Pub Rants

A Very Nice Literary Agent Indulges in Polite Rants About Queries, Writers, and the Publishing Industry

Do You Look At Rejections?

STATUS: Totally celebrating. Instead of 300, I only have 60 emails in my inbox. It’s the small things in life.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? ZOOT SUIT RIOT by Cherry Poppin’ Daddies

This month I’m putting several projects out on submission and I just read a discussion about this on the Backspace chat forum so it seemed like a good topic to bring up.

If you are an agented author with a project on submission, do you request to see your rejection letters?

At my agency, my clients don’t really have a choice (or at least I never really gave them one). When a rejection letter arrives, I immediately forward.

Why? Well, for several reasons.

I, in general, believe that an author has the right to see any communication regarding their project. It is, after all, their work.

Besides, if I don’t forward it right there in then, it’s unlikely I’m going to remember to send it later on. We do everything electronically here and yes, I do save the email letter in the client’s file but I almost never look at it again once a letter comes through. I know some agents wait until all the responses are in and then send them on but I think that would drive me crazy—like work hadn’t been completed or worse yet, I’d forget to send the letters at that point in time. Better to forward right away for my general peace of mind. Now I realize that it might not cause peace for the author so I always forward with commentary—either an encouraging note, or some inside insight to the editor and why he/she personally might have passed etc.

If editor feedback is helpful, I ask that the author to keep it in mind. If it’s not, I say just roll with it. Rejection is a part of the publishing game and I think in the long run, it’s in an author’s best interest to develop a thick skin. If the rejections in the submission stage bother you, just imagine how hard it will be to take a bad review?

Buck up and deal with it. It’s not personal (though it feels so). It’s simply a part of being a writer. Now of course, any client can call and bemoan the letter. I’m okay with that as that is a normal, human response. Or write a venting email to me about the editor’s lack of vision. That’s just fine too. If you can’t vent to your agent, who can you vent to?

Luckily, as of late, I’ve sold just about every project and for clients, rejections are so much easier to take when there is an offer already on the table. Funny how that works.

And if you are a writer who hasn’t reached the agent and the publisher submission stage and may still be looking for that elusive agent, then rejections just signal that you are in the game.

Considering that 90% of the population wants to write a novel but never have the guts to go for it, being in the game is a huge thing. Even though it sucks, rejections are a badge of honor. A rite of passage for when the publishing day finally arrives. Every published writer has a story of a rejection.

You can’t tell a good keynote speech without it!


28 Responses

  1. Susan said:

    I don’t think I’d mind rejections so much if they came with a nicer presentation.
    Like being wrapped around a chocolate bar.
    🙁

  2. cindy said:

    Every published writer has a story of a rejection.

    You can’t tell a good keynote speech without it!

    so true! and yes, i wanted all the rejections. they were MY rejections. =)

  3. Kerry said:

    My best rejection story is about when I got a rejection for a book I didn’t write! Then entire rejected manuscript got sent to me in the mail and since I wasn’t sure if the real author would want it back, I got to write a rejection of the rejection. Which is prettymuch every writer’s dream (but you don’t normally get to do because it’s not terribly professional). But it sure did feel good to say, “I’m sorry, but I only accept rejections for my *own* books. I can send you one if you want…”

  4. Anonymous said:

    Thank you for this entry. I really, really needed to read your words of encouragement. Today and at this hour, I really appreciate your words.

  5. Anonymous said:

    Kristin, thanks for a great post. I love when industry professionals such as yourself remind us that just finishing a novel is an accomplishment. So many people tell me they are going to write a novel too, from the journals they’ve kept since fifth grade. They just have to find the time.

    I just smile and nod. Inside I think, “Writers MAKE the time.”

    As for rejections, my novel is agented but not on submission yet. When it is I’ll be happy to read whatever responses my agent wants me to read, but I’m not a writer who will bug her for reports. Maybe it’s just me, but I think one of the benefits of having an agent is that I can concentrate on writing and allow her to do her thing.

  6. Julie Weathers said:

    Kristin,

    I don’t have an agent now, but I have had two agents before. One repped my children’s book and the other my suspense novel.

    The suspense never got to the submission stage, but my other one did go out to several editors. My agent was a very successful lady with a stellar reputation and I dearly loved her. She called me periodically and let me know how things were going, but she didn’t send me the rejection letters.

    I wish she would have.

    I’ve kept all my rejection letters and it still amazes me how many agents wrote back personal, detailed rejections. I think it does help to identify patterns and finding an agent who would forward correspondence to me in a timely manner is important to me.

  7. Anonymous said:

    “…rejections just signal that you are in the game.”

    That actually made me feel better, thanks 🙂 I guess you can’t get rejected if you don’t try. And if you don’t try, you can’t get beyond rejections. It’s a good way to look at it.

  8. Pam Halter said:

    Thanks for being an agent who keeps in touch with your clients. That really means a lot to a writer.

    Interesting thoughts on rejections. Yes, we hate getting them, but if we can learn from them and make our writing stronger, then it’s not really a bad thing. That’s something I already knew, but it’s good to be reminded because it’s easy to forget when you’re holding that letter in your hands. 🙂

  9. Ulysses said:

    “Rejections are a badge of honor.”

