Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Personal 'No-Comment': In Which We Need Some Better Terms for Rejections

Let's say you've revised many, many times and you've begun the process of sending out your manuscript. You get one personal rejection from an editor of a big house and one personal rejection from an agent, neither of which explain why they've turned it down. The editor says it was a pleasure to consider the work.
At this point, do you keeping trying for the big leagues or go for the smaller presses? Or return to the revising process?
First of all, you're rethinking your approach after two rejections?! Readers, please help this sweet, demented person.

Secondly, unhelpful, non-specific rejections are not exactly what I'd call "personal".

But we do need better names for these things. Readers, will you help me name the following rejection categories, please? Points for imagination and humor, but also points for clarity and usability.

Rejection Categories:
1: no response or a pre-printed rejection
2: a rejection letter with your name on it, but no meaningful feedback
3: a rejection letter with your name on it and meaningful feedback
4: a rejection letter with your name on it and meaningful feedback and an invitation to resubmit


Anonymous said...

Oh, dear.

Sweetie, whoever you are. Listen up. DO NOT query editors and agents at the same time. Just don't. If you get an agent interested in your work and then tell her you've already sent the ms to 15 publishing houses on your own she WILL NOT SIGN YOU.

An agent likes a book that has a clean slate, one that has not been "shopped" to editors by the author. Don't fret, you've only sent it to one editor, that is not a big deal.

Here's my Rejection Categories List:
1: no response or a pre-printed rejection

= the agent is up to her eyeballs in queries and does not give a shit who you are, what you wrote, or if you are the second coming. She may be a bitch, or just simply busy. Don't take it personally.

2: a rejection letter with your name on it, but no meaningful feedback

= this means an unpaid intern has probably perused your query, and it didn't jump out at her. Maybe they already represent this type of book, maybe they think it sucks, but the intern is young, and hopeful, and unjaded by the industry. So she slaps your name (it might even be spelled correctly -- bonus points for that) and shleps to the nearest Starbucks, patting herself on the back.

3: a rejection letter with your name on it and meaningful feedback

= surprise! the agent/editor has personally read your query/partial, and thinks you have promise, or at least the book does. But alas, for reasons you will never fully understand, your work failed to knock her to the ground in spontaneous orgasm. She recognizes you have talent, or that the book is good and wants to encourage you, but she still doesn't want that thing you call a manuscript. Cursing/tears ensue.

4: a rejection letter with your name on it and meaningful feedback and an invitation to resubmit

= Yes! What you hoped for. The agent/editor is impressed with you, wants you to carefully consider her ideas and apply them to your rewrite, not exactly the way she's stated neccessarily, but in the "spirit" in which they've been stated. (easier said than done). At this point you cry, drive fast on the highway blasting your fav music and then pray like a son-of-a-bitch that the agent/editor will recognize your brilliance.

Please don't stop after two rejects. Two is nothing. Ten is nothing. Make your query the best you can, go on sites, go to Query Do not give up.

Editorial Anonymous said...

Actually, I hoped for pithy terms for the different types of rejections, rather than separating them into 'personal' and 'not'.

But thanks for making me laugh out loud!

CJ Omololu said...

Can't help with these categories, but my favorite has always been the term for a swift rejection of an email submission: eject.

Anonymous said...

(I'm the first Anon)

God, you're sort of picky this morning, EA...

All right, Ill try again...

1 The not a chance reject.
2 The we're only pretending you are a human being reject.
3 The we don't like you That much reject.
4. The dear God I hope this writer isn't a nutjob invitation.

Editorial Anonymous said...

Picky is in my job description. ;)

Jean Wogaman said...

1. The black hole rejection.
2. The agent/editor-has-an-assistant rejection.
3. The hey!-the-agent/editor-really-read-it rejection.
4. The beginning of something beautiful?

Dana Strotheide said...

