Pub Rants

If You Have a Few Moments…

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STATUS: If I were paranoid, I might think the world was conspiring against me to keep me from working. Network down for two days. Sara and I just get into a groove this morning and the power for the entire building went out at 11 a.m. It didn’t come back on until 7 hours later. I guess it just wasn’t my destiny to get a lot accomplished this week.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SEXUAL HEALING by Soul Asylum (and yes I know it’s a remake but I kind of like this bouncy version)

I hate it but I can still feel guilty when a writer responds to a query letter rejection with a lovely and polite request for more info about what might be wrong with the query since we are declining to ask for sample pages.

The requests usually begin with “If you have a few moments…”

And I have to say that the requester has actually hit the nail on the head. We never have a spare few moments.

Of course y’all are thinking but you have a few moments to write this blog? Why not give this nice lady a little bit of feedback on her query letter that could make the difference between her query getting an agent’s attention or not?

Well, the truth is, it often only takes me a few moments a day to write up an entry. Average time is 15 minutes. Sometimes it takes longer if I’m having some fun with it.

If we responded to all those lovely requests with a query critique, it would take a helluva lot longer than 15 minutes. The amount of queries receive often make responding in general a heroic feat for us (and I never want to be an agency that states that we’ll only respond to email queries that capture our attention since that would drive me crazy if I were a writer and never received a response). We simply haven’t the time to give feedback.

And here’s where my guilt comes in—it’s the Midwesterner in me. When those lovely requests come in, they just get deleted and the poor requester never receives a response from us. I hate that but we can’t take the time to respond to that either.

So, I guess I’m just apologizing en masse if you have sent a request like that to us and never received a response.

I’m just darn happy that we respond to all our email queries in 5 to 10 days usually (when we aren’t having network issues and power outages that is!).

25 Responses

  1. Kimber An said:

    Hmm, what a writer like that really needs is a good writers’ group, on-line or in real life. Why not add a sentence to your form rejection letter suggesting that?

  2. lindazbraden said:

    Today — yes, today — I received my first-ever rejection letter on my first-ever query on my first-ever novel from none other than the Nelson Agency.

    I’m not bitter. I knew it was a long shot. My YA concept featured a teenage male protagonist. The Agency’s arsenal of authors are much more romance/chick lit for both adults and the YA market.

    Regardless, I desired Ms. Nelson’s representation because I liked her marketing-focused business model (and was impressed with the excellent, succint, persuasive copy on the website); helpful blog and; “nice” Midwestern agent persona.

    I appreciated that the email rejection recognized upfront that it was a form letter and acknowledged it was necessary based on volume (the rejection is now posted on my fridge to keep me motivated — and/or to remind me that when I hit 100 to circular file the ms, per Miss Snark).

    Yet, my husband and I chuckled at the “although your work sounds intriguing” sentence … for a form letter, perhaps too much. Every other 100 or so who’ve queried within the past 10 days have received the same prompt.

    It’s nice to build hope and keep us motivated, but it might be better to just jump to the “we read all queries and sorry we can’t represent you” and the “keep trying …” messages.

    No hard feelings. My husband calls my first rejection my “badge of honor.” I can look at it each morning as I pour milk for my children’s cereal or my cup of tea.

    Still love the blog and will continue to visit.

    I also appreciate just getting a response at all.


    (Word Verif. translation — too funny — is “fokdte.” Definitely not a commentary on Ms. Nelson and her agency. Hopefully — fingers crossed and knock wood — not a commentary on my publishing prospects!)

  3. Anonymous said:

    I’d rather get the form rejection than nothing at all. The “we won’t respond if we don’t want it” cop out makes me nuts! How hard is it for an agent to hit the reply button on my email and type “No”? Sheesh!

  4. S William said:

    I agree about the “work sounds intriguing” bit. I was rejected by Nelson a while back, and that line made me want to email you a raspberry. I hope you take that comment with love, because it isn’t a jab of hatred.

    That line is like receiving Tabasco covered cake.

  5. Bernita said:

    One thing to remember: it’s still a subjective business.
    Any agent’s rejection is based on their opinion ( though that is indeed a professional one) plus a manuscript’s fit for the agent’s particular niche, and a few other factors.

    Agent Kristin, you help us all by your blog.

  6. Anonymous said:

    lindazbraden, your post reminded me of my own query experience. I also received my first-ever rejection from Kristin. Another book and another year later, she became my agent.

