So if you take notes on submissions received and say I sent something to you when I first started writing and you put in your notes, “Writing needs work (or it sucks) or whatever” Does that mean I’m branded for life with that publisher? I think they would still look at the work but would a first negative impression make it harder later on?
No. We realize that writers change and (hopefully) improve over time. Those notes only effect where in the reading pile your manuscript lands. Let’s say I get 5 mss one day—two are in my log, one with a “good” note and one with a “needs work” note; the other three are new authors. My assistant reads the queries and weeds out topics we’re not interested in or those with so many grammar/technical errors that we know we’ll reject. The rest go in the pile with the “good” note on top. The “needs work” note and the new authors get sorted by our topic interest level.
The only time a bad note brands you for life is if you were extremely rude and obnoxious* about a previous submission and my note says, “I don’t care if it’s the next Harry Potter, I will not work with this person!” (Out of the hundreds in my log, there are only two with this note.)
*Extremely rude and obnoxious means the author blasted me with e-mails/letters/phone calls after rejection, calling me names and telling me I’m the spawn of Satan for rejecting their book.