Wednesday, April 06, 2011

My favorite letters

After two years of querying and getting rejections, I've come to the conclusion that form rejections are pretty cool. At first I thought it was awesome to get a personal response (and it still is), but the more I got used to receiving rejections, the more I thought, "These letters are too long-winded." I do understand that agents are trying to save time and feelings when they send out a form rejection. But I'm starting to have a special appreciation for the simple, one-line letters, personal or not.

You see, like the agents that I'm querying, I have a busy day. Sometimes I don't have the opportunity to read a long e-mail until I get done with work for the day. That's why my favorite rejection was a simple, "Dear Author, No thanks."

I think every agent should adopt that style, and here's why: if a writer cannot accept getting a rejection letter, then kindly informing them that opinions vary in this industry, the rejection is not a reflection of their work, etc., will do nothing to ease the sting of that first "no." A "no" is always a "no" no matter how it's decorated. Besides that, I can think of several agents just off the top of my head who have gone out of their way to explain their reasons for rejecting a manuscript. They even explain why most agents reject pitches. There are entire blogs devoted to the subject. By the time an aspiring author sends out their first query, they should be aware of all of that.

Also, I think the bluntness of "No thanks" would help weed out the writers who refuse to see their project through. Rather than slowly losing patience with rejections that border on an apology for offering representation, the unpublished authors will be required to get used to "no" very quickly. It's something they'll hear for their entire career (and yes, I am including myself in this). I think this will force us as writers to do a better job on our manuscripts before we send them over to agents.

Besides all of that, the short "No thanks" e-mail takes less than a minute to write. Agents who get over 300 letters a day need a way to speed up their process. And sometimes the only thing I want is "yes" or "no." I don't want to scan a letter trying to find that little word in the midst of a paragraph of how subjective the industry is.

And don't misunderstand me. I'm not being sarcastic here, I'm not complaining. I am, in fact, genuinely suggesting that, unless advice specific to the rejected author is offered, the letters should read, "Dear Author, No thanks." And see? It has a "thanks" in there, so it's polite :).


  1. I agree. I'd rather get a short "no thanks".

  2. I think you may have a point.

  3. I think so, too. The worst rejection letters are the ones where the agent/editor tries to be nice. Which, sure, I appreciate, but only to a point.

    I've had a few rejection letters that start out listing all the things they loved about my story. So there I am, reading and getting excited, only to smack right into the wall of death: 'Unfortunately, while there is much to love about this story, it is not right for us at the current time'.

    In my opinion, a simple "Dear Author: No. Love, Publisher" stings far less.

  4. Cyprith, I must disagree on one point: if I'm getting a personalized rejection, it's the best thing ever! Especially if they tell me what they like about my project (which hasn't been relevant yet because I haven't had any full requests and only one partial). I would love to hear from an insider what I'm doing write.

    And welcome to the blog :)