Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Writer Wednesday: Decoding the Positive Rejection

On Monday, Fi Phillips was nice enough to suggest a topic for this week's Writer Wednesday. Here's Fi's question:

If you keep getting your book back from agents saying that it's great, they enjoyed reading it, keep sending it out, but it's not for them (with the additional phrase that it's all subjective), does that mean that the book isn't good enough or simply that I haven't found the right agent yet?

The hardest thing about a rejection like this one is that it means exactly what it says. You're doing everything right, except finding the right agent. This is actually a good rejection to get, but it can break your heart too. What you should take from this is that someone (maybe more than one agent) likes your work. That's a good thing. The problem is, and I can say this from experience as an acquisitions editor, you need to find the person who loves your book as much as you do. I read a lot of good manuscripts. I'm only open to agented submissions right now, so these manuscripts got the attention of agents. That must mean they're pretty good, right? Yes, but it doesn't mean I'll love them.

Me, specifically. I read each book I work on countless times. I have to still love it after I've poured over each word and practically memorized the book. If I don't, I can't work on it. An agent is much the same. They have to love your book so much they'll cry if they don't get to work with you on it. (Okay, maybe not cry, but you know what I mean.)

So this rejection means just what it says. You're doing everything right. You wrote a great book. Now find that agent who loves it as much as you do. He or she is out there somewhere.

*If you have a question you'd like me to answer from the other side of the editor's desk, feel free to leave it in the comments and I'll schedule it for a future post.

28 comments:

  1. Excellent information. It's so hard to decipher rejections especially when the agent doesn't want what you sent but asks to see more of your work or tells you to keep sending it out.

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    1. That's a good sign. It means you are doing things correctly.

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  2. Thanks for answering my question, Kelly. Good to hear that I'm doing the right thing. I'll keep on sending it out. Wish me luck.

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  3. Rejections are hard, but some rejections are positive and encouraging. Good advice about still liking your book after going over it so many times.

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  4. Excellent answer, Kelly, and something even seasoned writers need to remember. This fall, my agent forwarded me two positive rejections from editors on the same day. Both said the same thing: Loved the story and world-building; didn't fall in love with the voice. I tried to figure out what that meant -- but of course it meant exactly what it said.

    As a reader, I come across many books with an awesome premise but a voice that doesn't hook me. I might keep reading, or I might not. I might even enjoy the story. But would I read it over and over and over? No. It's the same for an editor or agent!

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    1. Yes, reading is very subjective. Voice is something one person can love while another isn't moved by it.

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  5. Makes sense to me. When you have to read a story many, many times, you have to love it. Thanks for the information.

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  6. I'm relieved that this rejection means what it says. Finding the agent that'll love it is the trick. haha

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    1. Yes, it is the trick and it can be time-consuming.

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  7. Agreed 100%. You want someone batting for your work that feels about it the way you do.

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  8. Thanks for sharing your insights, Kelly.

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  9. Rejection hurts but keep journeying forward. That right agent is still out there.

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    1. Yes, and it's a great feeling when you find him or her. :)

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  10. I read someone give advice to Facebookers that if you write a book and it's rejected, give up and do something else. I cringed. One, two, even 200 rejections don't mean you should give up. It just means you haven't gotten the idea/execution/right agent mix right and you just have to keep trying.

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    1. Wow! I can believe someone would post that! That's awful.

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  11. I can see how someone needs to be passionate for something they'll be spending hours on in the future. I wouldn't want to work on anything I feel lukewarm about.

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    1. Me either. I know without a doubt if I want to work on a book.

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  12. I may be the only one who reads the above rejection as a nice FORM. I don't see how it means "you are doing everything right," Kelly. I see this as the nicer form rejection, used by many agents and editors, that says NO without being specific.
    Now, if it said something positive that could only apply to the manuscript you sent, (as in, "Dormosetta's character is strong and memorable, and the twist with her cousin Marmatutta is unique and excellent") and then conclude with a pass that says "not for me," I would agree it means you are doing it right and this agent is not the right one for it.

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    1. It can be a form letter but it's not one that is always used. It's reserved for good submissions.

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  13. I've gotten this reply quite a bit. =) I'm hoping w/my next ms, to find that one person who loves it like I do. Fingers crossed!

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