Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"they like me, they really like me"

I received a query this morning quoting a letter from a major publisher. The writer was sure this letter meant that all she needed was an agent and the publisher would buy her book. She knew I was unlikely to believe this without seeing the letter so she helpfully attached it for me.

It was left to me to break the bad news that this letter is, in fact, a form rejection.

These rejections are designed to make the writer feel hopeful. Publishers are not stupid. They are large companies with products to sell to consumers and the last thing, the LAST thing, they want to do is make consumers angry and unwilling to buy as in "oh those beasts at LaDeDah Publishers were so rude, I'll never buy one of their books again."

So the letter compliments the book in so general a way it can apply to any book they receive. It goes on to explain their policy of only working with agents, and then how to find an agent.

Their mission is accomplished.

One cardinal rule of querying is "do not quote rejection letters" but you can be forgiven for not recognizing a rejection letter that seems to compliment your book and steer you toward an agent.

So, how do you recognize all rejection letters now and forever more? Look for the phrase "Please send your novel to me now."

Not there? That's a rejection.

Whatever else it may say, without those words, it's a rejection.

12 comments:

Angie Ledbetter said...

Learning the Difference Between Acceptance and Rejection 101. :)

Scarlett DeNigro said...

Oh no! When you told me in SC at my critique appointment that I "had good instincts" that was an out-n-out rejection? Of that draft, yes I agree, but I was buoyed by the future potential. Am I being overly optimistic? Is "good instincts" code for "the line for the short bus is over there?"

Whidget said...

Well that's just depressing! But it's the way it works.

Travener said...

Ah, c'mon, Janet, don't mince words!

Dana King said...

I'm no Einstein, but even I know that anything short of "send me your manuscript" is a rejection. A rejection may say (rarely), "make these changes, and then send me your manuscript," which is more encouraging than a form rejection, but it's still a rejection.

amy said...

One clueless writer has a hack of an agent - not one book sold, a website on Tripod - who has posted rejection letters from editors on her blog. They're horrible to read. Cringe-worthy, actually, because they show the agent doing stupid things like telling the editors she's got an auction going (clearly she doesn't) and - the worst - the agent quotes other editors' rejections in her letters to editors.

So not only does the writer not know rejection when she sees it, even her hack agent doesn't know it.

Rebecca Knight said...

Ooooh, poor writer :(. I'm glad you could help out. I bet they need some chocolate right about now.

Kristin Laughtin said...

Aww, I feel kind of bad for that writer. It's one of those things we have to learn, though: if it doesn't ask for more (of that same manuscript--because many will include "please feel free to submit again in the future!" lines), it's a rejection. Even if your talent is praised, it's a rejection. A nice one, maybe, but a rejection nonetheless.

Susan Bonifant said...

Even false hope is better than none in those 101 days. But when hope starts to look like reality, a writer needs the path cleared. You did her a favor.

_*Rachel*_ said...

Ow. At least the poor writer sent the letter to an agent who thinks that's forgivable.

Whirlochre said...

Oh, I get it now.

It's like trying to kiss girls when you stink like a horse.

"Hey, you're real nice looking, but..."

Chantal said...

That's just too bad. It's nice of you to point out the form rejection, but if the author that sent it to you didn't recognize the issue, is she ready for this business? Hard to know...