Query Letters

Dealing with rejections

Current word count: 12,201

Words written today: 568

Words to goal:  27,799/ 352 words a day til end of September

Nothing written yesterday, but I got back on track this morning and hope to not miss a day this week. The good news is, when I do write, I’m usually way over the number of words I need a day to have 40K by the end of the September. The bad news is, what I am writing is not making up for my missed days, and I’d secretly love to be finished earlier than the end of September. We’ll see.

Friends and I both have query letters out with agents right now, and we were chatting the other day about gleaning information from rejections. It’s frustrating to receive a form letter that says the manuscript just isn’t right for them. It would be wonderful to get a letter that gives some specific details about what exactly they don’t like about the manuscript, but that doesn’t happen often mainly because agents don’t have time, and I FULLY understand that.

But there’s another reason I think rejections letters are vague, even when they’re not form letters. I received a lovely and very encouraging personalized rejection letter from one agent who had requested the full manuscript. In it, she said there was “much she enjoyed and admired,” but ultimately, she said she didn’t feel she was the right agent for the book and knew “another agent will feel differently.”

There’s still nothing specific in this letter that could guide me on improving my manuscript, but that’s the point. Sometimes a rejection doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with a book. I’ve read agent Kristin Nelson write on her blog about books that she turned down that went on to do well once they’re published. But Kristin pointed out that the book did well thanks to the work of another agent, and if she had picked it up, the book might not have done as well because she didn’t have the passion for it.

Let’s face it, writing is an art and art is subjective. Some people love the Harry Potter books passionately, others enjoy them but didn’t rush to buy the last book when it was released, others might read them in a pinch at the doctor’s office. But for an agent, who’s going to go out and sell a book, there has to be real passion for the writing and subject matter and story and characters. If not, that agent might not be able to sell the book as well as another agent who has that kind of passion for it.

Of course, there are some reasons why queries and/or manuscripts are rejected. The Adventurous Writer blog lists 17 reasons given by agent Janet Reid, editor Julie Scheina and reviewer Haile Ephron. Some are misuse of the English language, boring writing, too complex a plot, too many stock characters…

These are all good things to think about when we’re considering sending out our work. As writers, we should look at our work with an honest eye — a really honest eye, after we haven’t looked at it for a few weeks to a month and the excitement of finishing and revising and revising has worn off — and see whether we can truly say that our manuscript and query letter suffers from NONE of these. If that’s the case, then we could send it out. If not, then we should keep revising.

But if we can say that we truly believe our manuscript or query letter has none of these problems, then we should look at rejections with less frustration. Because, like Kristin Nelson points out, agents do think differently, and it’s out job to keep persevering until we find the RIGHT agent for our work.

How’s your writing coming?

Write On!

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