It’s been a while since I did a Random Rejection, so this week I thought I would reach into my giant file folder of writing correspondence and pull something out of it. But instead of either a rejection or an acceptance letter, I drew this instead:
Lack confidence in your unfinished project? Not sure if you should bother wasting time finishing it? Never fear! Here is an unsolicited advertisement from a literary agency offering to review what you have and tell you if it sucks or not. Let’s read more about this valuable service!
Hmm, I haven’t submitted manuscripts to literary agents in quite some time, but I do remember this: I never had a manuscript returned unread. Why? Because either I first sent query letters, and only sent the manuscript upon request; or, when starting off by sending a manuscript, I only sent a partial, and only if the agency’s submission guidelines specifically said they accepted partials. This is basic research that any serious writer should do ahead of time, even back in the pre-Internet days to which this solicitation obviously dates. But this letter isn’t targeted at that kind of writer.
At this point you may be wondering why I held onto a mailing for a service I had no intention of using. Simple enough: I held on to everything. I have form rejection slips in that file that I have no idea what story or book they were for, but they’re in there nevertheless.
Ah, for simpler, more analog times (I am guessing this dates back to around 1994).
Of course the only thing more delightful than discovering new writers is collecting a hefty fee for doing so! If I had, for example, accepted this “invitation” for the original 400,000-word manuscript of Shards — which did exist in some form back in the 1994 era — it would have cost $750, or, in today’s dollars, about $1,200, for them to tell me the manuscript was unsalable (which it was) and perhaps even that it should be abandoned. The alternative, suggests the solicitation, would have been to send it out to other agencies without paying hundreds and hundreds of dollars and thus get it back in a box, unread, with no helpful suggestions or other feedback. But I guess no one told other agents that.
Thanks again, David H. Morgan, for giving me some of the best advice I ever received in a rejection letter. I did put Shards aside for close to twenty years while I toiled in the horror genre before dusting it off and rewriting it, but when I finally did, I kept all of your feedback in mind. The world’s trees thank you as well for twenty years of my printing proofing/editing copies on the backs of other pages.