Disrupt The Industry

An Open Letter to Editors & Agents: It’s Time to Talk About Rejections

Written by Laura Backes

A long-time advocate for writers pleads for a better way forward on the subject of editor and agent rejections.

Dear Agents and Editors,

First of all, I want to let you know how much I respect what you do. Your dedication to discovering talent and bringing the best books for readers to the market is inspiring. The passion you have for your work is clear when you speak at conferences, post on your blogs, and champion your clients’ books. But most of all, it’s shown through the long hours (often outside of the office) that you put into combing through the slush pile submissions from new writers and illustrators.

So let’s talk about that slush pile.

I know it’s out of control. Blame technology and the ability to send multiple submissions with the click of a button. Blame authors and illustrators who simply Google “book publishers” and then mail off a copy of their manuscript to every company that pops up. Whatever the cause, I sympathize with the problem, and I want to assure you that we’re doing everything we can to educate authors and illustrators how to appropriately target their submissions in Children’s Book Insider, our Writing Blueprints tools, and in every webinar and writing conference we put on.

 

Editors: If you're not being specific, if you're simply listing broad categories without details, you're going to be inundated with inappropriate submissions. Click To Tweet

 

Many of you list very specific submission guidelines on your websites, stating exactly what you’re looking for, the tone, content and length of preferred submissions, and what you’re not accepting. You also provide updates on your blogs and Twitter feeds. Thank you for that.

But if you’re not being specific, if you’re simply listing broad categories (picture books, middle grade fiction, romance) without details, you’re going to be inundated with inappropriate submissions. If you speak at a conference and say, “I can’t tell you exactly what I’m looking for, but I’ll know it when I see it,” then every attendee with a manuscript is clicking the “Send” button as soon as they get home.

Can you blame them? Who knows, maybe they’ve got “it”. I realize that it’s hard for many writers to be objective about their work, and all hope their manuscripts are infused with “itness”, but if you provide more concrete details, maybe some qualities of books you’ve published that had “it”, you’d go a long way toward cutting down those unwanted submissions. Show, don’t tell.

Now, can we please talk about rejection letters? Because I firmly believe that the way you reject a manuscript can lead to bigger slush piles.

I know, lots of inappropriate submissions means you’re rejecting lots of manuscripts. The most time-effective way to do this is to have one generic rejection letter you send to everyone. But that may be hurting you in the long run.

 

First, how about we move the rejection process completely into the 21st century and require that every submission include an email address for a response? Click To Tweet

 

First, how about we move the rejection process completely into the 21st century and require that every submission include an email address for a response? Many of you are already accepting submissions electronically, so that step’s done. For those who aren’t, it’s just one detail to be added to your submission guidelines, if it’s not there already.

Then, you create a few boilerplate rejection letters that you simply click and send. One for “this manuscript does not fall within our publishing guidelines” to alert the submitter that she needs to research better before making another submission. One for “I found the plot too predictable.” One for “I don’t feel the protagonist is believable.” One for “This is a great start, but I feel you need to work on developing and strengthening the voice of your writing to make it more unique.” You know, the stuff you see all the time.

 

It’s OK if the letter isn’t personalized. What’s more important is that it gives the author a clue as to why the work was rejected. Click To Tweet

 

Many of you have interns. Let them send these letters. Simply indicate Rejection 1, Rejection 2, etc. on the manuscript and you’re done. If you don’t have an intern or an assistant, simply type the recipient’s email into the To field and send. It’s OK if the letter isn’t personalized. What’s more important is that it gives the author a clue as to why the work was rejected. I appreciate that you want to spare authors’ feelings with generic rejection letters that say things like, “Your work isn’t right for us at this time, but we wish you luck in placing it elsewhere,” but this does nothing to help the author. What does this mean? Will the work be right in six months? Will it ever be right? The author’s going to take a chance and send it to 20 more editors and agents, just in case.

Then your colleagues get your rejections, and you get theirs. And the slush pile continues to grow.

Finally, let’s chat about the non-answer to submissions (hang in there, I’m almost done).

Again, I completely understand how sending rejection letters (even with the click of an email) takes time away from the work you’re doing with authors and illustrators already under contract. This precious time is spent on manuscripts you don’t want to publish or represent, so there is no financial benefit to you. But the bottom line is that you depend on submissions to keep your jobs. If all the submissions dry up, eventually your current clients won’t be able to create enough books for you to continue to make a living. You’ll need new talent. At their core, the author/agent and author/editor relationships are business relationships. They require both parties to act with professionalism and respect toward each other.

If you were to apply for a job, one you’d trained for and dreamed of holding for years, and the interviewer said, “If you don’t hear from me in six months, assume you don’t have the job,” would you wait around, or would you immediately go interview somewhere else? If you applied for another position and were told, “Wait six months before applying elsewhere. Then, if you don’t hear from me, you’re free to move on,” would you even want to work for that company? If you continued to advance your training and hone your interview skills, but spent years waiting for a response in six-month increments, only to be met with silence, how long would it take you to throw up your hands and say, “Screw it, I’m going to work for myself?”

 

It feels disrespectful from the author’s perspective to be told they won’t hear back unless you want to represent or publish them. Click To Tweet

 

I’m not implying that you don’t respect authors. I know you do. But it feels disrespectful from the author’s perspective to be told they won’t hear back unless you want to represent or publish them. And it’s especially frustrating when a click of a button can send a brief rejection that at least gives the author some closure and the ability to either revise their work or move on.

You’ve been the publishing gatekeepers for decades. And you’ve done a great job. But the business has changed, and the rules for entry need to be updated. Authors and illustrators need to understand exactly what’s expected of the work they submit, and they need to take those directions seriously. You, in turn, must let them know if they’re not ready, and give them a minimal amount of feedback so they don’t just storm another gate. If we can’t work this out together, as a mutually-beneficial business relationship, the talented authors and illustrators buried in the slush pile may just give up. And that would be a shame.

I’m sure you have thoughts about all this. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Laura Backes
Co-Founder, WritingBlueprints.com
Publisher, Children’s Book Insider, the Children’s Writing Monthly

130 Comments

  • Bravo, Laura Backes, for addressing the submission/rejection situation. Thanks to CBI for years of instruction to help demystify the writing/submission process. Streamlining this process with the suggestions offered in your open letter seems realistic and doable. Providing specific requirements and following directions saves time and helps authors, illustrators and the professional gatekeepers to accomplish the goal of getting quality stories into the hands of grateful readers. Rejection isn’t easy, but even brief specifics about what was liked and what fell short are beneficial and promote growth instead of confusion.

