Why It’s Hard to Tell the Whole Truth
As I mentioned on Friday, I’m getting an awful lot of queries these days, and most of my agent colleagues are experiencing the same thing. It’s a lot of work going through them, but there’s nothing more exciting than finding a gem buried in the inbox.
I know many of you get frustrated with agent responses that don’t tell you anything about why your project was rejected. I’ve blogged about this before, but today I wanted to highlight specifically why it’s so hard to tell people the whole truth, i.e. exactly what I think, in response to queries.
The first and most important reason is because I could be wrong. I would hate to make some kind of pronouncement about your manuscript being unsalable and get you all dejected, only to have my opinion proven wrong by the next agent who comes along and recognizes your brilliance.
The second reason is a completely practical one: there’s simply not enough time. It might take only a moment to recognize that a project isn’t right for me to represent, but it could take quite awhile to put into words (in a way that someone would understand) exactly why.
The third reason is that all rejection sounds harsh just by its nature (thanks Nixy Valentine for that wise observation), and the more detailed I get about the rejection, the more personal that rejection becomes. I don’t like to hurt people’s feelings and seem unnecessarily harsh especially if I may be wrong (see #1 above).
If people get their feelings hurt by the rejection, they tend to write me back, which is exactly what I don’t need. They might argue with my assessment or lash out a bit. One of the more common responses I get to pass letters is something like: I thought you were a Christian! How can you say no to me and call yourself a Christian? Well, there’s nothing I can say to that, is there? Because that person probably wouldn’t understand anything I tried to tell them.
This week someone responded to my pass letter by saying he was glad I’d rejected his work, because he didn’t like MY work either. It made me feel bad that the writer felt so personally insulted he needed to insult me back.
I know many of you wish you knew “why” your work is being rejected. But take my word for it, you’re better off paying for a professional manuscript evaluation or working with a critique group. You don’t need to know the reason for every rejection. It might only hurt your feelings unnecessarily.
Got any good rejections stories for us? We’d love to hear them.
Rachelle Gardner, Christian literary agent, WordServe Literary Group, Colorado.