Handling Rejections and Resubmissions

As disappointing as it is to receive a rejection, how you conduct yourself post-rejection will set the stage for any future communication with that agent. The quickest cure for anger is compassionate forgiveness. The Dalai Lama can back me up on this. Please forgive us for rejecting you. It feels personal, but it’s not. Neither was sending you a standard rejection. We don’t enjoy sending them, and rejections—thank goodness—are not our main job. Our main job is to help promote and sell the authors who we’ve made commitments to, and to find new authors we know we can do right by. Email us a nasty response and we’ll never look at your work again.
Know that every time an agent does give feedback beyond a form rejection, you’ve struck gold—in no way have you come away empty-handed. Some of the advice may seem simplistic or trite. You want specifics! What do they mean the character development was weak? Yes, often the feedback seems basic, but that doesn’t mean the suggestions should be easily discarded. Take these critiques seriously and you may be able to create an opportunity for resubmission.
Sometimes writers take an encouraging rejection and unknowingly use it to their disadvantage. If an agent invites you to resubmit or points out aspects of your work that made an impression, you’ve grabbed her attention. However, after we’ve taken the time to give you constructive feedback, don’t tell us you were thinking the same thing! Why then did you submit your material to us, if you felt it still needed work? Of course, disagreeing won’t go over well either. Get defensive about feedback and you’re showing how you’ll conduct yourself once you reallyget comfortable with us. Even a rebuttal couched in niceties burns bridges.
To create an opportunity for resubmission, respond to rejections graciously, promptly thanking the agent for his time and consideration. That’s it. Don’t detail other pro-jects you’d like to submit, or say you were hoping we would come to a different conclusion. Just take a breath. Unless an agent has specifically inquired about your other writing, wait at least two weeks before querying a new project. To resubmit the same project, say you’ve used our exceptional feedback to improve your work and would appreciate us taking another look. In either case, trust that the next time we see your name, we’ll remember your thoughtful note.
If an agent comes out and invites you to resubmit a revised manuscript, she might be considering you as a client. Now, assuming you find merit in her feedback and would like to take advantage of the opportunity to incorporate it, you’ll have to show her you’re ready. The biggest mistake a writer can make when sending revised materials is underestimating the amount of revisions an agent was expecting. Make sure you send back a proposal or manuscript that is a significantly improved incarnation of your previous work. But act quickly. If you wait more than six to eight months you risk the market changing and, with it, the interest of your future agent.

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