Hey, all! I know I’ve been away from this series for a while! The summer got a little more chaotic than I thought it would, and something had to give for a minute. Things have settled now, though, so I’m back with more Agent Hunt goodies!
To recap your hunt to date, you’ve written an amazing novel and a stellar query letter. You’ve made a list of agents that you think may be interested in your project, held your breath, and hit send. And now your letters are floating somewhere out in the ether of the agency inbox while you anxiously await your fate. You’ve compulsively hit refresh on your professional e-mail (because of course you remembered to make one, right?) and at long last, a hit.
An unread message has appeared in response to one of the letters you sent out. Your heart pounds. A cold sweat breaks out on your brow. There’s only one of three things this could possibly say. Over the next few weeks, we’ll go through each one. The first we’ll cover (and unfortunately the one you’ll probably see the most of) is the rejection.
There are two kinds of rejection letters, and they’re not created equally. You’ll either receive a form rejection or a personalized one. The first is exactly what it says on the tin, a cut and paste response that says the agent in question isn’t interested in representing this story. Some are more polite than others. Some use your name at least; some just say “Dear author”.
I’m not going to lie to you; these sting. A lot. Why can’t they have said anything more personal, you may cry. Why can’t they have told me what I did wrong? The answer is, it’s not about you. It’s probably not a reflection on your work nor an accurate representation of who the agent is as a person. Unfortunately, with the volume of queries that most agents receive, they just don’t have the time to give each and every person even a sentence about why they’re passing on a project. Unpleasant? Yes. But it’s the nature of the beast.
The other stage of rejection is the personalized rejection. This is when the agent includes a note of encouragement or advice for your novel. It could be anything from, “This isn’t for me, but I love the voice!” to “Strong premise, but I feel like I’ve read this before.” No matter what it is that they’ve said or how badly the rejection hurts, take it as a compliment that they’ve gone out of their way to respond to you personally. Take these little tips to heart; they know what they’re talking about!
So how do you respond now that you’ve gotten a rejection? There’s not really a right way to feel; you can cry if you want to. Yell. Curse the agent’s name to yourself or badmouth them over the phone to your critique partners. You can feel down for a few days or weeks. But what you have to do if you’re serious about writing as a profession is get back on the horse. After you’ve had your rant, dust yourself off, mark that query with an R in your spreadsheet or tracker, and send out the next one.
Now, what not to do. Do not respond to the rejection. Don’t call the agent and demand they take another look. Don’t put them on blast on Facebook or Twitter. Agents talk; you don’t want word getting around to their contacts in the industry that you’re a loose cannon. In this as in all things, be respectful and professional.
Rejections don’t get any easier to receive as the number of them grows, but just remember that everyone has gotten them. There are Tumblr and Twitter communities devoted to building up writers from their rejections and to sharing their war stories of painful ones. I know. It sucks. But you’re just paying your dues to the club. Keep submitting and keep believing! Your future self will thank you for it!