Awhile back I was working on selling a series of books by one of my clients. I received a “pass” letter from an editor, someone I respect and who is very good at their job, but they really didn’t like the book I was pitching. The pass letter said things along the lines of, “It didn’t work,” and “There are no likable characters” and “This just isn’t good.”
I appreciate when editors give me feedback, just like you appreciate when an agent gives you feedback on a query or pitch. But this response reminded my why sometimes it’s better to “just say no” without offering an explanation.
I had significant publisher interest in that project, and eventually sold it in a very nice deal after fielding multiple offers. Everything went great and we all ended up happy. So it just seemed silly that one editor had made such declarative statements about the book being “not good.” That was the editor’s opinion—I get it. And I respect it. We can’t please everyone, right? But this is why most agents try to couch their rejections in gentler terms that convey how subjective this all is.
“It isn’t what I’m looking for right now” or “It’s not right for me” may not be helpful, but at least they avoid sounding arrogant, or as if I’m declaring “this isn’t good” when maybe it’s just… not for me. Maybe lots of other people will like it, who knows?
So this is one of the many reasons that the unhelpful “It’s not for me” response is here to stay. I’d rather be vague and acknowledge the subjectivity of this business than make sweeping statements that end up sounding dumb when the book becomes a bestseller.
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