Monday, May 21, 2012

Decoding the Rejection Letter


I’m a firm believer in celebrating small victories. You have to find the success even in the bad, or you’re in for a long, hard ride.

One thing I’ve noticed in my fabulous querying adventure is seeing the positive in the negative. It’s there, even though the all around answer may be no.

So how does one decode a rejection letter? Well first, you have to know and be aware of the different types of rejection. There are all kinds of clues that tell you a great deal with how close you are to landing an agent. Let’s list them, shall we? (And if I leave any out, please feel free to add in the comments)

No response: The worst kind, in my opinion, is the no response means no. I get that agents are *insanely* busy, but I have so much respect for agents that respond, even if it takes them a while. (I just got a R on a full from my first novel I sent last May! Yes, a year later, but it was a response, regardless)

Standard form letter: I think early queriers can’t tell the difference between a form letter and an agent’s actual input. You catch on pretty fast, but here is a classic example:

Dear Author,
Thank you very much for giving us the opportunity to read your submission.  We appreciate you considering us for representation of your project. Unfortunately, after careful review, we have decided that we might not be the right agency for your work.  This industry is incredibly subjective, and there are many agencies out there with many different tastes.  It is for this reason that we strongly encourage you to keep submitting elsewhere, in the hopes of finding an agent who will be an enthusiastic champion for you and your work.

And there are different sub-types of a form letter. Some insert your name or the title of your book around the form, others just send off the “Dear Author” letter. Again, not the kind of rejection you want to get, but better than a no response. (IMO)

The other day, I got a form, but at the end of the letter, the agent had written in: “What a cool concept! And the writing is fantastic!” ßThose two sentences made my whole day, LOL. It means you’re not way off base, but just have a product that the agent isn’t looking for at that time.

A short, but polite, “No, thank you.” I actually prefer these to the form letter. It makes me feel more like a person instead of another number that’s flooding the agent’s inbox.

Detailed reason for the “no.” These are the best. We’re in this business to improve, and to get even just a glimpse into the agent’s reason for the no means the world to us slushpilers.

**Unless your detailed response doesn’t make sense. I once had an agent tell me that she was rejecting my novel because she didn’t like openings that started off with a dream. Er… My novel DIDN’T have a single dream in it, LOL! I know that’s a big no, no. I wouldn’t EVER do that. It was fine though. I just figured she had accidentally sent me the wrong letter or she was half-dreaming herself. *smile*

Now there are different variations to this. If it’s a query, a simple: “I’m not looking for fantasy now” is great. Or even better, if it’s on requested material, the reasoning behind the no is like gold. Which leads us into:

The Encouraging rejection. This of course is what we all want. (As far as rejections go) We authors have egos. And heh, sometimes they need to be fed. If they’re not, it’s soooo easy to slip into a rejection depression. Which is why, the other day when I got an encouraging phrase that said, “I have no doubt you will find an agent soon that will share your vision for this novel.” Followed by some compliments, I could smile on the rejection, because I know that those small words—even though it was a no—are a mini success.

I know in the ballet world, when a teacher is giving you corrections, it means that she/he sees potential there. It’s the same in the writing world. So the more detailed rejection you can get, the closer you are.

What do you think? These are of course just my opinions, whether to rationalize my own feelings, or to create a coping mechanism for my own sanity. Regardless, I’d love to hear about your rejection letter experiences!

Red. Head. Out. :D

 ***Oh! And I must give a special shout out to EJ Wesley and Andrea for their kind shout outs to me this week. They both rock. Go check out their sites and say hi! 

41 comments:

  1. Oh, I just got one of those wonderful encouraging rejections like last week and I've read it about 50 times cuz it made my day, even though it was a no.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Encouragement is definitely a good thing! :D It won't be long before someone snaps you up - I know it!

    ReplyDelete
  3. My FAVORITE form rejection was -

    Thanks, but this was not for me.

    No dear author, no signed by... nothing. Awesome.

    Someone said the stages of querying - especially when you start when you THINK you're ready, but not actually ready are -

    form rejection
    nice rejection
    partial, then rejection
    full, then rejection
    many fulls, and revise and resubmit
    sign

    This was DEFINITELY true for me.

