Monday, April 25, 2011

Keep On Submitting But Learn From Those Rejections

I think every agent has heard this question before. "If I get a rejecion from an agent or editor, do I consider that a complete dead end or can I submit again."

I understand your frustration as a writer. A rejection letter is a tough thing to deal with, however, unless one of three things happen, I would say it is OK. What are those three things?
  1. The editor or agent tells you to stay away and never submit again.
  2. You learn something about the editor or agent that tells you it isn't the right match.
  3. You change your direction in writing and your story no longer would go to that person.
Now, before you go out and start firing off all of those past projects to those people who rejected to you, please listen for a second. A second or third project will get the same results as that first one unless you made a change. You had to learn from your mistakes. You have to show the editor or agent that you can learn.

When someone submits a project to me, I log in what I thought about it in my database. When a writer turns around and submits a new project, their name pops up in the database so I go back and look. Part of this is to make sure it isn't the same story, but the bigger reason is to see what the problem was on the last project. I want to see if they made changes to their writing and style to over-come those barriers.

I will say, most of the time, there has never been a change. The writer continues to write the same way over and over again. There is not growth and, of course, they are still not a part of the Greyhaus Literary Agency. Only one time in the past did a writer, with a second project fix this problem and I signed the writer. I should also add that we are now going back and working on that first project that received the rejection.

The goal is to demonstrate to those editors and agents you take criticism and you can revise.

Before you go crazy with one thing, let me put a clarifier on all of this. I understand there are many of you who only receive a form letter. In those cases, the best you can do is to go back, read more of what the agent or editor represents, and dissect their styles. You will likely find what you have been doing wrong.

Have a great week!



  1. But the problem is the writer does not get any sort of specific feedback on where they might change, only a form rejection, so how does one deal with this?

  2. Dear Propery and Share Investing,

    You are correct and that is why I noted at the end of the post that if you are getting no feedback, then it is crucial you take the initiative and research the works that the editors and agents represent. Look for patterns and look for the unique voice of the house you want to work for. There are patterns beyond simply a plot. It will take time and you simply will not be able to determine this from reading the submission guidelines or the posts found on most external websites that claim to be an information source for writers. You have to dissect the writing on your own.


  3. Great post!

    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?

  4. Luckily, no one's ever told me to get lost. I would love to hear an answer to elizabethreinhardt's question. Rejections are far from informative. Letting us down easily, or does it all mean the same thing?

  5. Elizabeth,

    Your question is being answered tomorrow!


  6. Excellent! Thanks, Scott! I'll be sure to check back.

  7. Great perspective Scott. Form letter feedback can be a pain to analyze but when you're inundated with countless inquiries it is very understandable. Likewise I'm sure there are works that not quite there yet, that you hope make their way back around in a polished form.