I was cleaning out my old filing cabinet today, because I have a brand shiny new (and twice as big) one, and stopped to sort through my rejections folder because I’d left some short story manuscripts in there I really didn’t need to hang on to.
(That rejections folder, by the way? Very large. Although I am somewhat proud of the fact that it goes all the way back to the mid-’90s, when I was in my teens.)
Anyway, I came across a bunch of the rejections I got for the first book I queried widely (an early chapter book that was an ultimately unsuccessful experiment) and for Give Up the Ghost (which was the second book I queried widely). When I was querying last year, I found the vast majority of agents accepted e-queries and many preferred them, but back then, in 2004-2006, most agents still wanted snail mail queries rather than e-queries. So the responses were hard copy too.
Form rejections (for non-writers: responses that contain a generic “This wasn’t right for us” which an agency/publisher uses for the majority of their submissions, without personalization) are not enjoyable to receive at any time. But I have to say, I’d forgotten that getting them in hard copy offered so many more opportunities for them to come across as callous. I have one rejection that is simply my query letter with a stamped note on the bottom saying it wasn’t for them. A form rejection stamp! And then there were all the rejections that were not even actually letters, but bits of paper or little cards, which could give you the feeling you weren’t even worthy of a single full-sized page.
At least, with e-queries, an email is an email is an email. It cannot be shrunken in size to be a sub-email or forwarded back to you with a brief scrawl in the corner. Or a stamp.
So for those of you in the querying waters now, or aiming for them, be thankful that the electronic age has made that inevitable but painful part of the process a little easier to bear!