Last week, a client sent me the following rejection letter he'd received from an agency I've always considered top-notch. He wanted to "let me know the state of the industry." So I had to do a little research - and what I found has been bugging me ever since.
First, the rejection letter:
Thanks so such for querying us, but we are unsure that this premise would work in this tight market. All said we would encourage you to do what many of our clients have done prior and self- publish with a reputable, and recommended, publisher. This is a new age in publishing, and as evidenced time and time again, neither The New York Times bestsellers list nor major booksellers discriminate against the self published. Oftentimes, authors choose to get proactive in order to build a sales record and boost their chances of being picked up.
I would like your permission to pass along your information to someone who can help you get started on your path towards getting published. If you are ready to become proactive about your career we will let them know more details about your manuscript and how to get into contact with you. There are a lot of publishers that seem to have gotten the better of new authors, the two that we refer you to are not of that ilk, they have had a number of successes.
It's a form rejection. Sent to everyone this firm is rejecting. And they're shilling for iUniverse and AuthorHouse. Who have referral programs.
Without even getting into the EXTREME stretching of the facts that is present in this letter (I'll let Anne and Victoria handle that - go here and here for damn good posts on the subject), here is the problem with this rejection letter.
Agents have different tastes. What's right for one agent is completely wrong for another, and agents themselves will tell you that time and time again in their blogs, at conferences, and in the articles you read in publishing mags. But by sending out this rejection letter, this agency is not just saying "it's not right for us." They're saying "it's not right for traditional publishing. Go self publish."
Self publishing works great for some people (including some of my very successful clients). It's not for everyone. There are some serious problems with the way this letter is presenting the self-pub process. To quote Victoria and Anne (because I'm just that steamed):
"Also deceptive: the book claimed to be on the New York Times bestseller list is Lisa Genova's Still Alice, which is currently number 7, but debuted last week at number 5. However, although Genova originally self-pubbed through iUniverse (which is owned by AuthorHouse), her book was picked up last summer by Simon & Schuster. That's the book on the bestseller list, not the iUniverse version."
I suppose the message I'm trying to get across (other than the fact that I'm ticked - was that made clear yet?) is that if YOU get one of these letters, you should know that the self-pub suggestion has NOTHING to do with you or your manuscript. It's a form rejection, just like any other. Treat it like any other.