What she said

As part of Storystorm, I joined the Facebook group too. And lo and behold, Tara Lazar posted a link that blew my mind. (Thank goodness I didn’t see it while reading queries yesterday, or my emphatic shrieks of solidarity would have echoed all over Lower Manhattan. 🙂 )

Why don’t agents explain their rejections?

Simple question, right? Wrong. But there are several simple answers, and Rachelle Gardner of Books & Such Literary Management does a neat job of explaining them. At least the Top 5. (Go read them. Now.)

The down and dirty upshot is this:

We get hundreds of queries, sometimes thousands, each week. Time is precious. My job as an assistant exists in large part because of the time it takes to respond to those many, many queries that we reject at the agency for which I work.

Still, as a writer myself, I wince just a tiny bit with each rejection I send. I know it hurts. I know you want to know why your book isn’t right for our list. I’ve gotten those letters myself.

Reasons 3 and 4 from Rachelle’s article neatly sum up the conversation I had with my boss about why we can’t personalize rejections. Our reasons might hurt more than help, and frankly, they might be wrong.

The next-to-last line of every rejection letter I send is “I may well be wrong, and you should certainly get other agents’ opinions.”


To be frank, for a lot of queries, we’re not. But for every abysmal query with worse sample pages we get, there are lots of good queries with good sample pages that just don’t appeal to us. Maybe we think we can’t market the story effectively, maybe another client has something similar in hand. Maybe we just can’t see reading that story over and over as we get it ready and submit it to editors. Maybe our understanding of what we asked for on #MSWL is different from yours.

And sometimes we just don’t get your work.

Plenty of folks rejected Rowling’s Harry Potter before she sold it. The lesson here isn’t that they were wrong to do so. It’s that Rowling was persistent and patient enough to keep going until she found the agent that got her story.

Do me a favor. Read Rachelle’s post. And the next time you get a rejection, file it away and send the next query out. After researching why that agent is a good fit as best you can, okay?

Wishing you the best of luck! Now if you’ll excuse me, I have come up with today’s idea for Storystorm. 🙂



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