Rejection: Ugly, Bad, So-So, and Good

By Rebecca Gernon
Because agents and publishers are quick or actually not so quick with a response to our queries, I thought it only fair that I should comment on the responses I have received recently.
1. WORST REJECTION: No response at all.
pathetic (Grrr.  Many agents or publishers never respond. This is why I ignore their demands for no simultaneous submissions. This rejection is no help at all.)
2. The 2nd WORST REJECTION: Form letter hyping their staff and their books.
Thanks very much for your submission to XYZ Literary Agency. This email means that your submission went through without a hitch. Due to the volume of submissions we receive, we can’t reply to all, but we do review each one carefully and will be in touch if we’d like to see more material from you.
If you’re looking for more information about finding the right agency or about book publishing in general, we recommend that you check out THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO GETTING YOUR BOOK PUBLISHED by our colleagues Jane and Joe Doe.  To learn more go to this link.
 (Not personal, but at least I know my query was received. I think it is rather gutsy of this agency to suggest I buy a book by one of their colleagues. This rejection is only a notch above  # 1.)
Patience3. The 3rd WORST REJECTION: Telling me to bug off
Thank you for your submission. This automated message is to let you know that your email has been received. We ask that all submissions follow our guidelines, which can be found at this link. Because of the high volume of submissions we receive, we will only respond to unsolicited queries when we are interested in reviewing additional materials. Our response times are usually within 6-12 weeks. However, we are currently experiencing a backlog due to increased volume.
Please do not call our office regarding specific submissions and their status. For updates on my current review times, you can follow me on Twitter at XYZ or visit my blog at XYZ/
If you receive an offer of representation or an offer of publication while your submission is pending, please notify me by replying to the same email chain as your original submission and putting the words “offer of representation” or “offer of publication” in the subject line.
We look forward to reading your work!
(A rather ugly rejection. Boils down to we received your work, did you follow our guidelines, don’t call us, BUT if someone else wants to buy your book tell us ASAP. Hummph.)
4dont-give-up.  So-SO REJECTION: A nicer form response
Dear Author,
Thank you for submitting your materials to XYZ Books. We’re sorry to report that your project is not a good fit for our list at this time. We appreciate the chance to review your submission, and we wish you the very best of luck placing your book with another house.
 (Most agents make it clear they do not want to receive a query that starts…DEAR AGENT…and yet, I have been lumped into an unknown pool of authors with this rejection. But it is better than number 1.)
thumbs-up5. A GREAT REJECTION: What I hope for. The only thing better is acceptance.
Dear Rebecca,
Thank you for submitting THE STRENGTH OF SECRETS. I enjoyed your exploration of family secrets and their decades-long repercussions, as well as your focus on a plucky, independent heroine. However, when reading your opening chapter, I found that I had trouble personally connecting to Rebel’s narrative voice, which made it challenging to engage with the world and characters you’ve created. While my experience is completely subjective, it is for this reason that I do not believe I am the best agent to champion your work and I must step aside. I wish you the best of luck in all of your endeavors.
 (Wow this note encouraged me. I can tell the agent actually read my chapters and my query letter. This validates the merit of my book. Now my challenge is to  find an agent who likes the book well enough to represent it. A response like this is what you are looking for as a writer.
Once you start receiving type 5 rejections, success may be just around the corner.


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