I have to admit I prefer email to hard copy -- there's something so final about holding a physical rejection letter, but they're all painful, one more tiny pinprick in your self esteem and hopes.
The worst part, for me at least, is that the vast majority of agents don't tell you why they're rejecting your manuscript.
Thank you so much for allowing our agency to consider your material. Unfortunately, after carefully reviewing your query, we’ve determined that this particular project isn’t the right fit for our agency at this time. As I’m sure you know, the publishing industry changes swiftly now, as do readers’ tastes and trends. As a result, our own agents’ needs shift and change, as well; therefore, we would like to encourage you to consider querying us with future projects as you may deem appropriate.
So what didn't you like? The genre? The protagonist? The plot? The writing? Everything?
Fortunately there are agents out there who take the time to pass along gems of wisdom. I had one agent send me a rejection email that went on for 2 pages, listing suggestions for improvement. And each and everyone of them was valid. As a result, my manuscript is tighter, stronger, and generally better. There is also the "warm fuzzy" of knowing that she must have seen something in there if she took the time to read the entire 300 pages.
Another agent said she loved everything except...wait for it...there are too many culinary cozies out there and mine had nothing "unique." Gulp. Actually, I owe this agent a debt of gratitude, too. Thinking about what she'd said, I made some tweaks to my protagonist's background that not only make her more interesting, but give her wider latitude for sleuthing in future books. When (note the positive attitude, please) I find an agent, I'm sending this one a bottle of wine! I've already sent a thank you note!
Obviously agents are flooded with queries, and there is no way they could read, digest, and critique each one. But wouldn't one sentence, one suggestion, be nice? We can only hope. And be thankful for those agents who do reject with both kindness and suggestions.
So what has your experience with rejection been like? Has an agent given you that extra nudge you needed? Or simply doused your hopes in cold water?
Remember, rejection is not fatal!