Last week I received a query for a YA story and after taking a quick look, I sent a standard pass letter. I soon received a plea from the writer for me to explain why I passed.
I find myself in a difficult spot whenever this happens. I enjoy helping people and steering them in the right direction so they can hopefully find their way in this publishing maze. I think writers deserve helpful feedback, but I just don’t have the time to give personal responses to everyone. One reason agents don’t give reasons for their rejections is that writers tend to want to argue with our reasons. But the more significant issue is the wise use of our time.
Our agency receives several hundred submissions each month. If I were to give personalized reasons for every rejection, assuming it takes about 15 minutes to write a thoughtful and truly helpful response, I could easily spend several hours every single day doing nothing but “explaining my rejections,” which obviously would be a hugely unwise use of my time.
As you know, an agent (or in-house editor) can’t function as the personal writing coach or mentor of everyone who happens to write them a letter. There are numerous ways to get honest critiques of your work and find out why it isn’t garnering interest in its present form.
Having said all that, I have to admit I write at least one thoughtful, personalized rejection every week. Sometimes even more often than that. This is usually because I see something strong in the query, something with potential, so I try to briefly explain what’s working, what’s not, and how to go about fixing it.
So I responded to the plea from the YA book writer, saying why I’d passed and why I hadn’t given my reasons initially. My response to her took about 15 minutes, and I didn’t exactly regret the time, but I questioned how wise it was for me to do that.
So if you’re a writer and frustrated with the lack of explanation for some of the rejections you receive, please know it’s not personal. It’s just impossible for agents and editors to respond personally to every single query and actually stay in business. Luckily for you, there are many other ways to learn why your project isn’t working. It just takes diligence to seek them out.
Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent[ Next Post → ] [ ← Previous Post ]