Pub Rants

Publishing Is A Business

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STATUS: Doing great. Getting tons of reading done because it’s so slow in New York. Everyone is out for vaca already or soon will be with the long weekend. I love the sound of that. Looonnnnggg weekend.

What song is playing on the iPod right now? SHORT SKIRT LONG JACKET by Cake

Note to self: I only indulge in polite rants on this blog. Oh to be snarky for just a brief minute.

I’ll behave.

So, here’s what I want to rant about. I know I’ve said this before but it bears repeating.

Publishing is, first and foremost, a business.

And people who forget that astound me.

Recently I received a chastisement email from the parent of a young writer who sent me a query and was rejected.

Folks, let me repeat. Publishing is, first and foremost, a business. We read queries with only business in mind—regardless of race, gender, age, or religion.

Either it’s a professionally done query that piques our interest or it’s not. All other factors are moot—even if you are under the age of 18. Heck, even if you are under the age of 16 (and I have received queries from aspiring writers as young as 12). If it’s a well done query, we’ll give it a serious read. We have even asked to see sample pages on numerous occasions because we were impressed with the query letter.

I have yet to take on a really young person (and just as a reminder, if I were to, the parent or guardian would need to be involved), but I’m certainly open to it if the story is right. Age is certainly not a barrier.

But if the query is not well-written or professional, we’ll reject it (with our standard but nice rejection letter)—regardless of the writer’s age because publishing is a business. I’ll try not to repeat that yet again in this blog entry.

To receive an email from an angry parent accusing me of willfully dashing his or her child’s writing dream with my rejection strikes me as wrong on so many levels, I’m not sure where to begin ranting.

So I won’t. I’ll just leave it at that.

Or the one thing I will say is that the parent is not treating the child as a writing professional that he or she is aspiring to be.

And as all writers know, rejection is part of the biz. A badge of honor on this journey to publication.

78 Responses

  1. Liane said:

    It does seem that this generation (of which I’m a part…) is raising their children to expect life’s bounty to come served on a silver platter, instead of teaching them how to smith the silver so that they’ll always *have* a platter.

    BTW, I’d always heard that this is a terrible time of year to send in submissions as much of NYC is on vacation from Aug until after Labor Day. Thoughts?

  2. Anonymous said:

    Like Miss Snark says, good writing trumps all, and even as a writer I’m the last person to take my eye off the dollar signs at the end of the book.

    However, it doesn’t hurt to send a personal note to such a writer. I realize we’re all very busy, but in my role as magazine editor I’ve sent personal rejections to some people I’ve thought needed extra encouragement, including a soldier in Iraq, a woman from Jerusalem and a few teenagers. I’m also told by writers that our standard rejection reads like a personal note and is much appreciated.

    The most notorious rejection I ever heard of was a “NO” stamped in red on the submitter’s query. God forbid the kid send it there, eh?

  3. Feisty said:

    I’m not sure that a 12 or 16 year old understand the business or professional model. It’s an idealistic time for them and they tend to do things without thinking. I have two teens. I’m lucky if they act human most days.

  4. December Quinn said:

    You said it, Liane. This stuff makes me so mad…

    No, Feisty, a 12 or 16-year-old may not understand, but his or her parents certainly should, and their behavior was disgusting.

  5. Feisty said:

    Yes, the parental behavior stunk but I’m not sure that every 12 or 16 year old would tell their parents what they’re doing. My 16 year old certainly wouldn’t tell me something like that. She’d just do it.

  6. Kimber An said:

    Parents are human beings. Like all human beings, they run the spectrum on easy-to-difficult to get along with. As a former career nanny, I’ve met more than my fair share of the difficult ones and quickly learned to avoid them. The children, on the other hand, are lovely. I have several critique friends who are teens and their help has been priceless! They’re intelligent, polite, and compassionate. I have no doubt that any one of them could achieve publication before their 20th birthday. Everything they need to write a professional query and format a manuscript is just as accessible to them as it is to me. I always encourage them as best I can to do just that, if that is where their heart is. Sadly, many of us parents underestimate our children’s abilities and emotional strength.

  7. Annie Dean said:

    As a writer, I don’t know that I’d call rejections a “badge of honor”. I find it a little off-putting when writers go around bragging via link or sig that they’ve submitted to 100, 200, 300 (sometimes more!) agents and been rejected. That astonishes me. Think of what you’re putting on the Internet, for goodness sake! I mean, would you be excited to hire an attorney who pronounced gleefully that he’d lost his last 500 cases, but he was sure his luck was about to turn? I think it’s more a learning experience than a badge of honor, and the important thing is to keep improving.

    That said, it’s a bad notion to send anything but “Thank you for your time” to an agent who has rejected you because you may someday find yourself needing to cross back over that burnt bridge.

  8. Jessica said:

    I think that wasn’t a good idea for the mom to send a letter like that. I know what’s in a rejection letter (Kristin’s included), and I’ve never recieved one that ruined my hopes. The parent is just being too overprotective over her child. Rejection is a part of life and a part of getting published/an agent. The mom can be as mad as she wants at Kristin, even hate her, but she should also know that the world won’t bend to accomodate her child, and the sooner the child learns that, the better.

  9. Janni said:

    That’s just it. It’s okay for Mom to offer support, sympathy, hugs behind the scenes. It’s not okay for her to go out and try to change a professional, considered decision for her child’s benefit–nor is it okay for her to go out and try to run his career.

    I have no idea how the kid actually felt about it, but I picture her hiding out in her room, cringing, as Mom insisted on writing that email.

  10. Urbie said:

    Feisty, I’m afraid I’m going to have to disagree with you. As a fourteen year-old, I know that sometimes teens do things without thinking, but if they really want something, they’ll do what it takes to be good at it. I haven’t started querying yet, but I do look at and take to heart the queries Kristen put up. With so many blogging agents, there’s no excuse not to know close to exactly what an agent wants or is looking for.