    Yes. Exactly. They’re the battle scars which show that whether you achieved victory or not, you were in the fight.

    I was happy to receive my first rejection because I felt it vindicated me as a writer. A professional had actually read at least part of my work. They hadn’t liked it, but they had taken it seriously. (They had even scribbled, “Not quite right. Try us with something else,” which is analogous to being awarded a medal for bravery despite losing the field).

    Of course, the honors seemed somewhat less lustrous after the thirtieth rejection.

    But then I realized that rejection is the base state of response. Every writer gets rejected, especially when starting out. It’s the natural and most common consequence of submitting material. All I had to do was accept that and decide whether to try again.

    I tried again, and again, and again. Rejection lost much of its sting when it lost its ability to discourage me, and being rejected now seems like just something I have to go through to obtain an acceptance (of which I’ve had a few).

    Rejections: I read them. If there’s useful advice, I listen. If not, I file them and get on with the important stuff.

    “Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars, And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.’ Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot, But he’ll remember, with advantages, What feats he did that day.”

  10. Mary said:

    I don’t have an agent yet, but if I did then I would want to see any editor rejections. It’s proof that the agent is sending my work out, that something is happening.

  11. brian_ohio said:

    Getting the editor rejections is an ‘I do but I don’t’ moment. At least for me.

    In the long run, I think it’s best to get them right off the bat. Plus I’d like to know which editors have passed and why.

    Once I get published… boy do I have a keynote speech to tell. Can’t wait to do that.

  12. Ryan Field said:

    As far as edits and comments from editors go, I have learned something valuable from every one I’ve ever received. That goes for reviews, too…both good and bad.

    As far as rejections go, I think everyone is different. Some want to see them; I prefer not to see them.

  13. Being Beth said:

    Thanks for this post, Kristin. Somehow it was very encouraging and uplifting to me. I’ve been reading your blog for a couple of months and not only enjoy what you write, but also find it a great resource for aspiring authors like me. While I’m in the game, I’m not yet ready to begin the publication process or even a formal agent search. I guess I’m trying to learn as much as I can in advance of that time while I complete my first novel. So, thanks for all you have to offer on your blog and for your upbeat and positive post today.

  14. Anonymous said:

    I’m sitting here in my sweats reading blog after blog, researching agents,learning, meanwhile that little voice says…you never should have left teaching to write! What were you thinking??? I just told that voice that I’m in the game! My novel is finished and that in itself is a success. Thanks for the inspiration.

  15. Anonymous said:

    Yes, thanks for the encouragement. Your words echoed what a pub. writer friend said to me after I received my first (and therefore most crushing rejection two weeks ago) that rej. were a badge of honor.

    I just wish agents had 3 form letters instead of one on file(i.e: 1)Query didn’t grab me, 2)Story strong, writing-not so much, 3)Story, writing good-I’m just not interested.

    For me, it would take some of the ambiguity away and I wouldn’t be wondering,”What the heck was it?”

  16. Anonymous said:

    You’re post was just the balm I needed. Thanks. I am “out on submission” and got my first rejections recently (like you, my agent keeps clients in the loop — BRAVO). You put the experience in perspective just when I was starting to feel sorry for myself.

  17. Anonymous Gimp said:

    Hey Kristin!

    When I got my first rejection letter from a literary magazine, I was EXCITED! I showed my wife, I showed my family, and I put it up on the fridge for a few days before I put it safely away in a drawer! I knew then that there would be many more and I would probably not be as excited for the others to come, but I knew at that point I had finally gotten off my fanny and TRIED to start a career in writing.

    Thanks,

    Josh

  18. Anonymous said:

    Thanks for this very timely (for me) post! My agent is putting my book on submission next week so it’s nice to get a little reminder that rejections are inevitable and to not take them personally!

  19. Allison Brennan said:

    Rejection is part of the business. I think I’d like to see them, but I’m twisted that way. I also read my reviews. My agent told me about them, but she didn’t send them along. I think most were by phone or simple “pass.” We sold in a pre-empt, so we pulled most of the submissions before we even heard back.

    The thing is, most rejections don’t help. If you’re getting the same feedback from multiple houses, then maybe that’s something to look at, but most of the time what one editor loves another hates. I queried a bunch of agents with my book before I sold, and half rejected it, some after reading, some before they read a page. The advice on those who read conflicted. Fortunately, one agent loved it.

  20. booksrockmysocks said:

    I think a rejection letter is a good thing (besides for a fact that you have not been accepted). This is because the crunstructive critisism helps an author to make thier wrighting better, and hopefully get thier book accepted with another publisher. Sorry that this comment most likely has errors on it, but im doing about a billion things this one moment!

  21. aquitane said:

    There are stories of bad rejections and good rejections…how about *quickest* rejections? My quickest snailmail rejection arrived 6 days after I mailed the query. My quickest e-mail rejection was 4 days after I e-mailed.

    Any faster then me?

  22. Anonymous said:

    My agent didn’t forward rejection letters and I’m grateful for that. When editors passed we had a general discussion over-the-phone about what was going on. That treatment worked well for me. (BTW, the book sold and got a good advance.)

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