Wednesday, August 26, 2009

No Means No

This should be an obvious concept to new authors who are submitting to agents, but it's come to my attention that we have a bit of a problem with this at the agency.

Let me explain.

My assistant, the fabulous Jodi Meadows, is a very nice person. So nice, in fact, that people have begun to take advantage of her. She takes time out of her day, unpaid time, mind you, and offers comments on the full manuscripts she reads and rejects on my behalf. She doesn't say that she wants to read the manuscript again. She doesn't give explicit instructions to resubmit the manuscript after radically revising it. She just offers some pointers on why it didn't work for the agency.

Yet, many of the people that she's offered this kind service to are now asking to resubmit their manuscript. They have somehow misinterpreted Jodi's kindness as an invitation to send us the same manuscript over and over again.

So I'm doing this post and explaining exactly what each rejection means.

If you send a query to the agency and we reject it, do not send a query again for the same novel. You may send a query for a different novel, but not for the same novel. I don't care if you've rewritten the novel before querying again. If we didn't ask for it, we don't want to see it.

If we've requested the partial manuscript of your novel and then rejected it, please do not send us a revised version of that partial manuscript. If we rejected your partial, it means that we don't want to see it again. Any suggestions or comments included with the rejection are meant for your edification as a writer.

Similarly, if we've requested the full manuscript of your novel and then rejected it, please do not send us a revised version of that full manuscript. If we rejected your full, it means that we don't' want to see it again. Any suggestions or comments included with the rejection are meant to help you grow as a writer.

There is ONE and only one exception to this. That is if either Jodi or I specifically say something like this in your rejection letter: "If you radically revise the novel according to these suggestions, I'd be happy to read the revised version." This means exactly what it says. If we liked your book enough that we want to give it a second chance, we'll extend that opportunity, if you want to put the work into changing it. If you don't want to do that, we're not mad or offended. It's all part of the business.

But the people who get that request are the ONLY PEOPLE who should be asking to submit a revised manuscript to The Rappaport Agency.

Otherwise, no really does mean no. Please try us again with a different novel.


Robert W. Leonard said...

Very well said.

Helena Halme said...

Perhaps because Agents usually don't give any feedback the writers who get it from your lovely-sounding assistant think they've got under the wire. Unwittingly she may be giving these writers false hope. They are writers after all with very vivid imaginations and can read all sorts of positive vibes into perfectly simple and fair comments.

Sorry as I am to say this, I think it might be best not to make any comments at all.

Debra L Martin said...

I can understand now why agents use form rejection letters.

Julie Butcher-Fedynich said...

*salutes* Yes, Ma'am. ;D

Brittany Landgrebe said...

I concur. This is a business, no one should guess that any suggestions with a rejection means to resubmit. If its not clear, in writing, then move on.

But hey, I just don't want to piss off an agent, even if they don't end up being mine.

Fawn Neun said...

Another agent on her blog recently mentioned that authors shouldn't be afraid to resubmit queries for manuscripts that have been radically revised. It may not just be your kind assistant.

But yes, this is why we have form rejections. Not only does it avoid building false hopes, it also keeps authors from radically revising manuscripts that may have been absolutely perfect for another agent as it stood.

Pespective is everything.

You might want to add this to your submissions guideline page if you have one.

Jodi Meadows said...

Helena: I typically only make comments on requested material, which are usually pretty decent, or I wouldn't have requested them in the first place. I'm not giving these people false hope; I'm helping them refine their skills, if it's their skills that need the work. (Plenty of times things are fine, just not for me.)

If I tried to respond personally to every query the agency receives, I'd be blind by now. :)

Pablo said...

What if you rejected a full manuscript, offered suggestions but did not invite to resubmit, the writer took the suggestions, revised his book, and now has an offer from a publishing house and is looking for an agent. Would you want to see the manuscript then. Or does no still mean no?

Jenny Rae Rappaport said...

Pablo, it depends on the publishing house, what the offer is, and whether I liked the new manuscript. Which is not to say that you shouldn't query in that case, but you're citing something which is extremely rare.

jongibbs said...

It should be pretty obvious that 'Thanks, but no thanks, and by the way I have a coupe of helpful tips for you', doesn't mean 'rewrite and resubmit'.

That said, you've probably already got it on there, but if not, I wonder if a minor addition to your submission guidleines might help solve the problem.

Bryce said...

I'm late to the party, but I had a Thank you for writing this. Agencies can often feel like black boxes for aspiring writers. Missives like this really help us understand what goes on behind the scenes, and help us calibrate our expectations, so know that we appreciate these glimpses.

Question: is your assistant's feedback limited to advice that would make the novel stronger for most markets? If I were to receive detailed feedback on how to make the novel more appropriate for the agency (as opposed to, say, general advice about strengthening the plot or improving characterization), I would take that as an implicit request for resumbission, despite having read this.

Maybe that's being too optimistic, but the point is, the sort of advice being given could influence the author's reaction.