    • WOW Laura! BRAVO! Do you have any idea how long I’ve waited for this? Someone has finally stood up for us. Someone who KNOWS more than a thing or two about the publishing world!
      Now I know I’ve got someone on my side.
      Thanks a million!!!!

      • I think the suggestion of slush pile responses by email is a great one. Saves time and trees! I agree with Laura about the frustration of not knowing why a manuscript is rejected, and if the potential author could get a clue as to what’s wrong with his/her manuscript, it would be so helpful. In addition to the comments Laura made about waiting time, I have another frustration–the publishers that tie up a manuscript with an “exclusive” designation, preventing the author from trying out other potential publishers. Laura, thank you for starting this conversation. I hope the publishers heed what you are saying.

  • Something I would add and I’m not quite sure how to say it as delicately and kindly as she has… at the many conferences and panels with editors, publishers or agents they harp on how many submissions they receive. This is not useful to the attendees who generally pay money to attend to hear them speak. Attendees are looking for insight, ways to improve, and specific industry information that can help them succeed. Hearing complaints about submissions, in a submission based industry comes off as whining, and disrespectful to the people they are relying on to send them submissions. Most of us are busy and overwhelmed and overloaded with our family and careers. But somehow they make it seem that it only pertains to them. It is a privilege to not respond. If I waited to respond to a work related email for three months or not at all, I would be out of a job. It’s an outdated system which leaves many stories that need to be heard unpublished. Which I feel is another layer in the diversity gap. People with no insiders or contacts rely on the slush pile.

    • Couldn’t agree more with my namesake, Gina. Yes, all those submissions. Really. We writers have little sympathy since this is our sweat and blood you’re talking about. Show us some respect please. Thank you Laura for speaking out on our behalf! Bravo.

      • Agree with Laura competely. It is so disheartening not to hear anything! Although I much prefer a form letter with some hint of why the submission was not accepted, even a blanket form rejection note by email would be preferable to the current situation.

    • Excellent point. Too many agents and editors may not realize or care that they are coming across as elitists since they consider their time more valuable than that of writers who create grist for their mills once manuscripts are accepted.

    • I believe Laura hit the problem of the slush file. I thoroughly agree with her. I would like to add, that editors/publishers have gone through a lot of submissions in their time before they became “certified” writers. For them to disrespect authors who are trying hard to write, and be accepted as “writers”, is tantamount to saying new authors or emerging authors, if you can call them as such, are not as good as they are. Criticism is a good thing but not to the extent that authors are put down, disrespected, and “slushed filed” because they are trying to achieve something they think are their calling, too.

  • I think there might be a technical solution to be had here. Use submittable or querymanager or the like.

    First, it reduces the question of a “lost” submission. I’ve heard of many writers who say they’ve nudged an agent, only to have the agent respond “never got it.” That’s another downside of the “no response means no” policy – the author wonders: did they not like it, or did they not see it?

    Second, it might allow for agents to improve submission quality and process. I don’t know how the recipient side of submittable etc works, but if they were set up to allow an agent or editor to select from a dropdown of various rejection letters, that could streamline things while educating writers – for the obvious newbie, something along the lines of you need to school yourself in the industry, with links to SCBWI etc, to the uniformed, “we don’t rep this kind of work, here’s what we rep” all the way to “this particular MS isn’t right for us, but I’d be happy to see more – but give it x amount of time before you send something new (e.g. for PB writers, they often have a number of sub-ready MSs, but don’t want to appear pushy, so guidance is appreciated), to everything in between. And then, of course the happy “please send more” email – with exact parameters on format, quantity of material, etc.

    Third, have a process on the writer side (or automated, perhaps with settings the agent can adjust), for nudging on submissions that seem to have been overlooked.

    Authors and agents having a specific portal for managing and tracking submissions will help everyone feel a little more in control, informed, and effective. Of course, people need to be committed to using the system – I’ve certainly had submissions die on the vine in submittable (e.g. lit journals) with no response, and no way I could discern for following up for a response.

    While it is incumbent on authors to educate themselves about the industry, as Laura so eloquently states, whatever agents / editors can do to help in that, including specifics about what they’re looking for and how they want it submitted (this information can sometimes be difficult to discern), will go a long way to improving the quality of submissions and filtering out those that are inappropriate ahead of time.

    Thanks, Laura, for tackling this subject.

    • Agree with the idea of a portal, maybe with a checklist of specifics that the agent is looking for to meet minimum requirements. It would take a bit of time to set up but reduce the amount of unrelated or inappropriate queries they get to begin with. Another comment: with the lack of hearing any critique back, many of these writers are giving up on the agent process and self-publishing. The current process is very frustrating and demeaning to authors. Thank you, Laura, for addressing it.

  • Thank you Laura for your practical suggestions. As someone actively submitting, I would really welcome your suggestion of some kind of personalized response that would give aspiring authors a better understanding as to why the agent/publisher was passing. I am sure I am not alone in agonising over submissions and spending hours and hours double checking that I’ve followed the guidelines before I finally press the send button. Therefore, while I totally appreciate that it cannot be an individual response, to at least have some indication as to why it’s a no would be hugely beneficial as well as some kind of a recognition of the blood, sweat and often tears that’s gone into the work submitted. I know you might have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince or princess – but it would be so useful to know whether we’re still very much at the frog, or maybe even the tadpole stage!

  • I agree that some sort of acknowledgement is needed when the process was initiated by the editor or agent. To send in a requested manuscript and then receive only silence is perplexing and unprofessional.

  • I agree with all your points and would like to add one. I have attended ‘author events’ where as part of the package, you have a one-to-one presentation to an agent. If the agent is interested, they give you their email and tell you what to send. Sometimes the agent doesn’t bother to reply. This is so unprofessional and disrespectful. I run a business. Over the years I have dealt with many UK retailers, including a good number of the big household names. Whenever I presented a proposal, I always received a reply, even if it was negative.

  • Bravo for addressing so many issues that are pertinent to writers and for holding editors/agents accountable for their own actions.
    More specific descriptions of what agents want would definitely be useful to all writers, especially those new to the world of writing.
    Is it any wonder that the self-publishing world has exploded when it takes agents/editors six months or more to respond, usually with a form rejection letter? I know I chose not to wait and self-published my two novels, both of which have been award winners in the International Latino Book Awards.
    Writers want to write and want to write well, so more specific rejections would also be useful. The few times I’ve received personal comments on my work have been enormously helpful and one editor’s comments eventually led to my cookbook getting published as I knew what I needed to add to the manuscript to make it sell.
    Thanks for opening this valuable and important discussion.

  • This was constructive and respectful. Guidelines not only eliminate inappropriate submissions, but help to be able to customize manuscripts to the publishers needs.

  • There. You’ve said it! The emperor has no clothes.

    But you’ve said it in a thought- filled, thought-out way that can lead to dialogue and change.

    You’ve articulated just what needed to be said. Thank you!

  • Thank you for these well thought out ideas. It is so discouraging to send out a manuscript and never get any rejection. I can appreciate the pressures and frustrations of editors and agents and really appreciate the chance to send to the ones who are still open, but if there were anyway to get some type of rejection, it would be so helpful.

  • Dear Laura,

    Thank you so much for this brave and important letter! Kudos to you!!! The only thing you might want to address at some point is how agents handle their requests from the slush pile, as it very much ties into what you’ve tackled here. Too many agents give writers either a boilerplate response or silence after requesting manuscripts. I’ve had innumerable submissions come back with form letters, and plenty that have been out with agents for years! I view this as the ultimate snub of the writer and the most unprofessional thing an agent can do. If an agent is intrigued enough to make a request, the least they can do is offer some feedback in a timely manner — even if it’s just a couple of sentences.

    • Yes, Claire! The response (or lack thereof) to a requested manuscript is at the heart of my main concern right now, too, with two requested manuscripts out on submission and no idea whatsoever if they will get back to me if the answer is no. I really appreciate Laura’s letter regarding all submissions, but it’s the ones that have been requested by the agent or editor and STILL meet with silence or no expected timeline that really make me feel like I am wandering in the desert wondering where I went wrong. The reality is that it probably has nothing to do with me or my manuscript, but something to do with the marketing department or another cog in the system. We just don’t know.

      The unknown is always a source of anxiety for us humans, and it’s hard to make other plans for our manuscripts when we haven’t heard back yet and feel like there’s still a glimmer of hope out there somewhere in the publishing stratosphere.

      If there’s no hope, please, agents and editors, let us know so we can move on, esp. if it has nothing to do with the quality of the work! Unlike a lot of the other authors responding, though, I’m okay with a basic form rejection. The not knowing, and being afraid that I’ll just prompt a quick rejection if I reach out for a status update (after waiting 4-6 months, of course), is worse to me than any form letter–even a one-liner that doesn’t even say, “Dear Author,” at the beginning!

  • Amen, Laura! I would love to receive ANY feedback rather than a basic rejection. I write, rewrite, edit, revise, share, collaborate, rewrite, and repeat; therefore, some clue to why the piece didn’t work would be most welcome! Thank you!

  • Very much needed! I applaud your courage to confront the issue of rejection, a better way to deal with it, and a new way resolve it respectfully.

  • As another who never heard a single comment after a submission eight years ago, I applaud your attempts to bring this process into a realm of good manners and better business, especially since self-publishing is gaining respect.

  • Laura this is a great capsule of information to the publishing world. We writers are ready for a respectful change in responses from publishing. Our books are their Bread & Butter, and their agreements to publish are our jobs to fulfill.
    Agents and Editors, Please begin to give the writing process useful words that authors can grow from, to help make writers better in their careers.
    Thank you again, Laura for speaking out.

  • This is an excellent response and offers good solutions to problems that plague us all! We’re in this together and addressing these concerns will benefit all. Thank you, Laura, for taking this topic on and for addressing the issues with tact and sensitivity!

  • Wonderful Open Letter. Please publishers and agents, think about what Laura has written. Let’s all find ways to make the 21st century methods work better for us. I would appreciate hearing feedback from publishers and agents.

  • Bravo, Laura! This letter needs to get out there. I find most frustrating the “no response” rejection. In the back of my mind I wonder if my submission got buried somewhere and was not read at all. I do feel disrespected for what I do—the time and effort I put into researching the agent/editor, the agony and time that goes in to producing a query letter—only to be left hanging. Perhaps these are the vagaries of the industry, but why can’t they change?

  • Bravo, Laura! Thank you so much for finally saying what needs to be said on behalf of writers! I couldn’t appreciate it more! I hope at least some of them sit up and take notice.

  • Bravo!
    I stopped submitting and figured self publishing and blogging were the best avenues for me precisely because of the things you talked about. The time factor is the worst, plus feeling as if my work stinks and isn’t worthy of a response. Thank you, Laura Backes.

  • Oh. My. Goodness.

    I’m searching for the best words to somehow capture the GRATITUDE and EXCITEMENT I’m feeling right now. This so perfectly addresses the issues I (we kidlit authors) have faced for years. Thank you for giving us a voice and doing it respectfully! Because, truly, we do get it. We want to tame the slushpile as much as they do, but so often it’s a guessing game. Stories are so subjective – “I know it when I see it” gives us so little to work with.

    Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for raising this subject so professionally. You are truly a class act!

  • I appreciate your efforts on our behalf. I hope your message is taken to heart by those who need to hear it. Writers experience so much frustration with the generic rejection which is painful enough without gleaning something that might point us to future success. Thank you!

  • Thank you for addressing this topic, Laura. Getting any kind of response to submissions is rare, and I appreciate even a simple rejection letter that can be sent with the push of a button automatically. Why not make it an industry standard as you suggest to always send a reply so we are not left wondering about our work and if it was even received. There is plenty of room for agents and publishers to tailor their rejections so it reflects their particular interests and areas of concern. Effective communication is what we are all striving for as authors, agents, and publishers. It should be embraced and modeled in the process of submission to the benefit of all.

  • I love this! I have a had a few personalized rejections and the brief feedback I have received from those goes a very long way to helping me create better manuscripts and to know when to stop sending a current one out. Thanks to the agents and editors who already take the time to do that!

  • Laura, this is an incredible letter! While reading, I felt my role in creating picture books elevated,had value and worthy of a meaningful response from an editor. Rather than feeling my work was only worth two seconds of a singular person’s time and at their mercy…

  • I think the standardized response giving some feedback is very good. The only disadvantage that I can see is that writers might re-write, then re-submit. The letter might include something about this: please do not re-write and re-submit. One of the best rejections I ever got got from an agent. He said, I don’t usually do this – and he wrote about a page to show how to improve the book. He ended by saying do not re-submit this to me. I didn’t. It was very kind of him, I learned a lot.

  • Laura, your letter sums up those many, long discussions I’ve had with my writer’s group and other writers I’ve met over the years. THANK YOU!

  • I’m wondering about a pre-agent profession. I’m not sure if this is possible, but I see value in a person who could read stories / books and recommend them to agents or publishers in such a way that they would pay attention, or give solid feedback to writers that if followed would result in publication.

    • Yes, Lois. I’ve thought the same thing and have a consulting business for this work called Children’s Book Connections. But I think Laura’s strategies for the industry as a whole are where we need to be headed. Hopefully, I’ll be put out of business as a result!

      • Dear Carrie, the profession of agent was created because editirs couldn’t keep up with submissions. Now, apparently, agents can’t keep up either.

    • Wonderful and encouraging professionals do exist to help writers improve their work. I met Trai at the Castle Rock Writer’s Conference and hired her to help me revision my work in progress (http://www.traicartwright.com/). She calls herself a Story Developer.

  • Great initiative. I would suggest they can set up email folders for the different rejections, then just drag and drop the email into the folder. This way, it doesn’t take longer than to click “Delete” and the interns can access the folders and send the rejection emails.

    Although I understand that agents are inundated with queries, there is one thing that I find inexcusable and downright rude. If the agents participate in pitch slams/query roulettes where they request sample chapters or full manuscripts, the least thing they should do is respond to the author. I, and many of my writer friends, have garnered interest by agents at conferences, sent our fine-tuned proposals/chapters/outlines/whatever was requested, and then . . . crickets. Many agents don’t even bother to send a rejection email saying no thanks. This pompous attitude was what finally put me off querying agents and going indie. Now I’m an award-winning author.

  • I share so many of your sentiments! Thank you, Laura, for addressing this topic. An editor’s feedback is so important. The worst feeling is not knowing why you were rejected, but I understand that publishing houses are inundated with submissions. Still, there’s got to be a better way!

  • Spot on and completely objective. Most importantly, in true CBI fashion, Laura has provided the exact blueprint to follow to start reducing the slush pile. It’s sound advice and no more time consuming than the current approach. A smaller slush pile benefits everyone — editors, agents, and authors alike.

  • I was cheering as I read this! I know when an agent has given specifics, I’ve passed on submitting to them when I see my work isn’t a good fit. Then there have been agents who don’t have online interviews to read, who don’t mention books they love, who just say they want “good voice.” Might as well hit send!

    I love the idea of specific form rejections. Win/win for us and the industry! I’ve gotten feedback from agent/editors that sent me back to revisions. If I hadn’t gotten it, I would have kept submitting the same unready manuscript to those growing slush piles.

    Everything you wrote is spot on!

  • I completely agree, there is no way around the fact that it just seems completely rude to receive no response, even a thank you but it is not what we are looking for is better than complete silence, at least you would know someone read it. You learn nothing new from silence, I think the idea of several rejection options, would be a great learning tool especially for new authors.

  • Thank you Laura, for this much needed information. I look forward to more of your insightfulness on other related topics.

  • Oh, my, Laura – what a fabulous letter! I, too, have the greatest respect for agents and editors whose desks groan from the weight of their slush piles. You’ve not only provided insight into the need for revision in how submissions are processed, but also, you’ve provided clear solutions to help facilitate a move forward.

    Brava! Thank you for dedication and willingness to open the door for dialogue.

  • Laura, thank you for your insights. I appreciate how well you’ve articulated a strategy for sanity-saving fixes. Your voice is perfect for this mission and from the author side of the table, I applaud your initiative. Sharing widely!

  • This is excellent advice I hope will be heeded by most publishers and agents, (I know not all will even read it). There was something else I thought of as I read your letter, but now I don’t remember what it was. You did address what I have found the most frustrating things about trying to get published and I think the lack of any response is the worst of them. Second is the non-helpful rejections. As you say, if we could have at least a clue about why it was rejected we would know what we need to work on for future submissions.

  • Love this! It’s respectful and helpful to all sides and has great tips to implement. As an author, I understand that publishers don’t have time to send me a personalized rejection letter; but having that simple sentence to give me a hint of where I can improve, would help me so much. Thanks Laura!

  • Your letter is well written and to the point. It’s how we’ve all been thinking.
    Editors do need to update the process. Writers are tired of wasting time sitting around waiting for them to answer. It’s not that hard to write a note on the query letter OR send an email. Like Becky said, we”re all busy. And besides, it should be part of their job to finish the process by letting the writer know the real reason of rejection.
    Well done. Please send it.

  • When I read the letter, I thought, Amen, and thank you Laura Backes for saying what has long needed saying from a voice of reason. Every comment I’ve read here seems grateful for your words and courage. May you be an instrument of the needed change. KNOW you have multitudes behind you and supporting your initiative. Looking forward to where we go from here.

  • Thank you, Laura! Your comment that a response might cut the number of submissions is important. Many of us have heard about people who were accepted on their 99th submission. We aren’t always told about the type of learning and revisions that made this acceptance possible. So I can see the incentive to just keep sending. If a writer got 10 responses that “your story is too predictable” or suggesting that the author join an organization (such as SCBWI) and attend conferences or writing classes, perhaps the next 90 submissions would not be sent.

  • Hi,
    Totally agree with this article. Back in the days of paper letters, publishers would in some cases send out personalized rejections and it was considered an honor to get one. In other cases they would just send a form letter. Even a form email would be so much better than nothing. Another problem is publishers who state they take a certain amount of time, then take much longer, leaving the author to assume the submission has been rejected. I suppose one eventual solution could be artificial-intelligence bots to search for spelling and grammatical errors and even writing issues, then send rejections, and forward non-rejectees to a human or a different bot for further consideration. In fact, the whole process could be automated and take just a few nanoseconds… 🙂

  • Laura, firstly let me begin with saying your words are totally correct in every way, I have had rejections with my first two books but some have been personal and positive. I couldn’t agree more that to clear their inboxes they need to be more specific so they help the author improve or as you say not waiste literary agents time and they can see their book isn’t to standard at the moment and to improve it then leave them sending it to others. Amen Laura 🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻✍🏻

  • Thank you, Laura for confronting the proverbial elephant in the room. Rejection hurts, but knowing why and how to become a better writer are balm to the tortured soul.

  • I have been thinking about this all morning. I agree with everything you wrote, Laura. I began submitting when I was a kid and eventually earned my MFA in Writing for YA, yet my work has always been rejected.

    I agree rejection is challenging and could be managed better. I gave up and wrote blogs for years, satisfying my innate need to write and to be heard. Now age 65, I write all the time. Rejection didn’t shut me down. I recognize my limitations, yet I am a Writer.

    I would like to offer another perspective for your consideration; we writers do not respect the rigors of our profession. We don’t respect that being published by a House means making the Olympic Team. Such writing requires strenuous training. It is not a jog around the block.

    Publishing is the top layer of our profession. Why do so many of us consider our manuscripts worthy of an Olympic bid when we can barely run a mile? I know I am opening myself to harsh criticism here but I will offer up my experience anyway.

    A few years ago, our public library system began offering unedited eBooks from Colorado writers. I am a voracious reader and lifelong practicing writer; I volunteered to read and rate this slush pile. I was excited to help our overwhelmed librarian, excited to discover local writer’s stories in any genre.

    What these writers submitted as finished work worthy of a library shelf astonished me. After months reading not even one edifying or well- considered piece, I quit. It was too astonishing, too disheartening to contribute one more painful moment toward elevating stories a high school English teacher would cover with red ink.

    I believe slush piles would shrink if We Writers gave Our Profession the respect athletes give theirs. If we took writing courses and joined writers groups, found editors to operate as personal trainers intent on shaping novels worthy of a slush pile.

    • Barbara, I agree completely with your Olympic analogy. That’s a big focus of all our Writing Blueprints — first, learn how to write a publication-worthy book, then submit. Too many authors don’t understand all the layers of a good story, or how to write something original. We break everything down into a step-by-step process so that authors can focus on building their stories on a solid foundation. We do the same with editing in Manuscript Magic. It’s essential to take the time to create a well-crafted, well-edited story or you’re just adding poor manuscripts to the slush pile, causing so many editors and agents to close their doors to unsolicited submissions.

    • I agree with you! I’ve read a lot of independently published books that weren’t ready. That’s why I don’t want to self publish. But at some point, those that don’t make the Olympics move on and either do it for pleasure or quit altogether. I am not a quitter, but I’m getting tired of pounding my head against the publishing house wall.

  • Thank you, Laura, for speaking up for all of us. Not just complaining, but offering a solution to the problem. When newbie authors are made to feel like second-class citizens and denied respect when a submission is not perfect — never actually hearing that it is not perfect, just left to guess that it did not make the grade –many of us will opt for plan B: self-publishing. My family does not understand this process and finds it insulting and unprofessional. They get fighting mad at me for continuing to submit and encourage me to self-publish.

  • Yes, thank you for that. When I was much younger, I sent out some of my stories. I was diligent. Every Thursday I would send a couple of my stories to different agents &/or publishers (with SASE enclosed) and would receive their reply within 10 days with the same rejection letter that told me absolutely nothing. After almost two years of that, I gave up, not on my writing, but on submitting anything to anyone.

    I know there is a lot of really good stuff out there that is never published (because they don’t have an “in”) and a lot of really not so good stuff that is published simply because they have an “in”.

  • I agree with everything you’ve said, but I have to point out that your analogy with job hunting is seriously flawed.

    We’ve reached the point where “No Response Equals No” is the default in job hunting. And yes, it’s just as frustrating when you’re looking for a day job as when you’re querying. But it’s so close to universal at this point that not applying to companies that behave that way isn’t an option.

    Just as not querying agents that behave that way isn’t an option.

  • Laura,
    Thank you for sparking the conversation!
    Every revolution begins with a small spark, and there is no denying, the publishing industry needs to be revolutionized.
    As I read through the stream, I realized it is a two front battle. Writers need to work at their craft, AND the publishing industry needs to manage their business in a way that nurtures and develops serious writing. Thank you for tackling the revolution on both ends. Equipping and empowering writers AND challenging the status quo.
    Well done!

  • Jon and Laura, receiving no response is such a discouragment to writers.

    My only comment is that I am concerned over the length. It would be miracle for any editor to read to the end. State the problem and get the recommendation for form rejection letters up there quickly.

  • I felt so much gratitude when I saw Laura’s open letter, and feel even more as I read the comments from those of us who know this reality so well. As for me, I’ve been writing about my inner journey based on the “If You Don’t Hear From Us” framework for over seven years now; it changed the course of my writing life in a way I didn’t regret (wait – read on: I’m not supporting that framework!), because I couldn’t tolerate the framework, and decided to focus purely on my writing without worry about whether it would sell…Indeed, I told myself it was important to take in the possibility that “I’ll never get a book contract.” I decided to stop submitting for awhile. I put the hope, the longing, for book publication on a back burner. It freed me. It brought back the joy. And it grew an ever-deepening capacity to look at my work objectively, revise without sacrificing the heart of my stories, and enjoy the various genres in which I write. But since beginning to submit once again, and knowing that I’m at a point where my work and my queries are polished and appropriate, it is unfortunate that professionally submitted work does not even merit a “Thank you, but this is not a good match for us.” I’ve been a committed, persistent writer for almost two decades, and I recall how the comments on rejections encouraged me, how colleagues would say, “It means you’re getting close.” The “If You Don’t Hear From Us” framework, the specificity of exact requests for very particular books (down to plot points and characters) and the increasing knowledge that bias and personality play a part in decision- making, impact our journeys and our lives. And yet I think it’s important – I know it is for me – to hold on to the stories I need to tell, whether they are “acceptable” somewhere or not…and tell them.

      • Absolutely agree, Carol. We need to write the stories we need to write, and then if we can find a publisher perhaps that’s a bonus. If we don’t care enough about the story we’re writing to need to write it anyway, then it’s probably not going to go anywhere.

  • Thank you so much for laying out with such clarity the tweaks that need to be made to the current system. If there was a rating system I’d give this five stars!

  • Thanks, Laura. I have been improving my craft for 13 years and to be “it doesn’t fit,” “or “I didn’t feel an emotional response” doesn’t tell me a thing. I also have some that are out that I haven’t heard back from. I am to the point of quitting. I am tired of playing the game. I’ve also gotten “read this mentor text” to know what I want. Again, when it’s a different subject altogether, that doesn’t tell me a thing.

  • Thank you, Laura.

    It may come as a surprise, but all of the creative arts seems to be getting the same kind of non-response. It is as if the creative arts are not legitimate work, and so tend to be treated as such. Visual artists and musicians also do not receive the luxury of a helpful response to their rejections. I suppose this is one way of finding out who has the toughs to succeed.

  • Well said, Laura. Thank you for taking the time to put this together. You’ve exposed exactly what we authors grumble, er, talk about with each other on a regular basis behind closed doors. It should only take two seconds for a house/agent to give the courtesy of an automated yet personal reply. I agree their slush piles would likely shrink as a result, saving them time in the long run. A win-win all around!

  • Lin Oliver, head of SCBWI, wrote a similar letter to this a year or two (or three?!) ago, and I’m so glad, Laura, that you have also put it out there for many to see.

    I can’t imagine dealing with the flood of submissions that agents and editors receive, but you’ve provided some good suggestions for helping this be a better system for both sides. We all want the same end, which is to produce great books for kids, so thank you for all you do to help make that happen!

  • I’m in the interesting situation of having been on both sides of the coin. I’m an author now but before I got into advertising I was an intern at 3 publishing houses and put on slush pile duty. 100 manuscripts a week and when I asked, they told me they only take on one author every 1-2 years. With those odds. It already seemed like an almost pointless task. Everything else they comes through agents. I found myself feeling desperately sorry for all these people who had written in. I liked a lot of it. Maybe 5 percent was publishable. 15 with some dedicated work and editing. But my job was to reject them. And pass on one or two to the editor. When it comes to being specific about what you want, maybe that would help but if Christoper Little had done that, he would not have been sent Harry Potter as he didn’t usually look at kids fiction. Many publishers are looking for brilliance in whatever form that takes. Automation of submission could be useful. Having said that, when you have over 100 manuscripts a week to try and get through it was a useful shorthand to see who hadn’t been bothered to read how to submit properly. What I learnt was that editors were looking for a professional who would do their job diligently. They were also terrified of getting into dialogue with authors. I always tried to add a helpful personal note to the rejection letters but was told that this was dangerous as then people will Write back asking for more guidance and you’ll end up in back and forth with hundreds of hopeful authors. I think the trouble with the slush pile is that editors get so much good pre vetted stuff sent through agents, the slush pile while potentially hiding gems, is a lot of wading through. And they have to edit the books they’ve taken on, negotiate contracts, help plan marketing campaigns etc. If the slush pile only produces a gem every one to two years, you can see why it’s negleted. It’s a sad state of affairs. Unpaid internships are now not allowed as they were when I was 22 so there may be less people to go through the slush pile. I hope these problems may be solved. Maybe AI can help. Rejecting the wrong genres and formats… but having said that, we’d not have Harry Potter it that had been in place.

  • Laura,
    Your letter opened Pandora’s Box! I appreciate your interest in giving writers a platform in which to speak on the submission/rejection process. Criticism and rejection wound the human spirit, but as writers who dare to put their work out there, we are armed and ready to handle it – so bring it on! But, that type of helpful criticism rarely happens, and it is clear that the system needs updating. I think you have hit on a brilliant idea and one that could be so helpful to both parties. I think that agents and editors are dancing as fast as they can with the insane amount of pages they handle in a given day and often, night. But your “rejection” suggestions would free them up and create efficiency on both sides of the manuscript. I respect the gatekeeper’s role, but I applaud and support any change that would give my submissions a more informed response. Thanks for sticking your neck out to help unclog the system and create a more meaningful flow.

  • Thank you so much, Laura. “Ditto” to all who commend your efforts, your ability to see the need for change, and your excellent presentation of the problems and suggestions for solutions. I plan to share it with my writing friends.

    • I have had this happen with an editor, even after several reminders. And this was not from a huge SCBWI conferencce, it was a well known editor at a small local conference who promised to look over at least, the manuscripts submitted by people who gave her the courtesy to listen to her talk.

      • Am adding to my own comment here. Perhaps this list of many peoples’comments when it comes to an end,,if ever!, could be sent to the SCBWI, to ask them for their assistance or cooperation to improve the system in regard to editors’ response to authors.

  • Thank you for this well needed letter to publishers and agents. For years I have been writing new books and not knowing why I have been rejected. I almost feel that without knowing someone in the business or having a well-known name, it is impossible to get published. I hope the intended recipients of your letter do make the necessary changes. I have written to successful authors with over 100 published books each and they have responded to me saying to keep writing, editing, revising, and submitting. One said he wrote a book a week for over a year before he was accepted. I guess I can have that stamina, too.

  • This is something that badly needed saying. I not only read it, I read it to a couple of writer friends of mine. We had the idea of standard, more specific, rejection letters some time ago. You make a good case for why it’s in everybody’s best interests that this happen. Thnak you so much from all of us

  • Laura, I love the specificity suggestions you gave as well as the drop down box of rejection choices. That would help the writer to know why their manuscript is being rejected. Knowing the why helps everyone in the long run.

  • Laura,
    Thank you thank you for your honest assessment of the publishing industry bugaboo and possible solutions offered. The checkbox idea would easily take care of the “inundated with submissions so don’t have time for more than a form rejection” response authors often hear. Or worse, crickets, after hours of careful research into who and how to submit. I hope this becomes a lovely bridge over troubled waters.

  • Laura, as you have seen from the comments already posted, you have simply hit the nail on the head. We, as writers, just need to know if what we submit is of any interest, and the process doesn’t have to be all that complicated. It’s a question of manners and courtesy …… I know you’re busy and working hard, publishers, but so are the authors who put their faith in you. Let us know where we stand.
    It’s great to have you on our side, Laura and Jon!

  • Another frustrating aspect for writers is that they are told to submit book manuscripts addressed to a specific editor yet how do they learn these editors’ names without large expenditures to go to conferences? Very few publishers list editor names on their website, and if you call a New York publisher to get a name to submit to (which used to be standard advice at conferences), your chances of being given a name are slim. More than likely, you will be told they are not accepting submissions except through agents, will be sent to a generic recording that doesn’t give any names, will be told to submit to “the editors,” or will be hung up on. Years ago, as a new writer, I called publishing houses and briefly and courteously asked for the acquisition editor’s name or an editor’s name in a specific genre I knew they accepted. I received all of the above responses and don’t think I was ever given a name. Magazines are easier to submit to because they list editor names in their mastheads or on the website, but editors change often and these listings may be outdated. Essentially, the writer is admonished to do their research and always have the most up-to-date information, but the publishing industry hinders them by not posting such relevant information on their websites. The writer can spend an enormous amount of time subscribing to and reading blogs and publications that try to follow personnel changes in the publishing industry, and time spent on this is time away from improving their writing.

  • It can even be one boiler plate rejection letter with check box categories for rejection 1) too boring 2) does not fit guidelines 3) already have something similar 3tc.

  • Hi Laura – I agree with the others that you’ve done a wonderful job of setting out the concerns and identifying the roadblocks we writers face. However…
    After reading this from a writer’s perspective and going ‘Bravo’ throughout, I decided to read it from the perspective of an editor, and from that perspective I have the following comments.
    First, It’s a long letter. Too long for an editor or agent to bother reading through to the end. Their eyes will start to cross about a third of the way through, if they make it that far, and they’ll end up hitting delete. There is a reason submission letters have to be short, and that reason also applies to this letter. You have put in a lot of, oh, let’s call it ‘fluff’ – words aimed at soothing potentially ruffled feathers. While a certain amount of that is definitely needed, I suspect that ‘fluff could use a lot of trimming.
    Second, focus on the “what’s in it for me” angle. Yes, you’re writing on behalf of writers but the letter needs to sell the recipient on the idea that you’re writing for their benefit, that these suggestions are being made to simplify their life, improve their workload and lead to … well, you get it. Identify the benefits up front and only once that’s done would you spell them out, Sort of like writing a press release where you put the pertinent facts at the beginning in case the added details have to be slashed. Don’t expect busy editors and agents to wade through fluff. Give them a solid reason to keep reading.
    Third, The letter is addressed to both agents and editors; however, those roles are not identical. Yes, much of the content will be the same but if you want the letter to be taken seriously, make two different versions, one tailored to editors and one to agents.
    Fourth, in any case, I do suggest trimming repetition. Leave only enough to emphasise your points, and cut, cut, cut until the letter is lean and strong and your targets will be more inclined to read through to the end.
    Laura, thanks for drafting this. I look forward to seeing your final version which will incorporate the constructive feedback you have received from Angela and others.

  • Wow, I couldn’t have said this any better myself. Hmm. I wonder what that says about my writing.

  • Laura,
    Thanks so much for being the voice of the writer. You expressed my sentiments exactly. More than once I’ve wanted to call it quits, but my passion for writing and your persistent encouragement has kept me moving ahead hoping against hope for a breakthrough. Can’t say thanks loudly enough.

  • You targeted and gave attention to a sad situation/conflicting relationship between authors and editors. We understand that both parties have their own jobs of getting jobs/works done, the writer as the authors and the editors as the judges. 6 months of waiting is agonizing if not exciting and oftentimes, it’s a no and that leaves the authors miserable so where do we go from here? More critiques? More conferences? More classes? We resort to plan B. What ever the plan B is depends on the success or failure of that rejected manuscript. Where have all the writers gone? This will be true one day if nothing will be done to resolve the problem.

  • Thank you, Laura! This is a topic that needs to be discussed, and then moved upon. Your frankness is a refreshing and a courageous one. You said it exactly the way we all feel. Here’s hoping we hear back from them!

  • First, I’d like to say thanks to you, Laura, for trying to start a dialogue with these folks about ways to reject manuscripts in a more constructive and timely fashion. It’s important to let them know how much the current drift is frustrating and putting off their future “bread and butter” as one responder put it.

    However, I have some other perspectives and hard realities to pose in this discussion.

    I’ve recently begun writing novels again after fifteen years of banging my head on the doors of Hollywood as a screenwriter. I educated myself in the craft to the highest levels, got advice from innumerable consultants, executives, managers, agents, etc., saw my work win high honors in contests, get optioned five times, get me taken on by both a manager and an entertainment attorney, and more. I was a professional writer with highly marketable material—who still has nothing to show the world on a screen, or even made any significant money. Long ago I understood that this was a tough business, that my lack of success was not a reflection on me personally or even on my work. So what was I missing? As Hollywood would say, my “break,” the one connection, many times totally serendipitous, where the right person discovered my work at the right time and opened the door to me. You can have amazing talent and do everything right for years and years, but if you don’t get your “break,” you won’t be let in.

    Getting published in the traditional way isn’t much different. I played the “impress the producer” or “impress the manager” game—in books, it’s “impress the agent” or “impress the editor.” In both, even if you do everything right, success or failure still depends on little more than dumb luck—your work somehow makes it through the slush pile and miraculously falls into the hands of the right person at the right time.

    The best bet, for anyone that really wants to see their work on the market, is (as a number of people here have suggested) stop playing the games and take control yourself, through self-publishing or working with a legitimate small-press Indie publisher. You may still need a break or two, but you’ll have much more control over making them happen.

    And for that, we must also thank Laura, because included in the Writing Blueprints is a self-publishing guide that I’m sure is amazing. She and CBI see the future and are already ahead of it. Amazingly, I even saw that this year’s SCBWI Summer Conference in LA will have a workshop on self-publishing. This is probably the best way to effect change in the traditional publishing world—leave it altogether.

  • How about we shorten the waiting period to a 1-2 months? We could also fund a body that will help writers improve their manuscripts wherein a reasonable membership fee will be enough to cover for other costs. High professional critique fees may also be a hindrance into the making of a manuscript. It”s either they cannot afford it or are not willing to pay that much. We could all sit down and dissect the problem and hopefully, with everybody’s input , will one day come up with a solution.

  • I queried a previous version of my novel last year and got a very healthy amount of full requests. All ended up passing, but now I have a new version that I believe is so much stronger, almost like a new MS entirely. The ones who will get a query on the new version are the ones who were polite and helpful in their rejections and who made it clear to re-query if I had a new draft. The ones who were snippy or vague won’t.

  • Laura, thanks for being the writer’s voice. Your concerns reflect my thoughts, though articulated with a more thorough vision. We writers are willing to go to great lengths to strengthen our work, however guideposts are what encourage an help us.

  • Well said! I think the most problematic situations are where the publisher does not want a simultaneous query, but you need to wait six months to see if your MS is acceptable.

  • A fascinating article that finally crystallizes what I had only ever wondered about. I have only ever suffered one bout with an acquisitions editor of a modest-sized publishing house. And that was nearly a decade ago. So I feel the least qualified to say amen or take exception to all the anecdotes within and the comments that follow. But assuming it all represents faithfully what are most writers’ experiences today, I do wrestle with one question. Might some of the intransigence observed be due to a male-female imbalance on both sides of the issue? Over the years, I’ve lamented the fact women writers (at least in the domain I write in) seem to outnumber men 10 to 1. Judging by the greater number of female voices in response to the article, it looks as though this imbalance has only worsened over time. What I don’t have a feel for though is the gender ratio of acquisition editors out there. If this ratio does not correlate with my observed one in the writer’s world, it might explain a good deal, not the least of which is an apparent incommensurability that makes Sisyphus’s job look easy.
    Make no mistake. I have the utmost regard for my female counterparts. I can never repay the debt I owe them. They have taught me so much. I just wonder if there were more men shouldering the burden of writing with you wonderful women what good effect might that have for everyone who could use some help.

