Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Good Rejection Letters
"Good rejection." Sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? But there are different kinds of rejection letters, and some of them may hold more information than you realize. A rejection letter could be a source of advice that can guide you through your revisions.
First, there are “form rejections.” This a standard rejection letter that an agency sends out when they have decided not to pursue representation of your work. While not helpful, at least they supply a definite “no” and you can move on with your life. The letters are usually along the lines of “not right for our list” or “not what I’m looking for.” A super sneaky way to check if yours is a form rejection is to look at an agent’s profile on QueryTracker. Many people post their verbatim rejections in the “comments” section beneath the profile. (Click on the picture below to see an up-close view.)
A good rejection typically comes from an agent who has read some or all of your manuscript. Many agents will tell you what is working – and what isn’t. “I fell in love with the character, but not with the plot,” for example. If you get this kind of rejection, hang onto it! You may need to take some time to get past the sting of being rejected, but later you will want to go back and really absorb what the agent is telling you. Then, revise your manuscript while keeping the agent’s advice at hand and in mind.
A friend of mine received a rejection from an agent detailing very specifically what was wrong with the plot of her middle grade mystery. My friend replied with a big THANK YOU and asked if she could resubmit – the agent said no, but he knew of another agent within his agency who might like the book once it was revised, and promised to pass it along.
Last week our own Heather Dyer mentioned her agent-inspired “eureka moment” that led to revisions and, down the road, signing with an agent.
An agent told another friend of mine that her premise (and therefore the whole book) was not competitive enough for the market – but the agent had some very nice things to say about the writing style and invited the author to submit future projects for consideration. (And luckily this friend has been querying long enough to know that this is a fantastic opportunity!)
We all know agents are some of the busiest people on the planet, and for them to take time to offer feedback is a really big deal. Their honesty about your work is a boon – so be sure to thank them for it.
Do you have a “good rejection” story you’d like to share? (And please, let’s keep it positive and anonymous.)