Monday, August 19, 2013

Agency Lessons: Responding to rejection

Okay, let me start by apologizing. I'm about to step up on my soap box. I fully realize that the vast majority of you, my fabulous readers, already know all of this and I'll be preaching to the choir. Maybe I'm hoping you'll help me spread the word, because clearly there are writers out there who don't get it yet.

My Soap Box
When I became an agent, I had to decide what kind of agent I wanted to be. Obviously, a good one, but I needed to be clear in how I would conduct myself.

There are lots of agents who have a "no response means no" policy. And that is fine for them. I completely understand why an agent would go with that route. There are other agents who respond to all queries, but mostly send a form rejection when they are going to pass on a query. Again, there is nothing wrong with this.

I am a writer and have spent my fair share of time in the query trenches. The handful of personalized rejections I've received have been priceless. Even a few lines can mean the world when you're desperate for professional feedback.

And that's why I choose to send personalized feedback whenever possible. Sometimes a project just doesn't feel right to me and there really isn't much more I can say about it. But for the most part, I try to give a line or two of feedback that lets the writer know some of the reasons I'm not requesting pages.

When I get responses to these rejections, they are overwhelmingly positive. Like I said, as writers, we are grateful for any help when it comes to our work. But...

Sometimes, they are not positive. And when they aren't, they are usually downright rude. I received three of these types of emails this weekend and it really fired me up.

While I stand by my decision to give feedback on queries, responses like this make it hard. The time it takes to fully read a submission and provide personalized feedback is time I'm not working on projects from my clients, enjoying my family, or getting caught up on my own reading. This is time I freely give with no hope of compensation or personal gain. I do it, because it's how I like to be treated as a writer.

Agents don't owe querying writers feedback, assistance, or recommendations. When they are given, they are a gift of the agent's time. The same way our critique partners and beta readers gift us their time and help. Responding in a malicious nature to that gift is the height of rudeness. It shows not only a lack of understanding of how the publishing industry works, but a clear lack of maturity as a writer and an individual.

I understand being frustrated with yet another rejection. Really, I do. But if you want to complain about it, talk to your family and friends. Write it out in a letter and then throw it away. Channel it toward writing your next project. Deal with that frustration in a positive manner. Do Not spew it into an email and send it to the person who was only trying to do you a favor. Do Not insult the agent who freely gave their time to give you something they didn't have to. Do Not expect that that kind of behavior won't come back to bite you in the rear.

This is truly one of those cases when "If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all" applies.

*Steps down off soap box*


  1. Good Heavens, I sincerely hope you don't count my email as one of the negative ones. If I was rude in any way, I apologize. I certainly did not intend to be rude or negative. I appreciate the time you took to review my submission and to respond to me with specific examples that made me consider what I'd written and the world I tried to build. :-)

    1. No way, Bridget. You were polite and professional. Trust me. :)

  2. This blows my mind - getting personalized feedback is a wonderful thing (even though I completely understand why it doesn't happen, considering the dozens if not hundreds of query letters agents receive).

    To think someone would spout off (in written, preservable form, no less) when someone gives them some helpful Just wow.

  3. I love personal feedback, it helps me grow as a writer. Thanks for getting on your soap box.

  4. Okay, I get frustrated (not that I act on that frustration) when agents reject me with "I loved it, but not enough to rep" type rejections because while it's awesome, it doesn't help me better the ms. I LOVE it when they give stuff like 'Great voice, but the pacing was slow' or 'Really, your voice started out strong, but after chapter X it disappeared totally". That gives you SO MUCH information to go on. It's a HUGE gift, and one I appreciate immensely.

    I feel like a writer who doesn't want to hear anything but good about their writing doesn't want to grow and evolve.

    *HUGS* to you for dealing with those self-masticating morons who sent hateful responses to you instead of utilizing the important information you gave them. They're only destroying their own work.


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