The email was one I’ve seen many times:
I wanted to let you know that my story really is a socially relevant personal journey, so I don’t understand why you claimed it was too mainstream.
Not unlike my post on authors who complain their work was a perfect fit, the email basically told me that I missed the mark. My first thought is, “It’s a pity I didn’t know that.”
If the book really was a socially relevant personal journey, then why didn’t the author play up those elements?
This is a lament I hear from editors and agents alike who seek specific kinds of works. All too often authors write a one-size-fits-all pitch that they believe will scratch everybody’s itch. It won’t. For example, I don’t accept mainstream fiction, so if your pitch is geared toward mainstream, I have to reject it. The same goes for the editor who wants romance. If your book plays up the non-romantic elements, hello Mr. Rejection Letter. If you send a query to an editors who specializes in mysteries, then don’t play up the romantic relationship between the two main characters. It’s a misfire.
Pay special attention to whom you query. If it’s a mainstream editor, then your mainstream pitch is fine. But if it’s for someone who publishes specific kinds of stories, you need to play up those elements because chances are that those editors or agents left their tinfoil hats in their other purse. Or the beagle is wearing them.
If you receive a rejection letter, think about your pitch. Did I really miss the mark, or did you fail to tailor your pitch to fit my needs? It truly is the difference between instant, sudden death, beagle snarling rejection and “Oh, send me pages, pleeeeze.”