“Large offers and sturdy rejections are among the most common topics of falsehood.”
- Samuel Johnson
On my way out the door to drop the kids off at school, I noticed that a pile of letters was sitting in my mailbox. As I shuffled through them, I found a letter with my handwriting on it, addressed to myself. Ah, a rejection. As more agents are taking submissions via e-mail, I get less snail mail rejections. Sometimes, they depress me, but other times, I barely give them a second thought. One time, I opened the letter and got a request for a full manuscript, which was a nice surprise.
Today’s rejection letter made me pause. Oh. I’ve included it below. Note: names have been changed to protect the innocent (Or the delusional, since my manuscript is fabulous).
Thank you for your submission. We are sorry but it is not for ----.
Do try Publishers directly and if you need help negotiating a contract our legal staff can help you.
We wish you every success in finding the right place for your work.
------ - ------
I once wrote a post, called “Positive Rejections”*, which explains different tiers of rejections. This one is a form rejection, but it has the cheek to basically say, “We don’t think your work is worth our time trying to get your manuscript a publishing contract, but if you happen to get one on your own, contact us, and only then will we represent you.”
Now I know that agents say that if writers submit directly to publishers, and get a contract, they can contact an agent, and it’s often easier to get representation that way. This seems best if a writer has at least gotten a detailed rejection from an agent, demonstrating that the agent saw promise in the writer’s writing. It would be nice to have established some sort of relationship. I’ve never seen a rejection letter offer like this one. It’s certainly not based on my writing or it wouldn’t begin, “Dear Author” and end with just the agent’s name (Sincerely would've been nice).
I decided to do some research, and looked on the Absolute Write website**, which has a forum section, allowing questions and responses. With so many agencies, it’s important for writers to make sure they’re sending manuscripts to reputable ones. I’ve used this webpage to avoid agents who charge fees or have been known to behave in ways that are against industry standard***.
Of course, I’m not stating this literary agency fits in this mold. The comment thread from Absolute Write sounded more like speculation than fact. But it’s hard enough to break into this business. If I happened to send something to a publishing company, and I’m offered a contract, I don’t think I’d call an agency that sent me a form rejection. I’ve submitted to several agents who have taken the time to give me advice on my manuscript. Some writers don’t think representation is necessary, but I’d be wary of handling the financial ends of a contract on my own.
I just hope that someday I’m in that position.
“I take rejection as someone blowing a bugle in my ear to wake me up and get me going, rather than retreat.”
- Sylvester Stallone
* Here’s a link to that post:
** This site has a good forum section:
*** This site is a great resource. They have a “Whom Not to Query” link on the right: