Calling all writers: what’s the nicest rejection letter from a literary agent you ever received? Or, for that matter, from a journal or newspaper?
I’ve gotten hundreds of rejections. First, there’s the kind that most editors practice these days. The “Your writing is stinkier than Blue Cheese, I don’t even have the time to write no thank you and hit send.” That is, people who don’t bother to write back. Not even an automatic reply. OK, some newspapers like The New York Times can justify that. “Due to the volume of submissions we receive, we can’t respond to every submission.” I’m sure Madonna has the same problem with people wanting one minute of her time. But check out the rejection letter she got here.
Then there’s the standard rejection letter. “Thank you so much for letting us read your work.” One of my writing friends, Ruth, said that if you get a rejection letter that says something like, “Please let us consider your work again,” that’s one step up. Ruth also said that some literary magazines won’t publish writers until they’ve submitted to them six or seven times. “Every rejection I get, I count that as one story closer to being published,” Ruth said.
Back in the day, if I got a handwritten scribble on a rejection note, I took it as a heavenly sign to keep writing.
For this round of submissions for my novel, The Burial Circle, I got about ten rejection letters of one form or another until I found my agent, Steven Chudney. A few weeks after Steven sold The Burial Circle to William Morrow/HarperCollins to be published in July 2015, (get out your pom-poms!) I got a rejection letter from an agent whom I had queried in December. She wrote:
Thank you for giving me the chance to read and consider your work. I apologize for the time it’s taken me to get back to you, I’m mortified about that. I’ve finally had the chance to read your pages. On the whole, I found your writing to be very engaging and the premise of the story interesting. However, I just did not feel that love-spark necessary for me to take on a project. In that regard, I don’t think I’m the best person to represent your manuscript.
Please don’t be disheartened. This is a purely subjective decision based on my own personal taste. I’m positive that someone else out there will find (or will have already found) your manuscript to be the very thing they’re looking for. So push forward and I wish you the very best of luck on this journey.
Pooja Menon is a literary agent at Kimberley Cameron & Associates. You can check out their site here. Now, maybe this is her standard rejection letter. Maybe it’s “no” couched in flourishing, flowery, euphemistic terms (to disguise the “Don’t you dare send me your crap again”). But it was still endearing. If I hadn’t found another agent, chances are, I would have read her words thinking, yeah, yeah, sure.
The worst rejection I ever received was from a literary agent who left a big fat coffee stain on my manuscript and she didn’t even apologize. Really? Hey, writers don’t write so that you use our work for coasters! It’s the same way I felt when I saw an article I wrote in a newspaper ripped up and thrown into a neighbor’s fireplace.
What’s the nicest rejection you ever received? The worst? And what made you keep on writing?
this was my best rejection: ”
Your story is very well written but is not really suited for Ami.
Recently we ran a story about cats and it wasn’t appreciated by the readers.
You should submit more stories, you have a lot of talent.”
That sounds like a very encouraging letter! Let me know if you get published there!
I haven’t sent out query letters to lit agents in years. Brings back bad memories. Mostly I received zero response, occasionally a half sheet of paper with one line printed on it, no signature.
Hey Julia, At least you’re not giving up. We have to keep writing!
Okay, this is strange and strangely pathetic, but years ago I wrote an amateurish malice domestic novel. Later I went on to sell a very short version as a story, but the novel itself had one really good thing going for it. I had taken a one-day workshop on writing novel “blurbs”–for the jacket flap of a published book–and even those teaching the workshop said it was excellent.
So my cover letter with the first chapter that I sent to the agent included the blurb. As it turned out, she represented only true crime novels (how did I miss that?) but she loved the blurb so much that in the end she purchased the blurb from me for $50 to use as a how-to handout for the agents who worked for her.
I never sold that malice domestic novel, but at least I made $50 on the blurb!
Marylin, that is a great story, not at all strangely pathetic. We can always use something from whatever we write! Thanks for your comment!