Tuesday, April 13, 2010

In Which I Celebrate the Beauty of Form Rejections

I would like to thank all of the agents who have sent me form rejections. It's difficult to get defensive about a form rejection. There isn't much analyzing or parsing to be done. Form rejections are barely even remembered, so terrifically uniform and bland they are. Exhibit A, for those out there who have never received one:

I regret to say that I don't feel that I'm the most appropriate agent for your work.

However, opinions vary considerably in this business, and I wish you the best of luck in your search for representation.


Nothing in there to piss me off too badly really. It's polite. It lets me down gently with the whole subjectivity thing. Hell, it even wishes me luck. Not once have I read a form rejection and wanted to explain my novel any further than I had already done in the query letter. Not once have I had my reading interrupted when I realized that what I was criticized for in a rejection was now happening, right on the page, of the book I was reading.

Take my current Newbery Honor read over there on the right. A Long Way From Chicago by one of the Pecks who writes kids' books is "a novel in stories," which basically means it's a bunch of short stories starring the same characters. The stories are funny. The novel--if you can really call it that--is historical. But it's meant to be a kids' book, and while the stories are told by the boy, the star of the show is undoubtedly the boy's grandmother.

Now I wouldn't normally care about this but for the fact that an agent who rejected my current young adult manuscript cited as one of its weaknesses too much of a focus on the adults. I thought it a valid criticism--until I read A Long Way From Chicago, a book in which the two kids do pretty much nothing except witness the exploits of their no-nonsense grandmother. So I guess the lessons are these: Agents, just send along the form rejection; it's far less painful. And make sure you mention how subjective this business is, because...it is.

10 comments:

Jonathon Arntson said...

Wait, it's subjective...that explains so much...

Tracy Edward Wymer said...

Yes.

Rena said...

I guess forms are better than never hearing anything. Right? At least that's what I try to make myself believe ...

Kelly said...

This business is extremely subjective. Also, I agree with Rena. Some agents don't even reply anymore, so even a form letter is better than nothing!
Good luck!

Anita said...

I've heard of writers getting form rejections after turning in requested revisions...that's harsh. Otherwise, I don't mind form rejections. I particularly like ones that state they are a form rejection. I'm kind of that way. Just recently I told someone something like, "I must tell you I'm a bit paranoid about people driving my children places. The fact that I will drive my own daughter to Denver for the contest in no way reflects my opinion of you. It is merely an example of my own paranoia. You are probably a great driver and probably other kids' parents will love having you drive their kids to the event."

Paul Michael Murphy said...

TW--If you're going to guilt me into blogging via email, I'm gonna need a little more than a one word comment.

Amy Allgeyer Cook said...

I never thought about it before, but you're right. The form reject is way kinder than the two page personal reject. which points out all the flaws in your ms and some in your humanity as well.

Tina Laurel Lee said...

Hmm, guilt blogging?

I have heard about that grandma. I'll have to read that book so someday I can make a smarter comment that connects how much I like the adults in your book to Richard Peck's adults.

In the meantime- interesting post. I have to admit I dread the whole querying process. Especially now.

Tracy Edward Wymer said...

I like to think of it as "encouraging" as opposed to "guilting"

Monica said...

see, you should do it like i do..don't even try, that way you'll never be rejected....sigh.