1. The Snork (as in, HA! seriously? You think we would even look at this piece of...)
2. The Smirk (as in, some intern smiling as she laughs at your delusion)
3. The Sigh (as in, the editor wishes it were just a little better, just a little different or sent at a different time)
4. The Smile (as in, the editor's faith in humanity and writers is somewhat boosted.
Bonus points for alliteration? ;)

Sarah Miller said...

Dana -- you've got my vote.

Sarah Laurenson said...

I thought of black hole for the first one as well, jeanie.

1: no response or a pre-printed rejection - Slush Flush
2: a rejection letter with your name on it, but no meaningful feedback - Learner Interner
3: a rejection letter with your name on it and meaningful feedback - Unique Critique
4: a rejection letter with your name on it and meaningful feedback and an invitation to resubmit - Deadline

Kristi Holl said...

Congrats to Sarah and Dana--I couldn't beat that! Before I ever submitted anything in the early years, I made a list of ten publishers (book or magazine) that I felt my manuscript would fit. It's hard to make that list after getting rejected--but if you have the list made already, you can turn around and send it back out the next day, whether you're full of angst or not.
Kristi Holl
Writer's First Aid blog

Chris Eldin said...

Blind date analogies

1: no response or a pre-printed rejection
Editor is at a restaurant, climbing out the bathroom window

2: a rejection letter with your name on it, but no meaningful feedback

Editor is sitting at table, nodding politely, but checking out the hot babe two tables over.

3: a rejection letter with your name on it and meaningful feedback

Editor is paying for dinner but not dessert.

4: a rejection letter with your name on it and meaningful feedback and an invitation to resubmit

Editor wants to date you and the hot babe, and is willing to pay for dinner plus dessert.

Kimbra Kasch said...

1) Wham Bam, TY Ma'am
2) Dear John
3) We're so sorry, Uncle Albert
4) XXOOO's, Let's try to work this out.

Anonymous said...

What about the glowing rejection -- the one that raves about your writing and your exciting plot and exotic setting, and then says, "I may kick myself for this, but I'm going to pass. I'm certain another agent will want it."

Laurie Wallmark said...

Rejection #3 =
It's not you, it's me.

Anonymous said...


1. Grody

2. Bogus

3. Bonus

4. Gnarly


Ebony McKenna. said...

I love these.

All I can think of are comparisons with dangerous Australian animals.

1 is the irikanji jellyfish - instant death.

2 is the dingo - it's just eaten your baby.

3 is the redback spider - hurts like crazy, but you might survive.

4 is the boxing kangaroo - a bit scary and overwhelming at first, but if you take care and do some fancy footwork, you might win the next round.

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B. Nagel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
B. Nagel said...

As Elvis Songs:
1: no response or a pre-printed rejection - Heartbreak Hotel
2: a rejection letter with your name on it, but no meaningful feedback - Return To Sender
3: a rejection letter with your name on it and meaningful feedback - Love Me Tender
4: a rejection letter with your name on it and meaningful feedback and an invitation to resubmit - Viva Las Vegas

Anonymous said...

hey b nagel - those elvis songs are cool

Anonymous said...

Can we please add 5: a rejection letter with your name on it and meaningful feedback and and invitation to submit SOMETHING ELSE.

Stephanie J. Blake said...

Decide to query agents or publishers. Not both.

All of the rejections are forms. They all mean nothing, except: NEXT? The only thing that means anything is a YES.

But, do feel warm and fuzzy about #4. A rejection letter with your name on it and meaningful feedback and an invitation to resubmit is a good step in the right direction.

An offer to see a revision is even better.

But none of it means anything until someone gives you some money.

Adrian said...

A girl's response to several dating candidates:

1: no response or a pre-printed rejection.

The Prison Stripes Rejection.

You are wearing prison stripes and showing off the tattoo on your bicep, which appears to be a dragon eating a bunny in a leather jacket. You may be a sweet marshmellow inside, who will one day sweep me off my feet, but at the moment, I am hoping that you lose my address, think that I moved out of country, and please oh please god, don’t stalk and kill me.

