Monday, March 26, 2012

Best Rejection Letter Yet

Here is the link to a video of Megan's panel in Australia with Jo Nesbo.

Next Monday, FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE. A story set at a zoo. Mine needs to go past my reading group.
Let me know.

Best Rejection Letter This Time Around.

From a well-known agent:

Dear Ms. Abbott
I have read the chapters you sent me from SHOT IN DETROIT and although I enjoyed what I read, my enjoyment was not enough to read more.....

Really wouldn't you think an agent might have a better way of rejecting a ms. after years of doing it. Wouldn't he/she have a standard rejection letter that was kind but firm. I really resent the flippant attitude of this one, in particular.

How about:

Dear Ms. Abbott:

I enjoyed what I read of SHOT IN DETROIT. Unfortunately I find myself unable to represent it.

Or something like that. You have to wonder if some agents have a streak of masochism in them.

What's the worst one you've received? Or better yet, do you know an agent looking for clients?


YA Sleuth said...

I've had several handwritten "Not for me, thanks." right on my query letter. Doesn't that sound like you're liver and onions?

The agent hunt is terrible, not to depress you or anything... I'm glad I'm done with it.

The key is to find one who gets what you're doing, and sees the money in it. And it's impossible to tell from a place like Agentquery which agent that is.

Good luck...

Todd Mason said...

It's a ridiculous point to have come to, these past decades, that one needs to win over an agent, for goodness's sake, the way one needs to do an editor.

It is not the agent's job to be Another Editor. Particularly when too many of them are 1) too green to be deciding what's going to sell and B) Not the damned editor who's actually got the power to cut a check.

Meanwhile, the default rejection slip for the slightly previous regime at ASIMOV'S was rude enough in its "helpfulness" that I haven't sought to resubmit there. There's the token, No thanks three-line note, and then there's the 500 word photocopied sheet of Well, I'm not buying your story because it objectively bites, which is fine revenge on the slush pile but not exactly what one could be sending, since objectivity isn't in play here.

Anonymous said...

How can s/he say how much s/he enjoyed it and then finish the sentence that way? That's just dumb, and not very professional.

Jeff M.

Ed Gorman said...

I once had a British agent I liked very much (he'd flown more bombing missions than anybody else in the RAF during the big war) but who would send along comments from editors no matter how nasty. My favorite was an abrupt "Never send me anything by this writer again." That would seem to be final but this same editor liked my next novel so much he offered me a two book contract. My agent was nothing if not persistent.

Al Tucher said...

I could go on all day and all night about this topic, but I think the most annoying rejections come from agents who seize some peripheral issue as a pretext for saying no.

My Diana novels have some challenging material, and I can understand an agent deciding, "This isn't for me." That's why it drove me nuts when one agent instead asked, "Why aren't any of the cops black or hispanic?" First of all, in the boonies of northwestern New Jersey they wouldn't be. More importantly, WTF?

Just one example, unfortunately.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I repeatedly have agents say this character is not very nice. Well, no she isn't in the first chapter but there is growth over the novel if you'd read it. No matter how much I tone her down, agents still want a certain kind of woman. I am tempted to make her a man to see if I still get such comments.

Al Tucher said...

That's another thing, Patti. Many times I have wanted to tell them, "It's a novel. It can't all fit on the first page."

Mike Dennis said...

Back in the day when you had to send in hard copy of 3 chapters, I got them back SEVEN DAYS later with no accompanying letter, form postcard, or any other enclosure. Just a big red X on the first page of the mss.

What happened to you in your post, Patti, is why I'm self-published and I don't waste my time submitting stuff to agents anymore.

Dave Zeltserman said...

Patty, that's a fairly standard one. He's trying to be positive + polite.

My favorite came from an agent who contacted me after Fast Lane came out, and wanted to see my next so I sent him Bad Thoughts. His response: "Are you insane? I think you need psychiatric care."

(btw. that email did push me to change a section where I knew I went too far, but nobody told me about--including an editor at Warner books who I had gone through 3 rewrites with, but ended up unable to buy the book)

My second favorite is from an editor who is no longer (fortunately) in the business, and is for a pair of novels. For Small Crimes, she rejected it saying to my agent "This is a character-driven novel, and as you know, I prefer plot-driven novels". For Outsourced, she wrote back to my agent "This is a plot-driven novel, and as you know, I prefer character-driven novels". I don't know if she remembered how she rejected Small Crimes and was just busing my agent's chops, or what, but I always found those two amusing.


pattinase (abbott) said...

I have been through this before and know the downs of it but I promised my writing group I would give it one more shot before sticking with the shorts.
A couple of agents asked for the whole ms. but at this point I am without hope. That is not to say it's particularly painful to me at this point of life. I always have the short stories to write. And I can go the ebook route.

pattinase (abbott) said...

See a standard rejection is probably better than any of these. Don't get into why you didn't like the book.
With one agent, he had me rewrite large parts of it and still rejected it. Or had his partner do it.
I won't fall into that trap again.

Christopher Black said...

From the other side, I sent 3 chapters to a certain man (HCC) who, within a few hours, sent back a detailed 3 paragraph critique on what he liked but why he didn't need to read more.

What a guy. I know not everyone has time to do that. But what a guy.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Except, as in my case, if you make those changes and he still says no. You do have to appreciate the interest though. I hope they were good suggestions.

Dave Zeltserman said...

Patti, what this agent sent you was agent-speak for "I liked what I read but I don't think I can sell it"--which in this market, there's probably very little that this or any agent will feel excited about selling.

Jerry House said...

Dear Ms. Abbott:

I enjoyed what I read of SHOT IN DETROIT. Unfortunately I find myself unable to represent it in its present form.

But, because I can see that you are such a cool writer, I enclosed my personal check for one million dollars, gratis. I have never done this before, but then I have never seen such a talented writer as you before.

I hope you will give a chance to see your next effort.

I remain,

Fairy Godmother Literary Agency

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

I have often wondered why editors and agents think they know better than the writers whose works they are supposed to represent. I mean who's to decide what sells and what doesn't. There's a lot of very mediocre fiction coming out of Indian arms of Western publishers aimed at the YA group and it's selling. Where are the rejection slips now?

pattinase (abbott) said...

A million ways to say no and I have or will hear every one of them.
Jerry-I like your idea.

Gerard said...

At least the agents don't post online comments complaining about your work. You only get to savor/suffer that once the pieces are published.

(I have no experience in this by the way.)

Thomas Pluck said...

My most recent sting was this:

"While we enjoyed reading it, we are going to pass on it for publication. The story didn't work for us. The first line was good, but then it fell apart from there."

And if they had stopped at "didn't work for us," I wouldn't have blinked an eye. We enjoyed reading it, but it fell apart after line one. Hmm.

pattinase (abbott) said...

See that's sadistic. No excuse.