Nathan Bransford, Author


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

To Know or Not to Know?

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!

Transition.

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.






181 comments:

Robert "Bobby" Xavier said...

I would prefer to know. You don't get any better at writing if you don't hear what people don't like about your work. Plus, rejections can be great motivators.

Raejean said...

I'm a glutton for punishment so I'd want to know. It would be helpful to have a caring agent point out the compliments in the rejections and incorporate constructive criticism to improve my writing.

Jon VanZile said...

1,000 percent yes.

nomadshan said...

I ask Agent to share all results (pass/interest), but editor comments only when they're constructive.

Jess said...

I think I would like to know for the exact reason you already named--perhaps the things they say will help me fix something in my book that needs to be fixed. I know how rejection affects me, but I also know that I get over it quickly. In the end, I believe the benefit of advice far outweighs the short-lived sting of rejection.

~jess hartley said...

I've told my agent, Liz Jote, that I want to know everything. I figure, even if I don't agree with the reasons behind the rejection, it will make me think more about the story, its possible flaws (and whether I think they're actually features), and how other folks in the industry look at books in general and mine in particular.
I also want to know her opinion of whether any critique is on-target or not, because that will help me self-assess. I know my work, but she (and the editors) know the industry.

lora96 said...

i would HAVE to know! every single word.

hannah said...

I've seen every rejected for all four of the books I've had on sub. My reasoning--the information is there. It's about me. The fact that I don't know it isn't going to make it go away. It's my job as an author to keep myself informed about the state of my career. I want all the information I can get.

And yeah. I read the reviews.

Katrina said...

Writing academic non-fiction, and submitting therefore without an agent, I see the rejections with the reviews from outside readers.

The first one I ever got was incredibly harsh. Told me essentially that I was a worthless scholar with no right to publish anything anywhere ever (and because these reviews are anonymous, people can give free rein to vitriolic comments).

But some reviews are constructive, and give me things I can work on. I'd rather know WHY the publisher wouldn't take it, than simply "no".

hannah said...

*rejection. Sigh.

Anonymous said...

I would probably not want an agent to forward emails of editors' remarks on my book. But after a certain number of rejections, I would want my agent to summarize what they've said and point out repeated concerns and/or praise.

Nick said...

I would probably want to know what they said. At they very least I would want to know of the fact that someone passed on it. For one thing, I could possibly use it to improve my work. But, really, it's mostly down to the fact that I like to be informed of these things, at any stage of the process. It's been over a year since I sent a query out on an old MS, and yeah, that's pretty effectively a rejection, but it would still be nice to have at least been handed a form rejection. Silence just doesn't sit well by me. Then there's also the fact that I'm a rejection hydra...in the end, knowing is just best.

Tori [Book Faery] said...

Yeah I'd like to, there are always plenty of ways to improve my writing. It's also nice to get another person's opinion.

Anonymous said...

I would probably not want an agent to forward emails of editors' remarks on my book. But after a certain number of rejections, I would want my agent to summarize what they've said and point out repeated concerns and/or praise.

Jessie Andersen said...

I'd definitely want to know. It lets me know where I stand.

Karla Nellenbach said...

I'd want to know. The comments in the rejection could be helpful in revising. Or they could just be a kick to the gut, but still...

Christopher Ing said...

You should always know.

Cause knowing is half the battle.

Kate Larkindale said...

I'd want to know. It's my career and my book, so if someone has something to say about it, I want to know. Even if what they say does hurt.

Raethe said...

To know. If there's actual feedback of any sort then I'd definitely want to see it. Even if it's just "thanks but no thanks," why not?

Anonymous said...

Originally, I was rejected by 7 publishers. Their notes were super helpful even if they crushed my little heart. I then took the notes and made revisions. It's back out now and we'll see what happens.

Even if it kills, I say read the responses. It will help. Promise. Plus, they all said I was an awesome writer. So even though my character was too this or that, they still had nice things to say. Doesn't make up for the rejection but it puts it in perspective.

Natalie and Rick Nuttall said...

I always want to know, good or bad, I think the not knowing is worse than the rejections. I much prefer rejection letters than the policy of "if you don't hear from us within 6 months, the answer is no".

When I get rejections that means I can cross those agents/publishers off the list and get on to the next ones. I don't dwell on them, I accept them as part of the process, learn what I can, and move on. But if I don't get the letter, I don't know if it's a rejection or if they're just mulling it over, and to me, that's the worst.

-Natalie

Anonymous said...

my agent asked me this same question as she was preparing to submit my MS and for me it's a yes every time. i've had two rejections but both editors have given positive and constructive feedback. every little helps.

Julie Weathers said...

I had an excellent agent when I had children's book. One thing I loved about her was she did share the rejections as the requests.

