Quite some time ago I received the following letter from an author I had corresponded with and read a number of manuscripts from.
I am extremely frustrated by your repeated rejection letters. Each time I receive one I do the work you ask for and each time I submit revisions I get a new rejection. Clearly you are not making yourself very clear and explaining what you want. In one breath you encourage me and the next moment you tell me I’m not ready for an agent. Well do your job, make me ready. I want to learn and it’s your job to tell me what needs to be changed and to make me ready.
Now when I look on it this letter saddens me. I remember the author and I remember the work, even though a number of years has gone by. She was a writer with some talent, but also someone who needed a great deal of help. Clearly the feedback I was giving her was helping, but as I’ve said before, if it was easy enough to explain in one sentence I would have offered representation. The frustrating thing here for the author is that she wanted it to be my job to make her work publishable, and as every writer knows, it’s the author’s job to really figure out what is wrong with the book and what may or may not be working. As an agent I can only guide you along the way.