Pub Rants

Although Your Work Sounds Intriguing…

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STATUS: This Monday was crazy but productive. We had to play catch up from the power outage on Friday. I did call and offer representation to an author for her really awesome YA project. She has a couple of other agent’s interested so now I have to wait and see if she chooses me. Choose me!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? BAD, BAD LEROY BROWN by Jim Croce

For those of you who love agent blogs, I’ve stumbled on a couple of more that might be worth a read.

The Rejecter is an anonymous blog from an assistant at an agency. Definitely somebody with a perspective from the query trenches.

The other is from, in their own words, “the opinionated folks” at the Dystel & Goderich Agency.

Might be worth checking out.

Now on to my rant. Agents take a lot of drubbing for their standard query rejection letters. We have to say something and as y’all know, I prefer to be polite.

So what does it mean when I say, in my form query rejection letter, “although your work sounds intriguing…”

In means exactly that. It very well might be intriguing but it’s not right for me. Queries fall into five basic categories:

1. The obvious NOs because the query is for genres we don’t represent or something similar.
2. The other obvious NOs for well-done queries for projects we don’t represent.
3. The NOs for queries for projects we do represent but the query itself is poorly written
4. the NOs for well-done queries for projects that could fit for my agency, are intriguing, but I would never pick up that book in a bookstore so it’s not right for me. I can totally see another agent digging it.

For the most part, it’s for the Queries of number 4 that we include the standard phrase of “although your work sounds intriguing…” because this biz is so subjective. It really might sound intriguing for another agent who will then ask for sample pages, maybe a full, and then go on to rep this writer. Commenters on this blog alone have mentioned being rejected by me in the query phase but have then landed representation elsewhere.

It means their work was intriguing—but just not to me.

5. Well-done queries that knock our socks off so we ask for sample pages. These folks get the “request for pages” email letter.
To sum up? One agent’s “so intriguing I must see sample pages” is another agent’s “ho-hum and not right for me.”

So don’t get in a stew about the wording. It’s a NO. Tweak if you need to (especially if all your responses are NOs—that could signal the query letter/pitch hook being at fault) and then move on. Your agent might be around the next email query corner.

21 Responses

  1. lindazbraden said:

    I agree with sallymannder. Thanks for the clarification. And, thanks again for the prompt query response time. I’d rather receive a slew of “no’s” (and then rework my submission) versus nothing …

  2. JimFreedan said:

    One of my favorite authors said she liked my query, so I guess I can assume the reason my query is rejected is because of reason #4?

    I’m not exactly in a stew, but it is incredibly depressing to repeatedly hear “Your idea sounds interesting/cute but it’s not right for me.” along with your choice of variation of the words “Try another agency”.

    I’m starting to feel it’s “not right” for any agent.

  3. Anonymous said:

    As a writer who recently was asked to send sample pages to you, but ultimately was told the proverbial ‘no’, I want to make sure you know how much I appreciate your blog. I previously had no idea about 3/4 of the stuff you write about here, but my eyes have been opened! Keep on blogging, because it definitely makes a difference! (not to mention that your sense of humor is quite refreshing!)

  4. Sallymannder said:

    Another thought….
    Since I was asked to send pages, and the pages were rejected, does that mean that the query was really good, but the ms writing was a disappointment and didn’t live up to the promise of the query? I know you don’t answer questions, Kristin (go to Miss Snark for that). I’m just still mulling things in my mind, trying to learn and improve what needs improving.

  5. Kimber An said:

    sally, you might find the answers in the archives which you can access on the blog’s front page on the right side. I did when the same thing happened to me and found the whole experience very educating! Kristin’s rejection of my partial was one of the best things to ever happen to me as a writer on the road to publication. Learn and grow and keep moving forward.(wink)

  6. Marie said:

    I wonder… does it mean there are different versions of the dreaded form rejection letter?

    It sounds like mostly #4 get “sounds intriguing” whereas the others get…. what? Not that particular phrase?

  7. Sallymannder said:

    Aha, you’re right, Kimber. I have spent many an evening reading the archives, but never had that “lightbulb moment” of enlightenment. I think I understand what the problem is now and will get to work on correcting it. Thanks.

  8. Anonymous said:

    I started as a short period memoir and then went to hen lit then went to intriguing but not for us. Gosh, I’m a #4 but really researched and thought I’d found my “agent”, one with humor, one who was hip… but maybe next time. Appreciate the feedback.

  9. Jill James said:

    Thank you Kristin for such an informative explanation. At least I can now believe “sounds intriguing” is a step in the right direction for me. Thank you!

  10. Anonymous said:

    I just started the query process and am galvanized against rejection.

    I can handle the standard, well-worded rejection in light of brevity.

    What is unacceptable is one response I received, printed on the back of someone’s submission page…with their name and title in header!

    Not only was it insulting, but unprofessional. I wouldn’t accept this kind of correspondence from my septic tank cleaning company.

    Sadly, it came from an agent you probably know (not yourself, of course).

    P.S.: I know this agency probably only intended to recycle, but I think tossing the submissions in the recycle basket and having the recycling company do the dirty work is best. Really.

  11. Ryan Field said:

    Didn’t know Dystel & Goderich Agency had a blog page. They are an excellent agency and good people. Thanks.

  12. RyanBruner said:

    I’ve wondered about something to address both the agent’s lack of time and the author’s desire for a useful rejection.

    It seems that if the agent had a form letter that had a pre-printed list of reasons for rejection, that the agent could, when rejecting, just check off the reason. While it doesn’t seem like this would take much time, it would allow the writer toi know if it really was because the writing needs work, the idea is unoriginal, or that it just didn’t connect, etc.

    Is there any reason why this couldn’t happen?

  13. Anonymous said:

    Ryan, from what I’ve read in this blog and others, even to give that level of feedback (multiple choice) on every query they receive would take a lot of time–time that the agent would rather spend on clients they have taken on. You can very quickly sense that something doesn’t work for you. Deciding exactly why might take a minute or two more. And when you get a lot of queries, those minutes would add up pretty fast.

    Giving any sort of feedback also makes it more likely that an author will try to open an unwanted dialogue with the agent (disagreeing with the reason for rejection, e.g., “but the idea is original, look at blah blah blah”).

  14. Chumplet said:

    Harry, I immediately hit my writing inbox and found that both of my rejections contained the coveted “sounded intriguing” (giggle).

    Really, Kristin? Do you REALLY have four different rejections? If it’s true (yup, I trust you) then I’m feelin’ pretty good today, since the most recent ‘intriguing’ rejection was last May, and I think my writing kinda sucked back then…

    Don’t worry, I won’t email you and ask specifically why it was intriguing.

  15. Anonymous said:

    So, lemme get this straight–when you write “your work sounds intriguing”, it’s a lie?

  16. Scott said:

    Wow, since only the ‘knock your socks off queries’ got requests for sample pages, I feel honored to have gotten such a request!