This helped me to revises some things and I was thankful she was so open with me. I want to grow as an author and these things help, even if they are difficult lessons at times.

abkeuser said...

I'd rather know. I assume it would be like the query process. I like getting rejections (as odd as that sounds) because a rejection at least tells me that someone looked at it and decided. A no response always makes me feel that I've been over looked. I think that not knowing on submissions would be similar.

A.L. said...

I haven't done it yet, but I think I'd want to know. It could prove useful, it could just give me something to gripe about, but ultimately knowing is better than not knowing.

The waiting is always the worst for me on anything, so even getting a rejection is a relief as at least the waiting is over. That avenue is closed, try somewhere else. Also, like you said, you never know what will spark an idea or otherwise help out with this or future projects. So knowing is always going to be better for me, I hope.

Mesmerix said...

I want to know it all.

Anonymous said...

I posted above but wanted to add:

Editors have good reasons to pass, but I don't think they are always honest, eg. This book would never get OK'd by our sales/marketing dept.

So why take to heart some general statements about writing quality, if they have much bigger concerns?

Joseph L. Selby said...

I would absolutely want to see it. It's not just a rejection letter, it's confirmation that your agent is doing what he/she said he would. You can see the effort and progress an agent is making as well as the type of publishers he's pursuing.

Yes, it's rejection, but I find it very reassuring.

Christina said...

Definitely prefer to know for me.

beth said...

To know--it's how you improve.

Jill Elizabeth said...

Tell me! Even if you think it will make me upset.
Incidentally I exercise this same policy with my husband.

Lydia Sharp said...

Put me in the HELL YES I'D WANT TO KNOW EVERYTHING THE GOOD THE BAD AND ALL THE CRAZY IN BETWEEN column. Please and thank you.

And a big CONGRATS to you and Lisa! That's awesome. :)

Emma said...

Better to know than be left in the dark. Even way-off-the-mark criticism can be informative if it makes you look at your work again.

Carol Riggs said...

I think most writers are sensitive about their "babies" and I'm certainly not immune to this (tho I'd like to think I'm tougher). I'd like to know EVERY GORY DETAIL, and not a summarization by an agent, either. I also hate it when I hear nothing and don't get an actual rejection. Even with a form "no" I feel I can move on again--it's a closure of sorts. I may feel dejected for a day or so by the no's, but I always manage to bounce back. (Thanks, Nathan, you're a speed-demon regarding rejections!!! LOL)
I think we all have to remember that editors are people too, and reading mss is often a highly subjective process--but we hafta balance that with hey, I'm seeing a pattern here with the comments, and I probably need to revise my ms.

author Scott Nicholson said...

All good relationships are built on honesty and full disclosure.

Or so I've heard...

Scott Nicholson
http://www.hauntedcomputer.com

Rachel @ MWF Seeking BFF said...

When my book was out to editors I was a complete and total mess. The nerves, the constant refreshing of email, it all made me nuts (and my husband even moreso). I got plenty of rejections and I saw every single one. While I was in it, there were days where I wish I hadn't seen them, but even then I knew it was better than the alternative: Wondering. I liked knowing that my agent was doing her best, and as you say many of the rejections were still encouraging and often constructive. I strongly believe that I sold a much better end product because I took to heart the suggestions that came with those rejections.

So even though, as you say, the waiting game and rejection game can turn us into quivering fools, I liked knowing what was going on with my book all the time. It's much worse at the beginning to think it's out there in the publishing world and people are talking about it and you have no idea what's going on.

Rachel @ MWF Seeking BFF said...

When my book was out to editors I was a complete and total mess. The nerves, the constant refreshing of email, it all made me nuts (and my husband even moreso). I got plenty of rejections and I saw every single one. While I was in it, there were days where I wish I hadn't seen them, but even then I knew it was better than the alternative: Wondering. I liked knowing that my agent was doing her best, and as you say many of the rejections were still encouraging and often constructive. I strongly believe that I sold a much better end product because I took to heart the suggestions that came with those rejections.

So even though, as you say, the waiting game and rejection game can turn us into quivering fools, I liked knowing what was going on with my book all the time. It's much worse at the beginning to think it's out there in the publishing world and people are talking about it and you have no idea what's going on.

veela-valoom said...

I will be different here. I don't think I would want to know on a day-to-day as it happened basis. I have a full-time job and think I would find myself obsessing unhealthy over the rejections.

I would rather have a helpful, summary by the agent. Suggestions for improvement but not necessarily all the details.

Morgan said...

I think I'd want to know. Not only might the editors' have specific constructive criticisms that could help me with revisions, but I also have this little control freak issue going on. I would freak if I had rejections but couldn't see them!

coo coo caCHoo said...

