E G Logan

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This came this morning.

I suspect it may be a form reply from the agency concerned (names suppressed to spare blushes. mine too), but somehow it hit the absolute opposite of the sweet spot.

Dear Deluded Person,

Thank you for the opportunity to consider WHY EVEN BOTHER?.

The publishing industry is an extremely competitive one, and in order to represent an author effectively, I have to feel completely convinced by their work.

I’m afraid your book didn’t capture my imagination to quite that degree.

Publishing is obviously a very subjective business, and I wish you the best of luck in finding representation elsewhere.

Yours,

Agent's assistant,
Agent's Name,
Medium Sized Agency.

I would have been happier with the basic "but it wasn't right for us/me." This also told me nothing, but painfully. "I’m afraid your book didn’t capture my imagination..." is going to follow me around all day.

For the record, I replied thanking her for her 'considerate and thoughtful reply.'
 

Hannah F

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Sounds like a form reply. I wouldn't worry about the wording.

I don't mark university exams now, but when i did they changed from us giving a personal qualitative feedback to having to pick from a set of generalised statements. I found it most unsatisfactory, but that's what I had to do. This came about because of the odd time when a candidate took offence/protested against certain examiners' feedback/wording. For some examiners, it was quite an unpleasant experience when they were only trying to be honest (thankfully didn't happen to me). There is a safety for the sender in passing on a form reply.
 

E G Logan

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I agree with you @E G Logan I too much prefer the above. I've had more than one with the wording of not capturing their imagination and consider it rather crude, if not rude. After all, taking for granted each of us is a "seasoned" writer, it really all boils down to likes or dislikes, not imagination.
I'm pretty sure none of the people who sent the – probably form – rejections that GOT to me (three so far in total) ever thought for a moment that their words could be offensive or patronising, or set out to hurt. Nonetheless, when I read that one (above), there was a sharp intake of breath.

And Hannah, I do absolutely take your point about the perceived protection for 'the sender in passing on a form reply', not least legally, I expect. All I want is a form reply with less/no BS.
 

E G Logan

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Does anyone else have thoughts? @AgentPete??

What do we actually need from a rejection anyway?

Just the fact that it is a rejection. No flannel. No BS.

Like:
'Dear Correct Name,
Thank you for letting us see/sending details of Your Book's Title.
Unfortunately it's not suitable for me/us.
Best regards,
Agent Name'

That's maybe a bit terse, but it's not rude. Not offensive, patronising or hurtful.

UNLESS there is something factual that maybe needs to be added:
'This agency does not accept ghost stories/cookery books/political memoirs...'
 

AgentPete

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Yeah, it’s just a form reply. Not a very good one, since:

The publishing industry is an extremely competitive one, and in order to represent an author effectively, I have to feel completely convinced by their work”

Is actually a non sequitur. The first thought has little connection to the second.

Whoever wrote this… wasn’t a writer :)

Personally, I prefer “I just didn’t love it enough”. At least that tells you something.
 

Jake E

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Apr 6, 2020
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My main frustration with rejections is the lack of the very thing they avoid at all costs.

If my manuscript is bad, I want to know that it is and that's the reason they've passed. But that kind of candid feedback upsets a lot of people and leads to abuse, which is why they avoid it.
It's sad that people can't take an honest critique of their work and say, 'perhaps this industry professional is right. I need to up my game and resubmit' instead, resorting to 'you don't see my vision/genius/totally-brilliant-work for what it is and are a horrible person for even suggesting that it's not perfect.'

It's a horrible and shortsighted mindset and only leads to these 'safe' responses that are of no help to anyone.
I get that this isn't always the case and time is very much a major contributor to these kinds of form rejections, too. However, I can't help feeling that if a certain group of aspiring authors were a little more open and accepting of critical feedback, agents wouldn't be quite so disinclined.

I also think that if they were more inclined to offer this kind of hard-hitting feedback, the 'I enjoyed your work but couldn't connect with it, perhaps you will have better luck with another agent.' would have more meaning and wouldn't sound like an empty platitude.

J
 

AgentPete

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I encourage everyone here to move away from the “Is it good enough?” mentality to the “Did I arouse them enough?” mindset.

This is something we talk about a lot in Huddles (come along tomorrow, folk).

Agents & publishers are not, in reality, independent taste arbiters of all that is good in writing. Some of us may believe we are, but that’s just fuzzy thinking.

