Let’s talk about this: what would be useful rejection information?

Since I’ve been talking for the last month about rejection criteria that is news to most querying writers, and yesterday about how little actual information the average agency tends to send back with a rejected manuscript, it’s pretty clear (to me, at least) that there is an awfully large communication gap between aspiring writers and the agents to whom they submit their work. Having talked about the issue with people on both sides of it, I have come to the conclusion that this lapse is actually quite frustrating for both sides: agents report feeling that writers don’t seem to understand just how little time they can devote to each query and/or submission; writers report that they feel that their work is being treated with disrespect, and that it’s hard to improve without getting actual feedback on what they’re doing wrong.

One aspect of this conflict particularly caught my attention: most of the agents with whom I have discussed this seem to believe that it’s the FACT of rejection that annoys writers so, rather than the form it takes. Simply put, many of them seem to feel that there is no way that they could reject a manuscript without angering its writer, and that form letters are, in part, a recognition of that reality. But is this true?

So let me turn the question out to you, dear readers: what kind of information would you LIKE to see in a rejection letter? Feedback on how to improve your querying style? A simple statement about why your work in particular is not for that agency? A photocopied form listing common problems, with the appropriate ones checked off?

Alternatively, are you of the school of thought that would prefer to be told no as quickly as possible, without fanfare, so you may move on to the next agency on your list? Would you prefer form letters that did not attempt any explanation at all, and spared you the usual platitudes?

And, finally: is there anyone out there who actually prefers form letters to a personalized response?

Now is your time to vent, everybody – but please, eschew profanity (I already get enough spam comments from porn-site teasers trying to post here, thank you very much), and for your own protection, let’s avoid naming specific agents. It’s just not that big an industry, and I don’t want to encourage you to be burning any bridges that might be useful to you down the line.

But seriously, if you were in their shoes, how would you do it differently?

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