Pub Rants

Rejection Letter Revised!

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STATUS: Today I spent lots of time on the phone. I can’t quite believe it’s 3 in the afternoon and I still have quite the TO DO list. I think it’s going to be a late one in the office.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? MESSAGE OF LOVE by The Pretenders

Y’all convinced me; it’s time for a standard rejection letter revise. A quick thank you to all who commented and contributed. I found the reasons why a change should be made quite helpful.

I’m ditching the “sounds intriguing part” and revamping the last paragraph about finding the right match.

Here’s the new and (hopefully) improved letter.

March 15, 2007

Dear Author:

Thank you so much for sending the Nelson Literary Agency your query.

We’d like to apologize in advance for the impersonal nature of this standard rejection letter. Rest assured that we do read every query letter carefully and, unfortunately, this project is not right for us.

Because this business is so subjective and opinions vary widely, we recommend that you pursue other agents. After all, it just takes one “yes” to find the right match.

Good luck with all your publishing endeavors.

Kristin Nelson
Sara Megibow

My comments:

1. I decided to keep the apology because I am truly sorry that we have to send an impersonal standard letter, and it makes me feel better to have that line included.

2. In the beginning, we actually did “personalize” our standard letter by including the author’s name and title of the project, but the time saved by no longer doing do so is huge; I regret it but we really can’t go back. Sorry! I hear you on how much nicer it is and although query letters are important, they aren’t our first priority.

3. As you noticed, I changed to “project” rather than “we aren’t the right agency for you.” It was a great point you folks made that maybe I’m not interested in this project but the next one could win me over. It’s important to leave the door open.

4. I totally changed the last paragraph and now that I’ve done so, I like this version a lot better.

Other Random Thoughts:

1. When we request and read a full manuscript, we do actually write a completely personalized letter explaining why we are passing. We also semi-personalize our sample pages rejection by including the author’s name and title of the project. I will often write a personal note as well.

2. We don’t have multiple rejection letters. Too time-consuming yet again. Besides, the general consensus from writers is that they appreciate a prompt response and it’s what we have to do to respond quickly. I’m in awe of other agencies that can quickly fire off personalized letters. We’ve tried it and it just doesn’t work for us.

3. And finally, just an interesting tidbit. Sara and I use the same rejection letter when responding so actually there really isn’t a way for anyone to tell if Sara passed on the letter during the first read or if it went to me and I sent the rejection letter.

41 Responses

  1. Anonymous said:

    There is one more point that was touched on yesterday that still hasn’t been addressed. If you pass on a MS that isn’t right for you are you still interested in looking at future projects from the same author? Of course providing it falls within your submission guidelines. Other that that I think the letter is fine.


  2. Anonymous said:

    Not bad. Short and to the point. Polite. Leaves the door open. Not bad at all. 🙂

    To Kim: more like one brand of decaf and another, if you ask me. 😉

  3. Anonymous said:

    I just wanted to add to my first comment. I read the letter and I was still not sure if you were still interested in other projects. Then I posted my comment and then read Kristin’s comments and realized that she did in fact cover the point of looking at new projects. To me it was a little unclear. Maybe spelling it out would get the point across to all.
    Something like “we look forward to viewing your future projects.” That way there is no “grey” area.


  4. krw3b said:


    Personally, I think it’s MUCH improved. It’s kind, but firm; Succinct and encouraging. And it has a really “human” tone. Personal, even. Ha!

    Nice job.

    Don’t critiques rock?


  5. Cindy Procter-King said:

    Paul, I like the way Kristin phrases the project thing in this revised letter. Saying “we look forward to reviewing your next project” makes the letter ambiguous again, because she wouldn’t necessarily LOOK FORWARD to seeing future projects from everyone who queries her. Stating simply that the project in question is not the right one is the way to go, imo.


  6. spyscribbler said:

    It sounds great! Do we writers really bug you that much about a standard rejection letter? Or do a few of us give us a bad rap? 🙂 Maybe revisit this bit:

    “Rest assured that we do read every query letter carefully and unfortunately,
    this project is not right for us.”

    It kinda makes you sound like you read every query letter carefully and unfortunately. 🙂 Although, it did make me giggle, so …

  7. The Grump said:

    Like the revision . It is much more business-like. We are in the writing business after all.

    Now, when do I get my own personal copy?

  8. Anonymous said:

    I had to laugh at “carefully and unfortunately”, too. Semicolon here? Sentence break?

  9. the writing writer said:

    Kudos to you, Kristin, for having the humility to seek advice on your rejection letter. Methinks this must be a first in the world o’ books. 🙂

    Your new letter is much improved.

    I still think “Dear Author” stinks, but since I won’t be querying you again, it hardly matters, as I won’t have to look at it. 😉


    “Rest assured that we do read every query letter carefully and unfortunately,
    this project is not right for us.”

