Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Rejection—The Humane Way?

STATUS: I’m feeling great because Chutney is finally on the mend. A puppy dog with diarrhea is not a pleasant thing. She’s curled up and sleeping on her snuggle ball right now. And of course she comes to the office. What’s funny is that she’s not the only dog at the offices in our building. It’s a very Colorado thing.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? FNT by Semisonic

I have to say I’m a little curious as to how this little experiment will unfold. As promised, I said I would post my standard rejection letter.

Here it is. I’ve included my comments about the letter in blue. I’ve had this letter, or a close version of it, for the last four years. It may be time for change.

March 14, 2007

Dear Author:
Some salutation seems necessary. We used to include the writer’s name but that was too time-consuming. Not to mention, this is a standard letter and wouldn’t “Dear Author” signal it as so?

Thank you so much for sending the Nelson Literary Agency your query.
And we mean this. Thank you.

We’d like to apologize in advance for this standard rejection letter. Standard letters are so impersonal so we do want to apologize for it. The volume of queries as of late has been too overwhelming to personalize our response anymore. Very true and that’s why we have a standard letter. Rest assured, we do read every query letter carefully and although your work sounds intriguing, we’re sorry to say that we don't believe we are the right agency for you. I imagine that a lot of writers don’t believe that we read query letters carefully but we really do. Also, many writers have mentioned getting annoyed with the “although your work sounds intriguing” line. After all, if it’s so intriguing, why aren’t we asking for sample pages? Good question. I can’t think of a better way to handle this. Sometimes we do really get intriguing letters but it’s not a book I would pick up and read so ultimately it’s not right for me—but the idea is sound.

You deserve an enthusiastic representative, so we recommend that you pursue other agents. We want to be encouraging after all and it could just be us that doesn't like the query. After all, it just takes one "yes" and with so many different opinions out there, you could easily find the right match. I explained this line yesterday. Sometimes it really does come down to finding the right agent match who loves the idea and the work.

Good luck with all your publishing endeavors. We want to end on a positive note.

Kristin Nelson
Sara Megibow
Signed by both of us. Here’s an interesting tidbit. I used to read all my queries but then it got too overwhelming and I couldn’t expend the time on it. In the beginning of my agency, a good day was when we received 10-15 email queries. Now we receive anywhere from 50 to 80 a day. I got desperate so I hired Sara and trained her to screen the queries for me (among other things).

So, Sara reads them all. I only read a percentage of them since Sara will set aside the queries she wants me to read. I will then say ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ on whether to look at sample pages from that batch.

So technically, it is a process with both of us involved and I wanted folks who query us to know that.

So that’s the letter. Things we can’t do.

1. Mention or recommend other agents.

We get requests for this all the time but I like my colleagues and want them to continue liking me so including recommendations is not an option.

2. Personalization of the letter.

It literally is too time-consuming. I know this because we used to do it. I know there are software programs that can drop in the writer’s name as well as the title of the project but I wonder if that’s misleading. This is a standard rejection letter after all. The point is for writers to not take it personally and adding those touches may make the letter a little less impersonal but it’s still a standard one.

What’s better or worse?