The many faces of Rejection

I hunkered down and put out over 100 agent queries. The odds are I will get a lot of rejection with that much exposure. All it takes is one yes and even if I get 100 rejections I’ll keep trying.

What is interesting about being rejected by Literary agents is the way they do it.

For the majority it’s  a standard form email. A cut and paste that is the same for every rejection they send. Sure it sort of sounds personal because they assure me they read and considered my work seriously.  There’s no way to know for sure one way or the other. I’ve even gotten “Dear author”. This is interesting because the general rule is to not blanket submit, to personalize each submission to the agent you’re querying.

Some, much fewer than most will send a short blurb to tell me no.  The shortest being only three words.  “We’ll pass thanks.” to a nice explanation of why they didn’t like my writing or story. A stab to the heart, but at least I know they read it.

Then there are the no shows. The agents that post an expiry. If after *X* weeks you don’t hear from me consider that a no. The true mystery. Did they read it at all?  Maybe.

Agents are busy, very busy with submissions and queries. I’ve been told over and over to just keep positive and understand that they have something called a slush pile. Where some queries never make it out of and are never even touched because they are overworked.

Rejection letters are like little passive aggressive slaps to the ego. They sound so polite, so nice and even complementary. They often have words of encouragement all the while telling you you’re not good enough for them, but maybe someone else… It’s kind of funny in a weird way. Like they take some positive encouragement, wrap it around the negative message then dip it in a bath of false positivity before shoving it my way.

Here’s and example of a somewhat personal “you suck” letter.

Dear Sheryl –

Thank you for thinking of me in your search for representation. I appreciate you sharing your work with me. However, after taking a closer look I don’t feel that this project is a good fit for my list, so I’m going to have to pass.

Please keep in mind that this is a very subjective business, and mine is only one opinion.

Best Wishes,

Here is an example of one that is a complete cut and paste letter:

Dear Author:

 Thank you for allowing me to consider your work. Unfortunately, this particular project is just not right for me.

 I wish you all the best in your literary endeavors.


Here’s an example of a cut and paste that has a flair of ‘personal’ to it:

Dear Author,

Thanks so much for letting us take a look at your materials, and please forgive me for responding with a formletter.  The volume of submissions we receive, however, makes it impossible to correspond with everyone personally.

Unfortunately, the project you describe does not suit our list at this time.  We wish you the best of luck in finding an agent and publisher for your work, and we thank you, once again, for letting us consider your materials.


And last but not least the fancy one that sounds personalized but is not likely: (Notice the lack of any address, no dear…) Oh and they are too busy…

Thanks for your interest in our agency.  Unfortunately you’ve caught me at a time when the demands of my current clients leave me with very little time to devote to exploring new talent and unfortunately in this case I have to pass on the opportunity to pursue this.  I am being extremely picky so please seek many opinions since my decision may have little to do with the salability of your work.


With many of the responses I can see that even if an agent is listed as open, they may not be. I’ve had a few letters say they are too busy to take on more projects. Or perhaps they just aren’t a fit for my work. That makes sense, not everyone likes every style of writing. The bottom line is this process will either make or break me as a writer. I’ll either take it personally and run for the hills or I’ll keep slogging on and pushing forward through the stacks of no’s until I find that glorious endangered species of a yes.

I think I’ll take the hard road, and keep searching for the yes for as long as I have to.

My advice about being rejected over and over.
It’s a numbers game that requires persistence and the toughening of skin. It’s by no means easy to be pummeled with so many no’s daily. i think a line from one of my favorite movie(Galaxy Quest) is in order here.  “Never give up, never surrender!”


Other rejection posts

The rejection letter

Rejecting the rejected

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved


24 thoughts on “The many faces of Rejection

  1. A very touching post, after receiving all letters one is easily demoralised, but it’s encouraging to hear you keeping on the faith. Though it might sound like one of those reject letters, you can send me that your work I review it for you, I work in publishing firm and I may squeeze in sometime to check on it and possibly give you a response or advice on the next step.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Very happy to hear you are going to continue! Even though there are those that may be overworked and unable to take on more, still, if you are an agent, you’d think your desire to find someone that was more interesting, different and exciting, would push you to continue seeking instead of “slush” piling it. Keep on, keeping on sheryl. I am 100% sure you will win the fight. I’m in your corner.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the words of encouragement. It is hard not to look to ‘alternate’ options when the “no’s” pile up. I have a plan to look into another (hopefully potential) 268 agent listings and re-query each agency until I’ve gone through every one in the agency open to my genre. Then if I still have nobody interested, I’m going to look into a copy editor. I’ve been told I don’t need one, but if I get nothing but no for an answer, then it might be worth a look-see.


  3. Sheryl, you are very brave to share your struggling experiences to encourage others. I have learned so much from you, and know it encourages others who have had similar responses to not give up. Sending you big hugs! : )

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for such kind words. I hope that if someone takes anything positive from what I’ve learned so far than it’s totally worth it. It’s not easy being rejected repeatedly. But it is part of the process and I hope will sweeten the reward when I eventually reach my goals of getting and agent, a contract and published.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Do you actually think they read it? I think maybe they can tell by the first few paragraphs if it’s for them. I often start a book and it’s make or break by the end of the first chapter. I obviously have nowhere near your experience on writing and submitting. I love your writing as you know. Just a thought 🌹

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have no idea if they read it or not. They say they do so I have to give them the benefit and believe they do. My ego however wants to think they don’t read and say no because they are busy 😉 its better than thinking my work is crap. I have a plan and have been super busy lately with queries and tracking them.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Sorry if that was not clear…. what I meant was are the first few paragraphs the most important to gain attention and want someone to read more?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for sharing samples of rejection letters from literary agents. I love the openness and transparency in which you are sharing your journey. I am aiming for 100 rejections this year. Some days it feels like a crazy thing to do! Good to be reminded that I am one of many people riding this roller coaster. All the best.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Tricky Little Non-Rejection | I wrote a book. Now what?

  8. Pingback: Rejected | I wrote a book. Now what?

  9. Pingback: Title | I wrote a book. Now what?

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