    The problem in the above sentence is simply a missing comma:

    “Rest assured that we do read every query letter carefully and, unfortunately,
    this project is not right for us.”

  10. Sean Cummings said:


    You’re the nicest agent who ever rejected me. Thank God you didn’t ask for a detailed synopsis of Marshall Jamrozik because another agent asked for one and I’m quite prepared to stick a fork in my because it’s harder to write than my book.

  11. Anonymous said:

    I would go the semi-colon route:

    “Rest assured that we do read every query letter carefully; unfortunately, this project is not right for us.”

    or if you want the comma, it should come after “carefully:”

    “Rest assured that we do read every query letter carefully, but unfortunately, this project is not right for us.”

  12. the writing writer said:

    You’re welcome. 🙂 I adore Lynn Truss’s “Eats, Shoots, and Leaves.”

  13. Christopher M. Park said:

    If I may add my own two cents: I also like this version much better than the old one. It’s kindly phrased and mildly apologetic without being misleading or shutting the door to submission of new projects. I think this neatly accomplishes everything you are looking for it to.


  14. Saipan Writer said:

    I’m just surprised you got 66 comments on your original letter. I’ve taken to heart the advice from Miss Snark that “no” means “no,” no matter how it’s worded.

    Unless you get that kind of rejection sometimes reported by Dr. Missy over at the Children’s Writer’s list–you know, the kind where scrawled in big red letters is “never contact me again or I’ll report you to the FBI.” But scrolling through the rejection suggestions, sounds like Dave Kuzminski might be behind those.

    It’s nice that you think a carefully worded form rejection letter makes a difference.

  15. ello said:

    I could not get over the hullaballoo over your rejection letter. I had planned on leaving you a comment two days ago urging you not to post your rejection letter but my life intervened and the next thing I’m reading is 66 comments dissecting every word of your letter. I’m sure I’ll get blasted for this, but I thought alot of the comments were condescending even when they were making good points. As nice as Kristin Nelson is, I’m sure some of those comments had to annoy even her excessively. I know they irked me and made me all indignant on her behalf. 66 people did what Miss. SNark and every agent out there says not to do, which is to overanalyze the meaning behind a rejection letter because no means no so get over it. And I realize Ms. Nelson invited comment, but I don’t think she expected a vivisection and psychoanalysis of every aspect of her letter. Sheesh!

    I liked your first letter, I like your second letter. It doesn’t matter what you write, as long as it is professional and courteous, which you clearly always are. And no matter how perfectly nice your letter is, someone always will get upset about it. When the market tanked in my profession back in 1991, offers were rescinded and rejection letters were sent out by the 100s. When times started getting really down, my friends and I held a rejection letter wallpapering party to see how many rejection letters we could cover all the walls of our house with. We had alot of people come over with stacks of rejections and we papered our walls with thousands of the suckers. They were all polite, some more so than others. But they all said no, and that sucks no matter what. Even after a 100 rejections, they still hurt, until finally you get the one yes that brings your confidence soaring back up again.

    It’s not the words of the rejections letters that I remember, all I remember is the no. I can’t tell you how the nice rejections were worded or whether they left the door open for me to apply again or closed it on me. I can’t remember any of that, but I can remember every f**king word of my first offer letter. And that’s all that counts.

  16. Anonymous said:

    Sorry, this is dumb.
    It’s your agency, your rejection letter. Allowing potential recipients to vote on how they want their asses kicked out the door is sadistic.
    First ridiculous thing I’ve seen you do.

  17. Anonymous said:

    I don’t think it’s ridiculous.
    I think it’s nice that Kristin cares.

    I fail to see how protential clients are getting “their asses kicked out the door.”

    A rejection letter is not personal. What is being rejected is the project–more accurately, the way the writer presented her project. Even when a writer is careful about how she presents her project, it still doesn’t mean everyone will love it!

    Even though the peach ice cream has nice packaging, the store still can’t sell me peach. I won’t buy it. I can’t imagine that an agent who doesn’t handle sports, for example, would suddenly faint in delight at receiving a proposal for the history of Babe Ruth.

    In the same vein, just because an agent doesn’t like project x doesn’t mean that agent won’t like your next project. It’s the PROJECT that is being rejected. So, with these points in mind, EVERY writer who queries her at any time is a potential client of Kristin. It only makes sense for her to be polite and accurate in her correspondence.

  18. Gina said:

    Regarding the “Dear Author” salutation: Is a salutation absolutely necessary? Kristin’s rejection letter goes out via e-mail (she is on 100% email for submission & reply now, right??). Anyone have an opinion on deleting the salutation altogther? Is no salutation at all better than “Dear Author”?