    • Walt, thanks for your comments. Yes, the majority of acquisitions editors are women, at least in children’s publishing, though at the highest levels (Executive Editor, Publisher) the ratio of men to women is more even. And yes, there are far more women submitting manuscripts than men (I’ve also observed more women at writing conferences). However, if you look at the ratio of men to women published authors, it’s more balanced. And, if you look at the gender of authors winning the highest-level awards, you’ll often see more men than women. Which brings up another point my colleagues and I often talk about: are women agents and editors more likely to give a man a publishing contact than a woman? I don’t have an answer to that, but it’s something many writers I know who have been in this business a long time have asked.

  • Laura,
    Thanks. It’s obvious that you spent a lot of time thinking about and writing this. It seems like a viable solution to a mounting problem in the publishing industry. Let’s hope editors and agents take note and review their slush piles and take your suggestions. Again, thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • Thank you, Laura, for the letter and giving us the chance to comment.
    First of all, I think it is very disrespectful to request a manuscript and then not get back to the author. I feel bad for everyone that happened to.
    When I submitted to publishers, I often wondered whether they’d even received my submission because it took so long to get an answer. I would have appreciated a quick email just to know they’d received it, especially when I sent it by post.
    I waited for a year and got rejection letters, which is upsetting in itself, but getting a letter that says something like ‘not suitable for our list’, doesn’t help at all. So I decided not to wait anymore and to self-publish.
    Imagine if that one person hadn’t liked ‘Harry Potter’ and Rowling had given up after being rejected several times. It seems so unfair that the fate of your book, that you worked so hard on, lies in the hands of that one person who happens to read your manuscript.
    I thought about what could be done to get through the submissions faster and I think one way would be to have volunteers read them, but have more than one person read a manuscript. As a children’s author, I even thought: what if the manuscript was given to a few children to read and they offered feedback. They are the audience after all. I wonder if that would help us or make things worse.

  • As always, Laura, you were courteous, concise, and clear in what you said. Thank you. You and Jon continue to assist the rest of us, helping us to be better writers. I owe you much for your guidance and support. Please keep up the great work.

  • Amen! Thank you Laura for addressing these concerns. Personally, I’ve been wondering if some of the editors who state in their guidelines, “no reply unless we’re interested”, actually read all the submissions or if this guideline serves simply as a way out for them because they can’t possibly read them all. Of course, I don’t know if this is an accurate picture of what’s going on, but as a writer, it does make me feel like submitting to them is just a waste of time. Also, for email submissions, an automated reply that simply says, “Thank you. We received your submission.” should be standard for the entire industry. We have all experienced the unpredictable nature of the internet and it’s the least an editor/agent can do to assure writers that their MS arrived safely in their mailbox. I hope your frank letter and the many comments bring about positive change for writers, editors, and agents. Thanks again for getting your thoughts out there.

  • Well said, Laura. And something that has needed to be said for a long time! Your comments most affect writers in the early stages of their careers–when they are most hopeful, but also most vulnerable–but they also affect writers much further along, like me. When I’m working with agents, editors, bookstore owners, distributors, etc., I acknowledge that they are running businesses and have a right to carry only the books that suit their business and have in place procedures that allow them to operate most effectively. But I’m in business too. I’m in the business of trying to get my book out in the world.

    We simply must be mutually respectful, because in order to do business, we need each other. So as authors, we need to do our homework, act professionally, produce good work, etc. And in return, we need to be answered in a timely and respectful manner, and not lead in circles, which is what the endless line of form rejections leads us to. And not responding to us at all is just not the way to do good business.

  • Laura,
    I appreciate that you clearly state this is a business relationship and therefore both sides, editors/publishers and writers/illustrators, need to show respect for one another. Writers/illustrators need to follow submission guidelines and editors/publishers need to set specific guidelines and respond to submissions in an appropriate fashion. This will benefit everyone, including the readers who may never get to read that one incredible book that they would truly enjoy all because it got lost in the shuffle…
    Thank you.

  • Laura — eloquently stated, as always! I have been saying this for YEARS and was hopeful that SCBWI, as a strong international leader of the industry, might work with editors & agents to make it a better system. Sadly, I have not seen anything done in that direction.

    Most of the time it’s we writers, being told how to act professionally in the publishing field — what we can say and include in cover letters, how much we can nudge, if we can send multiple queries out….etc, etc. WHY aren’t agents and editors held to the same standards?

    Writers need editors and agents to get their work accepted. Editors and agents need writers to create amazing stories. It’s a mutualistic relationship but it certainly feels more parasitic at times. 🙁

    I hope the industry is listening to you Laura because we’re here behind you cheering!

  • I completely agree with what you’ve said, and I think it would improve lives for agents, publishers and authors if more specific reasons were cited. One that you didn’t mention specifically should probably be highlighted. There should be a template rejection based on word count. I know authors who have sent 40, 60, 100 queries on a novel with 175K words (urban fantasy) or 100K (middle grade contemporary). Rejecting that query without explicitly citing the word count means that you are increasing the workload for every subsequent agent, just as they are doing it to you. Lay out what is acceptable, even barely acceptable. If an author were to get five of those all saying the word count was off, he or she might well stop and reevaluate. But no response, or a form generic response, just means they keep sending.

  • I enjoyed reading this article immensely! Things I wish had been said long ago! I’m sure we’ve all thought them each time we got a terse unhelpful rejection letter.

    In my time writing and working to become traditionally published, I’ve acquired enough rejections to have papered my office . . . and I did that in the past. Most of them were those generic type, and there was one even stating that while my story was “above average” I had to be better than above average to win a contract. Once in a while there was a personal note scribbled to encourage me to “Keep trying. The story is worth it. Just can’t use it right now.” But for as many rejections as I received, there were all the times I never heard back. How long am I supposed to wait? And why should I wait?

    After years of sending out manuscripts, and waiting and hoping, and waiting some more, I started rethinking trying to get noticed in the traditional way. One day I got two rejection slips for the same story from an agent–did she forget she’d already rejected it and wanted to be very sure I knew she wasn’t interested? It made it seem like my work was total weasel poo, At that point, I gave up sending anything out. Started self publishing in earnest.

    I believe I burned all those rejection slips I once papered my room with. Still have a small boxful around here somewhere . . .

    Anyway, thanks for this, Laura!

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