Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Zounds! It's Two Cent Tuesdays: Nice Rejection!



I used to go to Writers.net a lot when I was learning how to write queries and stuff back in the mid-2000s.  Then there were too many trolls during the 2008 election spouting hateful crap and the site started to develop technical glitches and I dropped out for a while.  I came back on a limited basis last year just to say "buy my book!"--not that anyone did.  Mostly because it's pretty much a ghost town.


Anyway, last month I checked in and saw someone crowing about this "personal" rejection they got on a query:

Thank you for sending us ****** and for giving us the opportunity to consider your work. Apologies for the delay in responding.

While we enjoyed reading your work, which stood out from the many we receive, we couldn't find an agent here who felt strongly enough to take it further and therefore we are afraid we are not able to offer you representation for this project.

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to consider your material and we wish you every success with your writing. 

She was super-psyched they said it "stood out" from the others.  Wow, what a great rejection!  Of course since I'm a Grumpy Bulldog I had to tell her that this is still just a form rejection.  You can tell because they never say anything personal about her or the book.  The title and author's name can be merged in easily enough.  Otherwise it's all just vague stuff.

She was of course not happy with me and decried my negativism, as it seems many people do anymore if you don't immediately heap praise upon them.  Which incidentally is why I think letters like this one exist.  Saying you "stood out" makes you feel good, even if you're being rejected.  It's like if your significant other said, "You're the best fuck I ever had!" and then says, "BTW, I'm dumping you."  Well so what, I'm the best fuck you ever had, woo hoo!!!

Anyway, if you want to see just how insidious these "personal" responses can be, check this out.  The first is a response from 3/12/07:

Thanks for sending along the opening pages of Forever Young.  Truth be told, though,  I'm afraid they didn't draw me in as much as I had hoped.  I'm pressed for time these days and, what with my reservations about the project, I suspect I wouldn't be the best fit. Thanks so much for contacting me, though, and for giving me this  opportunity. It's much appreciated, and I'm sorry to be passing. I wish you the very best of luck in your search for representation.




And you might say, well that's a really nice letter.  She's really apologetic and actually critiqued the story (somewhat).  We can build on this!

Not so fast, sport.  Here's a rejection from the same agent 4 years later on 4/12/11:

Thanks for sending along the pages of your manuscript, A Hero's Journey. Truth be told, though, I'm afraid these pages just didn't draw me in as much as I had hoped. I'm pressed for time these days and, what with my reservations about the project, I suspect I wouldn't be the best fit. Thanks so much for contacting me and for giving me this opportunity. It's much appreciated, and I'm sorry to be passing. I wish you the very best of luck in your search for representation. 

As you can see, it's the EXACT same letter.  The same "critique" and everything.  So yeah, this is what this agent says to everyone.  Wah-wah-waaaaaah.

When it comes to these letters, agents are pretty evil about them.  Thanks to mail merge, cut and paste, and intern slaves it's pretty easy to come up with forms that seem like natural human responses and send them out by the hundreds.

So really unless that letter is handwritten or uses very specific details about the story and characters, then just take it as a given that it's a form and move on with your life.  Don't sit around obsessing over it or worse yet, take it as some kind of actual advice.

8 comments:

  1. Yeah, this happened to me a few times when I first started out. I was all excited because the letter said the publisher thought it was interesting, but not excited enough about the project. OMG! Of course, after getting enough of those, you start to see the pattern and get bitter. Like you said, unless it's really specific about your work, it's a form letter. Which sucks, because they're giving authors false hope. Funny you had the duplicate letter years apart - she couldn't mix it up a little?

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  2. He he. Oh you are so evil going around popping the balloon of the starry-eyed dreamer writer who wants so much to be rich and famous so she can lord it above all others.

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  3. Years ago I wrote a children's book and I sent it off to an agent who wrote back to tell me that in forty years he'd never read a worse children's book. I swear this is true! At least he was honest and I doubt it was a form letter.

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    Replies
    1. That would be funny if it was a form letter, randomly dashing dreams

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  4. You're lucky if you get even a form rejection. Because you can just as easily get no response at all. So much better!

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  5. My belief is that agents should be seeking out authors, not the other way around. Until that starts to happen, agents shouldn't be messed with at all.

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  6. My rejections for my novels have mostly been form. Except not so nice, only stuff like "no thanks, good luck though."

    So maybe they have levels of forms - "hey, I liked this one, send rejection form 'b', you know, the nice one"

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  7. That's assuming they looked at it enough to know to send the nice one. I think most queries get the glance and "whatever" approach.

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