Monday, May 04, 2009

Replying to Rejections

I've only recently started querying for my first manuscript. I'm wondering: Should I ever respond to a form rejection with a quick "Thank you for your time," or is that just needless clutter? I like to think I'm offsetting those angry authors who send nasty replies, but I also don't want to be a nuisance.

I also had someone respond to a query with a request for the first 5 pages. After I sent that, she replied with an extremely gracious email saying she wasn't interested. I replied back with a thank you, but also asked, *if she had a moment*, if there was anything that came to her mind that I could do to improve the writing or query. (I even said she could ignore the email if she was swamped and I wouldn't be offended.) So, basically, when is it okay to ask an agent for more info?

I’ve written about this before and mentioned how I don’t mind receiving thank-you notes, however I know other agents have written blog posts or mentioned what a colossal waste of their time it is (my words, not theirs) to receive thank-you notes for form rejections. So while I stand by my previous statement that it can never hurt to send a thank-you note, it’s not necessary to do so when what you’re receiving is a form rejection, and really just a waste of your time as well as the agent’s. I would suggest you reserve your thank-yous for those agents you felt really went above and beyond for you. Maybe they gave personal feedback or spent some time answering your questions at a conference. I think that in those instances a thank-you is definitely nice.

The problem with email is that there’s always this sense that you need to reply. You don’t.

While it’s always okay to ask an agent for more information, my guess is that more often than not you’re not going to get an answer. Typically if an agent has more information or specific feedback she feels she can give, she will. If you receive a form rejection it’s likely that either the agent didn’t have anything specific to add or won’t remember enough about your book to give specific information. Keep in mind that rejection letters aren’t always written the minute a proposal is finished. Sometimes they’ll sit with an assistant before the letter is written or in some cases, notes will be made and rejections written later.



Lorra said...

If there are no comments, not even a sentence, after an agent reads a requested partial or full, I send a polite thank you and I ask for a little feedback. (I've only received one form rejection on a full. I didn't ask for feedback in that case. What was the point?)

I phrase the question so that it can be answered with a simple yes/no or with a one or two-sentence answer and I reassure the agent that they will not hear back from me until I have a new project to submit.

From the feedback I've received --100% response rate, by the way -- I've learned a lot. More importantly, my sense is that agents really want to see writers succeed because their comments are thoughtful, helpful, and most important, honest.

I know I risk alienating some agents, but I cannot learn in a vaccuum. And if an agent puts me on a black list for asking for a little feedback, would I really want to work with that agent in the future?

Charlie Rice said...

I usually send a thank-you after a rejection. It it simply good manners. The subject matter will say "Thank you note" so the agent can delete it if she chooses.
A thank-you note with a question attached is not really a thank-you note at all, it's fishing for information. There's nothing wrong with an agenda but it is what it is.
I agree with Lorra above when she states that most agents want authors to succeed. There's proof in the many agent blogs (that take time out of their busy day) that are helpful for us.

Michelle D. Argyle said...

Great advice, thank you!

Rick Daley said...

My partial was politely rejected with a presonalized email. I replied asking for a clarification on the agent's constructive criticism. The additional feedback was not elaborate (one sentence), but it was spot on, and I really appreciate the agent taking the extra minute to offer more advice.

Anonymous said...

I've received several requests (my fulls are still out), and no one has bothered to even send me a personal rejection--just a polite form. Why bother if they won't?

Sheila Deeth said...

Thanks. I'd kind of wondered when you should and when you shouldn't, so this helps.

PurpleClover said...

I think when it's engrained from a young age to always say "Please" and "thank you" it's hard to turn that off in order to save the agent's time. I can see how it just adds to a cluttered inbox, but I have to admit I'm perplexed by agents that are annoyed by simple thank yous.

I've had to stop myself a couple times from sending a response by second nature.

Anonymous said...

omg the endless etiquette fussing! (barf)

The ultimate feedback is waiting for you on Have you written someting and wonder if it has commercial appeal? Put it for sale and market it. You'll find out real quaick. You do't need an agent anymore! If you can sell on your own, the agent swill come to you. Until then, you don't even need an agent, you need to write a saleable book!

Anonymous said...

Agree that 95% of the writers here are putting the cart before the horse. They hear that you "need an agent," so they obsess over that more than their actual craft, which is what they should be concentrating on at this stage in their careers. When your craft reaches a certain critical mass, it's true that it becomes hard to beat back the agents with a stick. If you have to go to them, well--that in itself should tell you something, shouldn't it?

Stina said...

I only send thanks to agents who've given me a personal rejection, to show I appreciate them taking the time to point out the issues with my ms (and especially if they tell me I'm a talented writer). Never, though, with a from rejection. Those ones are more like a slam-the-door-in-your-face, and you never have to say thanks for that.

Mags said...

Anonymous 5:04pm said...... your craft reaches a certain critical mass, it's true that it becomes hard to beat back the agents with a stick. If you have to go to them, well--that in itself should tell you something, shouldn't it?Ooh! Do share the title of your book (w/out charging only $19.95 to unlock the secret to publishing, as only YOU KNOW IT, I mean). I'll Amazon you up if the reviews weren't all written by your mother. And if your book doesn't appear to suck.


Or if you aren't just some schmuck, trolling boards and dispensing "wisdom." A lot.


Few are stupid here. Link, please?

Iko of the Shadows said...

Dear Agent-Type,

Thank you for your rejection, but it does not fit my life style at this time. I will have to pass on your rejection. Better luck next time!


Ebony McKenna. said...

Jessica, that is excellent advice.

If only there was some way of making people take it!

Anonymous said...


If I provide a link, then you will no longer be judging on what I write in here, but on the performance of my book.

And let's just say that wouldn't be fair. It's no fun to have people just bow down because you've already done what they're trying to do. If I out myself then I'd just get people agreeing with me all the time, which is no fun.

So just evaluate me based on the things I say. You don't get to see if you're "right" or not in your assessment of me.