Responses to Rejections

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Jan 23 2012

I’m pretty sure we’ve covered this before, but it’s come up again so I don’t feel it hurts discussing it again.

Should you respond to rejection letters, and, if so, what is the appropriate response?

I don’t think there’s any reason to ever respond to a rejection letter, and some agents will even tell you not to, ever, for any reason. That being said, for me personally, it never hurts to hear a polite “thank you” now and then. Most agents use form rejections of some sort or another, and for that reason I see no reason to send a response. In fact, one of the reasons form rejections are used is to help prevent responses to every email we receive.

If, however, you receive real feedback from an agent that actually sparks something in you or helps you “see the light,” for lack of better phrasing, I think it’s definitely nice for an agent to hear that her advice was helpful, and something simple is all you need.


16 responses to “Responses to Rejections”

  1. Avatar wry wryter says:

    A while back I queried an agent so out of my hemisphere, light years best describe the reach. While corresponding with one of his authors I was told how wonderful the agent was, so I gave him a try. He requested a partial; I had to be peeled off the ceiling.

    I know the man DID NOT read all I had sent but he line-edited the beginning, and made a few comments which became my ‘light bulb’ of showing, not telling.

    I think he thought I’d be upset by his ‘no’. I was not, I was grateful and I let him know just how much his taking the time to set me right meant to me. His last line of our correspondence, “keep in touch”. I most certainly will.

    The changes he suggested, I have implemented through the entire manuscript. How could I have not thanked someone for such a valuable ‘no’ ?

  2. Six years ago I queried my "dream agent" with my first query, without much hope since he only does 6-figure deals. He replied to the email in a half hour requesting sample chapters, and a week later responded with a pass, but with an amazingly helpful letter about the book and its marketability and other tips. Like wry wryter, of course I thanked him for all that.

  3. Avatar Julie Daines says:

    I love all the agent insights I get from this blog. Thanks! Sometimes I think hopeful writers set agents in a separate category other than "regular human being."

  4. I wish I'd get an agent to line item my stuff for me. I've never gotten anything but a straight "no".

    It would kill my ego if I wasn't already published but it would be nice to know why they don't want me.

  5. Avatar Stephanie says:

    I never respond to a form rejection. but I have to a rejection that I can tell the agent actually sat and took the time to write a few pearls of wisdom. Means a lot to me and I hate to let that go unrecognized. 🙂 Thanks for letting us know it's not wrong to do that! 🙂

  6. Avatar Paul says:

    My own personal "professional attitude" is based on a gratitude, so I have always sent a simple "Thank you for your time." response, even to form letters. Is there any harm in this, or is it more irritating than anything?


  7. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Few months ago I had an agent reject me. However it was wonderful. She wrote a personalized note at the bottom stating she liked my voice, the concept of the story, and that unfortunately she had four other authors currently writing demon themed books so she was full up. So I wrote her back and told her how grateful I was for that insight, in the end I felt like she might have accepted me had she not been so full. She's at the very tippy top of my next agent search with my latest ms! 🙂

  8. Avatar jarboe says:

    Thanks and that all makes sense. It's simple business etiquette — only respond if there is a VALID reason to do so.

    However, I have personally suffered the "Should I Respond Blues" more than enough to make me realize it is still good to hear this advice again.

  9. A personalized rejection to a short story was one of the best pieces of writing advice I've ever gotten, so for that reason I am glad for the end of your post.

  10. Avatar G says:

    Most of the rejections that I've gotten have been from agents of the form leter variety.

    Recently, I did get a rejection from a publisher that not only gave me feedback on what needed to be worked on in order to make it publishable but also left open the possibility of resubmitting once I had finished editing.

    First time in six years that I've gotten any kind of feedback like that on my work.

  11. Avatar Anonymous says:

    There was only one time I responded to a rejection letter. A query was sent and a partial was requested three days later. About two weeks later, a full manuscript was requested. Hip, Hip, Hooray!!!! Two months a later a form later was sent that the agency did not represent our genre. What? Really? That's not what your website says. Why request the full? I could not help myself…I wrote a response asking (very nicely) if there we received the wrong letter by mistake including the requests, website information, etc. I thought it was a valid question and would do it again. The agent was upset I responded at all, but ultimately told us that an intern requested the partial and full without consulting the agents and they were "fazing out" that genre from the agency. I do think…right or wrong…sometimes you need to ask a question. I guess that just was not the right agent for us. 😉 PLJ

  12. Avatar Anonymous says:

    I'm posting as "Anon" for privacy reasons, but needed to de-lurk to make the comment.

    Thank you, Jessica, for a rejection you sent me about ten months ago. It was a form rejection (one of 8 the project received) so I didn't respond by email.

    Although eight is not a large number of rejections, it was enough to make me re-examine my writing and what I had learned since I started to focus on the craft. Thanks to those rejections, I realized I was making some critical errors in my writing and in other choices, too.

    I have since completed another manuscript (in a different genre) and signed with an agent – the first one I approached about the new project. The novel is currently on submission and attracting interest.

    I'm commenting here to thank you for rejecting a novel that really didn't stand out – without those rejections I wouldn't have had to examine my writing and wouldn't have written the novel that did.

    A point to everyone out there writing and hoping for success: sometimes, when an agent says "it's not you, it's me" – it really is you, they're just saying it nicely. Don't let rejections get you down – let them motivate you to reach higher. In the end, that is the best response a rejection can generate.

  13. Avatar Vicki Orians says:

    It is really nice when agents reply with a letter explaining why they passed and suggestions to improve. I think we are all sad when we receive a no (we are human after all), but it's what we do with that sadness that makes all the difference. Do we use that to propel us forward to keep pushing for success, or do we let it hinder us?

  14. Cool post! Thanks a lot for it.

  15. Avatar Debbie says:

    This was a very helpful post by all. As any new writer, I've received a slew of form letter rejections, but the few agents and publishers who responded with feedback and little nuggets, I treated as gold. THOSE are the ones that matter. As others have said here, the feedback is invaluable and allowed me to go back and make some very necessary changes. Some I'd been agnozing over myself and had my concerns confirmed. My latest book will be published this year, and it's quite a ride! 🙂 Good luck to everyone.

  16. Stephen King tells the story of his climb up the rejection ladder. He was talking about editors, but it applies to agents as well.

    1. Mimeographed form rejection.

    2. Mimeographed form rejection with coffee stains (it was on the editor's desk for a while.)

    3. Mimeographed form rejection with a kind note jotted in margin.

    4. Personalized rejection.

    5. Well, we all know what happened after that . . .