The Blessing of Form Rejections #amquerying

I recently started to query agents seeking representation for a novel I wrote (sorry, no details right now). While new to the querying process, I’m not new to writing or, thus, rejection. Furthermore, as an editor, rejecting people, smart people who may have done a lot of work on a submission just to get rejected by me, is part of my job. I know that, even though rejection never feels good, it isn’t personal.

Having received two form rejections already, and having read this great post from an agent’s perspective, I thought I might add something positive from an author’s perspective, something authors new to writing might find hard to see: form rejections are a good thing. Really.

Rejection sucks, sure (actually I’m skeptical about that too), but form rejections do not. They may feel bad to an author who isn’t used to the submission-rejection-revision-submission-and-then-maybe-getting-published process, but here’s why I think that feeling should be tempered:

Form rejections are communication.

Most of the agencies of the agents I queried state that no response after a given period (usually 4-6 weeks) means the agent has decided to pass on an author’s query. I see nothing wrong with that and appreciate that they clearly communicate that in their submission guidelines. So to send a form rejection, when they could have justly left me wondering for 4-6 weeks if maybe they are yet to read my query, is a courtesy.

Sure, the words of a form rejection all basically amount to “You’re query didn’t interest us, please don’t take it personally,” but still, it’s feedback. It’s valuable data that helps me know that, of course, someone did read my query and it didn’t just get lost in an overfull inbox.

Knowing that my query was read (or at least skimmed) and didn’t succeed at catching an agent’s interest tells me that I may need to revise it for future queries. Two rejections aren’t enough to come to that conclusion yet, but I’m encouraged anyway. If I send a query to several agents and the best I get after 6 weeks are a handful of form rejections, that tells me I might need to revise. It challenges me to put myself in the agent’s position and ask, why didn’t this query work? What could be better about it that I didn’t see before?

Rightly viewed, it is an opportunity for empathy and self-betterment, which, though my goal is to get a manuscript request, are ultimately far more important than success.

Shouldn’t the proper response to that be thankfulness?