In a perfect world, I wouldn’t need to send a rejection letter. Over the years, I’ve written so many that I’m confident there’s a chair with my name on it in that fiery place below the River Styx. So just to pave the way, I’ll give you some insight into my rejection letters. While I do take notes with each submission, I tend to use the same sentences over and over (not always). 90% of the projects I turn away have the same problems, and there just isn’t time to go into much detail.
Here are my top–but not only–phrases in order of most used:
1. The pacing is inconsistent… So, the first chapter moves quickly. Second and third chapters, not so much. I will then go to the middle of the book and read from there. Every novel has a lull or two (hello, Gone with the Wind), but if your story is mostly lulls, I’m sending it back.
2. The romantic tension isn’t strong enough… Time to add the sizzle and angst for me. The story should make me suffer, wondering if the hero and heroine will wind up together by the end.
3. The hero/heroine is unsympathetic… This is self-explanatory, though not always for reasons one might think. Sure, there’s the irredeemable jerk of a hero or the mean-for-no-reason heroine. There’s also an undefined, almost typical character, who can be just as unsympathetic to me. I can’t relate to this in the romance world. This is subjective, of course. Typical could be awesome to another editor.
4. The premise isn’t what we’re seeking at this time… When I write this, I usually mean that aspects of the story don’t seem “salable” to me. Your plot could be a fascinating one, but I can’t fathom how my readers would need to pick it up over every other offering. That said, your story could sell a bazillion copies elsewhere and you’ll prove me wrong big-time! I’m fine with this.
5. If you receive what seems like a standard rejection (because of the volume of submissions we receive, we can’t comment specifically…), your best bet is to go back to the drawing board and consider a different project. Try to avoid resubmitting the same work. Unless the manuscript is wildly different, chances are it will be re-rejected and that’s just no fun.
6. If I seem heartbroken in the letter you receive and encourage you to keep pursuing this project, this means that, as much as I love your story, it’s just not for us. The devastation I feel is knowing that another place will snap it up. I send this kind of rejection about once every three years.
7. I would be happy to look at your future projects…This line is always a good thing to read in a rejection letter. Take it at face value and keep sending.
These are my key phrases, and I’m glad when I don’t have to use them. Though rejection is a downer, it is an answer. To move forward, writers need answers and information. I hope this helps–and I’d like to confirm once again that this is a subjective business. Your story may be pure gold. Just because I reject the project, it’s still worth a whole lot (writing a book is very, very hard).