I always want to know. As stated earlier - that you don't know doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

Not Normally Anonymous said...

I like that my agent keep me informed and I think she feels, as I do that seeing what editors have to say about my work is kind of my right/responsibility. That said, in the past year or so most editor comments have become nothing short of F---ing idiotic.

"This is a fantastic book, but not right for me. But send me nonfiction, fiction, or anything with a serial killer in it!"

Sometimes not knowing how clueless those driving this industry are might be better.

Mira said...

Good god, keep that information away from me.

I'll take every word to heart and decide I should bury myself in shame for even THINKING about writing.

I have no capacity to separate the good from the poor while under pressure. Do not give me this information.

On the other hand, I'll beg someone to tell me. I'll holler and wail and gnash my teeth. I'll fall to my knees and beg, "please, please, please, please, please tell me." Then I'll move onto recriminations, guilt and eventually threats.

But don't tell me!!!!

On a decidely different note, I'm thrilled for both you and Lisa. That is totally awesome. Congratulations!!! You both must be walking on air, and deservedly so. :)

Liberty Speidel said...

Initially, I thought I'd be in the middle camp--know of their existence, but not their contents. However, after giving it some more thought, I'd agree that seeing the comments from the editors would be beneficial, especially come editing time. While I'd err on the side of my OWN editor, there may be improvements that I see from other editors I'd want to incorporate.

So, I think when the time comes, I hope my agent will share the letters, even if they don't share them in their entirety just to save me some heartache.

ella144 said...

To know. Because it might give me ideas for revision, because feedback is essential to learning and improving, and because then I know my agent is submitting and where (verification of work is important).

IsaiahC said...

I need to know. I can usually imagine things a heck of a lot worse than they really are. Usually.

Paula Hrbacek said...

We have bookkeeping tasks and lists to manage just like they do. It peeves me when an editor stuffs a form into the envelope, but doesn't note which manuscript it was for. I've taken to writing the name of the story on the SASE. I disagree with the policy that no news is bad news. Especially by email, all the editor/agent has to do is type a rejection as a signature, hit reply, and then send. It's two more clicks, but it helps me keep track of who I sent it to, and lets me send it on to another publisher in less time. Professionalism goes both ways.

Robert Michael said...

I think if the agent compiled all the comments into a short stlye-sheet or editorial sheet at the end, it would be easier to separate the actual rejections from the constructive criticisms that may help make the manuscript more marketable or more successful once it finds a home.

The end result would be "yes, give me the rejections," but only the parts that will move us forward. As authors, it is usually enough damage to our ego to go through the process in the first place without further punishment.

Ulysses said...

I'd like to know. I've spent ages with my manuscript and run it through as many beta readers as were willing. I've got this thing as pretty as I think I can make it... but I don't know. It's up in front of editors who have seen hundreds of books like it (or not like it). I want to know how it looks to them, what they feel is worthy of comment.

It's on stage for its big number, and I have to know whether the audience is applauding or reaching for the tomatoes...

Mina Witteman said...

It is the exact question my agent asked me: to know or not to know?
I like to know, provided the rejections are substantiated and constructive. If they are, they force me to step back and regard the manuscript from a more distant and - I hope - a more objective point of view. It will show me the flaws, the snags in my writing.
As for the pain? Yes, sometimes it hurts, but that just means that I have not done my utmost to deliver the best manuscript possible. It does not hurt because someone criticizes my work. Editors are here for us. They are trained to make us better writers. And they love good books, so I am always grateful if they help me make my books better.

Mandy Hubbard said...

I ask all my clients this before I submit their material. So far they've all said they want it in "play by play" format-- I send them everything as it comes in.

I was like that as an author, too. I *HAD* to know. As a result I've never gotten "THE CALL" out of the blue- always seen it coming a mile away as an editor goes through all of the neccessary steps to acquire.

I'm with you, on the reasoning-- most rejections have been detailed and complimentary and have helped us establish our game plan for revisions or going to round 2 on submissions.

S. Kyle Davis said...

I'm totally a "know" man. It sucks to get rejections, but even in the agent querying process, I crave every scrap of USEFUL criticism I can find to better my manuscript.

(oh, and the fact that my CAPTCHA word for this post is "trama" isn't encouraging at this point.)

K.L. Brady said...

What an agonizing process! But I preferred to know. My agent sent them to me as they came in. Fortunately, I got a couple of positive responses before the long string of rejections came in. At one point I remember asking my agent, "Should I start getting depressed yet?" He said, "Not yet. We've got a ways to go."

