We all know rejection letters are UGLY. They hurt. We put our heart and soul into our writing, spend more time than we’d like to remember revising and polishing our manuscript. Finally, we put it in front of agents and editors. Then the responses come. Our baby, rejected…often multiple times.
We tend to think of every rejection as BAD news, since we want our manuscripts to be accepted. They certainly make us feel bad. After all, our story has been rejected. Is it even possible that any could be good?
How? Think in terms of whether it will help you or not. Most rejection letters are vague and generic. Agents and editors are very busy people and receive a boatload of submissions every month. They don’t have time to send personalized responses to each and every one. Unfortunately, these don’t help the author understand why his manuscript was rejected.
So, what does a GOOD rejection letter look like? It will give you some tidbit of information—even the tiniest of nuggets—about what you could do to make your story better. Here are four types of good rejection letters, from the most common to the least (and most coveted):
1) The information is presented in the negative. By looking at the flip side, you can glean some knowledge regarding what you should do. For example, if the rejection letter says, “We rarely accept manuscripts written in omniscient POV,” the flip side would be that you need to change the POV you used in your manuscript.
2) The message mentions something specific that the agent or editor liked. While these won’t necessarily help you to rewrite, they show you something you’ve gotten right.
3) The message mentions something specific that needs to be fixed. These letters should be treasured, as they are few and far between.
4) The letter offers you an invitation to resubmit after you revise your story. These letters will often include something specific that the agent or editor would like to see changed.
When you receive a good rejection letter, take it to heart. The person who wrote it thought enough of your writing to take the time to send you more than just a generic message. Instead of a time for despondence, it should make you want to jump and dance and holler…at least for a few moments before you pull up your story on the computer and start revising.