  19. Anonymous said:

    So many comments about a rejection letter. And I understand it all completely because I would have been the same way when I first started querying and trying to get published. But writers have to understand that the entire query process is and always has been (yes, even before computers)a shot in the dark at best. And that’s why writers need to focus on getting publishing credits and building lists of published works that don’t always include full length novels.

    And then once you do that, and see that other people actually like what you’ve written, the rejections from agents won’t bother you as much and you won’t care what words they use because no means no…in their opinion.

  20. Anonymous said:

    When I got a rejection letter, I would always throw it out after scanned the part to make sure it wasn’t a request for more material, so to me, it doesn’t really matter what it says! But it’s lovely, really, that you’re considerate enough to ask our opinion.

    I kept reading the part where it says, “it only takes one yes to find the right match.” That makes it seem like that because an agent says yes, they’re the right agent for you. Not true. Many of us can attest to bad agent relationships, and wish we didn’t hop on board with the first agent that said “yes”.

  21. Patrick McNamara said:


    The problem isn’t with the person who has recieved 100 rejections, it’s with the person who has revieved only one or two. An agent does get their business from writers, and one must be careful as to how one handles their customers.


    One little suggestion I would make would be to add your website to the bottom so that the savvy writer could go to it and get more information about what you represent. It could help cut down on inappropriate submissions.

  22. S. said:

    Bravo, definitely no misleading spots, short and gets swiftly to the point. Big improvement over the first.

  23. Scott said:

    >Something like “we look forward to
    >viewing your future projects.”

    I don’t agree with this. I think the current wording about “this project is not right for us” implies what you’re trying to say here without sounding like the kind of encouraging request for more projects you get when somebody is excited about what you wrote, but just can’t use this particular work.

  24. Anonymous said:

    This is very nice.

    Promptness beats personalization when it comes to a rejection. And I disagree with people who like to see their names on their rejection letters. Seeing “Dear Author” would be somehow less heartbreaking, I think.

    – CLD

  25. KingM said:

    I like this version better. Not that I’m ever happy to receive such, but this comes across as both professional and sincere.

  26. The Bims said:

    This looks great. My only comment (if you’re still reading them!) is to remove the phrase “in advance.” You’re not really aplogizing in advance for the impersonal letter, you’re apologizing right then and there in the letter.

    Nice job on the letter, though!

    The Bims

  27. Anonymous said:

    All I want out of a rejection letter for a query is, “Pass.”

    I don’t care if it’s not personalized, and while I appreciate your kindness, I don’t take offense when agents don’t include my name.

    When I query, I’m asking an agent, “Do you think we can make a sale on this?” I’m not asking for feedback on my writing. I’m not asking for validation.

    If I think you might be interested in something else, I’ll send it to you whether you say to or not.

    So, really, “pass” is fine. Sometimes, more is less.

  28. Manic Mom said:

    I realize I’m late on this. Wonder if it would make rejectees less sad/miffed/scorned/bummed/whatever if you and Sara just initialed the letter at the end in ink by your names? I don’t know, but that to me would make a rejection letter a little more personal, to know that it was read by you (and both signed it), and that you put the pen to the paper. Is that a strange request? (Not that it matters to me personally, because Kristin rejected me a couple of years ago, and I do have an agent now, but I think that would make a form rejection a little softer, don’t you?)

  29. Manic Mom said:

    Uh, guess my suggestion on initialling the letter to personalize it a bit doesn’t make much sense if they’re going out via email.

    Duh. Me.

    And I love that anon comment about the Peach ice cream. I wouldn’t buy it either.

    I also think the anon who said they want just PASS sent to them is a rare one. I don’t think most writers would like that, even if it is quick and to the point.

  30. Sariah S. Wilson said:

    Kristin, I think it’s wonderful that you were willing to do this and it says a lot about you as an agent and as a person.

    I might receive many of the newly perfected rejection letters from you in the future, but you’re one agent that I know I’ll want to keep submitting to because you’re exactly the kind of person I’d love to have on my side. 🙂

  31. Anonymous said:

    “Apologize in advance” (along with its counterpart “thank in advance”) is bad writing.

    The apology is happening in the now, so the ‘in advance’ is meaningless padding for pretentiousness sake, a la John Dean who coined ‘at this point in time’.

  32. Sylvia said:

    I like this a lot better in it’s new form. I agree with the person who pointed out that “Dear Author” meant you knew immediately it was a form letter.

    I’d take out “in advance” as well but I do think the letter is much better now.

  33. Anonymous said:

    I didn’t see the earlier version, but this seems good except for the “Thank you so much.” The ‘so’ suggests that you were pleased with something, and then it’s a bit of a shock to find out that’s not correct.

    A ‘very much’ would not raise such expectations, if you feel you need something more than “Thank you for”.