Sunday, October 28, 2007

Personalized Rejections

Dear Rejector,

I read in an agent blog today of a woman who hammered back at the agency with a long tirade of snide comments after receiving a rejection letter. I was horrified at her attitude.

Then I remembered a note by me to an agency about a year an a half ago where I frustratingly told them their standard rejection letter seemed very cold.

I have learned so much since then, and now look upon rejection letters as the things they truly are: not personal. It's a business. And a writer trying to sell a manuscript and enter into a business agreement should remember the other party has the right to reject it if it isn't good business for them.

Still, that comment I made might come back to haunt me when I start sending out query letters again. Yes? No? Probably wasn't memorable enough to stand out? Never darken an agent's door again?

To answer the second question first, no, that one agency will probably not remember you unless they rejected your full and you're resubmitting the same manuscript. And even then, it's one agency! There's over a hundred of them.

As to the first question, which was unasked, what is the deal with people complaining about personalized rejections? I mean it's still a rejection, but if you get a personalized rejection, it generally means we cared enough about your work to personalize our rejection. You were close. You were closer than about 95% of the applicants. Slap yourself on the back and then write something just a little bit better.


Rick Bylina said...

Personalized rejection. What's that? The closest I have evern gotten to a personalized rejection amongst my 430 rejections is:

"Your damn novel is still not right four our agency."

I think the agent was making a point spelling four instead of for. I wonder what she'll do when I send it back a fifth time? ;-)

It's business. It's not personal. I don't buy it. It's only business to the agent because they spent ten minutes deciding they can't make money off of and for me. It's personal to me because I've spent years writing the story and earning nothing except the ire of my mother-in-law because she still considers me a bum and not a writer.

But I can cry or keep on keeping on, and I choose to keep on keeping on. If I don't, it's never going to happen.

"Party on, Garth!"


Heidi the Hick said...

I just got an awesome rejection last week. I'm 99% sure it was a form letter, but it felt like it was the "Rejecting it because it's not right for us but you don't suck letter" as opposed to the "Please don't bother because it's just not good enough" letter.

I felt pretty good about that. And yes, I am writing something better.

Anonymous said...

So Rejecter, if the personalized rejection comes five months after sending a requested partial which in turn came five months after sending a query, do I punch myself in the face or tell the agent's assistant (who, by the way, had no idea what he was talking about with respect to the subject matter - believe me, I know: I've heard from enough agents who DO understand the subject matter)to get F'ed?

PS I would never, ever submit to this agency again - bottom of the barrel as far as professionalism is concerned.

Anonymous said...

I once had an agent read a full he'd requested because he liked the partial so much. Then he passed it on to his daughter in college to see what she thought, and she liked it as well. But then he rejected the ms because when he asked his daughter if she'd pass it on to her friends she hesistated at first..."Even though she liked it, it was that hesitation that made me decide to pass".

I politely thanked him for his time, and his dear young daughter's time, and moved on. But the whole experience seemed a bit amateur (if not insulting; he knew my pub credits) to me. I've been freelancing since I worked as an associate editor for Conde Nast when we used typewriters,and believe me I've heard my share of personalized rejection from editors and agents in the last twenty years. Once in a while you hear a valid, helpful comment, but for the most part it's nothing more than an experience in subjectivity.

I've learned one thing: no means no; just move on to the next know-it-all-expert until you hear a yes.

Sandra Cormier said...

Amen to that! Personalized rejections are a sign that you're almost there. Bring 'em on, baby.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't be so quick to judge the daughter reading thing - I've heard that's how Harry Potter made the cut. It's market research, and as far as I'm concerned lucky if the agent has a kid who reads.

As for other personalized rejections, it means to work harder on the next manuscript. Don't keep flogging the same project forever. If someone did write something, as Rejector said it's a big deal. You are the five percent out of the pile. It amazes me that something positive evokes such snotty reaction.

Anonymous said...

I thought it was only the fucking poets that were this sensitive. Jesus. To survive, you must somehow grow a carapace over your thin little human surfaces and take the blows, and come back, and keep submitting and keep writing. What difference does it make what the agent said? Personalized or otherwise. They didn't want it. Move on. If their comments seem to you ridiculous, who cares? It's one opinion. They didn't want it. Move on. Save your venom and your spite for your characters. Maintain your equilibrium and a professional (that is, reasonable) attitude. Breathe. Here's what I've gotten from reading this and other agent blogs: The Rejector, god love her, and her agent boss are interested in what they can sell. Period. If it has some literary merit, that's a bonus, but it's not, definitely not, required. If you think that agents don't appreciate your fine work that you've labored over these many years, you don't yet comprehend the difference between writing and selling, the difference between the writer and the author function (see Foucault on the death of the author).

