Monday, June 22, 2020

Rejection Letters, The Good and the Bad

Erica here with you today. We're going back to basics and talking about...



Rejection Letters.

If you're not familiar (you lucky duck) a rejection letter is a missive received from an agent or editor that declines your submission. This letter can arrive just about any time in the process. After your query letter, after your proposal, after the full manuscript is submitted, after your novel goes to the publication board.

But did you know that a rejection letter, or as I like to think of it, a professional decline, isn't always an automatic slam of a door in your face. There are actually several different kinds of rejection letters, and they often follow the progression of a writer's career. You can evaluate your growth and refinement as a writer by the type of rejection letter you're getting.

So, what are some of the types of Rejection Letters, and how can we evaluate them?


  1. The "Void of Silence."
  2. The "No Thank You."
  3. The "Not For Me."
  4. The "Not This One, But..."
  5. The "Revise And Resubmit"

The first is The Void of Silence. You submit your query letter (Ruthy covered the ins and outs of query letters in her blog post from Wednesday, June 10th, 2020.) and you wait, and wait, and wait. But Mr. Agent or Ms. Editor does not reply. 

You can assume that after a period of time (It varies depending upon who you submitted to, but most agencies will list their response time on their website.) that the answer to your query is no. 

Agents receive dozens of submissions every day, and they don't have time to answer each one. If they tried, they would never get anything else done. So no news is most likely just 'no.'

*Some authors will send a polite email after the response time has lapsed, just to check in. It's up to you, but for a simple query letter, I would move on to another agent. If it's after you've submitted a requested full manuscript, I would check in because the agent showed interest initially, and perhaps they haven't had a chance to read your ms just yet.



Some Agencies have a form letter that goes out that says "No, Thank You." It's polite, formal, and generic. The letter goes something like, "Thank you for submitting your query. I will not be pursuing representing this work. All the best." 

Not exactly words to warm your heart, but better than nothing. :)


The third type of Rejection Letter is the "Not For Me." This one, while still not giving you warm fuzzies, feels better to receive because it's personalized. The agent or editor takes the time to tell you that your work isn't bad, it just isn't a good fit. 

"Dear Writer, thank you so much for contacting me about your project. While I love the premise, I don't feel this story is a good fit for my agency at this time. I wish you all the best placing this book, and I hope I get a chance to read it once it's published."

Better, right? There could be a variety of reasons why your story isn't a good fit for the agent. It might be a bit of oversight on your part, not researching thoroughly and subsequently submitting a project to an agent who doesn't represent that genre. Or it might be that the agent does represent your genre, but she has several authors signed that also write your type of book. Rather than sign another one who will compete with her established clients, she will pass. It might also be that she doesn't have the contacts in the industry that she would need in order to sell your project. Agents build relationships with editors and publishing houses, and if you've written a niche novel, he or she may not have the specific relationships that your story will need. An agent might also have a full list, or a list that is fairly full of debut novelists that he's trying to place. Debut novelists require a lot of work, and if an agent has too many on their list, they can't devote enough time that each one will need. 


Another type of Rejection Letter is the "Not this one, but..." This is an exciting one to receive. It means the agent really likes your writing voice or style, he's just not enamored of this particular story. He's asking you what else have you written? Perhaps you might have something that is a better fit in your files. 

Reason to celebrate! And a very good reason not to fixate upon one story/book and keep writing new things. You want to have several projects, just in case an agent or editor asks for them.

The last type of Rejection Letter we'll talk about today is: "Revise and Resubmit." This one should have you nearly giddy. This means the story caught the agent's attention, and she would like you to revise the story (the agent will provide you with the information on where she thinks the story went wrong, needs strengthening, or needs an adjustment to be suitable for your target publishers/readers/the market.) and to send the story back once you've made the changes.

While and agent would not ask you to rewrite something she didn't feel really needed a rewrite, this is also a bit of a test on the part of the agent. Will you be open to critiques and editing, and will you follow through. Will you be a good client to work with?

I can't tell you how many authors I've spoken with who get an invitation to revise and resubmit, and they NEVER DO IT! What??? 

