Over the years, as an editor and agent, I have built a pretty good-sized author beware file. This file is made up of the letters and emails I’ve received from authors that I know I want to avoid. From time to time I’m going to dig out one of those letters and post some of what was said. And, of course, I’m going to comment.
Another reason why agents don’t give feedback in their letters . . .
In your recent rejection letter you told me that writing was “strong enough.” But without any details I’m afraid I’m not sure what you mean. Could you give me details? Was it my character? or the beginning of chapter three? WHAT?
Besides that though you told me to join a critique group and I want you to know that I am in a fabulous critique group full of amazing people. Some are even published. Thanks for the advice though.
I didn’t mean to sound defensive even though I probably am. I’m disappointed of course, but you’re not the only agent out there and I’ll keep plugging away. In the future though let me give you some advice, try not to make so many assumptions about a writer’s abilities when sending out rejections, at least until you’ve read the entire manuscript.
And, just so you know, my writing is too strong.
I think if we all took a moment to think about it we would know the difference between strong writing and writing that isn’t strong enough to be published, whether it’s your own work, and that first manuscript sitting under your bed, or the work of one of your writing partners. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad or unreadable. It’s simply not quite there. And you know what, I can’t always give you specifics. That’s the tough part of rejection letters and why they are so often form letters. I can’t always tell you why it didn’t work. Sometimes it’s just plain horrible, sometimes it’s actually entertaining but is missing something and I can’t quite put my finger on it, and sometimes it’s a personal preference, I just didn’t like it.
As for this author’s writing group, one thing really jumped out at me and that’s the phrase “an excellent group of women.” Are they an excellent group of women or a sincerely helpful writing group? These are not necessarily one and the same. I think writing groups are an invaluable part of this business, but I also think that everyone should regularly evaluate whether or not the groups they are in are still benefiting them.
I know this author is defensive and I’m actually fine with that. We’ve all been there and blasted off that email in a weak moment when we shouldn’t have. What I wasn’t happy about was the accusation that I was making generalizations and assumptions when I was trying to honestly give my evaluation of her work. I’m sincerely sorry that it upset her, for that was not my intent. My intent was to give a real reason for my rejection. I’m not sorry I did it, but I think you can now see why I don’t do it very often.