Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Question from a Writer - Different types of rejections

Scott, are there different levels of form rejection? I have had form rejections that were simple 'no thanks' types, then have had, 'you are a strong writer, please keep submitting, another agent will love your work, but no thanks.' In your opinion, is this merely style on the part of the agent (clean cut rejection vs rejection with a little dollop of encouragement but both solid rejections) or is there a grain of truth in a 'you are a strong writer' rejections and it just wasn't a fit?

Or does each agent have either a basic form rejection for the bulk and a more personalized type of rejection for work you liked but didn't love, and no real in-between?

It is really tough to tell on those form responses. I know that there are times that I feel like I am giving form answers, but in reality, I just find that there are only so many ways to say "the story just didn't have the depth of character or plot development."

Do some agents have standard form answers? The answer is yes. I will admit, I do use some on initial submissions, but for the most part, it is always due to either a request for more material or the fact that someone is just not submitting something I am interested in. The premise is just not going to work. After I have a story that I have requested more material for, I will give a personal response. There might not be much but you will get a personal response. Again, these might be standard answers a lot of people get, but I try my best to answer at least one point for your rejection.

I know though, that many agents try to limit the amount of feedback on a rejection because of the fear of "opening a door for dialogue." That blog flog I had last week is just an example of it. The writer submitted something to me that wasn't what I represent. I sent a rejection. The person wrote back and wanted to argue and foolishly, I answered. My gut told me know but I did it anyway. That opened the door for a barrage of comments.

As for the comment about "the strong writing" I would hope the writer isn't just blowing sunshine. I can't say though. Again, for myself, if there is something about the writing that works well, but the plot or the premise is the issue, I will say that. I don't want you thinking the story is good when it isn't.

You also described the comment of "another agent potentially liking it." This IS the subjective side of things. There are times that I find a project that I just cannot connect with. It has things in it that I just don't like in that particular genre. Does this mean it won't sell? Absolutely not. It just means I wouldn't believe in the project enough to really want to promote it. Purely subjective.

I honestly cannot speak for every agent, because we all do things differently. For me, I feel that if I can give you a bit of advice, you might be able to fix the next project and we can have something worthwhile to work with later.

Hope that helps!


  1. I didn't realize the whole "opening dialogue" thing was bad.

    For what it's worth, way back when, I thought your rejection letter was pretty nice.

  2. Thank you, Scott! I realize that it's different for every agent, but my hope is that if you don't like my stuff, you don't say anything to the contrary to spare my feelings. In the end, just like your last post pointed out, the best thing a rejection can do is force us to grow. I'm glad to see that's your way of dealing with rejections; it's the best way.

    And I now go to work on the pacing in my novel...thanks to some hints from a few kind agents with a spare minute to clue me in!