Don't let this be you. If you've made it all the way to the stage of being asked to revise and resubmit, then for the love of rugby (Which I LOVE a lot!) do it.

Now, I'm not saying that every author follows the path of these rejection letters perfectly. You may skip a level, or two, or three. You may, like P.D. James, never get a rejection letter. If that's the case, many blessings upon you, this post isn't written for you. But, if you're like most authors, you'll garner your fair share of rejections along the way before you land that elusive and joy-inducing YES from an agent or editor.


I've received plenty of rejection letters over the years. Even after I was a published author. 

1. I have waited on the edge of the abyss, where nothing but heartbreaking silence greeted me.
2. I got a rejection once that said, "I hate romances, and prairie romances are the worst." (From an editor at a publishing house that put out lots of romances and prairie romances at that!) That's all the rejection said. OUCH! 
3. I got a rejection once from an agent who chided me for not including a SASE with my submission. (Back when we sent everything snail mail printed out on precious paper and included a self-addressed-stamped-envelope in which the agent could slip a form letter or an "I wanna see more" note.) A week later, I got--in the SASE I HAD provided--a request from that same agency for the full manuscript. (Which was subsequently rejected with a polite No Thank You.)
4. I've gotten Revise and Resubmit requests, have done the work, only to have the publishing house reject the work at pub board. 
5. I've gotten the "This isn't right for us, but what else can you come up with" rejection that led to signing a contract for a new book.

I guess the moral of the story here is, don't give up, but don't fail to pay attention. You can gauge where you are in your writing journey by the types of feedback you're getting. Consider rejection letters as feedback, evaluate it, learn from it, get better because of it, and write some more!

How do you handle rejection letters? 

 


Best-selling, award-winning author Erica Vetsch loves Jesus, history, romance, and sports. She’s a transplanted Kansan now living in Minnesota, and she is married to her total opposite and soul mate! When she’s not writing fiction, she’s planning her next trip to a history museum and cheering on her Kansas Jayhawks and New Zealand All Blacks. You can connect with her at her website, www.ericavetsch.com where you can read about her books and sign up for her newsletter, and you can find her online at https://www.facebook.com/EricaVetschAuthor/ where she spends way too much time!



You can Order The Lost Lieutenant at: https://amzn.to/32NYANi and pre-order The Gentleman Spy at https://amzn.to/2qOjkHD

About The Lost Lieutenant:


He's doing what he can to save the Prince Regent's life . . . but can he save his new marriage as well?


Evan Eldridge never meant to be a war hero--he just wanted to fight Napoleon for the future of his country. And he certainly didn't think that saving the life of a peer would mean being made the Earl of Whitelock. But when the life you save is dear to the Prince Regent, things can change in a hurry.

Now Evan has a new title, a manor house in shambles, and a stranger for a bride, all thrust upon him by a grateful ruler. What he doesn't have are all his memories. Traumatized as a result of his wounds and bravery on the battlefield, Evan knows there's something he can't quite remember. It's important, dangerous--and if he doesn't recall it in time, will jeopardize not only his marriage but someone's very life.

*I may be a bit slow to respond to comments today. I beg your indulgence. I'm getting new carpet installed and the house is at sixes and sevens at the moment. I'll jump in when I can, so don't let that stop you from joining in on the conversation! 


34 comments:

  1. I am in full support of your wonderful words... waiting on the edge of the abyss, LOL! Because that's what it feels like, especially if you're putting all your eggs (words) in one basket... Which a writer should never, ever do (do not listen to other opinions on this, I mean really... your time is valuable, target your publishers/editors/agents and get it out there.

    When Erica and I were new, there were rules about Never Submitting to Multiple People.

    Balderdash.

    The rules all changed with the advent of Amazon and self-publishing and losing folks who could have been the Next Big Thing to the indie market.

    But this, Erica, was my favorite line, understandably!!!!! Reason to celebrate! And a very good reason not to fixate upon one story/book and keep writing new things

    Keep writing. Keep writing. Keep writing.

    To have a trove of work on your computer is a wonderful thing, it's like a bank account that just hasn't found its owner yet.

    This is a tough business. It's not for the faint of heart... but to quote Lenora Worth "On the very worst day, I still have the very best job in the world".... And that's exactly how I feel...

