A personalized rejection: Can I respond to that?

A hand rose up from the audience last weekend at a conference. “I got a personalized rejection saying the editor really liked my story, but didn’t like the subject matter at the end – abuse – which was only implied, not shown.”

Ugh…methinks privately while keeping a smile frozen on my face…me hates, hates, hates works with any kind of abuse and refuses to read it.

“So my question is if it’s ok for me to write back to the editor and tell her that I’d happily change out the ending. Or should I just rewrite it and send it back to her?”

In a word – NO! On both counts.

A personal rejection is not an invitation

I get this all the time, and it drives me buggy because authors want to read between the lines where none exist. There are many times that I personalize my rejections because I feel the work warrants comment. My doing so isn’t an invitation to open up a dialog with the author, but to tell the author what doesn’t work for me.

Yet there are many authors who believe that because I took the time to critique their work that we now have a connection – a relationship. We don’t. I appreciate that many authors believe taking a proactive stance is the way to get ahead in publishing, but it’s also a lovely repellent as well. If you’re all in my business because of some comments I made, my first reaction is to have the beagle call in her German Shepherd thugs.

Don’t assume; trust

You know what happens when you assume, right? Ass-u-me. You assumed that since you got a personalized rejection that you can now contact the editor to suggest changes to your manuscript.

Trust me, if we really wanted that work, we’d have said, “take out the abuse parts and let’s get down to some serious talk.” We’re in the business to grab us the best works we can, and we won’t let something walk on by simply because one faction doesn’t work. We discuss rewrites or other options. But we DO NOT let it escape our grubby little fingers. Trust me.

Don’t make me regret it

There are times when I receive a batch of “if I change this, will you lurve it?” responses, and it makes me almost regret saying anything in the first place. See, when I point out why something didn’t work for me, that wasn’t the only reason for the rejection. Obviously there was more at play here, but I pointed out the MAIN REASON why I rejected the work because it’s quick and easy.

I’m not about to send out a full-blown critique that goes on for a full page. If that were the case, I’d still be reviewing submissions from 2005. Please rethink your decision to write back to an editor who has rejected you. If we really want it, we’ll jump on it – regardless of a few warts.

Keep in mind that a no – no matter how nicely it’s put – is still a no. Don’t try to read too much into a rejection. If the editor says, “Please resubmit to me after you’ve rewritten parts X,Y, Z,” then you’ve been given permission. Otherwise, your uninvited re-submission will more than likely be summarily dumped.

Move on to someone else.

8 Responses to A personalized rejection: Can I respond to that?

  1. Frank says:

    Lynn, would you elaborate on your preferential remark regarding abuse? I ask because abuse takes many forms and can be a motivating factor to a character’s behavior.

  2. I’ll drink to that, Lynn. When I was an editor. I was always shocked how many writers took my brief words of rejection to mean more than it was–rejection.

    If editors want a writer to tweak and resend–they’ll say so. Clearly.

  3. Frank, it is my personal preference to avoid situations of abuse. If it’s something that’s mentioned in passing, that’s fine. But when the plot or character backstory involves detailed scenes of abuse of any kind, it’s a deal-killer for me.

    Sally, I know that any kind of personal response is exciting for an author, and it’s easy to misinterpret the signals. But oy, the excitement levels get a bit much. I bet you miss this, don’t you?

  4. NinjaFingers says:

    I’ve actually had a couple of editors be highly ambiguous on whether something was a rejection or a rewrite request. In both cases, I offered to rewrite and it was accepted, and one of the stories was bought.

    However, in both cases these were editors who had bought stories from me before, which makes a huge difference.

    I’ve never argued with what was clearly a rejection outside my own mind (I have had a couple of ‘What, did they read the right story’ rejections).

  5. Elise says:

    Perhaps your input/suggestions to writers would be taken more seriously if there weren’t so many egregious typos and writing errors. Take, for example, the synopsis and selling points of your “essential” tackle box for writers book. Is it really so difficult to proofread a page that touts your know-it-all advice to writers?

    I’m not impressed.

  6. Actually, Elise, I haven’t found that my suggestions are dismissed at all. Reading your strong vitriol makes me wonder if, at some time, I rejected your work.

  7. Monday says:

    What about a “thank you for taking the time to respond personally” note, with no expectations? Is that okay, in your opinion?

  8. Sure, Monday, it’s ok, though totally unnecessary.

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