  11. 2readornot said:

    Maybe it was parents who were responding on the previous post (about queries)? That would better explain all the ire….

  12. Anonymous said:

    Parents are fools when it comes to their kids.

    All of what you said is correct, Kristin, but give the poor idiot parent a break. It’s a tough job and everybody makes mistakes.

    Sorry you were on the receiving end of this one.

  13. Gabriele C. said:

    What will that mommy do when a boy her precious girl fancies (or the other way round, gender-wise) doesn’t want her? Point a gun to his head, ‘you’ll love my poor little darling, or I’ll get your guts?’

  14. Feisty said:

    Urbie: Sounds like you have your stuff together. I was thinking more of kids who would sub something on a whim, not someone who has thoroughly thought it all through. You sound like a cool kid.

  15. Christa M. Miller said:

    Oh. That must be the parent who got upset with my husband for failing her kid in his History class. *rolling eyes*

    I have a 3-year-old, and because I agree with everything Liane said, I’m starting the “rejection is a part of life” training early. I want him to learn how to pick himself up and start over – not waste time “mourning” a situation that probably wasn’t the right fit to begin with. A time and a place for everything, and all that. Too bad that’s a lesson so quickly forgotten in our instant gratification-oriented society.

  16. Jillian said:

    I have a 12-year-old daughter who is an aspiring author (I couldn’t possibly be more thrilled — seriously!). Recently she completed the first draft of a 400-page novel. I’m still amazed that the child actually completed something of such proportion.

    She’s far from ready for publication. Know what I’m doing to prepare her? Allowing her to walk with me through the entire process. In fact, just today she told me that she wants me to teach her how to write a query letter, so that when the time comes, she’ll be ready.

    The word “proud” doesn’t begin to describe how I feel. 🙂

    But to chew someone out for rejecting her writing? Unthinkable.

    Scary, really, how so many parents react out of their own, undealt-with woundings, albeit unconsciously, to the great detriment of their offspring.

    Kristin, I think you’ve shown great restraint here. 😉

  17. WitLiz Today said:

    That was an insensitive thing to do and the blog not much better. I’m really surprised to read this.

    Let’s just all have our kids be born 18. That way we don’t have to teach them anything.

    It is very important that you do take a different approach to teens than to adults. A more encouraging word would not have set you back in your business. In fact, clearly it had the opposite affect. I certainly wasn’t impressed.

    I don’t condone the parent’s actions, but I understand her ire.

    Let the parents teach the professional side of life when their kids are ready. You, on the other hand can be a mentor or a tormentor. And choosing the latter is a cop out.

    When I teach music to a teenager, I take extra time to talk with them and find out what’s up. At that age they need more reassurance, not less. Feelings go much deeper and they are much more sensitive.

    In the future, I would hope you rethink your position. Teenagers are not a business. If you don’t want them to query you because you don’t have the time to give them more encouragement, then set an age limit.

  18. GutterBall said:

    First and foremost, I love that song. In fact, I love just about anything by Cake. Great band.

    Less importantly, it cracks me up how many parents these days (and by no means all) try to dumb down the rest of the world so their children will never know the disappointment of failure. These are the same parents who fight school districts to change curriculums and ban failing grades, who want to keep competition out of classes and school-sponsored sports, who insist on their children being able to retake tests they haven’t done well on and refuse to keep score during Little League games so neither team has to lose.

    Not every kid deserves an A or a home run, and not every kid can snag the attention of an agent or publisher. It’s hard enough for an adult to do that!

    I certainly hope the parent at least had the smarts to praise his/her child for trying where so many fail.

  19. Richard White said:

    Sounds supiciously like some of the (soccer, little league, dance, violin, insert your favorite annoyance here) parents who are either trying to live their childhood again through their kids.

    Either that or they see the few kids out there who win an Olympic Gold medal, get a huge soccer contract (Freddy Adu anyone?), get picked up by the NBA right out of high school (LeBron James anyone?) and think that their kid is their ticket to the big time if only he/she could (fill in the blank). Those types of parents scare me worse than the “overly proud” parents in the first paragraph.

  20. Virginia Miss said:

    It’s distressing that people abuse e-mail this way. I’d hate for agents to stop publishing their e-mail addresses for querying because of getting nasty mail notes from folks. The parent could have used the rejection as a “teaching moment” and have a “welcome to the real world” discussion with his/her child.

  21. Gabriele C. said:

    you don’t even know if Kristin was aware the query was from a young writer before mom emailed her.

    Leniency doesn’t get kids anywhere. Had my guitar teacher insisted on me training every day instead of encouraging a progress that wasn’t there, I’d be able to actually play the guitar now. I do blame her for not seing that I just was a lazy kid. My parents knew and talked to her (as I found out later) but to no avail. She was a ‘pedagogue’, and my parents were not. Thus my guitar lessons ended after a year and I took up singing instead. With a slave master. 🙂

  22. r louis scott said:

    witliz today-

    The subject is “Publishing is a Business”. You are correct, teenagers are not a business. Should they decide to venture beyond the classroom, however, they will find that there is actual competition, that there are actually winners and losers, and that not everyone will be capable of living out their dreams.

    The public school educational doctrine of “Everybody is a Winner” does not prepare children to make their way in life. This episode is but one example. To have the negatives reinforced by a parent is only making matters worse.

  23. DebH said:

    This is symptomatic of the entitlement age in which we live. For some reason, parents now seem to think that there should never, ever be a single setback in a child’s life. Those setbacks are the things that make individuals stronger and more able to deal with real life.

    What’s going to happen to these kids when the college of their choice rejects them? Or they bomb a job interview? Or don’t get the promotion? Parents like the one who would email an agent over a professional rejection are the same kind of parents who push their little talentless darlings onto “American Idol” without regard to consequences. (How would you like to be told, for the first time ever, that you can sing… on national TV?) I always want to smack those parents.

