Before I became a literary agent, I absolutely hated these.
After I became a literary agent, I still absolutely hated these.
Form rejections don't provide any ways for authors to improve their writing, what reasons the agent rejected the manuscript, or offer, really, anything constructive.
So why do agents (and publishers, for the matter) still send them?
Why do agents at my own agency send them?
Some people like to answer, "It's a time management thing. They don't have time to answer all of those letters."
Yes, but also, no.
I'm an agent who tries to respond personally to every letter, but after doing so for hundreds of manuscripts that came my way, I understood why my colleagues chose to do something impersonal.
Sometimes some authors can get a little nasty.
Notice the operative word: some.
Most are gracious with the feedback, thank you for your time, and even use some of the critique and apply it to edit their manuscript.
However, some do fight back. Some tell you how literary agents are trying to ruin the lives of authors and just provide another obstacle in the industry. Many will argue that you have a lack of expertise, and clearly any agent who knew what was good would take on the manuscript.
And, yes, I've experienced a great deal of people who got a little less than pleasant. I always tried to be kind and encouraging back.
I've had agents receive submissions where someone sent photos flipping them off or a six-page letter explaining why agents should die as a whole.
And I get it. It's a frustrating industry. We all want our books in the hands of readers, and it seems like every year, it gets harder and harder to do so.
I still choose to respond with feedback. I always try to provide something they did well and something to improve up, but I understand this has become rare. As someone who started out as an author, I got frustrated by how many form responses I would get, but now I can understand in part why they never sent anything personal.
Because sometimes a mean letter from an author can ruin someone's entire day, even week.
Sometimes agents don't have skin as thick as cinder block.
And sometimes, well, we just don't have time to respond personally to everything.