It was interesting to see the rejections though and usually pretty helpful. Some said it just didn't fit with their line. One editor said she loved my work but my writing style was too similar to two other authors on her list. Others said the humor didn't work for them. I heard a range of reasons. I think you need to take the lumps and endure the pain to thicken your skin for what's to come. The stuff from the editors is nothing compared to getting bad customer reviews, but you take them in stride once your skin thickens. It helps you grow as an author, I think. That's my humble opinion.

traceybaptiste said...

My experience is that rejection letters that come thorugh my agent tend to be more polite than ones from submitting myself. Maybe it's because the editors have a personal relationship with her, so they're naturally more cautious. And they do tend to come with helpful criticism that I've used for revisions. However, I've never come across one that helped so much that it was better to have read the rejection, than not.

But since I'm too curious to resist, I always ask her to send them to me.

SWK said...

Gotta know. Then again, I found out the gender of all my four kids on the ultrasound, so I guess it's a personality thing. Hates secrets :)

Elyssa Papa said...

I wanted to have all the rejections when I was on submission and was forwarded them. I'm the type who needs to know things, and those rejections helped me grow as a writer b/c although they were all complimentary, I knew what I needs to do differently with my next book.

The Invisible Writer said...

I would love to be in the position to make this decision!

I would choose to know - but not as each comes in. Instead, I would want semi-regular lump updates. That way I get all bad news in a huge, demoralizing sobfest. Then I can recover, make changes, punch a pillow in effegy, and brace for the next shower of sadness.

I think not knowing isn't really good (unless the rejections have no feedback), but hearing each rejection as they arrive could really drag.

Nicole L Rivera said...

To know. It's a free critique, might as well make the best of it. :)

Margaret Yang said...

I once had an agent who said she was submitting to editors, but didn't. Lack of rejection letters was a huge red flag.

I have a much better agent now. Still want to see the letters.

beckylevine.com said...

Oh, yeah, I'd want to know. Yes, for the editorial comments; yes, to discuss with my agent...all that, but mostly because the things I can imagine in THE VOID OF NOT KNOWING are worse than anything the letters would/could say. Really. :)

Jennifer Walkup said...

Congrats to a very well-deserving Lisa!

I def want to know. My agent sends them to me as they come in. Like you said, they're mostly helpful and often even complimentary. I could never NOT see them ever. *shudders*

James Lewis said...

Knowledge is Power

The Screaming Guppy said...

I'd want to know. Feedback - even if you don't agree with it - almost always has merit.

TERI REES WANG said...

I gotta know the truth, and nothing but the truth..as we know it, right now!

Rebecca Mahoney said...

I guess I'd want to know. I'd be really nervous to look at them, though - it seems like editors are much more blunt than agents when talking about why they don't like it. I'd have a thicker skin in no time!

Kelli said...

I would want to know. Because I'm narcissistic and masochistic at the same time.
I want to know. I want to turn the words over in my mind over and over and over.
And then get angry that I was so adamant about knowing. But, I wouldn't change it. That's just who I am.

Bane of Anubis said...

Show me the letters (said all Rob Tidwell like). And congrats on RPT -- 15 reviews so far, all 5 stars... that is quite impressive and speaks wonderfully of everyone involved.

Joann Swanson said...

Definitely to know. My agent has shared two rejections so far and both were, as you mentioned, incredibly complimentary. Of course I had that terrible pit-in-stomach feeling because they were ultimately rejections, but, wow, some of the stuff they said was amazing. With a little distance I can now focus on the compliments and keep the suggestions in the back of my mind for potential revisions. Still a quivering mess my own self, but that's all part of the game, yo. :)

cheekychook said...

I believe in giving out information on a need-to-know basis, as long as everyone involved understands that I, personally, need to know EVERYTHING. So, if I were on submission I would (unfortunately) need to know, in spite of the fact that I probably often would not like what I hear. However, if I were the agent, I would likely want to spare the feelings of my client and would be apt to encourage them to let me handle that part. All these words to say it's definitely a tough call and the answer varies from person to person based on preferences.

T. Anne said...

I must know. I must read and reread my (imaginary) rejection until it is tattooed to the inside of my eyelids.
What do I have to lose other than sleep and my sanity?

HUGE congrats to Lisa!!! OK universe, I'm next, right?

Kelly Wittmann said...

I always ask my agent to forward all rejection emails from editors. It is very helpful as far as becoming a better writer. "Not knowing" isn't going to change the fact that you were rejected. Might as well try to learn something from it.

Mark Terry said...

I'm a published novelist. And I absolutely want the rejections, as useless as they are most of the time.

Theresa Milstein said...

I would want to know so I could improve my manuscript if there was a trend. If my agent wanted to show me only the ones that were constructive, that would be fine too.

Erica75 said...