    I’m not sure what the literary equivalent of a stage parent is… but they clearly exist.

  24. Lara said:

    Well that parent is just RIDICULOUS. My daughter is eight (and a budding writer) and one of the first things I’d tell her would be to expect rejection, and LOTS of it. I’m actually embarrassed for that parent’s ignorance. (And nerve, frankly.) Guess you encounter all sorts, in this business!

  25. debh said:

    D’oh!! That should have read, “How would you like to be told, for the first time ever, that you CAN’T sing… on national TV?

    Please expect an irate email from my mommy for allowing my mistake to be viewed by anyone. Don’t you know how crushing that is??

  26. Bay said:

    Ooo, this is a juicy topic. And honestly, the last few posts were so juicy that I almost replied to them. But I’ll stick to just this one for now.

    As a parent, I honestly do feel it’s my job to be an advocate for my child. If I were ignorant of the publishing business, would I send an irate letter to Kristin? …

    Well, um, yeah, I probably would. I’m sorry! But I would be acting out of ignorance *and* advocacy for my darlin’ baby. The first mistake is … expected. The second mistake, I hope, is forgivable.

    The thing is, this reminds me of something that happened *years* ago. My husband is a writer. I’ll be brutally honest — I don’t think he’s the kind of writer that I am. I am a natural writer. Take away my pencil and paper, and I go insane. Literally. I’ll scratch words in the dirt if I don’t have a computer word processor. Dear hubby is more… like… a hobbyist. He’s in love with the idea of being a writer. And that’s cool, I can understand that. I am in love with the idea of being an astronaut or a movie star or, OMG, I would love to hang out with Tim Gunn.

    Anyway, a few years ago, Dear hubby queried a newspaper, and he got a pretty standard rejection. Immediately, he fired off an irate protest to the editor. The editor retaliated with a scathing review of dear hubby’s work. Dear hubby told dear editor that he had a _____ the size of a _____. Dear editor wrote back and suggested dear hubby should be institutionalized or at the very least medicated.

    I mean, honestly, you can imagine the sort of testosterone fest that was floating in cyberspace between these two gents. When I *finally* heard what was going on and reviewed all the email that had been exchanged, I was horrified. On the one hand, I know that I was supposed to take Dear Hubby’s side in the matter. On the other hand, as someone who expects rejection 98 times out of 100 queries, I really thought dear hubby shot himself in the foot — and for nothing. His work clearly didn’t belong in that particular newspaper.

    (Now here’s the really amusing part: I know the newspaper editor, too.)

    Basically, what I’m saying is: Some people get it. Some people don’t. In the case of spouses and parents, I’ve got to say, give ’em the benefit of the doubt. They’re just protecting their loved ones and acting out of forgivable ignorance.

    Now, if the protesting writer had been John Irving, then I would be more put out.

    In the final analysis, all any of us can do is to share our knowledge of the business and of the business *etiquette* — and hope for the best.

    Kristin, I hope your week improves!

  27. Nadia said:

    I’ve received a form rejection from Kristin before, and I must say that I was almost uncomfortable with how nice it was. I cannot for the life of me see any reason to get angry because of the wording; it’s as encouraging and kind as is possible without saying ‘yes I’ll represent you’. I can therefore only assume that said parent became angry with the rejection itself. I agree with all who have said that this is an alarming sign of the consequences of raising children wrapped in cotton wool. I have three, and the middle one at age six is showing signs of writing ability. I’ve already started plainly explaining to her what I do and what it entails, and what the odds are against succeeding, but that it doesn’t mean I don’t try. I hope even if I never ever get a book published, that she will learn the value of self-honesty (does the feedback give a hint that I do at least have talent?), persistence, and grace in the face of rejection.

  28. jkibjhbq said:

    Witlit, it’s not Kristin’s job to be anybody’s mentor, and I’m astonished that you would think it’s okay to berate her for not being one. (Did it not occur to you that by sending a professional rejection, she was teaching that child a valuable lesson?)

    Bay, I feel sorry for your child(ren). Refusing to let them take their own lumps is not okay, and it’s not forgiveable. What purpose would you think you were serving by doing that? Teaching them to whine and complain if someone doesn’t think they’re more special than everyone else (a lesson your husband seems to have taken to heart, although given the way you put him down I’m not surprised he’s oversensitive) does NOT do them a service.

    This is the real world and if you don’t prepare your children for it the rest of us have to deal with the consequences. When you do what the teen in question’s parent did, you teach your child that they are entitled to special treatment and that everyone should bow down to them.

    Don’t be an “advocate”. Be a freaking parent, which means teaching your child how to be a productive member of society.

  29. A mother said:

    For everyone who found Kristin’s actions objectionable, would you expect a manager at McDonald’s to send a letter to every teenaged job applicant she doesn’t hire? Or a teacher to include an explanation with every failing grade? Or a boy/girl to provide “encouragement” when he/she rejects them (“try Bobby, maybe he’ll go out with you)?

    Come on people. I’m a mother of a boy and girl and I have to agree with the posts about coddling this next generation of “baby on boards” who are raised by parents who prefer to teach them that “everyone’s a winner” rather than “sometimes you lose, so work hard and try your best.”

    If you had over 100 job applicants every day, and a very civil if not downright apologetic and encouraging way of communicating with the applicant even if you didn’t offer them the job, what more can you do?

    Kristin is not a critique service. She’s an agent. I bet that kid was more embarassed by her parent’s actions than the rejection itself. Or at least, she should be.

  30. Robert Devereaux said:

    Speechless. But here comes the speech!

    Let hopes be dashed, if dashed they’re capable of being.

    If this child is meant to be a writer, nothing, not even the overreachings of a stage mother, will stop him or her from writing and submitting and doing it all over again until acceptance occurs.

