In the past few months, I've sent literally hundreds of submissions. I know that you're not supposed to, but I often send dozens of simultaneous submissions at a time, so it's not uncommon for me to get five or six rejection letters in a single day.
This rate of rejection is, at the best of times and in the best of markets, humbling. But this is not the best of times, nor the best of markets, and I have started receiving a new form letter that feels just a little more crushing than the ones I've received in the past.
The first rejections I received were all pretty standard - "We regret that we don't feel that your work fits our publication." Or perhaps "While this doesn't feel like a good fit, another agent/publisher may feel differently." A subtle "it's not you, it's me" sort of thing that was quite firmly "no" without stripping me of my dignity.
Lately, I've seen some version of this: "Due to the shrinking publishing market and increasing competitive landscape, we don't feel we can represent/publish your work." The subtext of that is that, if times were better, they might consider me, but as it is, I'm just not good enough. While this is certainly true, and I don't know if a single author who isn't aware of both of these realities, it's lazy. It sounds an awful lot like agents and publishers trying to lay the blame at someone else's feet so that they don't come off as the bad guys. "Don't blame me - it's the industry."
Come on, guys. Stop hiding behind the market. If you don't feel that you can represent a work because it's not up to your standard, say so! I'd much rather see the blame for a rejection laid at the feet of my inadequate writing than think that, in a less competitive market, it might stand a chance.
And, for the record...sometimes the envelopes DO NOT contain a rejection. Thank goodness for occasional favors!