Why, Oh Why, Did I Get Rejected?
Julie Geistfeld wrote that she wants a “reason” with her rejection letters. But, she says – she’s not asking for much – just “one word, maybe two” of explanation at the end of a form rejection. A “simple category,” she says. That’s not asking too much, is it? Julie expanded her plea to agents in this blog post.
Well, sorry to tell you this, Julie (and everyone else who yearns for explanations for their rejections). But it is asking too much. The necessity to add “a word or two” of explanation could potentially triple or quadruple the time it takes for us to respond to each query. I’m not exaggerating – and we can’t afford this.
Many of us have already dispensed with the personalized salutation, finding this can significantly reduce the time it takes to respond to each query. We are trying to do everything possible to still be able to give you a response. The more you ask of us in this process, the more likely it is that agents will opt for no response at all.
But time isn’t the only reason we choose not to offer explanations for our rejections. There is a HUGE difference between knowing a query doesn’t appeal to me… and being able to put into words WHY it doesn’t appeal to me.
When you walk through the department store looking for clothes, do you stop at every single item of clothing and dissect why it’s not right for you? Of course not. And if you did, you’d spend an awful lot of time trying to identify exactly why it doesn’t appeal. Something about the style? The color? Does it seem to old or too young? Too casual or too formal? Is it just plain ugly? Or is it… (drum roll please)… just not what you’re looking for right now?
Obviously it doesn’t make sense spending all that time in the store figuring out why you don’t like most of the clothes. You’re there to find something you can BUY, so that’s where the bulk of your time needs to be spent. It’s exactly the same with queries. We must spend our time looking for what we can work with, and quickly dispense with the rest.
There’s one more reason we don’t send explanations: because we don’t want to unnecessarily confuse, enrage, or depress you. Would you really prefer we tell you your book idea is (in our opinion) unoriginal, boring, derivative, or poorly written? Any brief response we offer would only leave you with more questions than if we said nothing. Plus, we could be wrong. The next agent might love it.
You’re looking for help – I understand that! You want to know if your book is good, worthwhile, saleable, well-written. But an agent is not the source of that help. Unless, of course, they’re your agent, already representing you.
So where do you find that kind of help? Editors, book doctors, and book mentors exist to help with your book. For a fee, they can tell you what you need to know. But please get this straight:
A literary agent is not obligated to help a non-client with their book. Or their pitch, or their query letter.
And yet, we help quite a bit anyway. We blog. We tweet. We teach at writers conferences, which take us away from our desks and our families for days at time. Many agents are helpful to the writing community.
I’m sorry, writer friends. What you’re asking for is not simple and it’s not little. I hate to be the bearer of bad news.
But now you know.
(c) 2010 Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent