Pub Rants

A Very Nice Literary Agent Indulges in Polite Rants About Queries, Writers, and the Publishing Industry

Sending A Rejection Email Is Sometimes The Worst Thing Ever

Status:

Down to 536 post-vacation emails in the inbox. Since I started at 730, not sure whether to celebrate or cry…

Listening To:

UNDUN by Guess Who

Last week, I just had to share on Facebook and Twitter an article I saw in Publishers Weekly called “Trying To Find A Literary Agent Is the Worst Thing Ever.”

I had a sneaking suspicion that it would ring true for a lot of aspiring writers. With over 7,000 people viewing the post on FB, I guess I was right!

But here is a little tidbit I bet most writers don’t know. Sometimes being a literary agent is the worst thing ever. Agents are in this biz because we love books, admire writers, and want to make dreams come true. Sending out a rejection is none of the above. I really don’t want to be in the business of crushing dreams.

Crushing dreams truly sounds like the worst job ever.

When I sell a debut author, a first-time writer finally realizing his or her dream, that is the biggest high. I’ll be giddy for weeks after because I just helped fulfill someone’s long-held dream. How awesome is that?

In 2015, I had the pleasure of selling two debut authors. Not only that, but each project sold at auction for an amount that could reasonably entice the debut author to quit his or her day job. Writing as your full time job—talk about ultimate wish fulfillment!

But trust me when I say that sometimes being a literary agent is the worst thing ever. The majority of us don’t sit in our office chuckling maniacally with glee at every rejection we send. The truth is that I hate sending rejection letters. And two of my former assistants ultimately moved on to different jobs because they, too, hated having to say no.

Some days it’s truly the worst thing ever. I see many a worthy project that I simply can’t take on. Every new client is a big-time investment because agenting—and agenting well—is a huge commitment.

I don’t expect a lot of sympathy from writers. But do know that I, for one, don’t take pleasure in hitting the send button for a rejection.

Photo Credit: Tilemahos Efthimiadis


7 Responses

  1. Ann Martinez said:

    I want to thank you though, Kristen. You have read some of my work and sent me rejections that managed to motivate me to dig in deeper – to keep writing and sending out queries. I appreciate your feelings about rejecting writers and just want you to know you are not crushing all dreams, but actually encouraging some of is. I’m sure I’m not alone 🙂

  2. Geoffrey Mehl said:

    While the referenced article defines the gauntlet in an amusing way and the process can be exasperating, I never felt animosity toward agents and rejections. In fact, I’d prefer to call a “no-thanks” as filtering rather than rejection. Agents define what they enthusiastically present to publishers, and publishers can produce only only so many books. The competitive nature of the arena defines the level of those who can participate, the threshold of writing skill and story design.

    Rejection implies “go away, you’re not any good” while filtering suggests opportunity: work harder, get better, keep trying, grow your skill, nurture your talent, and continue to dream of the stratosphere. The sheer crush of wannabes at the door does not allow time for a pat on the head, a gold star for trying.

    I’ve been “rejected” so many times that I’ve long lost count. But I’d much rather look at it as not “rejection” but rather challenge. On the eve of yet another gauntlet with yet another Greatest Novel Ever, I have no illusions about the process but am grateful for the opportunity to join the queue.

  3. Karen Rauch Carter said:

    I remember getting rejection letters from literary agents after my book published by Simon and Schuster and was already a national best seller. It made me realize that being rejected by someone is simply just a “not for me” letter…not a “your stuff is not for the world” letter.

  4. Holly said:

    I take rejections as one step closer to a yes. 🙂

    Some no’s are harder to take than others, but they’re a step in my journey. (at least that’s what I tell myself)

  5. Jacey Bedford said:

    Hi, Kristin,
    We spoke about my book project some years ago and ultimately it wasn’t going to work for you, however I was very impressed with your professionalism, level of engagement and response time. Your no-thank-you email was not upsetting in the least. It simply allowed me to move on to the next submission. Yes the book eventually sold to a major publisher, and is out now along with two others, I have a great agent and I’m now on my second book contact (5 books altogether, so far) so there was nothing wrong with the book, it just wasn’t right for you. I appreciate your decision on that. I never take a ‘rejection’ personally – it’s simply a business decision. The point I wanted to make is that getting a rejection from one agent (or many) shouldn’t prevent authors from sending out more submissions. The difference between an unpublished author and a published one is often that the unpublished one gave up too soon.

    But I do sympathise with Andrew Branham; agents who don’t respond with even a form rejection just leave authors hanging, wondering how long to wait before assuming it’s a NO. I got my book deal and my agent in 2013. In 2015, after my first book had been published, I got a rejection from a (well known) agent to a submission I’d sent almost two years earlier. While I appreciate that she did eventually respond… TWO YEARS!

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