Well, I guess it goes without saying that after yesterday's exercise, I want to know. However, the blog administrator (umm, agent) needs to delete a few rough ones to keep my spirits up!

Marsha Sigman said...

I wouldn't want to know but then I wouldn't be able to stand the NOT knowing so I would have to know.

Terralee said...

I'd rather know then ridiculously wonder if they never got it for some phantom reason.

February Grace said...

Is "Hell yes!" an appropriate answer to the question?

Because it's my answer.

Becca said...

I think it would depend on what it said. I'd probably rather know... but if it had nothing productive to say, I wouldn't be so keen on seeing it.

Linda said...

Of course I'd want to know. There's nothing worse than standing in the dark when anticipation forces you to think far more about an issue than you'd prefer.

Amy said...

I think I'd prefer not to know. That way I could stop obsessing and torturing myself over the rejections, and instead focus on whatever novel I was working on. (Because I'm always working on something...)

Sarah said...

I'd want to know, definitely. That kind of feedback would be helpful.

Besides, I hate, hate, HATE wondering.

Jenn Marie said...

I'd prefer to hear the overall recap, rather than each rejection. I know myself - I'm way too reactionary to weather each vicissitude well. And for some reason, "Publisher A said no" feels like a personal slight, while "Four publishers passed, and out to two more" sounds like progress.

Dana Rose Bailey said...

I'm already a scared writer, but I'd value any comments shared with me even if I end up hiding under the covers.

I don't see the point of blindly querying every agent out there without stopping to figure out why you're getting rejection letters.

At some point you have to stop and re-evaluate your work. When/if that time comes for me, I'd love to have some sort of direction however small.

Marilyn Peake said...

Congratulations to both you and Lisa! I’m so happy for both of you! My husband and I have both read ROCK PAPER TIGER, and it’s a favorite book for both of us. We really love that novel, and cannot wait for Lisa’s next publication. One morning, after we had both read ROCK PAPER TIGER, we sat around talking about it over coffee. We still bring it up in conversation. A really great read!

I feel the same as you about getting as much feedback as possible about my writing. Rejections might turn me into a quivering blob of writer's-doubt jelly, but I’d still rather know the details, so that I can improve my writing.

Stuart said...

This is a conversation ever author should have with his/her agent, but I'd want to see the rejections for any editor hints on how to improve.

That doesn't mean that I'd revise due to every letter, but if two or three editors say the same thing, then it behoves the author to listen.

And I kid you not, but my word verification is "Fockies." Is that the next Meet the Fockers/Little Fockers movie? lol

sifout said...

At that point, hearing the criticism isn't useful. If the book doesn't sell, I might ask an agent to compile the crits as we consider revisions, but really, hearing that House X is antipathetic toward flying monkeys isn't going to help me sell my flying monkey novel.

Other Lisa said...

I want to know, just pour me a shot of tequila first.

And thanks, all, for your well-wishes!

Erica75 said...

(Other) Lisa, let me be amongst the first to say - "Cheers!"

Anonymous said...

No contest. I want to see any and all rejection letters. I need to know what they liked or didn't like and why they passed.

Magdalena Munro said...

I want to know most of the time, although I recently received a canned rejection ATTACHMENT to a requested MS. While I am totally fine with a canned rejection email to a query letter, receiving the attached word document after waiting five months entitled regret put me in a "I don't like literary agents" mood for the day. What I guess I'm saying is that I would have rather not heard anything from that particular agent since so much time had elapsed. That said, others have been much kinder with their rejections which is always appreciated.

Tessa Quin said...

I'd want to read the letters. I suppose that as an agent, you could always ask your clients which they prefer.

swampfox said...

Knowledge is Power!

I'm not sure, I think I heard that somewhere.

Ishta Mercurio said...

To know! Definitely to know, because otherwise how do I know it isn't lost in the mail or in the heaving piles of paperwork? Also, revision ideas are good.

Ishta Mercurio said...

And, congrats to Lisa and to Nathan for your success with ROCK PAPER TIGER!!

J.J. Bennett said...

To know!!!

Sharon Lynn Fisher said...

Must know. Despite inevitable mope. Don't like the idea of piles of rejections accumulating on my agent's desk while I'm obliviously fantasizing about auctions (whee!).

Also in my (limited) experience, once you get past the "ouch" factor, there's usually helpful and encouraging stuff in there.

G said...

Definitely want to know. I go through enough of the tip-toeing around the truth at work, so I would like to know how what was rejected can be improved.

Stephanie McGee said...

I think that I would rather not know the details. Just a passing knowledge that editors have gotten back to my agent, that's fine. If there comes a trend in the rejections, something that maybe is a problem and would prevent the book getting picked up, then I'd definitely want to know.

Heidi Yantzi said...

I gotta know. Don't care how much it hurts. Not knowing is worse.

Marian Allen said...

Back when I had an agent, I preferred to get the rejections as they came in. She would send me the rejection along with a letter telling me where she was sending the ms next. By the time I got the rejection, I knew the ms was somewhere else. Painless!

Jan said...

When my agent was sending my picture book around, I loved reading the rejection letters. They were so detailed and blunt and I learned a ton -- not just about my manuscript but about how editors think. I loved getting them, even when they HATED the book.

Kristin Laughtin said...

I would want to know just so I could know my agent was actually submitting my project! And just in case there was any feedback. If the letters were coming in infrequently, I'd like an as-they-come update, but if a whole bunch are coming in at once, I'd probably be fine with batch updates. ("Fine", I say--OK I wouldn't be thrilled.)

ryan field said...

Ten years ago I would have said yes, I want to know.

But now I'd rather hear good news.

Project Savior said...

I'm such a glutton for punishment that every rejection that mentions any reason, means I will immediately do 10,000 words of rewrites.

Anonymous said...

I would definitely want to know. Knowing that someone won't take your book is hard, but not knowing is a lot worse.

Julie aka @Writers_Cafe said...

Very possibly, the most important thing to consider when making this decision is that the rejection isn't personal - regardless of how it feels.
An agent or publisher is rejecting your work, not you personally.
There are probably a zillion reasons he rejection and not a single one has anything to do with you personally.
So, yes, I'd want to know every single word, no matter the cost to my ego, because I understand it isn't personal.

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

"You want the truth?"

"I want the truth!"

"You can't handle the truth!"



(Really, though, I can. Swearsies.)


And congrats to Lisa! That's fantastic. Well deserved, too. It's a great book.

Mimi said...

Definitely want to know. It's like queries... I tell myself every no gets me one step closer to yes. But if the editor has feedback, that's a bonus! That gives me something to work on, something I can change to get me to yes.

Joyce said...

I would definitely want to know.

Anonymous said...

those letters are interesting at first, until #6-8 arrive, at which point, they become instantly depressing.

Interesting in that reading an editor's rejection can be, as you point out, laced with a suggestion or two. I didn't find any of them useful.

and the point at which the passes become depressing .. self explanatory. easy to stop to: all I had to do was ask.

mulligangirl said...

Is this a trick question? To know.

Mindi Scott said...

I've never seen an editor's rejection of my manuscript. I assume that my agent received some since he sent it out to eleven and in the end, we ended up working with just the one. :-)

I actually liked the way we set it up. He did the submission stuff and I focused on not thinking about what was going on with the submission stuff. It was great to have him taking care of things after all the rejections I received during my agent search.

CFD Trade said...

I would want to know by breaking-it-to-me-gently way. I am not that good at criticisms or rejections, so I may want to know the general rejection than go into horrid details of why I got rejected...:)

Anonymous said...

I'd ask to see them all if for no other reason than to be certain that the agent is doing his/her job! At least I'd know it's being submitted and not, "yeah, I'm gettin' it out there, I'll let you know..." kinda thing.

Robert A Meacham said...

Hit me with your best shot

Lori Henry said...

To know, to know! But I'm super organized even when reduced to a slobbering pile of fear over rejection: I still get up and add the "yes" or "no" to my spreadsheet... :)

Lyla said...

I'd want to know because it kills me to not hear anything at all. Actually, huh, that's the part I hate about querying too...

D.G. Hudson said...

That's great news for your client Lisa, and doesn't hurt your agenting prowess either, Nathan.

As for the question of the day -- I would prefer to know about the feedback from the editors and what suggestions were given. I like that you share this with your clients. I'm the curious type.

Joanna van der Gracht de Rosado said...

Definitely I want to know. In fact I need to. After all it was me who asked, "Is this good enough or not?" Hearing it isn't sends me back to the drawing board. Of course it is a blow to be "rejected" but hey - I've been "accepted" many times and in much more important ways. Balance and self worth can not be based on whether or not the first 30 pages are satisfactory. So reject away when necessary Nathan... it's a part of your job.

R Elland said...

Like the last two times with my books. I'd rather know something. Even if it's a bunch of laughing smiley faces.

[Okay unprofessional yes, but you get the idea.]

KareeniaRN said...

Most of the time, I want to know what my rejection letter has to say. The learning curve for me is mostly credited to one, reading what others have to say about my writing and secondly; what the reason is for their “no thank you” if I am fortunate enough to be informed of their reason for not accepting my work. However, then there are those days that I just don't want to open the envelope or email and I don't. My pride is in need of deep repair on some of those days, thus avoiding the obvious, letting me regroup. During my regroup phase, I read a book that I have already read because it gives me hope. I know my book is as fantastic and someday it will be out there for all those to enjoy as I enjoy whatever it is I am reading. I open the envelope or email a few days later with refreshed vision and perspective.