    And acceptance will mean what the writer already knows and what fuels the writer’s efforts: that only he or she can tell these stories with this voice and that the world of readers, or a subset thereof, needs to hear them.

  31. Ryan Field said:

    In publishing, as an associate editor, editor and writer I’ve given and taken my fair share of rejection over the years. Still, to this day, I handle getting the rejection much better than giving it.

    I don’t have children, but a not-so-pretty woman judge (awful hair) at a dog show once yelled at my poodle for not standing correctly; that woman will never yell at another dog again without thinking twice.

    Knowing how to reject a young writer, but also enourage at the same time, trumps all aspects of professionalism and portends a long and happy life.

  32. Eros Paradise said:

    Some may find humor in this that I never did. On my first attempt I wrote a query letter so good a top NY agent asked for my manuscript.Being new and thrilled I sent her roses. Sound too good to be true, in a way it was. I wasn’t ready to be published, I should have been rejected, it always stings but it’s important to find out early that you need to learn more before considering submissions to either agents or publishers. Rejections should be viewed as a positive thing. I learned a great deal from mine.

  33. ello said:

    This has turned away from “publishing is a business” to a “bad parenting” issue. Since we can assume that Kristin did not pull a Simon Cowell and tell the teen that he/she was the worst writer in the world, what we have here is a clear case of bad parenting. It’s bad parenting because she as a mother did not take the time to teach her child about the realities of life and how to react to them gracefully. She made an ass out of herself and a fool out of her child.I’m not saying she is always a bad parent, how could I? I don’t know her. But this is an instance where she did not react in an appropriate manner.

    This is happening more and more in every day life. My friend was at the playground with her two year old when a seven year old boy came over and started pushing and spitting on her daughter for playing with something he wanted. Horrified, she yelled at the boy to stop, which prompted the boy’s mother to run over and admonish my friend for yelling at her child because “he’s just a child and you should be more understanding.” SHe didn’t even apologize on her child’s behalf, just started screaming about my friend having the nerve to yell at her precious child. I can’t tell you how much this upset me. These type of parents think their kids can do no wrong and how dare anyone criticize them. This type of parenting really scares me.

  34. A bug on the screen said:

    Very true, Robert. I am a seventeen year old writer, and I have been writing for as long as I can remember.

    There have been rejections, lots and lots of them, but I continue to labor under the impression that a true writer will never give up, and therefore will have that determination pay off eventually. And if it doesn’t? Then hide the first book and start another one. You can’t stop a writer from writing, to Hades with the publishing credits. Yeah, seeing your book in the local tattered cover sure feels nice, but it isn’t the be all and end all of writing (no offense, Kristin).

    To the young lady with the warrior mom; keep on pushing. You’ll make it one day. And to Kristin: Thanks for the words of agently wisdom. They are truly invaluable.

  35. srchamberlain said:


    In the future, I would hope you rethink your position. Teenagers are not a business. If you don’t want them to query you because you don’t have the time to give them more encouragement, then set an age limit.

    Unfortunately, you were the one who chose to bring your child into this world, not Kristin. Kristin–and any other agent–has the responsibility to treat him/her as respectfully as she treats any other writer. This does not include mentoring duties, nor wiping up tears from the sort of rejections that are a part of any writer’s–and, in fact, any person’s–life. Frankly, as someone who did get published as a teenager, I find your attitude condescending and, well, witless. All I wanted was to be treated as any other writer would be treated by any publishing professional. And indeed I was. If you could manage to stop thinking like the parent of an undoubtedly spoiled child for once and start thinking like a human being, I’m sure you’d realize that the last thing your child wants or needs are special exceptions to the vagaries of life and writing.

    Now that I have a university job, I regularly receive complaints from the parents of graduate students. Yes, graduate students. As in, 27 year olds who really ought to know better. So, as the old cliche goes, Kristin, I feel your pain. I can’t imagine why this post of yours is controversial in the least.

  36. Mrs. Brain Bomb said:

    That parent should know better. My father had a career in journalism and is familiar with the publishing game. When I started to take writing seriously he opened my eyes real quick. Grounded my butt from that cloud I was drifting on. No dashed hopes just reality.

  37. Naomi said:

    I started submitting my work at 16, and did my damnedest to conceal my age. I figured that if the editor knew it was coming from a teenager, they’d expect it to not be very good, and that expectation could cost me a sale.

    I learned about cold, heartless rejection when I was eight and started auditioning for children’s roles in local community theater productions, though. I was crushingly disappointed the first time I didn’t get called back. The second time, I learned how to psych myself up for the audition, and then psych myself down for the rejection. It’s a really good skill to have; I hope my kids have the opportunity to learn it.

    I wouldn’t let my kid try out for American Idol. And a Simon-esque smackdown would be utterly unprofessional in any other context. Ordinary polite rejections are part of life, and I’m floored that so many people would defend this parent. It’s not a matter of parenting instincts; it’s a matter of boundaries. Some things, you let your kid handle on their own.

  38. Anonymous said:

    Actually, The Wall St. Journal did an article not long ago about parents entering into the HR fray when their children went for their first job out of college, negotiating, call HR and answering questions. Its a very pervasive trend. Baby boom parents are front and center in managing their children’s life after college. Its a whole new trend.

  39. Anonymous said:

    Baby boom parents are front and center in managing their children’s life after college.

    So what’s going to happen when the Boomers hit their 70s and 80s and their kids have to start taking care of them? It’s going to be a disaster.

    Eros Paradise, I had a similar experience. A high-profile agent I met at a writer’s conference loved my submission but rejected my full manuscript. It was devastating but after licking my wounds for a few months I went back to writing and the novel is infinitely better now than it was before. That rejection, painful though it was, taught me a lot.

