Monday, October 16, 2006

Author Beware: Submission Quality

Over the years, as an editor and agent, I have built a pretty good-sized author beware file. This file is made up of the letters and e-mails I've received from authors that I know I want to avoid. From time to time I'm going to dig out one of those letters and post some of what was said. And, of course, I'm going to comment.

Quoted exactly, including typos. . . .

It is always a pleasure for a writer when an agent or editor summarily dismmisses a submission with a form letter, having no consideration for the time, effort and money in the effort.

Particularly when Writer’s Digest, which in a way sponsored you with their listing, offers proof of the submission's quality and appeal.

Congratulations. You have the talent and mind to go far in this business.

First of all, thank you. I do think I have the talent and mind to go far in this business, and I guess what you are saying is that rejecting you was the right thing to do.

As for form letters, see the post on Form Rejections. What I would like to focus on here is Writer's Digest. Because you went to the bookstore and paid $5 or so for a magazine, that alone is proof that your book is publishable? So, because I'm a subscriber to Cooking Light I have the abilities to become a top chef, or my husband, a fan of This Old House Magazine, should begin a second career renovating old homes (ironic, since he doesn't know how to use my drill)?

The only thing that offers proof of your submission's quality and appeal is the submission itself, and clearly this didn't have either.

Oh, and one last thing: I can't believe I don't get credit for the time, money, and effort that went into printing, signing, folding, and mailing my form letter.



2readornot said...

LOL! I must say, I have no problem with form rejections for queries or even partials. I was extremely disappointed to receive a form rejection for a requested full...sigh. But after two of those in a row (from the same agent, of course), I simply decided I wouldn't query her anymore. (For which I'm betting she's relieved -- or would be if she knew!)

Shelli Stevens said...

Oh that's too funny! I just don't get why people bother to send mean thank you letters! Just suck it up and deal :) Form rejections are nothing personal.

elysabeth said...


I loved your comments - they were right on target. I just can't believe some people in this business (well yeah I can but it's a shame they are still trying to do something they haven't a clue about) - hopefully someone will slap some sense into these people and show them that they are really no better than the rest of us (well okay, some of us are a lot better than them but that's a given) -

I appreciate your postings and insight into the editorial and agent fields - E :)

Bernita said...

Too many writers equate blood, sweat, tears and toil to entitlement.
Every writer works hard, but it's the result that counts, not the effort.

Kim said...

Maybe it's me, but I don't get the Writer's Digest reference. Was the writer referring to a WD contest win, an article they published? It is Monday, and I AM a blonde, but I missed something here...

Maybe I just need more coffee...?

Christine Keach said...

You tell them, Jessica!

Anonymous said...

I would write that letter. But I would never mail it. We all get frustrated, but how much wiser to commiserate with our friends, than get snarky with the agent. As much as I hate to admit it, every time I've burned a bridge, I ended up needing that sucker somewhere down the road.

December Quinn said...

Man, if that's all it takes, I'm going to go subscribe to Millionaire magazine right away!

(Yeah, it would have been a better joke if I hadn't had to make up a magazine. So?)

Anonymous said...

It's obvious BookEnds really ought to use those little form rejection cards. This lets you skip the folding step.

Ethan Ellenberg uses them. His card says (in part), "I have reviewed your material and it is not anything I wish to work with at this time."

I'm quite fond of that sentence. It has the flavor of a spinster aunt dangling your submission by one corner, held between thumb and forefinger, wrinkling her nose in disgust at the smell.

As Shelli says, form letters are nothing personal...

...with the possible exception of Mr. Ellenberg's.