Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Love-Hate Inbox: or, What I Wish Form Rejections Would Really Say

Like a lot of writers who attended a conference of some kind or another this summer, I recently sent a manuscript off on another round of submissions. And now, the waiting...

Doesn't it just kill you? Don't you just want to check your inbox, like, every 30 seconds? Or is it just me?

And my inbox and I now have a love-hate relationship. If it's empty, AUUUGH, the angst of waiting yet another day. But if it's full, AUUUGH, it's way too soon to be a request for material! It must be a rejection! And so it goes until the next day, when I begin again, hoping for the request from that dream agent, dreading the rejection, and trying to stay focused enough to write something amazing and worthy of publication in the thirty seconds in between visits to my email account.

Well, I've decided to operate on the principle that a watched inbox never fills, and on the principle that no news has to be good news. So, in between working on my new manuscripts (which are really coming along, thanks to the burst of creativity I got since I started the Astonishingly Brilliant Query Critique Contest - have you entered yet?) and catching up on everything that I'm not doing when I'm working on my new manuscripts, even though I'm not checking my inbox every thirty seconds, I am still thinking about checking it every thirty seconds. And as much as I hope that the next thing to land there will be an excited request from my top agent pick, I am aware that at some point, whether it's from an agent or an editor, there will be a rejection (or two, or a hundred) making its way through that inbox.

Ah, the form rejection; we've all had them at one time or another. "Thanks, but it's not for me." It's polite, and it's brief, and I get that agents and editors are crazy-busy, and I get that it's all subjective and if they take the time to give us a page of notes they might send us down the wrong path and they don't want to end up making it even worse. I totally get it. But it's generic; it could mean anything from "This is great, but not to my taste," to "This has been done a million times." I wish there were a variety of canned responses, that would at least give us some guidance, so we're not left flailing. Nothing detailed, nothing really personal, nothing that would take more than a couple of clicks to send, but something other than the standard, "Thanks, but no thanks." So, I give you:

What I Wish Form Rejections Would Really Say

- "This was wonderfully written, but it's just not for me," means exactly what it says: your writing is there, but you sent it to the wrong person.

- "This is a good effort, but in my opinion, it's not quite 'there'," means you maybe need to look at it again and do another round of revision before you waste time sending it out to a bajillion other agents.

- "Thanks, but there are a lot of books out on this topic right now," means you need to either wait a couple of years and try again, or figure out what differentiates your book from all the others out there on the same topic and put that in your query letter.

- "Thanks, but your book would compete with one that a client of mine has written, so I'll have to pass." A perfectly good and understandable reason.

- "Thanks, but I didn't really feel that I had a good grasp of what your book is about," means your query needs work.

How about you guys? Is there anything I've left out of my list? What do you wish form rejections would really say?


  1. Ugg, I know what you mean Ishta. Rejections are usually so vague, and while I understand it from the agent's viewpoint, it is frustrating from the writers'.

  2. Yup. It really shows part of the value of conferences, too; those paid critiques by editors and agents are a chance to find out why people are passing on your manuscript.