First off, I must share some terrific news – Rock Paper Tiger by Lisa Brackmann (who you may of course know as commenter Other Lisa) was just named one of the Top 10 Novels of 2010 by Amazon!! And, if that’s not enough, keep an eye out for a terrific review in Sunday’s edition of the New York Times Book Review. Congrats, Lisa!
Once you, the author, is fortunate enough to have your book out on submission to editors, there is somewhat of a decision to make. Would you prefer to see the rejections as they come in? Would you simply want to be notified of their existence? Would you prefer to think said letters do not exist and only be notified when there is good news?
As an agent I usually err on the side of sharing, because quite often the editors’ thoughts may spark ideas for revisions and quite often are extremely complimentary of the author even when it’s not a perfect fit.
On the other hand, as previously chronicled, even though I know how this process works, when my novel was on submission the process turned me into a quivering mass of Scaredauthor in a week and a half. But I still wanted to read the letters. Basically, if I’m ever taken hostage, all anyone has to do is wave rejection letters under my nose and refuse to show them to me and I’ll crack faster than you can say, “It just wasn’t for us and we’re sure someone else will snatch this up before you know it.”
Whether you’ve been on submission with editors or not, which way would you prefer?
To know or not to know? That is today’s question.
I agree with you and many other commenters. I want to see what editors said or thought, regardless of good or bad. We grow by learning.
You know, that's such a frightening question. Writers know the first line they have to cross is the writing. The second, querying the agents. So many writers stop there because they don't make it past the agent hurdle. I know I do. Until your post today I didn't consider the rejections whatever agent I get is receiving them from the publisher. It would evolve a whole new layer of skin thickening.
That said, I would want to read the letter/e-mail rejections from the publishers. Though perhaps with an agent that already believed in me it wouldn't be terrible.
I would maybe want to know. Depends on what's going on and where my head is at. Which is to say, if I were an agent, I'd read each situation and see what if any information would be prudent to share.
I'd want to not only know but SEE copies of the letters…because there are agents out there who, quite frankly, don't do their homework. (Present company excepted, of course.) I've had friends with "agents" who claimed to have submitted something to publishing houses…and didn't. I've had friends with "agents" who lied about where a piece had gone. I've heard other horror stories about "agents" who submitted a piece maybe three times, then came back to the author and said, "Hey, this isn't gonna fly, what else you got?" And of course, there are "agents" who submit totally wrong pieces to totally wrong markets…"agents" who know less than the author herself about the market…and "agents" who look OK on the surface but then, once they've got you signed, disappear.
Having copies of every single rejection letter, on the letterhead of the company that sent it, helps keep the feet of such people to the fire–or it sorts them out immediately and the author can invoke whatever clauses are necessary to move on. So, ironic as it may sound, these rejections can end up protecting and helping an author in the long run…and not just in the are of improving work.
My two and a half cents,
Absolutely want to know. Especially if there are any comments as to why!
Lynn Viehl says
Bad news is more helpful than no news. Often rejections sent to agents contain editorial comments that are invaluable to the author (I wrote a post about this back in April here.)
Kat Sheridan says
Many congrats to Lisa, and I can't wait to read the review!
I would want to know for two reasons: 1. It shows activity, things are happening even if it's not positive yet. And as they say, every rejection letter puts you closer to an acceptance 2. What is being said in those letters can speak volumes…is every letter a form letter (meaning there wasn't enough in the novel to spark more than a form letter), are there specific notes that may help me in revisions.
Eventhough rejection letters are the enemy, they still serve a purpose, and to avoid them could mean avoiding the key to getting the novel sold.
I want to know. Better face reality than deal with my imaginary fears and notions.
'Tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous rejections.
Robin Kaye says
Knowledge is power. I want to know everything that has to do with my submissions. It's my career, my work. As you said, comments might spark and idea for revisions and if you see the same comments from more than one editor, it will show the weakness in the manuscript.
I don't know. I know that I'd be scared to open the letter. I know I'd be scared to read the contents of the letter.
at the same time, knowing that there is something in the letter worth knowing and might be good for my future exhilarates me.
So, I think I'm going with know.
With few exceptions, knowing is always superior to denial. My husband is an editor and I'm amazed at the time and personal attention he gives to people, in both acceptance and rejection. For writers passionate about their art and striving to improve, it's a gift. Thanks for being so generous with your time and consideration. I love your blog.
Malia Sutton says
Unless there's a long piece of toilet paper stuck in my panty hose, I only want to hear the good news.
Hart Johnson says
Definitely want to see everything, possibly with my agents notes as to what is useful and what she disagrees with. but either way, I'd want to see.
Karen L. Simpson says
My agent sent me mine and they did help me revise the novel into the version that was evetually picked up by a publisher.
Which is not to say I didn't feel a little hurt at times.
I like to know. My agent sent me the originals of all rejections as they came in and that allowed me to revise the manuscript where needed.
The History Chef! says
writer's block says
I definately would have to know all the gory details of why my novel was not good enough. That way I can have a few cocktails with my friends and rant over what a stupid agent so and so was and how he/she wouldn't know a great story if it bit them in the ***!
Then the next day I could read the letter again, gain some sober perspective and try harder next time.
Greg Mongrain says
I prefer to look the horror in the face.
I would want to know.
Hit me with it!
Rejection, outright. It gives a sense of closure.
It's like dating. Most people would rather be told that it's over than have the other person just disappear…
Ed Marrow says
I would really like to know. As you said, it may spark revision ideas. It also marks incremental progress. Baby steps.
Dana Fredsti says
I would rather know. And may I just give a huge congrats to Lisa and to you, Nathan, for the Top 10 in Amazon news!!!
Amanda Sablan says
Wow, congratulations to Ms. Brackmann! That's quite an accomplishment! Rock Paper Tiger is still on my To Read List. 😀
I would like it if an agent pointed out what was wrong specifically, but it's fine if that doesn't happen because I understand that A.) agents only have so much time, and B.) their suggestions may not be for the best if they haven't read the rest of my story or if my story simply is not what they're interested/invested in.
Kristin T says
I would definitely want to know everything. Constructive comments in particular can always spark new ideas that will make the overall story better. 🙂 But I would also want to see letters that were not so nice or that simply said, "no thanks."
Wordy Birdie says
Know. How can you learn if you don't know?
Of course I want to know.
I suspect this is why a lot of us writers get annoyed by agents who don't respond (even with a form letter) to all queries. I can only imagine what it is like to be on submission to editors and to have one's agent say nothing about the progress.
I'd rather have clear rejection than false hope.
Michael M. Hughes says
I also think that every writer should have a copy of "The Writer's Book of Hope" by Ralph Keyes. Trust me.
~Sia McKye~ says
Yay, Lisa!!! Yay for Nathan being brilliant to sign her!!
Missives From Suburbia says
As I've often said, I would have learned my children's SAT scores and future occupations via ultrasound if the information was made available. So, yes, I'd want to see every ugly word.
Congrats to your author and to you for making the list.