3 Types of Agent Rejections

Thursday, March 14, 2019

After starting the agent query process a few months ago, the responses are slowly trickling in. I mentioned in a previous blog post that I was starting to see a pattern in the rejections, so I stopped submitting my query and opening pages for a bit and had them professionally edited (thanks to Margo Dill and members of my accountability group for extra eyeballs on them!). As of this writing, I’ve submitted six queries with my revised submission package with no responses yet. The “no’s” are still coming in from my previous round, further affirming my instinct that there was something missing in those pages.

Here are three agent rejections I’ve started to notice in this journey.

The Short but Sweet No

This agent is polite but to the point. What they’ve read didn’t reel them in. Exact quotes can include “We are unable to offer to see more of your work” or “I didn’t connect with this material.” It is what it is, and you log in the date of that agent’s response and move on. This rejection is two sentences or less. You may need to do a little research after this one. Some agency guidelines say a rejection from one agent is a “no” from the whole agency; others say to feel free to query one of their colleagues. You can usually get a quick answer from the agency website.

The Personalized Rejection
I notice this type of rejection when it is someone I have a mutual professional connection with, etc. It may mention a thank you for thinking of them, but they didn’t find themselves drawn to the voice as much as they’d hoped, or as one agent told me, “it’s a little darker than what I’m looking for at the moment.” Dark and angsty books aren’t for everyone, and in that case I really couldn’t take that personally. Don’t discount this brand of rejections, though, and appreciate if an agent has taken the time to give you more than a few sentences of explanation. For example, one agent told me that she thought my premise was intriguing, but she didn’t get ‘that’ feeling in her gut telling her to ask for more pages. She ended the e-mail by adding that believes another agent will feel differently and to not be discouraged. In my opinion, these rejections are important to hold on to. I can pull this out of my files on a day when I feel like I can’t write my way out of a paper bag and know that another agent may be next in line to request more!

The Not this Time, But . . .
I’ve had exactly one agent response that fell into this category, but it put a smile on my face for a whole day and prompted me to put an asterisk by this agent’s name in my spreadsheet. It was from one of those “connection” e-mails, but still. She thanked me for my patience in waiting to hear back, told me that I write well but that “gut” feeing wasn’t there, but that she’d be happy to hear about any future manuscripts I might have. Wait. What? I did a jig. Especially because I’m working on another project that may be more likely to attract this agent’s attention.

So far I haven’t had any snide or condescending rejections, and for that I’m grateful. I think a lot depends on how respectful you are of an agent’s time. Did you visit their agency website and give them specifically what they asked for in the guidelines? It varies with each agent. Some are looking for a query letter and nothing else. Others want a query, one-page synopsis, and first 10 pages. Most don’t want attachments, but everything pasted into the body of an e-mail. And I’ve come across a few agents who ask you to submit via Submittable or QueryManager.

I’m hopeful my new round of queries will contain more of the #3 rejection in this post AND some requests to see more pages of the book. I’m keeping my fingers crossed and trying to maintain a positive attitude in the process.

Have you received any rejections (from agents, magazine editors, literary journals, etc.) that fell into any of the above categories? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments below.

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and editor who also works as a marketing director for a nonprofit theatre company. She is currently seeking representation for her contemporary young adult novel, Between. Learn more at FinishedPages.com.


Margo Dill said...

One of the best rejections I ever had led me to write a better book and to have good advice to give to other historical fiction authors. It was for my first book: FINDING MY PLACE and the agent said: you are focused way too much on all the research you learned and not enough on your character and her story. She was so right. Then when I revised it, I sent it to a NY Publisher who asked for the whole thing. She rejected it, but said: It's a good story that probably belongs in the school and library market. So I found a publisher that does that and got a contract. If they are willing to give you any advice, then take it. That's my experience.

Sioux Roslawski said...

I've received several "short but sweet" rejections. I'm waiting for either one with advice, or a yes.

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