By popular demand I’m going to address how authors can and should handle personalized rejection letters from editors. Since there was some confusion in an earlier post, let me explain that in this case what I really mean is revision rejection letters, or rejection letters with editorial suggestions. I apologize for the confusion, but I think I’ve used the word “personalized” incorrectly and received some backlash for it so I hope this helps.
So, either you have an agent who has submitted on your behalf or you’ve been asked by an editor to submit your work, and in return you’ve received a very nice letter with lots of great feedback. What next?
Of course you have to know by now that the very first thing I’m going to say is that you absolutely should not make any changes unless those comments resonate with you. Just like a personalized rejection letter from an agent is no guarantee of representation, a personalized rejection from an editor is no guarantee you’ll sell the book. Whether it’s a submission you sent on your end (presumably by request) or through your agent, the editor is rejecting the book because she thinks it needs work, but it’s unlikely that she’s going to be able to tell you everything that didn’t work for her, because that would be a revision letter.
If you have an agent you need to discuss the letter with your agent, and any rejection letters really. There are always options. If the letter does resonate with you and you feel that changes must be made, your agent can always pull all other submissions while you make changes and then resubmit. In many cases, though, editors have as many varying opinions as agents, and you might simply decide to keep moving forward and maybe incorporate those changes into your second work. And in some cases the editor might not be open to a resubmission, that’s something you’ll have to look into.
One reader asked why an author would go through editorial changes without benefit of a contract, while other authors seem to get a contract first and then go through editorial changes. Presumably, every author is going to need to go through a revision process once a publishing contract is in hand. However, as I’ve often said, editors need a book to be perfect or near perfect before they can usually be given the go-ahead to buy it. Sometimes an editor will read a book and think it’s really great, but because of this, this, and that she’d never buy it. She’ll write the letter to the author telling her just that, and if the changes are made the rest can be dealt with later.
I suspect that editorial change rejections are less common from editors than they are from agents, however I know that if a client of mine received one from an editor with an offer to resubmit I will certainly put that author to work. Why not? It could mean a sale.