Rejection Letters: Why Writers Shouldn’t Hate on Agents

I think I just got the World Record of rejection letters. No joke-I emailed an agent everything she required in her submissions guidelines: query + the first 5 double spaced pages. I even spelled her name right. As soon as I hit send, I got the generic “Thanks, we received your submission!” email. Fine, okay, cool. I put it in the appropriate folder and went on to my next thing. Literally, not even a full minute later, I got an email directly from the agent:

“Thank you for querying me.  Unfortunately I don’t feel I’m quite the right agent for your project. I’m regretfully going to pass.

Best of luck with this project and all your endeavors.  Due to the volume of queries and submissions I receive, I’m unable to provide a personal evaluation of your query and/or further explanation of my decision.

Good luck with your submissions.”

The thing is, it’s not the rejection that bothers me. I’ve gotten them before and I’m 110% sure I’ll get a bunch more in the next few months. But there’s no possible way she even read past the opening sentence of my manuscript. NO. WAY. She barely had time to read my entire (short) query.

Here’s my deal: if it seems like you didn’t read my query letter past my “Dear Agent’s Name” (and I know I got that part right), then yes, it is frustrating for me. At least make me feel like I had a 1% chance of you reading the story description! I’ve commended myself on not taking these rejections personally and I still don’t. I know agents aren’t passing my manuscript up because they don’t like me. They don’t know me. They get what they read on paper and make a split second decision. We as writers move onto the next query letter, fingers crossed and ever-hopeful.

I get it, I really do. I’ve worked in publishing, both in books (three years ago) and magazines (present job). Agents are busy people, with thousands of submissions coming in on a monthly or weekly basis. I know from experience that it’s a tough job. And boy, do writers hate on agents. The ones that have agents love them, but for those of us lost out in publishing space, it’s mostly filled with frustration. I can see both sides of the page as well as the giant brick wall that’s between agents and new writers.

However. As disappointing at that rejection email can be for writers, we need to remember that agents are people, too. They don’t hover on their keyboards just waiting to reject us. For whatever reason, they don’t think our writing works for them and that’s okay. I mean, think about it–JK FREAKING ROWLING got rejected. I’m willing to bet every buck in my bank account that the guys who rejected her are still kicking themselves so many years later. When we get the letter telling us it’s not right for them, that does not translate to “It’s not good enough.”  I think it would do all writers well to remind themselves of that from time to time. I once read somewhere that most agents really do want that next Harry Potter/Hunger Games/sparkly vampire novel. They want to be excited about a manuscript and to have a successful and in-demand client. But they can only do so much–it’s up to us to write the damn thing and get it in their hands.

The query letter is the quick and dirty way to explain your novel and why it fits for that agent. So as frustrated as I was to get that particular rejection, I had to take a deep breath, remind myself it’s not about me, and start working on the next query letter. If it didn’t work for her, she had a reason, even if it was because of my query letter instead of the plotline. It just means that I need to rework my letter to reflect the best manuscript possible. I guess my main point for all of us is not to take it personally. It’s not about the writer. It’s not even about the agent. It’s about your novel, the story you want to tell because you believe in it and know you’re the right person for the job.

Worse comes to worse…get the hell away from your computer and get yourself a milkshake. (To drink, not throw against an agent’s car door.)

3 thoughts on “Rejection Letters: Why Writers Shouldn’t Hate on Agents

  1. Crystal says:

    I feel ya. I hate rejection letters, especially when you spend hours in front of your computer sending them all out. It sometimes feels like a waste of time, of course until the day comes when an agent says they want more from you.

  2. Crystal Parney says:

    I hate rejection too, and no matter how many times I get them, they still sting just as bad. Of course after an hour I’m over it, but I still hate the intitial sting. I just don’t know what to do to get the agent to actually read the query, and it would help to know why they didn’t think your story will work for them, because it could save you time on the next query, but of course they aren’t going to take the time to tell you. It’s about luck I guess, or being one helluva writer.

    • LizLong says:

      I think a little bit of both, Crystal! I try my best not to take it personally and like you said, the initial sting is what we need to jump over. I suppose, however, as far as feedback goes, that this is where we run to our editors and ask for the hard truth and how to fix it!

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