time frame to respond to author queries. Often, we miss our stated deadline. In …

Read More

Say the Right Thing

Writers use words well. That may seem obvious, but—judging from some of the submissions I get from aspiring writers—it’s worth stating. Sure, one man’s métier is another man’s poison, but I’m regularly amazed at the ability of some writers to write the wrong word, so to speak, in submitting work …

Read More

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.) …

Read More

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