Friday, April 22, 2011

S is for sometimes I lose my mind

(I previously considered posting this under the title, "I is for irrationality," thought better of it, then circled back.  I kind of like self-destruction.)

I just have to get something off my chest.

I know when an agent rejects you, it shouldn't really be taken personally.  They just don't like your work, or don't think it's a good fit, consider it unmarketable, are currently busy with other projects--there are literally a thousand potential reasons why, all of which are fine.  It's a business.

Believe me, I've been to the Rejection Rodeo before and I've won several ribbons--various jobs, fellowships, friendships, boyfriends, calf roping, etc.  You just hitch up your abnormally sized belt buckle and carry on.

But here is the thing.

While I am sure that the vast majority of agents are super nice people who love their parents and take care of their kids, I do not enjoy reading an article, interview, or blog post where said agent remarks on the ease with which he or she rejects someone.

(Yes, I'm thinking of a few particular blogs/articles/interviews/tweets, and YES, my brain knows that they are likely in the minority of the publishing industry.  But sometimes my brain stops being in charge.  Right now the typing fingers are in charge.)

Because in no other avenue of life or profession would that be ok.  Well, maybe it is, but I'm coming from the genteel profession that is the LAW.

(PS, if you couldn't pick up on the sarcasm encapsulated by my use of ALL CAPS, I'll spell it out for you--if lawyers are more gentlemanly and ladylike than you, you may have a problem.)

A law firm would NEVER post statistics on how many candidates it rejected.

A law school admissions dean would NEVER talk about the attributes of the applicants he or she didn't accept.

And above all--IN THIS ECONOMY--we never talk about how easy it is to reject someone.  Even more than attorney-client privilege, that's the lawyer code of honor right there.

Of course people will be rejected--everyone knows that.  And yes, of course some of those people were an easy no.  But like Scarlett O'Hara worrying about whether she should still wear black in Atlanta even though she's clearly a devil woman, lawyers want people to think that we're a classy bunch.  So it's zipped-lips, all around. 

Every decision is a painstakingly difficult decision--even if it wasn't.   (Shakes menacing fist.)

When I get an email claiming that rejecting me was a difficult call, sure, I'm disappointed--but a part of me appreciates the charade.  "It was a tough decision," I think to myself with a measure of satisfaction.  "Well done, self--next time it will be nigh impossible!"

Then when I see on a blog or interview that, no, actually, it's SUPER EASY to stomp on hopes and dreams, that appreciation dies a slow death. Nice Rejecter and Dream Stomper may even be two different people--but there it is.  (See why it was previously going to be posted under "I is for Irrationality"?)

But like I said--rejection is fine, and I am ok with it.

Still, if the day comes where Agent McSmug Agentpants is having his or her civil rights violated, I plan to be too busy with other clients.

(Yes, I know that would sound a lot more threatening if I were a doctor.  Lucky for us and the universe I am not.)


  1. AMEN!!! I can't stand it when agents say "It's not me, it's you", and shrug it off like it's a fact of life. I think they forget they're dashing people's hopes and dreams when to them it's just statistics. We're still people, damn it!

  2. This is probably one of my most favorite posts of yours and not because of your rejections [that is sad] but that you can be so darn humorous about it. Keep going - you will do it one day and I will be first in line at your first book signing.

  3. Couldn't have said it better! Although I am an Art Major (Graphic Designer) and understand that in the Lawyerin World that is a pitiful excuse for a degree, I too have experienced rejection of the most flippant kind. It totally sucks!

    In fact, after spending weeks on a logo concept, a fat waste of precious space told me my ideas were "crap". After probing him about WHY they were crap he followed with "I don't know. But they are so horrible that crap doesn't really even describe them". Then he laughed manically. Does this person have a SOUL? I wish I would have had the balls to flip him off and walk out.

  4. I subscribe to the lawyering code of etiquette and agree with you wholeheartedly. I was once told by an agent that they wait with their finger poised above the mouse, ready to click on delete at all time. You have to prove it to them that you're worthy of getting past that delete-click. Nice, right? Really made me want to submit to THAT agent.

    But, as with every profession, for every tactless agent out there, there are 5 more who are super professional and kind. I've been floored by some of the caring comments I've gotten in rejection letters. (Just wish they cared enough to say, "SEND ME MORE!!!" But that's another topic altogether.)

  5. I try really hard not to take it personally. But there's a quote in some movie that I love.
    "I hate it when people say it's not personal. It's just not personal to you!" I try to put distance between me and my work but it's not possible all the time.

  6. I'm with SkippyMom - this is a great post that makes us laugh at the not funny (in fact it's down right mean) but the laughing makes it bearable. To all the writers in the A-Z challenge: keep up the good work!

  7. Perhaps it's because I haven't entered the query stage yet and have, therefore, not been rejected yet, but I hadn't ever really thought about this before. You make a good point.

    While it does seem mean spirited to brag about the ease with which dreams are dashed, I do appreciate the agents that not only share the number of rejections they decreed, but also some of the reasons behind them.

  8. Thanks folks, I appreciate the comments.

    Karen - I think there's a way to share reasons an agent rejected someone in a tactful way, and I think that is helpful. The problem is the few people who cross the tactful line.

    As Sarah pointed out, it's obviously not just a literary agent issue - a lot of people don't know how conduct business tactfully. Honestly, it probably just seems like (a minority of) people in publishing have a bigger problem with it due to their strong presence in the world of social networking. Maybe if everyone had blogs and twitter feeds dedicated to their professional life, we'd be aware of a greater number of jerks in the world.

    A secondary problem, in my opinion, is one that lawyers share (so I feel justified in pointing it out.) A minority of literary agents seem to get off on the fact that they are snarky d-bags, and then others (who are probably not themselves snarky d-bags) tolerate this attitude.

    Would fewer people hate lawyers if nice lawyers stood up to bad lawyers on a more regular basis? Sure we would. But (a) that's super tiring and (b) on some level, I think we kind of like it that we too have gained an aura of "don't mess with me"-ness without actually having to be jerks ourselves. And so people will probably hate lawyers until the end of time.

  9. rejections really suck. i was so sad at the ones i just got, that I had to do something to perk myself up. I wrote a funny letter to an agent and slapped it onto a music video by michael buble. you can watch the result here:
    it sure did cheer me up!