Rejection Letter: Is It Personal?

This has to be the only business where you want a rejection to be personal.

So you get one addressed to your OWN CERTIFIABLE NAME, telling you how wonderful your writing is and how some other agent will surely snatch you up.


You glow. It is a rejection, but a nice, complimentary one!

Not so fast, Speedy.


That super-duper-personalized-rejection may yet be…


A couple of years ago, there was a big dialogue between the agenting and submitting community about rejection letters. So the agents rewrote their form rejections to be kinder. Gentler.

And consequently, harder to discern from personal rejections.

A personal rejection letter will have at least one of these tell-tale signs:

  • Reference to a character by name. (“Jane was just a little too plain for me.”)
  • Mention of certain mechanics of a novel, such as plot, dialogue, etc. (“The plot wore a little thin around page 6721.”)
  • Allusion to the time period or locale your novel is set in. (“Though WWII is my favorite conflagration, the characters didn’t ring true for me.”)
  • Description of your style. (“I enjoyed your one-word sentences.”)
  • Discussion of plot points. (“The climax at the O.K. corral was a bit derivative.”)
  • Revelation of an emotion your work solicited. (“I nearly fainted when both of Jean-Louis’ hands got caught in the cotton gin.”)
  • Disclosure of the path your work took in-house. (“I loved the purple cow, but the Committee for Squashing Dreams didn’t see how they would market it.”)

In short, anything that can only be ascribed to YOUR manuscript.

While it’s nice that agents/editors take writers’ fragile *cough* egos into account when writing rejections, I think I like the good old days better, when a standard rejection looked like one.





4 thoughts on “Rejection Letter: Is It Personal?

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  1. Thank you. This is clear and obvious – but yet sometimes we miss the obvious hints that the letter is not at all personalized. I know I didn’t realize my first rejection was a form letter.


  2. Don’t feel alone, Lilye. I’d been around the block once and a half when the rejection letters began to sound more personal. One or two of the new type of form rejections fooled me, too. 😦


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