Thursday, February 05, 2009

Post-Rejection Protocol

I think it’s not surprising that a lot of authors wonder what to do next after rejection: How do you handle a rejection letter if it’s clear it was more than a form letter, and can you use that to your benefit when it comes to finding another agent?

The first thing I want to say is that it is absolutely, perfectly acceptable to send a thank-you note or a thank-you email if you felt truly touched or learned something from a rejection letter. In fact, I have a file of thank-you notes that authors have sent me over the years. Not only are they appreciated, but I actually use them to track some authors and their future careers. It’s fun to see success even if I have no part in it, or just a tiny part.

In a recent post comment, though, a reader specifically told the story of her experience with an agent who worked with her on a project for six months before eventually deciding to pass. The author was wondering if it would be okay to mention this experience with other agents. And my very strong answer is no, absolutely not. Don’t ever share a rejection, no matter how kind it might be, with other agents. Listen, we can be an egotistical bunch and each of us likes to think that we’re your first and only pick. Most important, though, is why would you want us to go into your proposal wondering why someone else already rejected it? Think about it this way, if you read a really scathing book review by a reviewer you trust, aren’t you going to go into that book (if you read it at all) looking for what’s wrong with the book?

My other bit of advice on this subject has to do with resubmissions. If an agent sends you a kind rejection letter with advice that you find you can use and do use to revise (heavy revisions) and strengthen the book, always, always give that agent the option of seeing the book again (even if she didn’t specifically ask for it). Unless you really feel this is not the agent for you, why not send the book to someone you know has already expressed an appreciation for your work. The worst that can happen is she can say no a second time.

Jessica

27 comments:

persistentdreamer said...

Hi Jessica,
If an agent has rejected a query for a particular book, will that affect his or her consideration of another book by the same author?

Anonymous said...

It's good to know that some agents actually appreciate thank you letters (I've read of too many who just think of them as one more thing to read).

Selestial (my Livejournal ID isn't working today for some weird reason)

Kimber An said...

Oh, good stuff, thanks! Personalized rejection letters are worth framing in gold.
;)

Anita said...

I completely agree on this one. I had an agent and her assistant send me a lengthy letter of rejection with some great ideas for revision. I've been working on the revisions every chance I get, and am I so excited to be sending them the new and improved manuscript tomorrow. I haven't queried the new manuscript to any other agents, because I think the agent and her assistant who wrote me the lengthy letter should get a chance to review the manuscript first.

Mark Terry said...

Well, you did reject a query just yesterday, but you also offered a suggestion which I followed, and she has requested to read it. So, although I thanked you yesterday, I'll thank you again today. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Starting with mentioning previous agent contacts would be like talking about previous boy/girlfriends on a first date. You might have dated before, but no one wants the details, right?

Anonymous said...

I actually did have some good luck, some requests, by saying that I worked with another agent on revisions, but that it didn't work out for a particular reason. But I see your point and won't do it again. Maybe that explains why I didn't hear back from others. My way tends to be "too honest" and it's so hard to know in this business how to juggle what to tell with what not to. Thanks for your point of view.

Angela said...

Good to know about the thank you letters. Often I would like to say thanks, but at the same time respect the amount of email agents get and don't want to to unecessarily clog an inbox.

One thing I've wondered about is if writers should mention when they've had a previous agent (assuming of course it was a reputable one). Does it hurt or help to mention that?

Jessica said...

Great advice, Jessica. Thank you. :-)

BookEnds, LLC said...

It's always okay to mention you were agented previously. That's part of your publishing history. And I would never hesitate to resubmit your next work to the same agent. I figure everyone gets rejections, the hope is that you're always growing.

--jhf

L.C. Gant said...

Thanks for the helpful post! I've always been confused about how to handle resubmissions; I keep hearing different things about them.

I like your advice about giving the agent(s) who expressed interest first dibs on the revised manuscript. Not something that occurred to me before, but it makes a lot of sense. Great advice, as always!

Inkpot said...

Great advice and, to echo the other comments on this post, it is good to know about the thank you letters. I often want to send one after an agent has gone out of their way to say something about my manuscript but feel that I will be further burdening their already overloaded post and email. I will know in future to send more than good thoughts. :)

Anonymous said...

This is great advice! I have a question that may be a little off-topic but I am new at this. Should a writing query and agent before the manuscript is complete? Sorry if that's a stupid question...

Anonymous said...

Oh boy! Let me rephrase that. Should a writer query an agent before the manuscript is finished?

DebraLSchubert said...

Jessica, Thanks for clarifying. I received a positive rejection (oxymoron?) and took the advice to heart. I resubmitted since I think this agent may be perfect for me. As Tom Petty and the rest of us know, the waiting is, indeed, the hardest part!

Angie Fox said...

That is great advice. A rejection made a huge difference for me - an agent I really respect wrote a long letter on how I could turn the corner with my writing. I used the advice to make my new book better, but I never told him because I thought it would be bugging him, especially since he doesn't represent paranormals. Now I wish I'd said something. Thanks, Jessica. I always learn something when I read your blog.

Juliana Stone said...

Interesting post. And good luck Anita in regards to your sub tomorrow!

ryan field said...

Before I found my agent, Jeff Kleinman rejected me once and offered some excellent advice that I never forgot. I thanked him then, and a couple of years later when his advice continued to work.

Anita said...

Juliana:

Thanks! I was so motivated by the original post, I actually just sent the submission!

Kristan said...

I dunno why, but I get a warm fuzzy feeling from this post. Like maybe the literary world isn't so cold and mean after all. :)

Jael said...

Anon 11:25/11:27, your answer is here:

http://nathanbransford.blogspot.com/2009/02/can-you-query-if-you-are-unpublished.html

Anonymous said...

Thanks Jael! This is why I asked:

http://www.soyouwanna.com/site/syws/publishbook/publishbook.html

Kendra said...

This is very good advice. I was nervous about about asking an agent to take a second look at a previously rejected full. I exlained in my query that her advice had helped me do some major surgery on the MS and would she like to see it again. She immediately said yes.

The worst that could happen is they say no thanks.

Anonymous said...

Glad to know some agents do give feedback, even if they don't offer representation. Writers want to be treated with kindness and respect just as agents do. See, it works both ways!

Chumplet - Sandra Cormier said...

Boy, I wish I knew about re-submitting a manuscript after kind advice. Bookends gave me constructive criticism about Bad Ice. The biggest issue was book length, and I took the advice. I didn't re-submit, but handed the newly polished book over to a lovely e-press.

It's been over a year since I hopped back on the query merry-go-round (except a successful pitch to another e-pub and a three-month writing marathon), but since then I have learned so much!

~Jamie said...

A bigger question for me is, how often do you see no rejection? I have sent in letters and not seen anything. I am questioning my spam filters though. :(

Should I send in a letter and ask if they received my query, or just hope for the best?

Anonymous said...

How does one respond when an agent asks if any other agents have seen the manuscript and if so, what was the outcome?

I've had this asked of me twice. Is there a proper response?