    And yes.

    Multi-published authors still get rejection letters, and that's okay, too. If things get rejected, they go on my "to be continued" list for indie publishing between traditional publishing gigs.

    Keep writing, my friends.

    Just keep writing.

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    1. That's the bottom line, isn't it Ruthy? Writers write. Even when we get rejections. Even when it's hard. Even when...

      Lenora Worth is right! :)

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    2. Ruthy, I think that is my favorite thing about Indie publishing. I know that if a story I love gets rejected, that is not the end of that story world. It feels like the kind of safety net that makes you feel more free to take risks. I don't believe any writing is ever wasted (practice makes closer to perfect), but this way there can also be no waste on the financial front either.

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    3. Ruthy, you make me feel so blessed to have multiple rough manuscripts on my computer just waiting to be sent out and find a home. :-)

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  2. Erica, this is a great post, because everyone gets rejection letters eventually. Well, except P D James.

    I'm currently waiting to hear on a proposal, and the silence is deafening. But it's only been six months, so I'm not quite ready to call it a "void of silence" rejection.

    I also consider every rejection to be a "revise and resubmit." If a story doesn't work for one agency or publisher, that doesn't mean another one won't snap it up. So those rejected proposals get their turn for me to take another look, a bit of polish, maybe a rewrite, and then they go out again.

    Meanwhile, I just keep writing!

    But you and Ruthy are SO RIGHT - just keep writing!

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    1. It reminds me of one of Heather's favorite "Elephant and Piggie" books...'Waiting Is Not Easy.' I hope you hear great things back on your proposal soon!

      What a great attitude about rejections. Each one is a call to revise and resubmit.

      And keep writing!

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    2. Only six months???? Ugh, I know in publishing, that's nothing, but in our lives it's huge. Good luck with your patience, Jan.

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    3. I know, Cate. I've already put that project in the "revise and resubmit" line. But maybe I'll hear back from them before it gets to the top of my pile. :-)

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  3. This is so encouraging. Thank you Erica!

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  4. I remember a rejection I got from an agent once, Erica. She told me that earlier in her career she would have gladly taken on my project. Unfortunately for me, she had become so successful that her time was completely taken up with her major clients (and she did have some really big-name authors).

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    1. Was that encouraging to you? To know that if she had the time, she would take you on as a client? Or did it make you think...If you'll take me on, I'll be a big-name client for you!!?

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    2. It was encouraging to know she thought it had promise, but at the time it was mainly just frustrating.

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  5. Wonderful post, Erica. You know, I think what some people don't realize is that rejection can happen at any time in a writer's career, not only when you're looking for that first contract. Your editor may tell you they just don't care for your next story/series idea. Or it isn't working for them. I like the old adage about not looking at it as rejection, but redirection. Yeah, it's a pain to have to rework or go back to the drawing board, but that's what grows and stretches us. No matter how much we hate exercise. ;)

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    1. It is definitely a pain! I once thought that when you finally landed a publishing contract, the publisher would ask you pretty much for the rest of your life "What would you like to write next?"

      LOL! Such a rube! :)

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  6. I love this post, Erica! We've written so many, many posts over the years, it's hard to come up with a topic that's fresh, which this is!

    Your mention of the agent who asked to see something else reminded me of an agent I kept pitching to at conferences. She always requested my work and always sent a nice rejection with the comment, "This doesn't work for me, but it you have something else, please send it." I went back and forth with this women forever, or so it seemed. Inevitably, her reply was always the same--"Send something new." Eventually, I realized too much of my time and energy was spent running after her. She was a one-woman agency, and I think she wanted to keep dangling that carrot so she could look at all my work in case one of my stories turned out to be a surefire bestseller. I rarely heard of her taking on new authors, by the way.

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    1. OH man, I'm glad you finally moved on. It's hard, when you're new. Any bit of encouragement and hope keeps you searching and waiting.

      This writing life isn't for the faint of heart, and sometimes it takes awhile for us to know/ realize exactly what's going on.

