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Do let me know if this is off-topic. My question relates to the publishing process, and the typical ramifications of an possible action could have on one's future ability to be published.


Getting pissed at editors when they reject you is obviously not a good idea. If however, they say something of the ilk, "Your work is not what we're looking for", is it unwise to ask something of the ilk:

"Out of a desire to learn, may I ask, what does this work do to not satisfy your desired aspects?"

Of course, it has to be done with tact, but if we assume that this question does not come off as passive-aggressive (which might be impossible), would the question itself typically have bad consequences? For example, assuming a friendly formulation, would they still typically look at the question itself as insulting, or as a telltale that the writer is hard to work with/has a bad personality?


EDIT:

In my specific case, the work in-question is a short poem, though I've decided to not modify my question with this, as I want to keep it general. However, I included this edit in case anyone wants to give more concrete advice pertaining to my exact situation.

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    tbh, I expect that is a generic rejection. (When you looked at the books they do publish, do you feel you are a good fit?) I suggest consulting a book doula or similar, someone who will go over the book with you and give professional advice, rather than hoping for a reply from someone who may not have read more than a few pages (if any).
    – wetcircuit
    Sep 17, 2022 at 4:04
  • @wetcircuit I probably should have specified this in the post. They are a poetry publisher, and my poem was very short (three lines), so they definitely read the whole thing. Though, I too suspect it could be a generic rejection.
    – user110391
    Sep 17, 2022 at 4:06
  • Unless their response is more open and inviting than "sorry, we're not interested", I wouldn't bother. They probably have to reject a lot of submissions, and don't have time (or desire) to elaborate on each one. It might be better to communicate in the submission that you'd welcome any feedback. Personalizing the submission for the editor you send it too might also help to evoke a more personal response. So know who you send it to, find out which books/bundles they worked on, what they're interested in, why your work should interest them, etc.
    – user54131
    Sep 17, 2022 at 19:04
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    "...a concrete/big mismatch between their taste and the style, to have enjoyed it, but not include it...." –– I don't think that is the only possibility here. they have no obligation to explain their publishing decisions, which might involve unseen issues (obligations, financial, legal, sponsor) that don't involve the quality of your writing at all.
    – wetcircuit
    Sep 18, 2022 at 3:31
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    I don't think this is a good idea. They don't want to explain or engage; many agents and publishers reject 95% of what they read, and it is often just based on a "feeling". Both poetry and fiction require emotional engagement. What are they going to say about their vague feeling that a work failed to move them, or felt flat, or felt tedious or formulaic? They have an instinct for what sells, and the work did not rise to their personal 95% certainty level. They are not there to train the 95%, that doesn't pay. They will not waste time on works that are not at least close. Accept that. Move on.
    – Amadeus
    Sep 21, 2022 at 13:54

1 Answer 1

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Asking for feedback with positivity and politely is always good. So well, the short answer is a bug Yes.

However, I would rephrase your following sentence:

"Out of a desire to learn, may I ask, what does this work do to not satisfy your desired aspects?"

As:

"Out of the desire to learn and understand, may I ask about your expectations so that I can try to meet those in the future?

Reason for changes:

  1. The words "what does this work do to not satisfy" sound argumentative as you are questioning their decision. Those may leave bad taste.

  2. It's always better not to use negative words ("to NOT satisfy"). Because in that case they would be pointing fingers about the weaknesses. And, when a person verbally talks about others' weaknesses, then he/she becomes more convinced about it - because once they thought and discussed internally, now they are repeating it verbally once again.

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  • Thank you! I did feel like my "(...) what dies thus work do to not satisfy (...)" sounded salty, but I couldn't put my finger on it. Argumentative it was! Only problem with this rephrasing (which you couldn't have known), is the fact that their criteria for poems are listed on their site. However, I feel like those criteria are interpretable in many ways, which is why I want a more concrete answer from them.
    – user110391
    Sep 21, 2022 at 13:25

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