    But - yanno. I know other people who happened to have a cousin who's an agent at Trident, and someone else who went to college from someone at Writer's House, so yanno... not EVERYONE slogs through the query trenches the way I did.

    ReplyDelete
  4. WOW. I just looked up at my comment, and it was a bit ridiculous. Good thing I don't pay by the line...

    ReplyDelete
  5. I've never gotten a single rejection because.... I've never submitted anything! :D But I can't wait to get my first batch of rejections. I'll give me something to post lol! I was wondering though, why is it a "big no, no" to open a story with a dream? I haven't done that in my wip, but I am curious.

    ReplyDelete
  6. i think out of the 10 rejects i've received, 1 has been a good one...i try not to dwell on them!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Some rejections do come with helpful or encouraging advice. Funny about the one that didn't like the dream sequence.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thanks for the shout out!

    Constructive/positive feedback is always better than flat out rejection. I don't have much experience with submitting my work yet, so this is all new to me :)

    Andrea

    ReplyDelete
  9. Too bad about the agent who rejected your book because of the dream it didn't have. It's good you can take it in stride. I haven't had any rejections yet (only because I haven't queried yet) but hopefully this guide will help me keep it in perspective. As an optimist I'm hoping for lots of the encouraging rejections.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Excellent! (I had to giggle at the 'dream' intro too...). :)

    Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Morgan, I actually prefer the "no response" to a query. Perhaps it is because I have been querying for so long that I would just rather not have to open an email unless it is a request to see more of my work. But on a full or a partial, I appreciate (and expect) a response. Eventhough I have had a "no response" after a full request before (twice). Good post. :)

    ReplyDelete
  12. Have you tried online publishing? That's how I sell my books. They're online e-books and it's been super successful. There's even websites that will host your book for sale and take care of the promotion for a % of each sale.

    Keep writing!

    ReplyDelete
  13. It make sense and it's a great way to view the rejection letters. It's better to analyze than despair.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I'm in the process of collecting all the different kinds of rejection letters. By far my least favorite is the "no response". I know agents are super busy but some nagging part of me says that not responding is just a tiny bit rude. IMHO.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I like the short and sweet rejections over the form rejects. I also love when they give feedback, but since I haven't queried in a while, I haven't gotten too many things to go off of (I think I only queried about twenty people last time before I pulled my project and decided I wanted to work on something else ...)

    ReplyDelete
  16. You are dead on with this assesment. I long for the day when I get a detailed rejection! Glad to hear you are on the right path.

    ReplyDelete
  17. This is so helpful, Morgan. I haven't started querying yet, but I'm hoping that I'll receive some good encouraging comments once I do :-) You're awesome Morgan, you'll land an agent soon!

    ReplyDelete
  18. I'm dying to send out my first query, but I'm still not ready. In the meantime, your posts are so insightful and I'm glad you're sharing your experience. This makes me think of an article I read about getting the positive out of a rejection. I'm cheering for you in the meantime! :)

    ReplyDelete
  19. I honestly think that querying is the worst way to get an agent. I know several authors who are agented and they all did it by attending conferences and making a personal pitch/getting to know said agent. I think anymore that if you want success, you should attend a conference. Just my two cents. But your logic on the query examples is spot on. And to be clear, I think if you attended a conference, you'd have an agent before the fall. You're just that good. Best of luck trying to get noticed in the landslide of 50,000 emails to an email box per month.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I've received some amazingly encouraging rejections and you're right. They give you the ooomph to keep on writing!

    ReplyDelete
  21. I love the detailed rejection letter. At least the person had the time to respond with some words of encouragement of constructive criticism.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Rejections are the worst. And once you get an agent, you still get them! They're just a little more polite. ;)

    Hang in there. Your agent is out there. I'm here if you need anything!

    ReplyDelete
  23. I agree, Morgan! In this field, we have to find encouragement wherever we can. :)

    ReplyDelete
  24. your so right Morg, seek the positive from the negative every time....we small overcome:)

    ReplyDelete
  25. Congratulations on that encouraging rejection, Morgan!!

