Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Rave Rejections by Deborah Blumenthal

Rejection letters.

Passes, as some agents gingerly refer to them.


Whatever the terminology - they sting. An editor is turning you down. You haven’t made the grade. It’s as in your face as a two-year-old yelling, “NO.”

Only not all passes are alike.

In fact, there are a category of “passes” that at first blush almost read like acceptance letters. These fall in a gilded group of their own:

The rave rejections.

Yes, the editor obviously did read your crowning achievement. She loved your book. Your characters came alive, infused with humor, pathos, vulnerability. She was gripped from the very first paragraph, even moved to tears!

But alas, she couldn’t commit to publish.

She loved it, but not that much. Not enough to feel the level of passion she would need to take it to acquisitions. Or she did truly love it, but her colleagues were less enthusiastic. Or it resembles something else on their list (probably better than yours), or their list is smaller now, more select than before. Or, or, or, or, or.


So you read the letters again and again and take heart. You could literally use some of the sentences as blurbs, they’re that good. Yes, you’ve been turned down, but an editor of high regard has recognized your talent and given you validity.

So to put a smile on your face, I’ve collected some of these gilded turn-downs.

Here goes.

Author Hank Phillippi Ryan, fellow Girlfriends Book Club blogger, offered this one.

Thanks so much for sending me Hank's PRIME TIME. This is so well
written. I was pulled in instantly, and Hank really nails the newsroom setting. I couldn't turn the pages fast enough. But sadly I can't make
an offer. We just have too many female reporter protagonists on our list
at this point, and we also recently had to let go an author who writes a
very similar series ­ we have such a small list and I just can't justify
offering on something so close at this time.

I'm so sorry not to have better news, especially because this is so
wonderful. I can't wait to hear where it ends up. Please keep me posted!

Hank reports: “PRIME TIME went on to win the Agatha Award for Best First Mystery, got two RITA nominations, an RT Reviewers Choice Award, and a TOP PICK from RTBR! (I’m now on book 4 of the series, DRIVE TIME, which was just nominated for the AGATHA for best mystery of 2010.)”

And another:

Thanks again for sending this my way. As I said, XXXX is indeed an engaging writer, and Betsy is completely compelling as a protagonist. There’s a great momentum to the book, and it was a lot of fun to read. But alas, something kept me from responding in the way I’d hoped, and in the end, I just didn’t fall in love with it completely, and others here felt the same way. But I’m really glad you sent it my way, and I do hope you’ll try me again soon. I’d so love to have a book with you! And in the meantime, best of luck to you and XXX with this one…

This one’s a beaut:

Thanks so much for sending XXXXX. XXXXXX is a terrific writer, whose characterizations of both Betsy and Ruth ring resoundingly true--watching Ruth's panic set in as she is nabbed by the neighbor on what seemed like a foolproof getaway plan to the cabin sent me into palpitations, and I loved watching Betsy discover her grandmother's pride in her "purr".

Despite my admiration for XXXX's storytelling, I felt there was something that was holding me back; I just couldn't put my finger on it. After getting other reads, I fear that the "purr" itself is problematic. It is completely psychologically plausible that discovering this unusual sound one's own body makes while being molested would cause negative associations, but others never quite bought that this sound could be so devastating, which in turn made parts of the book just not resonate for them.

I'm sorry, because I so loved it, but in the end, don't have the support needed to truly champion a successful publication, so I'm compelled to pass.

Thanks so much for sending XXXXX my way--I genuinely wish you and XXXXXX much luck in finding a great home for this novel, but if you don't get what you are looking for here and she chooses to write anything else, I'd really love to see it.

And another:

"You have the wit and talent to become the next Erma [Bombeck] or Molly [Ivins] but I'm going to have to pass."

And this:

We found XXXXXX intriguing and very readable; one reader thought that “Sirena’s utter fascination and obsession with Pilot mirrors the hypnotic quality of Kathyrn Harrison’s THE KISS and Marguerite Duras’ THE LOVER.” Good company! But this comment points to the reason I don’t think I can make an offer for it: it’s an uneasy mix of adult and YA.

And this for a picture book submission:

Thank you so much for thinking of me for XXXXXXX.. I really enjoyed the manuscript. The doggie perspective is hilarious, and the mayhem has a lot of genuine kid appeal. Unfortunately, I’m afraid that overall, the story skews too similar to our XXX books and I couldn’t envision a way to make it stand out on our list. I’m sorry for the disappointing news. I do appreciate your giving me the chance to consider this project, however, and I wish you the best of luck in finding the right home for it.


Deborah Blumenthal is the author of thirteen books for adults and children. Her latest picture book is THE BLUE HOUSE DOG, published by Peachtree Publishers.


  1. I wanted to contribute to this because I definitely have had a few but must have deleted them. Hate that so close but so far away feeling. Really fun post.

  2. Enjoyed reading the different posts! Sometimes I think the closer you are, the harder you fall. Does that sound crazy?

  3. I love the enthusiastic "I can't wait to hear where this ends up. Please keep me posted!"

    Mine was the Bombeck/Ivins one.