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