Monday, July 9, 2012

Ever Wondered What's REALLY Behind That Form Rejection?

Literary Agent, Marisa A. Corvisiero, shared an email on her blog that is at once humbling, and eye-opening.

Turns out, she'd had a writer respond (angrily) to a rejection letter. She took the time to reply to his concerns, outlining what the problems were with his query and feedback on how to improve it.

My favorite part of the letter was her opening:

"It has come to my attention that your story was declined by our agency because it does not fit our list. When an agency says this to you, it simply means that we either are not looking for your type of story at this time because they are not selling, or because we have too many of them, or it means that we don't like how you presented it - meaning that the story itself did not sound interesting."

Ouch, right? But seriously, if I read that, I'd figure this isn't the agency for me or my book. Move on. (And, honestly, I'd be grateful to the agent for a moment of honesty - because those are few and far between in any professional environment, in my opinion).

She goes on though, not only detailing exactly what was wrong with the query, but also how she personally felt about the author's actions in responding to the rejection. Her words are carefully chosen, and offer a great learning moment for an author who cares to take it on board. (Like us, right?)

Unfortunately, the writer didn't really appreciate the time she took to do this and responded again. Twenty-seven bullet points worth of responding, apparently.

But I won't ruin the experience for you, read her letter for yourself here.

Your Turn: How do you feel about rejection letters? Would you ever respond to a rejection from an agent? How would you feel if you'd received a letter like this one?


  1. I understand that agents are busy busy busy, but just once, I wish one would take the time out to respond with something other than a form rejection. When I get one of those, I have to assume that either a) my query isn't doing it for them or b) they really do mean it when they say it just doesn't ring their bells. But for me, I don't know what I need to improve on. Is it the query itself? Did they actually read the sample pages I included and THAT'S what needs work? Or is really they've just got a glut of similar projects that they feel have a better shot? It's hard to know what to target, and I suppose I could rip everything (query and manuscript) to shred and start over after a certain number of rejections, but that's just really disheartening. Gotta suck it up, though, because that's part of this life: rejection.

    1. Every heard of the Query Shark, Janet Reid? Go over to her blog, read her stuff and if you're brave enough, submit your query for critique. She'll give it to you straight.

  2. 30 years of standard rejection slips. That's what I had. I no longer have to even worry about them, because I finally have a publisher (small, but a publisher)

    The one thing not mentioned in the above letter is the down right truth: "It couldn't make us money". If they do not think it will pay them to shuttle your book off to all the big guys out there. That is their bottom line. I have it from a relyable source. After decades of trying to interest agents, I self-published a few years back. I had to pay for it. Now I hope to re-release that first book eventually. I have no problem with being published and self-published.

  3. Wow. Some people love to burn bridges, don't they? I wonder what that author thought they'd achieve by those letters, apart from momentarily satisfying the anger inside of them?

  4. I've responded to rejections before, but I took the opportunity to build relationships. They told me straight up what was wrong with it (too long, boring opening, or honestly just not there thing). I didn't get book deals, but I got some good advice and I didn't burn any future bridges.

    It SUCKS getting rejection letters. Period. And if you're serious about this business you're probably going to get them. But as my friend put it to me, when you get that first rejection or next rejection, raise a glass of wine (or whatever you drink), toast yourself and remember you're running with the big dogs now.