If you query GenZ Publishing, there are a few different responses you can get from us: yes, no, or a conditional maybe. This last category usually takes the form of “our editors were split: we liked your story but it could use another alpha-read polishing before being ready for our editing process.”
Sometimes, we send back specific comments from our editors about the story and ask the author to consider changes before sending us their entire manuscript for consideration. Other times, we go one step further. I recently sent back in-line edits and comments on an author’s first chapter. This is not something we do for every query, because it takes time, energy, and effort from our editors and thus away from our signed authors and books. But, I thought that this author’s story had real potential.
I was thorough, marking up awkward phrasing, places where I thought characterization could be stronger, asking questions where the manuscript confused me. Editing and comments are a conversation. Maybe in the places where I was confused the author was confident that most readers would understand. No matter what, it’s important that editors mark place where they’re unsure, so that the author can make the final judgement call.
I sent this document back to the author along with more general comments from our editors like,
At first, I was nervous that there would be too much information and too many ideas to cover, but I like how the story unfolds…I really enjoyed reading about a strong female lead. It is important that the characters have their own personality, and the author shows these traits well.
I told the author that we would be happy to consider his full manuscript if he were open to in-depth and developmental edits.
What I got back was a response that did not just let us know he wasn’t interested in working with us anymore but also actively tore the company down, because of the edits in the document and the comments from our editors. He mansplained to me about a state we both call home, what makes a story a good story, and, most surprisingly, about how to write a book.
So, to authors out there looking to query agents and publishers, I have this advice. If you get a response that you are not happy with, and you really feel the need to respond to that response (be it for pride or any other reason), be cordial. Do not get defensive. Any response from a reputable agency or publisher is well-meaning. (And, if signed, a good publisher will encourage edits to your work).
When I took the time to make edits and comments on this author’s work, it was because I saw something in his writing that I wanted to nurture and polish. My edits, while constructive, were not criticism, and, if you as an author get any feedback from the company you’ve queried, it will be similarly well-intentioned.
If an agent, editor, or publisher takes the time to carefully review your work and provide specific feedback before signing you, it is a testament to your talent and skill. It is okay to disagree with edits or to decide you’d rather self-publish. But, I encourage every author to assume the best from the person who gave you feedback and to not burn bridges with your response.