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Responding to rejection

As one whose manners could always use improvement (well, table manners at least), I’m usually hesitant to weigh in on questions of etiquette. However, I got some emails this weeks that I thought were worth discussing…

Perhaps the only benefit of the recent heat wave is that things were quiet enough for me to catch up on submissions. Typically, I respond to queries with my standard form rejection, which I think is polite and honest in that it gives the ultimate reason why we chose not to take on any author’s work—we just don’t think we can sell it. Hence, when I do get an email back, it’s usually an equally polite thank-you note or a query about a new project, which I’m always happy to look at.

However, this time around I got a few replies from authors letting me know that while they were waiting for my answer, they either signed with another agent or got themselves a publishing deal. To which I say, congratulations… but why are you telling me this now, instead of when the interest in your project actually happened? Is it just to fill me in? Or is it to chastise me for being too slow? To show that my rejection doesn’t matter, since things worked out anyway?

Regardless of your motivation, telling me your news after you get the rejection means I just wasted time considering a project that wasn’t available anymore. So, a simple request: if you’ve got a submission with me and something develops, send me an email and tell me at the time—I’d love the opportunity to compete for your affection. (That’s why you initially queried me, right?) And if the message is that you’re withdrawing your work from consideration, then at least I can give you a genuine congrats!

8 Responses to Responding to rejection

  1. LupLun says:

    Playing devil’s advocate here: how long had it been since you received these queries? Because personally, if I don’t hear anything after two months, I assume that the agent has circular filed me and don’t bother following up with them.

    -LupLun
    Lupines and Lunatics

  2. Steve says:

    LL, I too write off queries if I don’t hear anything after 2 months. But what John is talking about is different. He’s mentioning standard procedure: if the writer gets an offer from someone else to then contact other agents under consideration.

    If you get an offer & accept and chose not to contact queried agents, rather than those with requests (contacting the requesters is the right thing to do), then fine, ignore the rejection. Personally, I just delete those rejections and smile to myself. Emailing that agent back is chest-thumping; it’s an “in your face” move.

  3. Will Overby says:

    At least you do respond, John. My pet peeve is agents/editors who never let you know. Even a simple form letter is better than nothing.

  4. Teri Carter says:

    There is no reason for anyone to respond “I got an agent or deal, thanks” except to tell you what a mistake you made. My grandmother would call it rubbing your face in it. What I particularly don’t get is why they wouldn’t tell you they have an offer when the offer is in play. That makes no sense.

  5. Kim says:

    Dare I suggest that some of these may be fabricated? Teri’s right–nobody likes rejection and the temptation is there to want to show how wrong the agent was in rejecting. Sounds to me like there might be a few “spoiled faces” out there missing noses.

  6. John says:

    Thanks for the support, folks. Kim, I hadn’t even considered the responses might be made up–a little creepy, dontcha think? And actually, LL, you raise a good point about timing–at least one of the queries I cited was, in fact, older than 2 months. But while it’s fair to assume that 2 months of radio silence probably means a rejection, I still think it’s worth reporting any news to the agent/editor–you never know if it’s just a matter of an agent being overwhelmed by submissions (like yours truly)… and besides, there’s nothing like a counteroffer to get people moving!

  7. Stephen says:

    Another thought here, especially if these emails are meant as a sort of a digital raspberry in the agen’s direction, is that the publishing community is a relatively small one. It’s not a good idea for an author (deal or no deal) to burn bridges or become associated with poor or unprofessional business behavior.

    Nobody likes a jerk.

  8. Hmm. Them’s the breaks, I guess.

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