Queries – Don’t take rejections too personally

Rejections are a normal part of the industry.  It happens during the search for an agent, as well as during the general publisher submission process (once the agent is involved).    Looking at the bigger picture, an agent or editor can only give an affirmative reply on a very limited basis.  In my own personal agency, it’s normal to say “no” to unsolictied queries 99.9% of the time, due to many of them falling outside the agency representative categories.  Other reasons for these rejections include – I may already have similar proposals  in the works (hence no doubling up on projects), the writer may not have a strong enough writing platform, the quality of the writing needs improvement, and/or it may be that the book simply isn’t a good fit with the agency’s current projects.

Hence, there is nothing more surprising than receiving the occasional “hate mail” from writers after these rejections.    I won’t post on this blog the newest letter received today, but let’s just say it had a very angry tone and the author can’t believe that his idea was rejected to begin with.  After looking at the letter, I realized it was one of the many unsolicited queries responded to in the last month.  

There’s one thing I always remind myself, writing is a very personal journey.  Hence, if I turn down an unsolicited query, I try to keep it professional and friendly– as someone’s writing confidence and ego are fully vested into the project.  Being that 99.9% of all queries are turned down, as one agent can only represent a certain number of authors simultaneously, it’s worth the authors’ time to not take the rejection letters personally.  I am too busy to intentionally be mean or hateful with these rejections, and it’s not a part of my business ethic to begin with.  A rejection from my agency means what it says, that it’s simply not a good fit for the agency list and that I will be passing on the idea(s).  It’s that simple.

For any writer, know that all of us agents and editors appreciate the time and effort you have put into your art.  We will never criticize writers for taking the time to query us, and will be as friendly and direct on why we are turning down these unsolicited queries.    And don’t be surprised if your idea does get pulled out of  one of these piles, as some of the greatest books have shown up via the unsolicited query route.    In the meantime, try not to take any agency or editor rejection too personally, as these responses are never intended to hurt a writer’s ego.  Rejections will always be a normal part of the publishing industry, and much like any other path to success, there is the honing process in finding the best fit for an agent and/or editor.     

I will close out with one of my favorite quotes, as it sums up my own perspective:


“Isn’t this everyone’s Point of View?” asked Tock, looking around curiously. “Of course not,” replied Alec. . . “It’s only mine, and you certainly can’t always look at things from someone else’s Point of View. For instance, from here that looks like a bucket of water,” he said, pointing to a bucket of water; “but from an elephant’s just a cool drink, and to a fish, of course, its home. So you see, the way you see things depends a great deal on where you look at them from.”

-Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth



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  1. Alex on February 28, 2014 at 2:48 pm

    I have been rejected by five agents and 10 have not responded. I don’t deal with rejection so it hurts. I know it’s not personal but I cant help it. And the worst is not knowing why it got rejected. I realized agents don’t have enough time but when a first-time writer just wants to get into the door, a query is the hope for a better future. Then, it becomes despair when we never get a response. We get mad because it is easier. Sometimes, it is the only thing we can do. You, the agents, ask for patience from our part, but after spending X months in crafting a novel and then waiting for weeks for a no, we kind of just raise our arms and surrender.
    My dream is getting published. My nightmare is realizing that I am not good enough. And today, when I saw my ever decreasing paycheck, I have to decide if I should let the dream go.

    • redsofaliterary on March 1, 2014 at 6:05 pm

      Alex, it’s a good idea to join a writer’s group and ensure your book is the best it can be, as well as your query letter. It could be that your query letter isn’t strong enough, and also most agents take 4-6 weeks to answer queries btw. And 5 rejections is nothing….take our word. Some folks have to query 30+ agents before they find their person.

      And last but most worth thinking about is working with an author consultant, as many times someone will write a book that’s not ready to be queried yet – and that individual can provide the professional guidance to ensure the letter and book is 110% ready.