Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Coping with Rejection: Part 1

This is information from a week-long July blog posting from a literary agency Books & Such:

This week I’m going to talk about something we all hate: rejection. Unfortunately rejection is a big part of a writer’s life, and it’s also a big part of an agent’s life, just in a different way.

I have to reject people. Believe it or not, agents don’t actually enjoy rejecting people, but it’s part of the job. I often do all of my rejection emails and letters on the same day each week, and I never feel good about that day when I go home. It’s not fun to think about crushing the hopes of so many writers. The agents I know never set out to be insensitive when it comes to writing a rejection to an author, but sometimes we sound as if we don’t care just because of the number of rejections we have to send out. It’s humanly impossible for an agent to represent every good project that comes along; so we have to evaluate each project using these criteria:

1) Is the project something I’m excited about?

The best representation comes from an enthusiastic agent. I want to be excited about my clients’ projects, and my clients want me to be enthusiastic about their writing.

2) Could I show this project to my established network of publishers?

Every agent has a network of editors and publishers whom they’ve established relationships with. These editors and publishers are usually interested in the same type of material the agent is; so the relationship has been built on a mutual love for certain genres or topics. Agents want to represent books that could be shown to many different editors and publishing houses in their preexisting network because the possibility of selling the project is higher.

3) Could I work well with this author?

The author-agent relationship is VERY important. There needs to be mutual respect and trust between them for the relationship to last. I have a phone call and exchange several emails with potential clients before I offer representation. I try to get to know them as much as I can because I would much rather be very careful about whom I work with than having to end a relationship because it didn’t go well.

4) Can this author write well and revise if necessary?

I look for clean writing in submissions and often will suggest revisions not only to help to improve the project but also to see if the author is willing and able to make revisions. It’s understandable that authors don’t want to change their “babies,” but when I see changes that need to be made, I want clients who are going to trust my judgment and do a thorough and professional revision.

If the answer is “no” to any of these criteria, I’m going to choose not to represent that writer. When I send a rejection, I hope that author will find the right agent for his or her project; I want every author to succeed.