3.01.2006

Form Rejection Letters

Dear Miss Snark

Every time someone asks about the meaning of form rejections I get more confused.

Is it standard practice among agents and editors to have one form rejection letter that they use for all rejections? Or is it standard practice for them to have several different form rejections with slightly different wordings, so for example they have one form letter for submissions that they think are crap, a different form letter for submissions that they think are okay but that they haven't got excited about, a different form letter for submissions they think are good but the list is full, etc, etc.......?


Well, I don't know about editors, since I'm not one, haven't been one, and after showing up at Random House for an appointment with an editor who works at Harper the security guards may never let me in to even speak to one.

However, your question was about form letters, not Miss Snark's diminishing grip on reality.

No, I don't have a wardrobe of form letters. I have one for "no" at the query stage. I have one for "no" at the partial stage. If I read the full ms, I'll generally write you a specific letter ("this sux, what the hell was I thinking").

In most cases it doesn't matter why I'm not taking something, it only matters that I'm not.

22 comments:

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

I'm watching the sun come up. Bill E. Goat and I are discussing Miss Snark, rejections, and the new brand of Sweet Corn.

Bill E: I don't have a wardrobe at all.

Me: Bill, that's not what she meant. She meant ...

Bill E: Yap has a tam.

Me: I told you, Elizabeth has a pink tam she won't wear. It's yours. But, you know ...

Bill E: I don't have a shirt either ...

Me: [With raised eyebrows] Arpita has that shirt with Sweepea's picture on it. She's outgrown it. ... But, I'm not sure how you'd wear it.

Bill E: Wear it? I was thinking lunch.

Me: Oh. Excuse me. I should have known.

Bill E: So you got rejected again?

Me: Yes

Bill E: Was it a wardrobe letter?

Me: Huh? Oh. No, it was on regular paper and not from C. S. Lewis at all.

Anonymous said...

This is just crazy. Crazy that we/people actually (have to?) think about these things. All the message boards dedicated to overthinking, questioning, pondering......all the second guessing, all the reporting of 'the odds' it is beginning to make me sick--although I am sucked into it just like the rest of you.
Stop the madness!

Anonymous said...

The best rejection I received from an agent was a hand written note on my original query letter. It actually had information that I found helpful. I think the form rejection letters are only useful to the extent that you know what the status is and the agent is courteous (which does count for a lot).

anon-y-mouse

Gina Black said...

>> and after showing up at Random House for an appointment with an editor who works at Harper the security guards may never let me in to even speak to one<<

Heh heh heh. That's about the same as Miss Big Name Star (or Mr Big Name Television) ending up at the television station where I work instead of the one down the street where they were supposed to be.

Happens All The Time.

(Just wanted to tell you--you're in good company.)

SherryD said...

After you're published a few times you'll realize the unimportance of form rejections. Rejections of any kind are really just opportunities to send your work to someone better (someone who sends an acceptance).

Lady M said...

ROFLMAO!

You didn't? Truly?

How funny!

That's like the criminal coming to the police station where I work and trying to sell us drugs.

How hilarious!

December Quinn said...

It's nice of you to write a letter if you requested the full. A friend of mine got a one-line form letter on hers, after a very fast and enthusiastic request from the partial, and was quite upset.

BTW, where's AgentC?

Bill said...

Life will improve when you get married and have kids

waylander said...

I got a form 'dear author' in response to an enthusiastically requested full manuscript. Let me say that that particularly sucks after paying for transatlantic postage.

cboldman said...

I once sent a humor book submission and got back a form letter saying "Thanks, but we're only in the market for humor books." My ego insisted that I write back, saying "Um, er, I thought it was humorous," after which I got back a nice, apologetic letter explaining (as I'd hoped) that I'd been sent the wrong form letter. On the upside, she did then give some helpful insight as to why my book wasn't for her.

Dave Kuzminski said...

Excuse me, but why wouldn't a request for a partial or full sound enthusiastic? Would you want your partial or full requested with a sultry, "Well, all right, send it. Maybe it will stand on its own two legs and surprise me."

I think that should be taken into account and that writers should remember the agent was expecting to be blown away by the requested material if they get a rejection.

Dave Kuzminski said...

Don't feel bad, cboldman, there's a review out on the web for one of my books that states it's a silly book. I fully agree. It is a silly book, but readers apparently like it enough that it's one of the best rated books of mine according to one site that gathers sales and reader ratings.

I also have to admit that I had a great time coming up with the silly events in it. I mean, what could be more preposterous than a dragon detective as big as a garage trying to work undercover on Earth?

Bernita said...

Dave, it sounds delicious.

Lisa Hunter said...

I never pay attention to form letter rejections. On the other hand, I once got a handwritten rejection from the New Yorker, and I treasure it, because it convinced me I wasn't being completely delusional in sending my work there.

Anonymous said...

Good marketing, Dave. But the link to your blog is dead--I tried!

Dave Kuzminski said...

I haven't posted anything yet in that blog.

December Quinn said...

Dave, it wasn't the rejection itself so much as the fact that it was a one-line form rejection, after exchanging quite a few nice emails with this agent. I think she would have felt better if it had even had her name on it.

Anonymous said...

To Lisa Hunter:

I've saved my New Yorker rejection letter for thirty years (had it laminated). It was a full single spaced typewritten page from Roger Angell and Dan Menaker.

When Menaker became head of Random House (I think) I sent him an email reminding him of it and it got me a reading of my latest novel.

He didn't take that either.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Bill said...
Life will improve when you get married and have kids

Ha!

Umm say, you aren't my goat are you? He's had lots of kids, and it hasn't done a thing for him as far as quality of life goes. Well, come to think of it, maybe it has...

I should never have started THAT topic.

If you're Bill E. Goat, whose computer did you sneak in to use?

litagent said...

Dan Menaker is a good egg who usually sends handwritten rejection notes. I think anytime we received something that acknowledges us as a real person (real people?), it's comforting, but I agree with Miss Snark that you shouldn't read much into rejection letters one way or the other. I try to be "nice" when I send rejection letters -- try to find something to praise to soften the blow -- and that does sometimes backfire and result in extended correspondence or resubmission. Sometimes, however, I'm not in the mood -- I just need to get a stack of rejections off my desk, and letters tend to be terse and business-like. It is what it is. If I'm interested in seeing more -- or seeing a project after you've revised it -- I'll be clear about it.

Deb K said...

My latest in a long string of "no thanks" letters cited the basis for rejecting the piece: two plot issues that other readers had no problems with, that could easily have been fixed had Ms. Agent given me a chance.

My favorite agent rejection was the one I got after writing a letter asking if they would look at Christian fiction. No submission, mind, merely the question. Gotta love some people's attention spans.

William Knight said...

I keep getting rejections that say, "I liked it, but didn't fall in love with it," usually written on top of the printed rejection form.

I'm beginning to think this is a stock line learnt at agent school. They probably have a rubber stamp with it on.