There is nothing in the world that can boost an author’s self-esteem like the 30-Second-Rejection Letter. Oh, you’re not familiar with it? Well, then. Let me educate you.
You see, once you have spent well over a year of your time, blood, sweat, tears, and more bottles of wine than you can count finalizing a novel, it’s time to query. This involves looking up literary agents via painfully out-of-date databases on the web, researching their particular query requirements and/or methods, reformulating your query letter and/or manuscript to fit said definitions, and then submitting your stuff. Then you just sit back and wait for someone to email you back and say, “Oh my gods! You are so incredible! Really, the most intuitive and attention-grabbing author we have ever come across. We MUST have you!” Except that’s not what happens.
Instead, you receive an infinite number of letters in return, all stating much the same thing – sorry, this just isn’t right for our agency right now, but best of luck to you. Now, most of these terribly uplifting letters come within days or weeks of submitting. Some never come at all, which leaves you to wonder whether they hated your story so much they couldn’t even bring themselves to answer the query, or they just simply overlooked it. I know the latter is probably never the case, but I always submit again. And again. (Nothing like stalker behavior to really get their attention!)
But in some instances, you press the “Send” button, and mere seconds later a new email pops up in your inbox. “What’s this?” you say. Did I get the email address wrong? Do they employ psychics that already know how awesome I am and they’re offering me a deal on the spot? Sadly, no, little readers. What it is, in fact, is a 30-Second-Rejection Letter.
That email that you agonized over, sweating over the verbiage and content – that traitorous little email ran smack into their server, hooked a left and came right back to you, picking up a rejection along the way. Never mind the fact that you spent an entire day writing and re-writing one sentence to make sure it conveyed the message you wanted. And forget all those nights that bled into morning while you fretted over the name for the housekeeper that only appears in one scene, or constructing the history of a character just so you can get their tone right. Thirty measly seconds is all they needed to know that you were not worth their time.
Here’s my problem with all that – most of these rejection letters have something in the body of the email alluding to the fact that my project looked interesting, or they enjoyed the chance to review it, etc. Now tell me, sweet readers, who the hell can enjoy anything in 30 seconds? (Okay, there are some things, but this isn’t one of those blogs.)
This is my point – if you are going to reject me out of hand, without even seeing my proposal, then please use the appropriate wording in your letter. Something along the lines of, “We hated your name so much we didn’t even bother to open the email.” Or perhaps, “We only open five emails a day, and today wasn’t your day. Best of luck for tomorrow.” Or maybe even, “The name for your book already tells me what’s inside even though I have no idea what it’s really about and I’m going to just assume I do so I don’t have to actually read it.” And we all know what assuming does, don’t we little readers?
I know these places are busy. I cannot imagine the amount of queries they have to go through on a daily basis. But if you’re going to turn around and brush me off in mere seconds, why not just say you’re not accepting queries at this moment? Honestly, I’d rather be slapped with a rotting monkey carcass than continue to receive these things. It’s terribly upsetting and a huge blow to my self-esteem. Luckily, I carry extra around because I’m so freakin’ awesome, so the low doesn’t last long.
I have heard that Stephen King received more than 2,000 rejection letters before someone picked him up. Now, that both gives me hope and makes me want to choke my own self out. Because on the one hand, obviously it is a horribly tough industry to get your foot into, and if Stephen King had such a hard time, I should be patient and understand that’s just the business. On the other hand if STEPHEN-FRICKIN-KING got 2,000 rejection letters before getting picked up, I might need to get a day job. I mean, seriously – I’m good, but really? At least when he queried there wasn’t any email to worry about, meaning he never had to deal with the 30-Second-Rejection letter. Gotcha there, Steve-O.
So here I sit, begging someone to see the awesomeness that is me and my writing, and offer me the world on a platter, millions of dollars, a movie deal, and a summer house in Greece.
Or maybe, just a request for a manuscript review. Beggars can't be choosers. Even the awesome ones.