Pub Rants

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(Just a note, this article is from our archives. Some references and links may not correspond with recent events.)

Since the start of 2015, I’ve read 30 submitted sample pages and I have another 20 or so to go. I’ve been pretty impressed so far and have asked for 7 full manuscripts. That might be a record for me in such a short time period.

But it also means that I’ve passed on a lot of submissions as well. And they’ve been good so why did I pass? I popped into our electronic submissions database and looked at some of my responses.

Here are some snippets in case you find them illuminating:

“There are a lot of POV shifts and I’m also worried that it’s too quiet.”

“Great concept for the story. Writing too uneven.”

“Nicely written. Quirky characters. Not a story I would pick up and read on my own so just not right for me.”

“Nice writing. Just missing that spark for me.”

“Perfectly fine story but average writing.”

“The writing feels like it’s trying too hard to be literary.”

“Writer nails the voice but there isn’t much driving the plot forward.”

7 Responses

  1. Amy said:

    Kristin, have you ever found that your mood while reading submissions determines whether something reads well or poorly? One of my personal hesitations is that what I consider heartfelt and authentic writing will be perceived as forced or ‘trying too hard’ dependant on what kind of head space an agent is in while reading. Is it merely another piece of the magic that happens when you are in the right mood for the right thing and it just happens to be in your hands? Or can something win you over when you are in a completely opposite mood? Forgive my ignorance for the process, I am sure there are many factors in play when you are making decisions. I am just curious.

  2. Laura McComas said:

    I found this blog entry rather fascinating. One of the comments you posted of your own notes said something about the story wouldn’t be one you would read for yourself so you passed on publishing it. My question is simple…what if the book could have been something that someone else would read and you passed on it because it was not something you yourself would read. The way you worded that just made me think that we as aspiring authors are wasting your time as well as our time submitting books to publishers because it is a game of Russian Roulette when our submission goes to someone who personally wouldn’t buy the book even though the writting was good. I just think that is sort of rotten is all.

    1. Elissa said:


      Kristin is an agent, not a publisher. I’m guessing she passes on submissions that don’t interest her because she has to be highly enthusiastic about the work in order to represent it.

      Finding the right agent is sort of hit and miss because it really does come down to personal preference. But I don’t think writers are ever wasting anyone’s time to query widely. It’s the only way you’re going to find the right match.

  3. Heidi Kneale (Her Grace) said:

    I love hearing why agents pass on mss, even if one of them is mine (today, it’s not).

    This feedback is valuable, because it helps authors to know if a rejection was because there was something technically wrong with the work (like grammar issues, slow pacing, etc) or if it’s simply a matter of taste.

    1. Rosemary said:

      I agree – any and all feedback is valuable. I’m 95% sure one of these was mine, but I’ve gotten to a place where I appreciate feedback of any sort, even if it comes in the form of a rejection. It’s a starting point for improvement, and past rejections have absolutely made my mss better.