Monday, 16 May 2011

Resubmitting after a rejection

Michael from Rainham, Kent sent in this interesting question: I have recently had a rejection from an agent for my crime novel. This isn’t the first rejection I’ve received, but it is the first one where I’ve had any feedback. The agent said that she enjoyed my writing, but didn’t feel the novel was for her because of various aspects, some of which she mentioned but not in any great detail. Some of my writing friends say I should fix the things she didn’t like and resubmit. Others say that if she didn’t specifically ask me to resubmit then I should move on to try another agent. My question is this: which of my writing friends are right?

This is a difficult question to answer without seeing the actual rejection letter, but I would say that if the agent had been really interested she would have added an invitation to resubmit (if not this book, then your next one). You certainly shouldn’t resubmit to her without being invited to.

However, hold fire before you sharpen your pen to slash your wrists, because all is not lost. She obviously liked your writing style enough to give a personalised response and you should take note of any suggestions for improvement of your novel, because such nuggets of free advice from a professional are rare indeed in our industry.

My advice would be to send a polite thank you and then, if you agree with her comments, rewrite taking her suggestions into account. When you feel you’ve polished your ms until it gleams, send her another polite email, preferably using the reply function with her email showing below yours, reminding her of her kind words and asking if she would allow you to resubmit.

By doing that you are acknowledging her input, proving that you are not too precious about your work to act on criticism and also showing that you respect her earlier decision.

But don’t contact her to ask the question until you are absolutely certain that there is nothing more you can do to improve your work.

The worst that can happen is that she will say no. The best that can happen is ... well, who knows? 

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