Jay Has Some Thoughts

Agent Jonathon Lyons has an entry here describing an author he had an interaction with this week, and can I just say WOW.



I mean, I understand being annoyed or hurt by rejection. It sucks. It sucks when you don't get the job you want, or the guy you ask out says "no thanks", or when the agent you're dying to get says "not for me." And I understand the impulse to say, "you're WRONG!"

But it's really not a good idea. It's like that scene in A Few Good Men when Demi Moore objects to a ruling by the judge. The judge overrules her. This is where it should end. But instead, Demi Moore asks for reconsideration. "We strenuously object, your Honor!" she says. Oh, you strenuously object? Well, then, you must be right! Or, I'm totally right and you should sit down, Demi. Thanks.

I'm assuming that an author's strenuous objection to rejection engenders a similar response in an agent. "Oh, you think I'm wrong to reject you? Whatever was I thinking by rejecting you, you lunatic? Please let me form a relationship with you that will last for years and directly impact my financial future! That sounds great! Whee!"


What, exactly, do authors think they are gaining by responding to agent rejections in this way? Because I can tell you that, if I were an agent, all an author like this would gain is a permanent place on my List Of Crazies I Will Never Deal With Again, No Matter How Awesome Their Writing Is.

Also, I'm a little confused by some comments on some author blogs that indicate that authors are responding to rejections at all. Do people do this? I would respond to a rejection that had specific advice for me, or to a rejection to a partial, because the agent has spent time, even though she (or he) isn't interested in the book. That means that the agent spent time he (or she) could have used for existing clients on my work, which has no financial return. That is a generosity that deserves thanks.

But should I be saying thank you for the form response that says "dear author"? Why? Doesn't it just clutter up the agent's inbox with something that takes up her already limited time?

I think this issue is complicated by the wide use of email for queries. Think about it. If I send a physical letter, and the agent sends a physical letter back saying "no, thanks", do I send another physical letter saying "thanks for rejecting me. Good luck." No. That seems silly, doesn't it? So why would I send an email that's essentially the same thing? I don't get it.

ETA: Oh my God! Agent Rachel Vater also got an email from an author complaining about rejection this week! Is it an epidemic? Is there Crazy in the water? What is wrong with people?


Many "authors" are thin-skinned, especially the bad ones. This happens a lot more than you think, especially with the internet. There are sites devoted to authors who just RAGE against agents. Granted, some of them are quite amusing.

That said, I find the use of a form rejection to be offputting. I took the time to research agents, put together a nice letter tailored to your needs, etc., and all you can do is send me a form rejection? I don't buy the excuse that these agents have so many queries to deal with that they can't afford to "personalize" rejections a bit. With the software available today, it wouldn't take much to personalize a rejection at all; these folks are just too lazy and rely on the excuse that "all agents do it this way."

It gets worse: I just read that one of the big publishing companies is thinking of eliminating the slush pile by having other people read through the pile, people who volunteer for the task and are not hired by the publishing company. Now, this is an interesting way to get rid of the slush pile problem. I believe it will lead to lowest common denominator publishing as more and more books get published based on their "appeal" to a broad audience, as determined by a bunch of yahoos reading the slush pile for diamonds in the rough.

I take some small solace knowing that there isn't a chance in hell that Faulkner would get published today. I'm not comparing myself to Faulkner, mind you, just noting that most of the literary greats wouldn't get published today because of their minimal appeal. Great writing is no longer in demand. Challenging writing is no longer in demand. Why? People are lazy: they just want to go to the beach and read and not get hung up on complex ideas and difficult sentence structure and vocabulary.

There's plenty of blame for this problem to go around but the primary reasons are that people are just lazy and stupid.

Sunday, May 18, 2008 at 11:30:00 AM EDT  

I guess it depends on what you mean by "personalize." I would love it if they actually typed the author's name on the letter, but I'm willing to overlook the fact that the rest of the letter is a form.

Monday, May 19, 2008 at 5:27:00 AM EDT  

Yep, that's about all I'm asking for, my name. Instead of "Dear Person" or "Dear Human Being" or "Dear ______." Anything, please! Heck, I even like it when I get the form rejection as long as they scribbled on it in some way. They care!

Now, I know they're busy but they're not THAT busy that they can't master a simple mail merge on their form letter. Then again, given the linguistic quality of some of the rejection letters I've received, perhaps this IS expecting a bit much of these overburdened folks.

Hmmm, let me think about this. Which is worse: receiving rejection after rejection or having to wade through one horrible query letter after another? Tough call.

Monday, May 19, 2008 at 10:42:00 PM EDT  

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