  40. Anonymous said:

    First, can I just say to the fourteen year old and seventeen year old writers who posted on this blog, I am sooo jealous of how awesome you guys are! You are researching agents and the publishing business already? I didn’t start that process until I was about 20, and now, three years later, I realize that I should have started much earlier. I’m so impressed. And the twelve year old who’s completed a 400 page novel? Unbelieveable!

    Anyway, I don’t know the whole situation with the teenager who sent this query, so who knows what the truth is. But speaking as someone who had exactly the kind of mother who would have done something like that, Kristen, if this person queries you again and has something you’d ordinarily take seriously, please, please, please don’t reject him only on the basis of what his/her parent did. Because… Well, this just makes me so mad because it’s so personal. I love my mom, but parents like this are doing the opposite of what they’re trying to do. If I were that kid, I would run as far away from the publishing industry as possible not because of the rejection, but because I would be so ashamed of what my mother did, so embarrassed of what people would think, and I might not ever come back. How sad for a parent’s action to ruin a kid’s dreams like that. If this young writer is reading this blog, well, I hope you don’t give up.

    Also, I’m new to this blog; I hopped over from Rachel Vater’s blog. And I love what you’re doing here. So thanks!

  41. Diana Peterfreund said:

    I would no more expect an agent to treat a teen writer any differently when rejecting them (i.e., being nicer) than I would were they accepting them (saying, “oh, since I have to do so much work considering your age and lack of experience, I’m going to charge you a higher percentage” or an editor saying, “since you’re just a kid and don’t have a family to support, we’re going to pay you a few hundred bucks.”) The teen authors I know are even more interested in being treated like adult professionals.

    Funny story: I got my first rejection letter at age 24. Since I was out of town on business, my mom opened it for me and read it over the phone. She was crying, so disappointed, etc. etc., and I was all, “Mom, it’s okay. This is supposed to happen. It’s not big deal. There will be a lot more where that came from.” She definitely took it harder than I had. I can totally understand the parent in this case being upset, just not the part where she acts unprofessionally about it.

  42. Lexie Ward said:

    A couple of different things could be going on here:
    You could have a parent who is way too involved with their child and who tries to protect them from every little boo-boo life throws their way.
    You could have a parent who had a knee jerk reaction to their child’s pain and who regretted the letter as soon as they hit the send button.
    Or you could have a parent of an extremely sensitive and melancholy child who takes everything to heart and the parent, who may have had to really push the kid to put his neck out there in the first place, may have just lashed out at the person who caused the child pain.
    No matter what though, none of it is Kristin’s fault. I’ve had my share of rude rejections from agents and I cannot imagine Kristin saying anything horrible enough to warrant such a response. She is always kind, no matter what.

  43. kis said:

    I think in many ways, that parent is setting her child up to fail in life. Setting the bar lower never helps anyone improve or succeed. As the parent of a gifted but unmotivated preteen, I have had occasion to express concern to his teachers (politely, mind you) that perhaps that A- was not deserved, considering two missed assignments and my child’s natural laziness. The teachers, in response, have been dumbfounded, gobsmacked, shocked and appalled that I might think grade inflation is bad for my child.

    Disappointment and failure are a part of life. If we don’t teach our kids how to deal with them gracefully, they will never become truly successful adults. As for what Anon 12:54 said, well, guess who’s likely gonna be the first kid to put her mother in a home and forget about her? The one with the bloated sense of self-entitlement.

  44. kis said:

    Oh, and having received one of Kristin’s rejections, I have to say it is the single most encouraging, kind, polite and gentle form rejection letter out there. I can’t imagine any sane person having an issue with it.

  45. Bruno said:

    Hhhmmm,let me get this straight. The majority of you are gnashing your teeth at an overprotective parent, accusing them of being overly sensitive in protecting their child. Yet no one seems to blink at the fact that Kristen (a grown woman)fumes on her blog over the way the parent treated her. Granted, the parent overreacted. But at least we can understand why. It’s the professional who turns and complains to us that I question. If, as writers, we are supposed to take rejection with good grace as so many of us do, surely in practicng the art of good business an agent should be as thick-skinned when it comes to complaints. No? If a used car salesmean turns to their clients and complains about how another client treated them (or how the cleint’s mother treated them) what does this say about the salesman? Hhhm. Methinks the writers aren’t the only ones who could do with some armour plating in this business.

  46. kis said:


    The difference is that Kristin’s rejection letters are tender to a fault. Nasty, angry emails are another thing altogether.

    The mother got nasty, not over a red “no” stamped on the query, or a “please do the world a favor and quit writing” response, but over a kind and considerate business letter from a very nice businesswoman.

    To receive an email from an angry parent accusing me of willfully dashing his or her child’s writing dream with my rejection strikes me as wrong on so many levels, I’m not sure where to begin ranting.

    So I won’t. I’ll just leave it at that.

    Or the one thing I will say is that the parent is not treating the child as a writing professional that he or she is aspiring to be.

    And as all writers know, rejection is part of the biz. A badge of honor on this journey to publication.

    This is not what I would call fuming. It isn’t even really what I would call complaining. It may be a gentle hint to others who might read this blog that such unprofessionalism isn’t appreciated. It may even be an attempt to educate the overprotective mother (without encouraging further correspondence) that she is hurting rather than helping her child’s career by acting this way. Publishing is a largely incestuous business. If she pulls this stuff with other agents, word will spread, and no one’s gonna wanna work with her kid.

    Further, this blog is for whatever Kristin wants it to be. No one has to read it. A business email account is for business email, not the vitriolic diatribes of the ignorant.

    ‘Kay, getting off my high horse now.

  47. Jillian said:


    A business email account is for business email, not the vitriolic diatribes of the ignorant.