Valerie said...

I want to know. If everyone makes similar comments you know what to do to fix it. Besides, it's difficult to let go--you feel as if you've dropped your ms down a well. Give me something!

Judy Douglas Knauer said...

Judy Douglas Knauer here, published first (without a rejection or agent) by Berkley/Jove's Second Chance at Romance line, editor Carolyn Nichols. Third romance I wrote, never got a rejection and life just don't happen that way - unless of course you were born breech as I and have done everything ass-backwards since! (I became an award-winning journalist AFTER I sold the novel.) I WANT to see the rejections though I hate them the first read through. But after about a week and the third read, I actually see what they are telling me and I strive to make changes - unless they tell me they'd like to see something else I've done - which I have several of those and never followed up. I've got a list of excuses for that. Anyway, never toss your rejections: 1. You want them for tax purposes to show you're serious about the writing business; and 2. When you're dead that gigantic folder like mine is with all those rejections will demonstrate to your heirs that you considered yourself both professional and persistent. I read the rejection, file it and send the ms out to the next name on the list - still w/o an agent but I'm a couple months away from completing a thriller and soliciting rejections;~)

Kristi Helvig said...

I've always been a 'to know' gal, no matter what it involves. For me, ignorance isn't bliss--it's torture.

Karen McGrath said...

I want to know because it can't hurt to hear the objections. It can hurt to be in the dark and continue stumbling into walls.

Karin said...

Yes, knowing, even bad news is better than not knowing. Besides the fact that when you don't hear back you might just assume it was lost and resend it, which causes more work for publishers/agents and their assistants.
I would also like honesty from said editors or agents, the truth might hurt, but at least you can try and "fix" "learn" to improve your skill.

NickB said...

I prefer to know.

It's painful, yes, especially when there's nothing constructive offered...or you get the feeling they like YOU okay, but think as a writer, you should take up gardening.

But like Nathan said, there's always a shot something will click--that even a well-placed ", but..." or "and" will flip on that lightbulb of creativity. And you'll say, "Yes, I see it now." or "Thaaaat's right. I had that idea two years ago and forgot to write it down and it would have made this story great and...oh, the editor just read a nearly identical book (except for that direction I didn't take) and loved it. Bestseller. I should pick it up, he says." Well, you could still retool.

But I suppose the short version is, You Never Know. So don't shield yourself from an easy reality. Learn all you can. And send out another letter.

Serenissima said...

I've been on submission for over a year (you sold your book and a week and a half?!). My agent shares the replies as she gets them, and that's exactly how I want it. The comments are usually pretty nice and when they aren't, they're constructive.

Eric Christopherson said...

Been there, done that, and the comments are rarely illuminating.

Adam Heine said...

I'm certain I'll regret this someday, but I'd prefer to know. Especially if they had useful feedback for me.

That's how I feel with agents, anyway.

Terin Tashi Miller said...

I always prefer to know. I like to know what my mss is doing, how it's doing, and what my agent is doing with or about it.

My first agent, Ray Puechner, used to always kindly let me know more specifically (from conversation) why a certain publisher rejected something. His wife, Barb, continued the practice as well as his firm after he died. I recently discovered in some papers in my attic a rejection from my first attempt from Thomas Crowell in 1979, and Ray's remarks that the publisher was looking for a better focus, though supposedly was impressed with my writing and craft (I was 20 at the time). I recently discovered a similar note, from Bantam, I think it was, on a Texas mystery I'd written around 10 years later. Barb had kindly written that the same editor at Bantam had recently just purchased another mystery series set in Texas, and "otherwise" would have taken my novel. The editor was Joe Blades.

I prefer to know when a project is rejected, so I can gauge or decide if any more action on my part--another revision, greater focus, or set it away and finish something else first--is warranted.

But I prefer my agent to let me know in supportive, encouraging terms, rather than, say, try one place, get a rejection, and stop sending the project around.

And @Mira: took a quick look at your profile. Have you ever read "Straight Dope" or "More Straight Dope," a collection of the columns of Cecil Adams? He answers questions such as those you'd love to ask, for "the teeming millions." Great fun, especially when you've got some time to just read a couple at a time...:)

lotusgirl said...

I would so want to know.

Terin Tashi Miller said...

Oh, and please let me add to the hearty and heart-felt congratulations to both you (Ms. Bijur) and Other Lisa for the continuing success of Rock Paper etc.

Still have no idea what that actually feels like (having your book take off and be reviewed by the NYT etc.

