Copyright © 2010, Steven E. Houchin
I often wonder what I’m doing wrong when I hear another author gush about the nice, personal, detailed rejection letter received from an agent. Why don’t I get those? What are they doing in their query that I’m not? Is there some magic “useful critique” potion they sprinkle all over their query before sending? Was it sealed with a special kiss?
My rejections read like they’ve been downloaded en-mass from Rejections-R-Us, every one nearly identical:
Thank you for your submission. Unfortunately I do not think this novel would be a good fit for me/would not know how to present it to an editor. Please remember that this is just one agent’s opinion, and another agent may feel differently about your work. Best of luck/keep trying elsewhere.
Ahhh! Okay, but why? Did the story premise not work? Was the writing style flat? Were the characters thin? Do you not handle this genre this week? Did you drink too much last night and can’t remember? Do you only like New York-centric locations?
I know - agents get hundreds of unsolicited queries. But I even get form rejections after partials or full manuscripts were requested. Those of us who have studied the craft, had our works critiqued, and polished the manuscript, hunger for real feedback to improve even more. Providing feedback is not an agent’s job, but making those kind of quality judgments is part of the process. Even a few words about their unique take on the novel would be nice. Either that, or give a hint where I can buy the magic potion.
For the agent’s perspective, Nathan Bransford provides insight into his side of the story in this blog posting of June 24, 2010, titled Why I Write Vague Rejection Letters.