    Are you published yet? Because I surely would love to read more of your fabulous words. 🙂

  48. Bruno said:


    I guess I’ll continue to play devil’s advocate a while longer….Yet even in business, one must expect that occasionally one would face adversity (in taking the irate comments of a client non-client or client’s relative for instance.) What matters is how we, as business people, respond. Now you are quite right in that this is Kristin’s blog and if she so chooses, she can feel free to rant, but, as has been pointed out more and more in the business world, what one posts on one’s blog does have an effect on one’s career. Many people have even been fired for it. Others have lost lucrative contracts. However, I do agree that business email should be kept for business and, as such, as polite as possible. However, I would like to think that a forum such as this would allow for the full spectrum of debate and not only for monotonous sycophantism as they are frequently wont to spawn. You’re right by the way, this horse is pretty high once you get up here. 😉

  49. kis said:

    Well, this blog (and others of the sort) are supposed to be enlightening. I, for one, now feel enlightened as to what not to do when I am disappointed by the vagaries of the publishing world. I would expect that the overprotective mother (if she reads this post) will be similarly enlightened. That’s not a bad thing–for agents, or for the woman’s would-be author offspring.

    Signing off now. My horse is tired.

    And Jillian, no I’m not published. A criminal oversight of the industry which I hope to remedy at my earliest convenience.

  50. Michele Lee said:

    >>I find it a little off-putting when writers go around bragging via link or sig that they’ve submitted to 100, 200, 300 (sometimes more!) agents and been rejected.

    Annie, I do that on my blog. I have a very specific reason for it though. Beginners just don’t realize what typical “odds” are. It is excellent to have a partial request, or even two(!) in 10 queries. It seems very low, but it’s not and I do not want beginners, like me, to run around and think that they should give up after 10 rejects. It takes time, and that’s hard to understand. I list markets and how long it took them to respond (but not the outcome) at the end of the year and my rejection/submission stats so that people can learn from my hard work and so maybe, just maybe there will be less snapping and rants to agents and editors as writers will know what to expect.

  51. GutterBall said:

    So…Ms. Nelson should only post the positive highlights from her experience as an agent — such as the queries that were accepted — and axe anything that might be unpleasant? Gee, and here I thought that approach was only to prevent feelings of failure in children.

    I don’t see that speaking in very generic terms about an anonymous parent’s acidic e-mail response to their equally anonymous child’s rejection is unprofessional. The topic, like everything else I’ve read on this blog, is both instructive and entertaining.

    Sycophantism? Harsh word. Does it apply to all who agree, or only to all who agree with an agent they might query later?

  52. srchamberlain said:

    However, I would like to think that a forum such as this would allow for the full spectrum of debate and not only for monotonous sycophantism as they are frequently wont to spawn.

    Kristin Nelson doesn’t even rep books in my genre. Just because your particular viewpoint has been shouted down repeatedly (and well) doesn’t make the other side sycophantic. Perhaps it’s time to examine the possibility that it’s right. Granted, it is easier to dismiss others with nasty ad hominem attacks, but you might try, just this once, doing more than extolling all those virtues of open debate.

  53. Don said:

    In my magazine editor days I would frequently get wildly inappropriate article submissions (the similarity of the cover letters told me that someone was probably making money off of naïve would-be writers). I had little compunction about writing no thanks on the cover letter and tossing it in the SASE. On a bad day, the whole mess would just get tossed in the recycle bin without even bothering with a rejection (if they couldn’t be bothered to read the three sentences about the magazine in the writer’s guide, I really didn’t want to spend the time to give them even a minimal rejection note).

    On the flip side, one of the authors who I cultivated from day one of the magazine was in high school when I published his first article. I just looked him up and he’s doing quite well in the industry that my magazine cover (although I’m a bit bummed to see that his bio doesn’t give my magazine any credit for his rise to success).

  54. Anonymous said:

    I got my first rejection at age 15, and I sure as heck didn’t tell my parents what I was up to. (Although they could hardly NOT know, since they’re the ones who bought the Writers Market and the stamps to mail the subs off in.) No, those rejections went to the bottom of the drawer in silence. I stopped subbing for a long time–but I didn’t stop writing. And now I’m a full-fledged grownup with incredibly thick skin who has resumed the rejection collection.

    Hm, I don’t have one from Kristin yet–I’d better try for one, if they’re as nice as everyone says!

  55. Well Rejected said:

    I seem to have the opposite problem – I have a “stage daughter”. My five year old plans to become a published author as soon as she learns to read and write. In the meantime, she is overly involved in MY process. When I get a rejection letter, I have to console her. “Why doesn’t anyone like your story, Mommy?”

    I use these moments to tell her I am improving my craft every day, and that when I write well enough, my book will be sold. Thank goodness school is starting soon and I can check the mailbox in peace!

  56. Jon Stone said:

    I think more people would be convinced by the ‘Publishing is a business’ mantra if publishers didn’t get all precious about the artistic value of books whenever other businesses screw them over.

    It’s truer to say that publishing is an activity in which the economics of business play a crucial role if one is not to end up poor and a failure. But that sort of complicated stuff isn’t quite as good for beating people round the head with.

  57. Jon Stone said:

    I think more people would be convinced by the ‘Publishing is a business’ mantra if publishers didn’t get all precious about the artistic value of books whenever other businesses screw them over.

    It’s truer to say that publishing is an activity in which the economics of business play a crucial role if one is not to end up poor and a failure. But that sort of complicated stuff isn’t quite as good for beating people round the head with.

  58. K.L. said:

    You know, there’s another aspect to all this: there are actually magazines that publish the work of young people, and they are very supportive. I worked for one, and our rejection letter won some sort of award, it was so encouraging. So the kid who needs mentoring can go to the publications known for mentoring. We actually had a program called Mentors in Writing.

    Also, my son is also a genius, and I’m sure I’d want to defend him in this kind of a circumstance. For a second. Then we’d talk about how to improve his chances next time.