But look forward to it as I have nonetheless for years...:)

And in place of a margarita, I'll take a single-malt scotch, Lagavulin if you have it, neat--or in this heat, an ice-cold Mojito from Havana Central...:)

Anonymous said...

A rejection can crush you, or inspire you. Your work can't grow without inspiration. It's the author's choice. I choose to grow. Bring on the play-by-play.

Frank said...

I would want to know. They would obviously exist and not knowing would drive me a bit bonkers.

Ben Campbell said...

Whole-heartedly-want-to-know.

BTW, purchased Rock Paper Tiger yesterday from amazon.com. I think my purchase put Lisa's novel into the amazon.com top ten list for this year.

Ted Cross said...

I would want to know.

Mira said...

@Terin. No! Never heard of him. I'll check him out. :) In exchange, I looked at YOUR profile. Wow. Seriously good reviews on your book. Awesome. :)

@Other Lisa - ditch the tequilla. Time to break out champagne!

Regan Leigh said...

I would want to know. No, I would have to know!

Whirlochre said...

Information is gold dust — even if it's poop.

jenoliver said...

As nerve-wracking as it is, I would want to know.

Even the smallest comment could lead me to making edits that will benefit the story, or at the very least make me approach my story in a different light. Bad news can be helpful, even if it doesn't seem that way at first!

Elie said...

It's best to know why work is rejected. It's the subjectivity I find worrying, also decoding - what does 'I loved your writing but the story wasn't special enough for us' mean?
That's why your sample critiques are so useful, Nathan.

Dawn Kurtagich said...

I think, like most people choosing a career in writing, I would want to know. Are we gluttons for punishment? Maybe. All I know is that knowledge is worth having, and if it is about MY work, then hell yes I want to see!

kathryn evans said...

I prefer to know - although I suspect my agent filters them, I delude myself that she doesn't. Hideous process.

Steppe said...

Mostly no except for the pertinent ones the Agent thought were of good value to the process. You study the process to improve it so it is understandable you would examine it in detail. Real hard core critiques motivated by a desire to assist the author in honing the work would be invaluable, but an avalanche of
of nonsense is for the agent to endure.
That's yor yob mahn. Evil Grin.

Ann Elise said...

I'd want to know. The silence of not knowing would drive me bonkers. Plus they might help me pinpoint key issues with my novel.

Sheila Cull said...

Ignorance is indeed blissful. I would only want to know the good news.

Em-Musing said...

Would you want someone to tell you if you have a booger? Of course you'll feel embarrassed and uncomfortable, but the outcome will be better for all concerned if you clean up both your nose and your manuscript.

LGM said...

I want to see all of them, as soon as possible, as depressing as it is. (My first novel has been on sub for six months). The worst? Three in one day. My agent is very good at cushioning the rejections with lots of her own positive and upbeat comments, which helps dull the pain. That, and the tequila.
But without the constant updates on how things are going I feel completely out of touch with the process, which is the opposite of how I want to feel.

Jamie said...

I would want to know every detail. Any constructive criticism received can only make my writing better. Plus, the positive comments would be glimmers of hope!

Rick Daley said...

I have one on submission right now, and I would like to hear the news. I think. No news is good news, or no news is no news?

WriterOne said...

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.

Sara said...

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.

Scott said...

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.

Janny said...

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,
JB

Jason said...

Absolutely want to know. Especially if there are any comments as to why!

-J

Lynn Viehl said...

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 said...

Many congrats to Lisa, and I can't wait to read the review!

Michelle said...

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.

Alex said...

I want to know. Better face reality than deal with my imaginary fears and notions.

Anonymous said...

'Tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous rejections.

Robin Kaye said...

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.

Ganz-1 said...

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.

BUT!

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.

http://www.denisepetrey.net said...

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 said...

Unless there's a long piece of toilet paper stuck in my panty hose, I only want to hear the good news.

Hart Johnson said...

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 said...

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.

Linnea said...

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! said...

To know.

writer's block said...

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 said...

I prefer to look the horror in the face.

I would want to know.

Francine said...

Hi

Hit me with it!

best
F

Anonymous said...

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 said...

I would really like to know. As you said, it may spark revision ideas. It also marks incremental progress. Baby steps.

Dana Fredsti said...

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 said...

Wow, congratulations to Ms. Brackmann! That's quite an accomplishment! Rock Paper Tiger is still on my To Read List. :D

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 said...

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 said...

Know. How can you learn if you don't know?

Kristi said...

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 said...

I also think that every writer should have a copy of "The Writer's Book of Hope" by Ralph Keyes. Trust me.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Yay, Lisa!!! Yay for Nathan being brilliant to sign her!!

Missives From Suburbia said...

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.

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