Kidlitjunkie said...

Anon 10:22 said:

I would never, ever submit to this agency again - bottom of the barrel as far as professionalism is concerned.

Is the problem the long turnaround time? Or is there something else unprofessional that this agency did? (Aside from disagreeing with you?)

Really, I am curious.

Anonymous said...

Well said, Marsupialis. I have a special file titled, Fucking Assholes, where I file rejection letter from same so I can avoid them in the future. Fortunately, there are only a few letters in that folder.

Meanwhile, I'm thoroughly enjoying writing a new project and another one waits in the wings.

Here's to the fucking assholes of the world: they'll always be there and so will the professionals who see this whole process as a business.

Apologies to the rejecter for the F-storm.

Anonymous said...

to Kidlitjunkie - It was the ridiculous turnaround time - and when I finally emailed the agent - 5 months after sending the partial - they started out saying, "Oh, I don't know how that happened" and then in the next sentence said, "I think I rejected your partial because . . ."

The agent in question has a blog where they blabber on about their vacations, and stuff they're doing with their kids and how they've been to this conference and that looking for clients, yet they can't keep their "house" in order with respect to projects they've requested.

I've had a lot of partials and fulls looked at, and until I hit this agency (they've been in business 20 years yet still haven't qualified for AAR), responses were all within a reasonable time: 4-6 weeks for partials; less than 3 months for fulls and most gave helpful comments, a few asking me to resubmit future projects.

So it's not as if I'm just getting my feet wet in this process. I know how the game is played - and I only want to play with those who respect me as a potential client and who are, above all else, professionals. This agent reminds me of a part-time real estate agent - they were that unprofessional.

Anonymous said...

To anon @ 12:27, from anon @10:38...If this sounded like a "snotty reaction" you misunderstood me. I was simply being pragmatic. As I stated, the business is subjective, and I've learned to "flog" the same project many times after a personal rejection or two only to receive good results by placing it with the right editor.

My ultimate point was not to dismiss presonalized rejections; just to dismiss the personalized rejections that lack subtance. How do you know when to do that? It comes with experience.

Chris Eldin said...

I got a standard form rejection from an agent who asked for a full. I was pissed. And she's at a large agency.
There have been a couple of super agents who have given me feedback, and I am now highlighting them on my blog as "Friday Agent Hotties."
Ted Malawer read a partial and said it was a mix between 'Jumanji' and 'Magic Tree House.' That was cool. But he likes to cry, so my humorous MG wasn't right for him.

I think anytime a full is requested, there really should be some kind of feedback. Even just a sentence or two. That's why I want to acknowledge the ones who have done that for me. (Rather than ranting about the one, which was *so* tempting!)


Deb said...

This whole process reminds me too much of storming the castle. You reach the outer drawbridge (the agent's first reader), breach that, then are in the inner baily (the agent), but can't get past that next drawbridge to reach the Hallowed Hall of Acquisitions. The game of storming castles always had the deck stacked in favor of the defenders. Weep and wail, o besieging armies!

All seriousness aside...I do agree that if an agent likes a partial/proposal enough to request the full, it would be really nice to know why the project didn't move him/her enough to offer representation. I assume they don't want to waste their time reading a full MS that doesn't wow. And I doubt if they read fulls impression is that they just read enough to say "no" on.

I once got a rejection back from an agency on a partial after 3 days. The (requested) partial was 50 pages. No way they read it. And there were no sticky fingermarks, coffee rings, mustard stains or dog-eared pages on the pathetic pristine pages I got back. Nah, they didn't read it.

And as far as a "why I didn't like it" letter? Dreaming is still free in the good ole' USA, right?


Anonymous said...

When you tell the Macy's perfume sample lady, "No, do not spray me with that (insert cheesey perfume name here) as you race past the cosmetics to the lycra support undergarments with sexy names but that are really just girdles do you explain to her that you don't care for the subtle combination of jasmine and essence of squirrel prostate she has sprayed around you or that you think the bottle is reminiscent of the backside of a baboon giving birth or do you simply say "No thank you." and race off to the Spanx display?

Chris Eldin said...

Been rejected,
If I asked to sniff a particular Eau du something, and I don't like it, I would remark.

BTW, My favorite is "Obsession Night" by Calvin Klein.

Chanel number 5 is a close second.

Maybe I should provide scented manuscripts to agents. I'm kicking myself for not thinking of this sooner.