Monday, February 11, 2008


We want you. We need you. But there ain’t no way we’re ever gonna love you.
(Sorry, Meatloaf!)

As a former magazine writer, I’ve experienced firsthand the standard “no thank you” rejection letters. It’s a sinking feeling to discover that the work you’ve done is not appreciated by professionals. After several of these rejections, it’s hard to dust yourself off and try again. Even harder, because most editors don’t give you any kind of feedback, so you are left out in the cold, wondering where you’ve gone wrong.

Obviously, I don’t have the stomach for rejection. I’ve moved on from being a freelance writer to being a publishing professional, both a book publicist and a literary agent.

As an agent, I’m on the other end of the rejection pipeline now. (Though I still get my share of “no thank you” comments from the media we pitch for our publicity clients.) I’ve discovered that it’s no more palatable to hand out rejections than it is to get them. So Jon and I struggle to do it with as much class and thoughtfulness as possible.

Like most agents, we’re inundated with queries. We receive upward of 100 email and snailmail queries per week. It’s simply impossible to write a personal note or to detail why we’re passing, but we do think it’s important to respond in some fashion. Jon usually hand writes notes on the hard copies of queries he receives; I respond via email with pretty standard language.

We both wish we could do more, but if we did, we would take valuable time away from reading partials and manuscripts, pitching our editorial contacts, processing manuscripts for mailing and doing everything else necessary for our business. We try to add a personal touch when we must reject partials or (gasp!) manuscripts. We feel it’s the least we can do.

So, I guess this is my mass apology for rejecting your work. I’m sorry. I hate to do it, truly I do. But, at the basis of all this verbiage, we need to sell what we take on. We can’t sell it if we’re not passionate about it. So if you get a rejection from us, that’s why—we may like you, but we’re not in love with you.

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