    However, the number of parents who have told me about their children’s novels have me convinced: verbosity is no indication of talent. (Though it warms my heart to know these kids are doing something other than playing X-Box.) Isn’t that why you don’t put ‘my mom loves it’ in the query letter?

  59. Yasmine Galenorn said:

    I was submitting when I was 14 years old, and I was proud of my rejection slips, though disappointed. It made me feel like a pro–and I had blind optimism that always said, “The next one will be it!” When I actually received my first acceptance at age 15 for a poem, I framed it on the wall, but I didn’t expect them all to be that way. My parents never even bothered to get involved, thank gods. I would have been mortified to find out they wrote a nasty letter to an agent or publisher.


  60. Bruno said:

    Gutterball, I, myself, do not know where the line of ettiquette lies on a blog that is both personal and so clearly attached to one’s livilihood. That’s why my orignal post “questioned” the position. As for my comments on the rebuttal to Kis see below:

    Srchaberlain, struck a nerve did I? Hhhmmm. When I say sycophantism, I am not simply referring to this particular chain or indeed this particular blog. However, as I have been a bit of a lurker on various agent’s blogs I have noticed an uncomfortable amount of downright a**kissing. I am simply commenting on what I have witnessed on a frequent basis. Now, whether that is simply because a blog becomes an impromptu fan club or not I’m not sure. Part of what clouds the issue is of course, that this is a private blog attached to a legitimate business. Thus, you will always get a certain percentage of posters (I would guess a high percentage), to such blogs, (not just Ms. Nelson’s)who are hoping to catch the Agent’s attention for reasons other than healthy debate, education or camraderie. Moreover, one frequently sees that when an agent has a blog, no matter what they say, most who post in reply would be in agreement. What does this say about the majority posters? I don’t know but I suspect. Anyway, back to my original point which was this. I question why the owner of a legitimate business talks about the response of the relative of a rejected client to other prospective clients. This seems to indicate a double standard between writers and agents. A writer who states publically “this agent dissed me” risks becoming a pariah or, at best, gets pitied. Whereas an agent who says, “this individual told me off” gets her own cheerleading squad. Again, I’m just commenting on what I’m seeing. Like it or don’t.

  61. Greg said:

    I received my first rejection when I was 5.
    From Highlights: The Magazine for kids.
    My parents were sympathetic, but they certainly didn’t call or write the editors of the magazine. It was a good learning expierience. (People seem to be doing an awful lot of bashing of boomer parents, so I should note that they’re both boomers.)My dad’s a conductor, my mother a published writer, so they both know that life in the arts involves a considerable amount of rejection.

    “I question why the owner of a legitimate business talks about the response of the relative of a rejected client to other prospective clients.” Kristin may be posting about this for the benefit of other young writers or other parents with young writers who read this blog–she’s probably already done prospective young clients a favor in guiding them towards proper etiquette. Or she may just be blogging about it because the rudeness of the relative surprised her. But it’s worth saying: It’s *her* blog. She can blog about whatever the heck she wants. If you don’t like it, get your own blog.

    Your metaphor of car salesmen is bad. If my agent doesn’t like unprofessional behavior from people querying her, good for her; it means she’s not going to tolerate unprofessional behavior from publishers who might be trying to screw her clients, which would make me *more* likely to sign with her.

    As for the reason why so many people agree with Kristin, have you considered the possibility that she might just be right? This is starting to remind me of that guy who insisted there was a crescent hidden in the proposed 9/11 memorial at Pennsylvania. There was a discussion on some blog–*every* *other* *person* kept trying to explain how wrong this guy was, but he kept insisting that because so many people disagreed with him, he must be right.

    ” This seems to indicate a double standard between writers and agents. A writer who states publically “this agent dissed me” risks becoming a pariah or, at best, gets pitied. Whereas an agent who says, “this individual told me off” gets her own cheerleading squad.”
    That’s not entirely accurate, is it? I mean, once you’re represented by an agent, you could presumably bash other agents at your leisure. At this point, K. is good enough at what she does that she gets *paid* for it. She’s a professional; she’s got proven success in the agenting field. If she weren’t a good agent, she wouldn’t have clients. Most writers likely to complain about agents *haven’t* earned their stripes–e.g., there’s a strong possibility that they weren’t, in fact, “dissed,” they were just rejected because their writing wasn’t good enough. Like you, perhaps?

    At this point, I’m honestly beginning to wonder if you’re someone with a grudge against Kristin or if you’re just a troll.

  62. Kanani said:

    Years ago, a very wise person told me that my job as a parent was not to spend all my time making sure everything went my children’s way. In other words, teaching them to learn how to handle disappointment, how to negotiate, and how to learn to make their efforts stronger was much more important than seeing that they got everything they wanted.

    Yes, publishing is a business. And it’s only one that someone approaches [i]after[/i] they’ve learned how to write. And this is a process that the parent could have helped the child get to. But they didn’t, and to me… that’s like putting your kid up to skate in the Olympic tryouts and the kid has never taken a skating lesson.

    Writing is no different. Trial, failure, rejection, success all come in a cyclical manner. There’s a path one takes in learning the craft. Learning the craft is pleasurable, frustrating and sometimes bewildering. Still, it’s pleasurable — from the solitary act of writing, reading books that take you out of your usual limitations, and the social aspect of coming into contact and befriending other writers.

    Submitting anything for publication is a step that comes dead last after someone has done all the rest. And to go directly to it without having experienced the rest of the trail is really shortchanging oneself…. and their kid.

    As for ass kissing. Sorry, Kirsten’s not my type. Don’t take this rejection personally, Kirsten, I just don’t swing that way.

  63. Kanani said:

    I received my first rejection when I was 5.
    From Highlights: The Magazine for kids.

    It’s because you had BOTH Goofus and Gallant smoking pot behind the shed.

