No, no, this didn’t come from that adorable outfit that costs way too much money. It came from an author – after receiving a form rejection letter.The author read our submission guidelines and was excited that her work was a perfect fit for our company. She was confused as to why I rejected her and asked me to clarify.
To be blunt; no, I’m sorry, I won’t clarify. If I didn’t write a personalized rejection it was because I lacked the time or the inclination to explain further. Yes, there are times when I give reasons and offer some guidance, and I also risk receiving the “go forth and multiply with a diseased yak” for my trouble.
The long and short of it is that it’s a tacky, noob thing to write an editor or agent asking them to explain their rejection to you. I realize you want to learn from your mistakes, but it’s not my job to train you. Presumably you’ve done this. A no is a no. If you don’t get a reason, then you need to pick up your quill and move on.
There are many reasons for a “no.” In our case, we may have rejected because the story, while socially relevant, wasn’t enough of a personal journey. Maybe I didn’t feel it was socially relevant, or not relevant enough. Perhaps it was socially relevant and a personal journey, but I didn’t feel it was a marketable story. Maybe it was cliche. Or it was a heavily impacted category, like cancer or midlife crises. Maybe the query was so poorly written that I didn’t have faith the writing would be any better. The list goes on and on.
I don’t enjoy sending out rejection letters, but the facts are that not everything flips up my Victoria Secrets. So even though you believe your story is a designer-perfect fit for someone’s submission guidelines, maybe it isn’t, and that’s something you have to prepare for and understand.
Think of it this way; you tell your best friend you’re looking for a book – a romantic comedy that centers on two high-powered main characters who fall in love despite their busy careers. So she goes out and buys you a romantic comedy that meets those parameters. But maybe you didn’t like the main character, or the way he talked to his girlfriend. Maybe you didn’t like the the type of business they were in, or the ending was terrible. Maybe you didn’t like the writing.
So you tell your friend, “wassup? I told you I wanted a romantic comedy.” In reality, she gave you what you asked for. The fact that you didn’t like the book doesn’t mean that other readers won’t love it. It just means that you read that book through the prism of your personal filter.
So what may appear to be a perfect fit, my filter may still say no. Even if I made my guidelines specific right down to hair color, personality traits, and a specific plot, there would still be a percentage of queries that wouldn’t be right for me. Again, it comes down to the filtering process.
My recommendation is to not stress over why I or anyone else said no. It’s your job to find the warts in your pitch, so get with a good crit group, study, research, and learn how to present your story in the strongest possible manner. Just keep in mind that, after all that, someone will still say no. And unless authors can now perform the Vulcan Mind Meld, that element of what floats my boat will always be a relative unknown. Even to me. Frustrating as it is, the best I can say is I’ll know it when I see it.