Monday, January 16, 2017

When It's a No

Recently, I've been reading really great manuscripts.  

And passing on them.  

I realized I wanted to write about that this week after doing my potential client match quiz, in order to hopefully encourage people who have had a rough time with something they've gotten positive feedback on, because, sometimes even though I think a manuscript is great, I don't end up making an offer for the following reasons:
  1. I'm not 100% in love
  2. I am in love, but I know that there are already too many similar books out there
  3. I need something more polished and don't have the time to get it there myself (this is usually something that results in an R&R)
  4. I recognize that the manuscript is fantastic, but it's not my cup of tea (e.g. adult high fantasy, really angsty teen lit, and so on)
In regard to #3, a lot of the reasons I am being more selective than I was a few years ago is that my client list is starting to fill out and I just don't have as much time to work on revising as I used to.  I still love being involved in helping shape my clients' manuscripts and consider myself a hands-on agent, but, for instance, I used to send line edits each and every time I read a draft of something, whereas now I usually send detailed editorial letters with suggestions and examples.  I also have wonderful interns who help me out!

Regardless, I know it's a bummer to told you have something worthy but still get a pass, which is why I wanted to write this post.  If this is something that has happened to you, you should know that you have the start of something with potential that you can work on and bring to the next level--either by pushing forward and continuing the submission process until you find the right agent, or looking critically at your manuscript (hopefully with helpful agenting feedback) and figure out what you need to do get your book over the edge into "super special" territory.

I almost always am willing to re-read projects like this or to look at other projects by the author once I have a memo in my brain that they are solid writers, so when you get feedback like that from me, don't write me off your list!  

Have you ever gotten a rejection from an agent that said your story was great but...?  Were their comments helpful?  What kind of feedback do you want to receive when you have a good project that just isn't getting an offer?

And Happy MLK Day, everyone!


  1. Until you, I never received more than polite form rejections from agents, even those who had read full manuscripts.

    Kind of feedback: hmm, that's a tough one. I think the editorial style letter is fine, but I also like to be given an example, if possible, of a problem area.

  2. Every job that has someone having to reject a person or a project is tough. All the best Carrie.

  3. I appreciate any feedback I can get. Sometimes it's something I think I can fix, sometimes not. Either way it's good information to have when working on revisions or when working on a new project.

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  5. Thanks so much for this post. I am very encouraged by the beautiful and personalised rejection letters. I know how busy agents are so when they take the time to request, read and then reach out with such positivity and compliments I so appreciate it. I am an own voices writer and sometimes it's hard when you ache with the story you have to tell and you know you must be so close. I wish you a wonderful 2017! All the best finding those beautiful books that you are in love with :)

  6. For me, all I want is that standard form rejection. Sometimes you think, gee I found an agent I adore, so you send them a query and put your heart into it, personalizing it just for them, then "poof" nothing, so you do a follow up and yet nothing. Please, if it is a pass then send my a standard form rejection so I know. Nothing else is required.