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  7. Your so right, Erica! Too many writers receive a revise and resubmit letter and never act on it! Fear of success maybe? Don't let that happen to you, dear Seekerville friends. An R&R letter means you're close to publication! Always revise and resubmit!

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    1. YES!! And take a sufficient amount of time revising and really listen to the editor's requests!

      Don't squander those rare opportunities!

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  8. My experience with rejection letters is from sending out short stories and articles. I was always encouraged when I received a rejection letter with comments that indicated they liked it but couldn't use it for whatever reason.

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    1. Sandy, good for you for keeping on and sending more!

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    2. Yes! You were/are right to be encouraged by those personal notes. Editors and agents are busy people, and if they take the time to personalize something, they liked your work a lot!

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  9. Erica, what a great post! I went through all these levels! The hardest was the silence. Next hardest was the Dear Author one with no name. I hated that because then you wonder if it was really and truly meant for you (LOL! Of course it was, but we can all have a little wishful paranoia, can't we? haha)

    Then I got better letters with some feedback (cardboard characters, no sparkle). And then...the revise and resubmit one! I did two revisions, and then made my first sale to Love Inspired. :)

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    1. Congrats on your perseverance! I only wish that some folks would stick with it, after that first round of rejections, because you'll get better, you'll get those R&Rs and eventually that YES that you seek! You just have to be stubborn and willing to work!

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  10. Hi Erica and all of you other great authors, I love your spirit and determination. Most people will never receive a book rejection letter but most of us have been turned down, overlooked, passed over, or just told no. I've learned that this often leads to better things or at least helps us improve, if we choose to do so.
    God bless and please keep writing! You brighten my life each and every day!

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    1. Connie, you've got the right attitude! You're right, rejection comes in nearly every walk of life, and your success or failure depends not on the rejection or acceptance, but your attitude and actions that follow! :)

      And YOU are the one who brightens OUR lives! :)

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  11. Great post, Erica. I will say my rejection letters have all come from Love Inspired, I think. :-) And after receiving several, I've moved on to other publishers I fit better. And I'm okay with it finally. And maybe even embracing the fact that my writing doesn't fit their niche. But it took a while. Having two books published with two more on the way definitely takes the sting out, though, doesn't it?

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    1. Yep, Amy! And congratulations on your publishing success, BTW! Getting an acceptance puts rejections into perspective, and later we can even laugh and appreciate those early rejections, because they pointed us in the direction that led to success!

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  12. I've gotten one rejection letter, from Love Inspired as well, way back in 2015. I haven't finished another manuscript I like well enough to try again, but that was my original goal for this year. Not sure I'll make it--2020 is now a wash in my book :)--but I'm still writing, so it must not have stung too bad.

    Thanks for the perspective, Erica!

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    1. Glynis, I hear you. 2020 has been rather disastrous thus far to my ability to focus on creating new content. I turned in one novella, but beyond that, I've struggled. I can edit, I can judge writing contests, I can write blog posts, but creating story has me stymied!

      Hopefully, as time goes on, we'll both get our writing groove back!

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  13. Rejection letters, oh wow, I'd usually climb under the computer desk and suck my thumb for a day or so, then go back to writing.
    I once got a rejection letter from my own agent, telling me she wouldn't rep me. Not my current agent.
    She didn't recognize my name, even though I was her client, when the book got there in the mail. Treated it as a request for representation, and rejected it.
    :(

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    1. Oh Mary...I'm laughing my head off. That is hilarious! It must not have been at the time, but as you know, I can relate. Once upon a time in the distant past, my agent (Not my current one) didn't recognize me at a conference and asked me if I was Mary Connealy...I answered "I wish!" :)

      Life's a funny old thing, isn't it?

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  14. Having received 50+ rejection letters on my first novel, I've seen all these and more. Several sent back my original letter (in the snail mail days) with a brief comment. The best of all time is one in which my original letter was sent back to me with just the word "Pass" written across the front. I self/indie published that trilogy and am hoping my latest does not wrack up another 50+ rejections, as it really wouldn't make the best wallpaper...

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    1. Whoa! That's some dedication, Dave! "Pass" is a bit harsh! Way to persevere!

      I'm glad you indie-pubbed your trilogy, and I hope your next effort finds favor somewhere!

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