Post Rejection questions

Esteemed Miss Snark:

Some of us have been engaged in spirited discussion re: whether an author is "allowed" to correspond after a NMR (negative market report, i.e., rejection. Some of us have sent a short note thanking an editor for looking at the MS and asking what they liked about it. An editor on this loop said this was rude and she wouldn't answer such a note.

What do you think?

Well, I like the 'esteemed' thing, I may put it on my business cards.

You are "allowed" to correspond with anyone the law allows. Whether it is a good idea is another question. To my way of thinking someone asking for feedback after a rejection is raw meat to the wolves. If they ask, I've been known to send them my unedited reading notes. This is how NASA plans to populate Pluto cause after reading them, people have been known to go into orbit.

Agents and editors are well within the bounds of courtesy to not answer such letters. No guff from me about that at all. From our perspective it's not that we don't want to tell you, it's that it seems to open the door to further questions, clarifications, and worst of all..submissions. I cannot spend time answering questions about why I didn't like something every day or I'd never get to my paying work.


Feisty said...

I once wrote to an editor and asked her what was wrong with a manuscript and she answered. That led to a long relationship and many revisions on a book that didn't sell to her, but did sell.

I think it depends on the editor. And the rejection. This particularly editor sent me a long, specific rejection and I felt that I needed to clarify a few things, so I took the risk.

Janny said...

I have been one of the participants in this little debate...in fact, I probably started it, so go ahead, blame me. :-)

All I said which provoked this mini-brouhaha was that I've had some good experiences in writing/calling editors after rejections, asking for a little more information.

Note that I was NOT asking why they didn't like something, or what they didn't like about it! Most of the time, I already had that answer in the rejection letter. If I didn't, my theory was that I didn't need to hear the specifics blow by blow of what they didn't like and why. My ego's pretty strong, but...

What I did instead was ask them what they LIKED about it. Might sound silly, in the face of rejection. But, operating on the principle that if I "shot in the dark" I'd be just as likely to take out what was good about the book as what was bad, I decided to ask the editors/agents for GOOD things that I should keep. What was fresh and original about it? What kept them reading past the first couple of pages? (It's worth saying that these editors/agents had all spent some time with or on the manuscript...their rejections said so.)

I did NOT take any response as an invitation for further correspondence; it was a one-shot note and I indicated it as such.
Maybe because that was clear from the get-go, I got some very nice, very gracious and very helpful feedback in the process.

Having these great results, I have encouraged other writers to do the same, knowing full well that most of them wouldn't...and then this one editor posted that that was a bad idea. News to me.

Of course, I may be one of the few authors I know who actually got a call FROM an editor at a major house in which she took great pains to tell me all the reasons she was going to pass on my submission. Why would she bother? It seems she liked my writing, but just couldn't get behind this book...and she didn't want to just send a form rejection without having some contact with me. So go figure.

They tell me that my experience is unique in publishing. Maybe so. Or maybe I had this happen because "no one told me I couldn't," so I just went ahead and acted. I've always operated on the principle that we're in this together, editors and I. We both love books, and we'd both love to see good ones come through and get to the shelves. To that end, ideally, we should communicate more, not less, and so I like to take the chance to touch base with anyone who can share valuable information with me.

I don't abuse those chances. I don't consider the editor my new best friend. :-) But that "what did you like about the book" question has never gotten me any snippy answers, either; the editors I've talked with and/or corresponded with seemed honestly flattered that someone would ask them that. Maybe it's a compliment to have an author say, in effect, "I consider your positive feedback valuable information, so if you've got time to give it, I will certainly appreciate it."

Or maybe it's just a relief that the author isn't vilifying them for a rejection...whining, complaining or justifying. Coming in expecting nothing, just asking a favor. Most of us love to be able to do favors for someone, if we can...with no strings attached. Some editors respond that they simply can't help me, and that's fine, too. We're adults; a simple "No can do" constitutes an answer, and I thank them for that, too. And I have always, without fail, been invited to submit other work to those editors, so I must have acted in a way that wasn't all that obnoxious. :-)

Under these conditions, acting as I have, I find it perplexing in the extreme that any editor would consider my actions "rude." Or is my experience truly that unique?

If it is, that's kind of sad. But, like I said, go figure.