  64. Breca Halley said:

    It always blows my mind when I hear about parents doing this sort of stuff. My parents would never have done anything of the sort. But it really does seem to happen a lot. I’ve heard about parents who will argue with their college students’ professors about an essay grade, or the like. I think it’s insane. Overbearing and overprotective parents make life harder for their kids down the line. Parents won’t be there to cover for us forever. Also, some amount of independence and personal accountability is good. It lets kids feel that they are capable and that they don’t have to go running for help whenever something goes wrong.

  65. GutterBall said:

    Hey, Bruno. I like the term “line of etiquette”, but I don’t know where it is, either. I don’t think something as vague as Ms. Nelson’s post would, but I’m not “in the biz”, so to speak, so my opinion probably isn’t terribly valid. And if/when I do submit to an agent or publisher, it won’t be her. Sorry, Ms. Nelson, but I don’t write romance!

    A writer who states publically “this agent dissed me” risks becoming a pariah or, at best, gets pitied. Whereas an agent who says, “this individual told me off” gets her own cheerleading squad. Again, I’m just commenting on what I’m seeing. Like it or don’t.

    See, the rub there is that an agent isn’t outcast or pitied because they are our segues into a difficult and occasionally dangerous realm. An author has nothing but his or her story and the talent/skill required to write it. An agent has contacts and influence, both of which are necessary in the tricky and often clannish world of publishing.

    It’s kind of like a Congressman being able to park in a handicap spot without getting a second glance while you or I would be ticketed and probably pointed and laughed at. Perks of the job, man.

    I do appreciate the reasonable response, though. I love a good discussion, though arguments quickly become tiresome, don’t you think?

  66. Anonymous said:

    bruno wrote; “whether that is simply because a blog becomes an impromptu fan club or not I’m not sure.”

    Okay, so I’ll address this.

    I think it’s natural that Kirsten and the other develop a following. They’re offering advice, it’s free, they’re putting lots of hours doing it, and people want more. They don’t ask for any money. I see nothing wrong with this.

    But… just so you know, blogs aren’t the only one with a fan following. It happens in the workshop world all the time.

    Workshop leaders naturally develop a following. I know in one highly regarded university-extension program where people take the classes for years from the same instructor. Novel 1, 2, 3, 4 and then back again 3, 1 4, 2… doesn’t matter if they’ve already taken the class, they enroll again. There’s also a Novel 5 and a Master class and people have to submit a sample of writing to get in. Guess who gets in? The students who have already taken all of their classes. (So in other words, if you’ve taken Ms X and Mr Y is teaching Novel 5 or the master class, you’d better wait until Ms X is teaching it because you will NOT get in). This leads to writing that sounds startingly the same.

    They pay $500/ per 10 week session to be in this fan club. The university knows about it, doesn’t see it as a threat to quality, and besides they’re extension, so they do nothing about it. As long as they’re making money, what the hell.

    But if you’re a good writer know your writing shouldn’t be dependent on a single personality, but on something within you to get the writing done yourself. They also know to leave the university extension name off their query.

    So in comparison… I’d have to say any following that these agents and editors have is harmless.

  67. Anonymous said:

    …..and sorry about all the typos and grammerrors! It’s been a very long day, and damnit! BLOGGER doesn’t have spellcheck! HA!

    I also don’t mean to dismiss workshops or even the university-extension program I mentioned. It was a swell place for me to start. But the clubbiness was unbearable, and I left knowing that it’s up to me to keep going.

    I did make many friends there, some of whom read my work to this day. But I do think it’s VERY BAD POLICY for a university to allow this to go on. It keep out new writers from the popular teacher’s workshops.

  68. kis said:

    A writer who states publically “this agent dissed me” risks becoming a pariah or, at best, gets pitied. Whereas an agent who says, “this individual told me off” gets her own cheerleading squad. Again, I’m just commenting on what I’m seeing. Like it or don’t.

    Actually, Bruno, here’s the rub.

    Authors who rant on their own blogs about how Russ Galen or Mike Larsen or Jenny DuVall or (insert any other agent name you can find) screwed them over, deserve to reap what they sow.

    An agent who rants on her blog about the unidentified mother of an unidentified aspiring author isn’t doing anything wrong. I can pretty much guarantee you that the only four people in the universe who know the names of the mother and kid are Agent K and her trusty sidekick Sarah.

    It is to be hoped that somewhere in the contiguous United States, an anonymous mother is blushing to the roots of her hair over her bad behavior. If she isn’t, well, then I’ll blush on her behalf.

  69. pennyoz said:

    Rejections are for making success very sweet when it comes. Imagine if you got immediate acceptance. You’d think something is wrong with you.

    I thought it was pc not to be age-ist?

    So a 30 something can be rejected but a 12 year old you are stunting their creativity? There are publishers and sponsors who promote children-written literature. The kids know this. Parents probably don’t. But if their kids go to school the librarian certain does know!

  70. Anonymous said:

    You know, if the parents are that involved in the kid’s “career,” maybe it was one of them who actually wrote the query. Or perhaps they just want to live vicariously through the child. Regardless, the hopes dashed were probably those of the parents.

  71. Zoe said:

    Instead of chastising agents who reject her kid’s work, that mother should be proud of her kid for being willing to risk rejection in the first place.

  72. Amanda Brice said:

    Ah, but you must understand that colleges today now include a “how to be a parent of a college student” seminar for parents during orientation…because msot parents today seem to live through their children in a way that none of our parents ever did.

    So in essence, by dashing that child’s dreams (which I’m sure you didn’t do willfully) you dashed that parent’s dreams.


    I am an alumni interviewer for high school seniors who want to attend my alma mater and I am constantly amazed by the number of parents who return their child’s messages like their secretary (“ok, I’ll check with Brittany and see when she’s free for her interview”)

    It makes me want to thrwo up half the time.