Publishing Rejections, Underwear, and Other Things We Don’t Talk About
Rejections – It Happens to Every Writer
Julie Butcher gives the not-so-bad 411 on submissions and publisher rejections
When you’re a new writer everyone will hush you whenever you start to query. “Don’t talk about it. Stay off the internet!” This is for a good reason. People get out of control. They trash-talk agents who are not fast enough to suit them. They complain about waiting. In case you don’t know, publishing = waiting. They are basically the same thing. So if you’re not the patient sort, or if you don’t want to learn patience, this isn’t the business for you.
Unfortunately, we writers get in the habit of not-talking about things which leaves newer writers in the dark. We refuse to discuss wait times and rejections because while they are not evil, they are also not fun/happy/puppies or rainbows. We don’t want to be seen as complainers—the thorn in the bottom of the flip-flop or the broccoli stuck between the teeth. Meanwhile, the new writers are stumbling around not knowing squat about why their queries go into a black hole and never came out again.
Well new writers, you’re in luck. Today you get to see my underwear drawer rejection replies.
First let me say that I send sincere thanks to every agent who has sent a rejection. Agents who reply to every query are a rare breed and are deeply appreciated by the writing community. Really. You newer writers might think rejections are a bad thing. They’re not. They mean that someone took the time to read your query and to reply and that is all that they mean. They do not mean your brain is ugly or that the agent hates you as a person and thinks you should be shot into outer space forever.
Worse than a rejection is a black hole. Every woman reading this knows exactly what I mean. They’ve waited every year for the results of their mammogram. Not knowing is killer. News, either way, lets you take some action. No, you don’t want bad news but it is better than no news at all. (Guys, I’m a girl. I have no idea what would be the same for you. Sorry.) Believe me when I tell you it is better to have that rejection than to have your query shoot into a black worm-hole of doom and never come out the other side. Slow is okay. Slower is still okay. Slowest is still way okay and better than nothing.
There are several directions literary agencies take when it comes to rejecting queries.
Beige Bras Form Rejections (They’re not comfortable but they are supportive and necessary.)
The very best is a form rejection within six to eight weeks. Some take longer. I’ve had replies within an hour and replies six months later with a request for a full. My main concern is that I get some kind of reply and am not in limbo. (On a side note, when I queried six years ago, the reply rate was around ninety percent. Now, it is right at fifty percent. I write Middle Grade so this might not be the same for your genre.) A form rejection is just that—a form. It can say as little as No thanks or it can be a page long. Either way it is a form and really says nothing about your writing or about you as a person. You can google and see where others have posted a copy of that particular agency’s rejection and see that they are exactly the same. So don’t freak out.
Sports Bras Instant form letter reply. (Whoosh! Bam! There’s an email in your inbox!) This is nearly as good as a form rejection. Immediately after you’ve emailed your query, you’ll get a short email back saying it was received. Then the agent may or may not get back with you. The reason this is nearly as good as a rejection is that you know your query arrived in the literary agent’s inbox. Sometimes you have to take the win even if it isn’t super-sized.
Granny Panties We only reply when we’re interested in your manuscript (AKA Move along. Nothing to see here.) Hitch up your big kid underwear, send the query, and resolve to forget that you sent it. You’ll make yourself crazy wondering if anyone is looking. After whatever time limit the agency has listed on their website (usually six weeks) mark it off of your list and keep going.
Now, this past year I sent 130 queries. Of that 130, 55 were no reply at all. Nothing. The deep black hole of nothing. There are others that are at agencies with a no response means no policy so I fully expect that number to be 65 by the time I am done. Fifty percent will have no answer—at all. What you newer writers need to understand that this is pretty much normal. It isn’t you. It isn’t necessarily your query. This is publishing. Keep moving. Keep trying. Smile—you work in your jammies.