Monday, September 18, 2006

Form Rejections

With success comes change.

And one of those changes saddens me just a little. For years, BookEnds prided itself on writing personal or semi-personal rejection letters. That meant including the author’s name and title and trying to give some real reason why we were turning the material down. While some of those reasons may have sounded “form” to you, they were truly how we felt. Maybe we really weren’t inspired, or didn’t feel your book was different enough. It is also possible your platform wasn’t strong enough or your hook big enough. Nowadays, though, we have been forced to use, more frequently than ever, the dreaded “dear author” letter.

I hate them, I really do, but as has been pointed out to me over and over again, time is money, and why am I wasting my money writing letters to people whose work really will never fit for me? Whenever I feel an author is close or I like something about the work, or the person, I will still make the effort to personalize the letter. Unfortunately, one out of every fifty letters or so is a far cry from every fifty.

So I apologize. I apologize to all the writers who work so hard and submit so carefully only to get a very cold “dear author” letter. I wish there was a way for all agents to have the time to give editorial feedback and help, but sadly there isn’t. That would then be an editorial service and, since I need to make money somehow, I would have to charge for that.

—Jessica

12 comments:

Virginia Miss said...

Although of course we'd prefer the personal touch, professional writers understand your situation. So you should not feel you have to apologize. The most important thing is responding to the author's query, the second is doing so in a reasonable amount of time.

lainey bancroft said...

Having received 1 form R and 1 encouraging personalized one (both on the same ms, neither subbed here, but direct to publisher ;0) I must say I've changed my opinion on forms.
If the project doesn't 'speak' to the agent or editor, unless they specifically list revisions and invite a resubmit, there is no point in listing why. Theoretically, you could sub 20 times and hear 20 different reasons. Chances are you are not going to resub the same ms the same place. Do you really want to have to muddle through and figure out whose opinion is most accurate?
I agree, a timely response so you can consider other options is the important thing.
Maybe I'll change this opinion again if the future brings me enough form R's to wall paper my house :D

spy scribbler said...

I've been reading your blog for a couple months now, and I'd like to say that your blog certainly makes up for it.

You are the most genuine, positive, and enthusiastic agent I've ever 'met.' Actually, let me take out 'agent' and put in 'person.' It's got to be the yoga. *grins*

It's so refreshing to read your posts; I look forward to them! Thank you!

Anonymous said...

This is an important post. I hear many writers complain about the lack of personal replies from agents, especially when the writer sends a partial or full. There's an expectation that if a writer has spent time and money submitting, the agent "owes" them more than a form letter. I've never understood this attitude. I think it only sets up the writer for bitter feelings--energy better spent on honing their craft!

I also keep hearing that personalized replies are an indicator of whether you're getting close to landing an agent. (The more personalized replies you receive, the better your writing is.) In my case, I received primarily form rejections to my partials and fulls. I still ended up signing with a fantastic NY agent.

jolinn said...

I have over seventy rejections (not that that's something to be proud of or anything)And it took until the sixty-seventh for an agent to send me a reason why she was rejecting me. I understand form rejections, but I sure do appreciate the time that person took to explain. It made me stop and take a hard look at what I thought was so perfect, (and which needed serious help).

On the other hand, I'm not a big fan of the "personalized" form rejection, which sounds like it was tailored for you, but then it turns out everyone in your PRO loop has the exact same comments. IMHO, a form rejection letter should look like a form rejection letter. But anyway...

Michele Lee said...

You know, last time an agent mentioned rejections on her blog I recieved a form rejection from her the next day. *unhappy sigh*

Michele Lee said...

Unhappy sigh was for the rejection, not the form. I think an agent merely owes the writer a response, not a personalized, sparkly, chocolate scented one or anything.

elysabeth said...

I don't know much about rejections letters, having only received two in my short writing career and both from the same company, Creative Nonfiction, for different articles of submission. The form was the same - basically they had received and selected the limit for the submission or they weren't accepting any submissions at the time. Personally, I would have liked to have known what it was I didn't do to get past the initial stage of submission or what exactly they were looking since I followed the guidelines and wrote from my experience and my beliefs on both articles - being creative nonfiction and the guidelines were laid out on the website on the call for submission. I'm not saying a personalized note is the best but when you see a specific topic that you feel strongly about and you write it that way, it is best to let the author know why the specific story was rejected - since it is being written specifically for that call for submission -

Alas, form letters are time savers and money savers and so unfortunately, we authors see more of them than not - (hopefully, I won't see too many of them since I don't really have any novels being pushed or any stories being submitted for publication, I do mostly contests and short stories) - E :)

Tess said...

As long as it's not photocopied multiple times and crooked on the page, I'm ok with a form reject. And yes, I've received exactly what I describe above - one so fuzzy, it was obvious the original was many years old.

Nadia said...

I'm going through the query process the first time - thirteen sent, about four rejections received. I must say that if a writer has done their research, the form the rejection takes really doesn't matter. You should know it's not personal. I am actually highly amused, as it seems the agents have put as much work into compiling the rejection as us poor authors put into compiling the query. I can just see them huddling around a conference table, carefully stringing words together in the least offensive way possible. Bless all of you. Here's at least one author who won't get into hysterics over it.

Anyone else here seen Bernard's Letter? If you haven't, do yourself a favour and go see it now. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JU4S2BIqoHY

Penmouse said...

This is a hard thing for beginning writers to understand. I think when we first start out we think we're the only people sending in a mnauscript {{ha}}. Try to think of it this way, if at your job someone tried to tell you, you weren't working fast enough or weren't prioritizing your time right, how would you feel. I know how I feel.

I've been writing full length fiction for the last 15 years and when you get as many rejections good and bad as I have you learn to deal with it. This business takes a lot of time so if you don't have the patience get out.

elysabeth said...

In response to Nadia's posting of that little video clip - wow did that say a lot - lol - now we will all be scrambling to kill off the publishers in our books - lol - only kidding - I've already killed off the people I needed to in my semi NaNo production last year - not very good and not very long yet - but so goes life - E :)