    Keep querying because the business is subjective. Keep writing so you have the next thing to pitch. And as you’ve done, keep a professional perspective about rejection because it’s still a business despite that initial, and very personal, sting. You never know how it’ll work out. Good luck on your search.


  7. The Unpretentious Writer said:

    Don’t worry about it. As I’ve said before on your blog, you were the first agent to get back to me and so quickly, that I think I’m spoiled now.

    A good writer usually knows why they were rejected, they just don’t want to admit it, and a critique group can be helpful.

    I think I know why I got the rejection from y’all…but you’re not off the hook yet ^_^, I have you in mind when I query for another project in the pipes…one that I think is more in line with the kind of books you represent.

  8. 2readornot said:

    In a perfect world, we’d all love responses to our queries (personal responses, I mean) — but having received one of those (and only one), I realized immediately how long it probably took the agent to do that…I was touched, and from then on, just hearing anything, form or not, is enough for me.

    That one response showed me that 1) my writing had promise and good parts to it; and 2) it simply wasn’t what that agency took on. I don’t know why it’s hard to believe that when you see a form, but it was for me. But once I got that personal reaction, now I can believe it from everyone! (So thank you, Rachel Vater) — and I no longer worry about forms from Nelson Agency or anywhere else.

  9. Cindy Procter-King said:

    I don’t like the “we’ll respond if we’re interested” approach, because queries can and do get lost in cyber-space. At least, with a form response, you know it was read.

    Linda Braden, published authors get rejected by agents, too! First, the query must capture the agent’s attention. If it doesn’t, for a good agent, anyway, it wouldn’t matter who the writer was (well, it would be kind of hard to turn down Stephen King or Nora Roberts…). Then, if pages are requested, if the agent doesn’t connect with the writer’s voice or genre, the writer will go no further. No request for a full. No offer of representation. Even happens to multi-published authors. And you know what? Believe me, that’s how you want it. The last thing you want is an agent who isn’t totally committed to you as a writer.


  10. ORION said:

    I just have to respond to this.
    Many months ago I sent two different queries to Kristin for two projects. On one she asked for a partial then rejected and the other she rejected without asking for a partial. As it happens just three months after that I got several requests for fulls, offers from more than one agency and signed with my dream agent who I am thrilled with.
    It can happen.
    One agent rejects you and another loves your work. You just have to keep submitting. Even though I have representation now, I read Kristin’s blog for her good sense and insight into the process of publishing that I am just in the process of experiencing.
    By the way Kristin – I can totally sympathize with the power/internet situation I have been having trouble since last Sunday – of course that was because of the earthquake we had here in Hawaii…

  11. katiesandwich said:

    Much as I can understand the temptation to ask for feedback after a rejection, I think every author who’s serious about getting published has heard at _least_ once not to do this. So when the inevitable comes, I hope I’m strong enough to overcome that desire!

  12. Yahzi said:

    I had an agent hand-write a note on a form-letter rejection telling me to keep him in mind for other works – without any explanation of what was wrong with the current submission.

    This is the only time I’ve been tempted to ask “why.”

    But I didn’t.

  13. eleora said:

    Kristin– do NOT feel bad for ignoring requests for info on rejected queries. That is not your responsibility–it is their’s and shame on them for asking you when there are so many resources online now…

  14. ORION said:

    There are some good comments on Miss Snark’s blog about this today. This idea of feedback is not as simple as an agent not having time and being overwhelmed (which is in itself a huge and valid reason for not responding).
    It is that agent’s opinion. Nothing more.
    The other comments that touch on using writers’ groups,conferences, classes are right on.
    Think about this.
    There were several times when I was told by agents the premise of my novel was overused. I thought it was a fresh take on the topic and persevered. The agent who signed me agreed. The editors who heard the premise also agreed. ALL 30 of my beta readers agreed.
    If I had changed in response to each rejecting agent’s opinion I would be spinning my wheels.
    Sometimes you have to know deep down inside what the truth is.
    And that is the hardest thing.

  15. Anonymous said:

    what a fabulous heart you have, Kristin, to even worry about writers you may never meet or speak with…the writers you represent are lucky.

  16. The Home Office said:

    Why not just create an auto-text entry in Word that explains hwy you don’t have time for individual comments on each rejection? Just hit reply, whatever key you assigned the auto text to, F3, Send, and the Midwesterner in you is satisfied.