2: a rejection letter with your name on it, but no meaningful feedback.

The Mom’s Basement Rejection.

You seem nice, but I see myself eating a lot of pizza in your mom’s basement, driving around in my car, and teaching you how to undo certain important pieces of clothing. Call me again in a few year’s, after some other girl has given you an education.

3: a rejection letter with your name on it and meaningful feedback

The Plaid Jacket Rejection.

Wow, tall, dark eyes, nice smile. My mom would love you. But that’s partly because because your outfit looks like it might be from her era. You have a plaid jacket, white socks, and pants that end at your ankles. My friends would laugh themselves silly if I showed up with you dressed like that. But, maybe, with a little work?

I’ll give you a style tip or two, but a date is out of the question until you prove that you can dress the part.

4: a rejection letter with your name on it and meaningful feedback and an invitation to resubmit

The Tom Cruise Rejection.

Oh boy, you’ve got nice eyes. And arms. And chest. The leather jacket isn’t normally my thing, but you’re selling me on it. Where do you work? Do you like puppies? A date is a given here, but I’m trying to decide whether or not to wear the good lingerie….

Anonymous said...

1 - Diarrhea--get it out of the system as quickly as possible.

2 - Head cold--just a drag.

3 - Mild indigestion--maybe it's worth it for somebody, but it won't work for this agency without some Prevacid...

4 - Hiccups--drink some water, hold your breath, stand on your head, and we may just have a deal.

Alicia Padrón said...

Dana, loved yours. :o)
Ok, I'm going to give it a try.

1- No way José!

2- José, no way..

3- José, still no way.. but thanks!

4- Ok José, you can write. Now write something I like! :o)

Liana Brooks said...

The we're-not-publishing-at-this-time rejection that always makes me wonder when they plan to publish it.

The we're-not-sure-if-we-want-to-say-yes-or-no rejection, because they need more time to think maybe? After three months?

The form-rejection-with-note-hand-written
Kind of cute... but not so helpful.

The I-thought-it-was-a-rejection rejection that gets you and angry follow-up e-mail from the editor demanding why you haven't sent in the consent form and the edits the demanded so they can publish you already.

Anonymous said...

Well put, Colorado Writer. Really well put.

Oh, have I been there.

Stephanie J. Blake said...

I didn't follow EA's directions about naming the forms, but someone had to say something.


No means No.

Anonymous said...

And "yes" asks when can you start? And you say, "yesterday."

Anonymous said...

As an intern a few years ago, I was responsible for more Snorks and Smirks than I care to admit.

Dal Jeanis said...

Number 1 means the place is too disorganized to be worth your time. Collect 1 point and save your postage next time.

Number 2 is a rejection. Collect 1 point.

Number 3 is a helpful rejection. Collect 5 points and consider the suggestions closely.

Number 4 is a "booya" rejection. Collect 10 points and consider the suggestions very closely.

All of the above, get the manuscript back in the mail asap, with changes as necessary.

Rack up as many points as you can.

Anonymous said...

Glad to have stopped by your site for this entertaining commentary!

1: no response or a pre-printed rejection
Nice try, give up.
2: a rejection letter with your name on it, but no meaningful feedback
3: a rejection letter with your name on it and meaningful feedback
Do not pass go, do not collect $200.
4: a rejection letter with your name on it and meaningful feedback and an invitation to resubmit
You may proceed to Round 2.

Christine Tripp said...

2) NOOooo!
3) no.
4) You never k"no"w.

I have to add that today I had a DHL courier come to my door with my returned dummy that I had sent to Scholastic US. Of course it encluded a form letter "dear author" explaining they will not even read unsolisited manuscripts. What I DID think was classy of them was, though all I could enclose with my reply envolope was an IRC, they sent it via courier, which had to have cost more then the IRC I had enclosed. So, kudos to Scholastic (even if I don't love the new policy:)

Anonymous said...

I love this industry but I don't like this. I don't like it at all.

And I miss the old EA posts.

But I can't post anymore. :{

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