    ReplyDelete
  26. I just submitted my first, 2 weeks ago, after pitching at a convention. I'll let you know when I get a response. If it does end up being a rejection, I hope it's one of those good ones. I am just trying not to think about it right now.

    ReplyDelete
  27. My least-favorite was one that simply said "No, thank you." That struck me as rather rude and unprofessional, after I'd taken the time to write a decent query and mention to the agent that she'd repped a couple of books I'd loved when I was younger, "No, thank you" seems the kind of thing you say to a friend or acquaintance, not the entirety of a business letter!

    I've liked the few personal rejections I've gotten, including one from an agent who took the time to find my query in her spam box after seeing a question I posed on a message board re: whether no response meant no from her or if I should consider resending after so much time.

    ReplyDelete
  28. What a great post, Morgan, and so very true! You have to see all the small victories on the way to your ultimate victory. There are so many reasons why an agent doesn't bite and most of them have little to do with your writing. It's all about timing really (commercial potential,what they represent already, and how much time they have available for a new author). It sounds like you're doing everything right and hopefully it will be your time soon!

    ReplyDelete
  29. I don't mind rejections. Like you I prefer some kind of response over none at all. At least that way I know for sure.

    ReplyDelete
  30. How sad have we become when we start looking forward to the encouraging rejection letter? :)

    And yes...the no response means no...SUCKS!

    ReplyDelete
  31. I really enjoy seeing all these different versions of rejection lined out. I love it when people take time to give you concrete feedback on why they're passing. It definitely helps you grow as a writer!

    ReplyDelete
  32. Morg! You're so stinking awesome! For real! And this post is amazing. I totally hate the "no response" too. Those are terrible. Even if it's a simple "no, thank you" I totally appreciate the few seconds it took to type that. And... FYI... I have no doubt that you'll find an agent soon too! And how crazy is it to get a request a year later? WOW! That's awesome!

    ReplyDelete
  33. This is an excellent way to break down the rejection/querying process. I've had my share of rejection letters and frankly never looked at it like this. But what I think is cooler is now more than ever, rejections don't have to sting so much because authors have other options with publishing.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Well, I believe the best way to face rejection is to consider it as the most likely conclusion to my attempt at seeking success. That's to me the only way to keep safe and guarded against the rejection depression. Even because, like you pointed out, being rejected doesn't mean your work is not valid. Besides, that is an extremely subjective domain.
    So, cheer up and try again with different agents!
    But I totally agree with you: the no response is the worst!

    ReplyDelete
  35. I've sent out one query in my life, and it was to an editor from Penguin I met at Dragon*Con in 2006. I never heard back. So, that is to say, I really have nothing to add.

    ReplyDelete
  36. I love a shout out to a shout out, Morgan. It's like doing the bird call in a club, "Woo Woo!" :)

    I'm with you on the small victories. Sometimes they're all you get. For long stretches. For really, really looonnnggg fricken stretches. The no response would drive me nuts. Bad business all the way around.

    A simple 'no thanks' would be awesome.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Way to go on pegging down all the different types of rejections. I hate the no response ones. Ugh! I have a good feeling you are going to be getting "The Call" anytime now, dear friend. Woot!

    ReplyDelete
  38. I'm still working on my first draft but this post was very beneficial to me. Now, that I have been educated on the different forms of rejection letters and to find the positive in them, there might be a teeny tiny chance that I won't get depressed about it. I will still shed a few tears though and probably wish the agent a horrible case of diarrhea.

    ReplyDelete
  39. I'm learning how to process rejections letters. So far, only forms have come my way and surprisingly they don't sting a bit. They do worry me I'll run out agents to send material to though :)
    You won the copy of Shatter Me from me on Falling For Fiction! Email me your address so I can have it sent to you :) Have a good weekend Morgan!!

    ReplyDelete
  40. This post is a great reminder that art requires criticism to perfect. Rejections can be opportunities to strengthen our work, and they can also remind us when we're on the right tract. :)

    ReplyDelete
  41. Morgan, I think it is great that you can smile in the face of the rejections! I like Charmaine's comment above and Michael has a good point!

    ReplyDelete

 
There was an error in this gadget

Search Away

Follow by Email

Site design by: The Blog Decorator