  17. Anonymous said:


    I think the agent who passed on your submission but invited you to send something else is telling you he/she loves your writing style but not the story. Don’t sweat it. Really. (I had an editor make a similar comment: I like the writing, but I don’t like the storyline or the main character.)

  18. Anonymous said:

    It seems to me that there is an easy fix to this that shouldn’t take more than a few seconds to administer. I’m sure that most reasons for rejection can be summed up in a series of one line sentences. As a writer trying to attract an agent I can say it is a frustrating experience.

    Why not formulate a series of reasons for rejection, i.e. We don’t handle this genre, Your query lacks a good hook, etc. If its feedback on a partial, there could be some stock sentences that explain deficiencies in their writing.

    These could be cut and pasted into the form rejection or, even a simple check in a box by the real reason. There are several ways to do this without taking much time at all. Agents should be creative enough to figure it out. I’m not slamming Kristen at all, but in a previous blog she seemed put off receiving a mass mail by Scriptblaster and pleaded for the writer to attempt to make it personal. Well, here’s an opportunity to try to reciprocate.

    As a writer in the Midwest, I have gotten the most out of feedback I received from a few very nice agents and even a small publisher that took the time to write a few sentences. I have searched for a good writers group and not come up much, except groups of other novices.

  19. Anonymous said:

    I agree with comments by eleora, do not feel guilty for not replying to writers who pester you post-rejection. I was rejected by you this summer, and I took the burden upon myself to tighten up my book.

    I will, however, say that I find it very useful when you, Kristin, make specific comments on your blog about what you’re seeing too much of lately, what you and editors are looking for, and what you think is reaching endangered status as a fiction species.

  20. Sallymannder said:

    After reading Miss Snark, and the response comments sent to her, I was prompted to reqest a “reason” from Kristin, not a “critique.” I belong to several writing groups, including a critique group, and felt that both my query letter and manuscript were fine tuned. So, I wrote to Kristin and requested a reason for my partial being rejected. After reading these comments on Kristin’s blog, perhaps I wasn’t being fair. It would just help to know if my writing wasn’t strong enough, the genre isn’t suitable (though she lists this genre), or the story line wasn’t captivating. Then I would know where to start my work.
    It doesn’t pay to have your heart set on one agent or agency. Still wondering.

  21. sallymannder said:

    I’m responding the the comment on finding a writing group. I joined several groups, all of which were unpublished “novices.” We have been together for three years now and all of us have either completed a manuscript or are just about to. The genres are fantasy, historical romance,memoir,ya,children’s stories, and mystery. The genre doesn’t matter. We have all gained substantially from the critiquing of each other’s work. You start out being defensive, and quickly learn to be grateful and receptive. I went to a large writer’s group in my town, stood up and announced that I was looking for a critique group and a writer’s support group. By the end of the meeting, I had both. That was three years ago. Several in my groups are now published.

  22. Jana DeLeon said:

    There are so many reasons an agent might reject representing a work, and the writer’s talent may not have anything to do with it. If they don’t feel passionate enough about the work (or their perception of future works) if it’s a genre they don’t feel they have strong enough connections to represent, etc. The agents I’ve talked to who’ve tried personalized responses have said that usually it only led to more questions.

    And the “check a box” idea (anon) I believe was tried by Harlequin/S quite a few years ago and created such a rash of email/phone calls that they had to stop. They actually got less hassle from saying nothing.

    The reality is, not everyone acts or thinks professionally and the few ruin things for the rest.

    As for the agent taking the time to personal because they like the writer to personalize the query – well, the agent isn’t the one looking for representation. If the agent was soliciting me, I would fully expect them to customize their letter.

    I’ve never expected a personalized response (although I’ve gotten some) and I never failed to send a thank you when received.

  23. bebe said:

    Of course y’all are thinking but you have a few moments to write this blog? Why not give this nice lady a little bit of feedback on her query letter that could make the difference between her query getting an agent’s attention or not?

    I’d like to say that if anyone is reading this and thinking “yeah, you do have time to blog! You should have time to write individual rejections, too!” I have to ask, why are you reading this blog right now and not mowing your lawn, cleaning your house, running an errand, filing something, or–gasp–writing? Hint: writing a blog, and writing rejection letters. One is fun, one is work. Guess which is which. (Answers may vary if you happen to work for Gawker Media).

    Some people do give up their hobbies or leisure time to spend a little more time doing work. But you don’t have to if you don’t want to. Even if you work in publishing.