Why Don’t Agents Explain Their Rejections?
Blogger: Rachelle Gardner
Authors often express frustration that their rejection letters don’t contain any hint of the real reason the project wasn’t accepted (save for something generic like “the project doesn’t fit my needs at the present time.”) A writer told me she’s not asking for a lot — just “one word, maybe two” of explanation at the end of a form rejection. That’s not asking too much, is it?
We love helping authors reach their goals and realize their dreams, so we’re sad to say that it is asking too much. Here’s why:
1. We just don’t have the time.
The necessity to add “a word or two” of explanation could potentially triple or quadruple the time it takes for us to respond to each query. With a hundred or more queries a week, it adds up.
When you walk through the department store looking for clothes, do you stop at every single item of clothing and dissect why it’s not right for you? Of course not. But if you did, you’d spend an awful lot of time trying to identify exactly why it doesn’t appeal. Something about the style? The color? Does it seem to old or too young? Too casual or too formal? Is it just plain ugly? Or is it… just not what you’re looking for right now?
It doesn’t make sense spending all that time figuring out why you don’t like most of the clothes. You’re there to find something you can BUY, so that’s where the bulk of your time needs to be spent. It’s the same with queries. We must spend our time looking for what we can work with, and quickly dispense with the rest.
3. Our reasons might do more harm than good.
Would you really like to hear that we think your book idea is (in our opinion) unoriginal, boring, derivative, or poorly written? We don’t want to unnecessarily confuse, enrage, or depress you. A brief explanation would only leave you with more questions than if we said nothing.
4. Our reasons, should we offer them, could be wrong.
No matter why we don’t want to pursue your project, we realize we are not the last word. The next agent might love it.
5. A literary agent is not obligated to help a non-client with their book.
Our obligation each and every day is to take care of our current clients. And yet, we try to help the writing community anyway. We blog. We tweet. We teach at writers conferences. Hopefully, this is a good start.
So where do you find the help you need? Critique partners, beta readers, editors, book doctors, and book mentors. And even reading blogs like this one!