“Good” writing doesn’t necessarily sell. And the converse is true (we can all think of lots of examples of shoddy writing that’s sold oodles of copies).

Which is one reason we now separate “Craft” from “Bang” in Pop-Ups. They are two distinct measures.

And btw, I’m using “arousal” in the psychological sense, i.e. eliciting an emotional response.

This is a deep subject, and I’ve got one more call to make today, at 6pm in about 7 mins, but do hussle along to a Huddle and we’ll explore it more. I think it’s quite important for writers’ own self-regard / mental health to appreciate the essence of what I’m saying here.

:) p.
 

RK Capps

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taking for granted each of us is a "seasoned" writer, it really all boils down to likes or dislikes, not imagination.

So true. @E G Logan, that rejection feels like a green agent, who doesn't understand the way the world works, and is trying something different and failing abysmally. I'd forget it and move on. Think of it as a near miss. Someone who doesn't appreciate the industry isn't someone you want to work with.

My main frustration with rejections is the lack of the very thing they avoid at all costs.

If my manuscript is bad, I want to know that it is and that's the reason they've passed. But that kind of candid feedback upsets a lot of people and leads to abuse, which is why they avoid it.
It's sad that people can't take an honest critique of their work and say, 'perhaps this industry professional is right. I need to up my game and resubmit' instead, resorting to 'you don't see my vision/genius/totally-brilliant-work for what it is and are a horrible person for even suggesting that it's not perfect.'

It's a horrible and shortsighted mindset and only leads to these 'safe' responses that are of no help to anyone.
I get that this isn't always the case and time is very much a major contributor to these kinds of form rejections, too. However, I can't help feeling that if a certain group of aspiring authors were a little more open and accepting of critical feedback, agents wouldn't be quite so disinclined.

I also think that if they were more inclined to offer this kind of hard-hitting feedback, the 'I enjoyed your work but couldn't connect with it, perhaps you will have better luck with another agent.' would have more meaning and wouldn't sound like an empty platitude.

J

It is a pity writers can't take honest critique, for unless they can, writers stagnate and don't grow. Not that agents have time to critique though.

I encourage everyone here to move away from the “Is it good enough?” mentality to the “Did I arouse them enough?” mindset.

This is such a great way to look at it! This thread is so interesting :)
 

E G Logan

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Personally, I prefer “I just didn’t love it enough”. At least that tells you something.
Careful, @AgentPete, with that one you are edging towards my pet hate of all time:
"I did like it. I just didn't like it enough."
I am sworn to seek out and hunt down, relentlessly, the originator of that snappy little line. And when I do identify her/him, I swear I shall ... share some well-chosen words.
 

E G Logan

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Here's the thing – and I'm sure agents wouldn't see it this way.

1. The purpose of a submission, or a US query, from a writer to a literary agency is to seek agent representation for the work in question.

2. If the agent does NOT offer representation, or provide some criticism (always useful, even if painful), then it is, in fact, irrelevant to the sender what this agent thought of the material. Whether he/she liked it matters no more than what colour of socks she/he is wearing. The writer does not need to know.

Hence my suggestion of 'thanks, sorry not suitable for us, best regards.'

What do you think @AgentPete? (Sorry to keep bothering you, but you are our only resident agent representative. Please feel free to pass this around any agent forums you think might be interested. I'd like that.)
 
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Hannah F

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I have been lucky enough to get 5 rejections where the wording was very complimentary ". . but . . . "
I like to believe they were personalised, and I was very grateful to receive them. I have had others which are definitely form rejections. I don't mind them at all (though offers would, of course, be a lot nicer). Form replies still tell me that someone in the agency has at least read my work, and it hasn't got stuck somewhere in the tbr pile. I simply email with a "thank you for your reply."

This is a business of busy people. Reply or no reply - it's just business.
 

AgentPete

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What do you think @AgentPete? (Sorry to keep bothering you, but you are our only resident agent representative. Please feel free to pass this around any agent forums you think might be interested. I'd like that.)

There’s a lot to unpack here, and I’d prefer to do it in the Huddle, since I can speak faster than I can type(!) and Huddles are really conversations. But in brief:

not suitable for us…”

Implies that there might have been a category mismatch. Suggests that your research might be wrong? Incorrect targeting?

Also, most writers who get this sort of response will ask themselves (or the agent!)… why? What is it about my submission that’s unsuitable? Just tell me, and I’ll fix it! All this may be really inaccurate feedback.


didn’t love it enough…”

Probably a more accurate summation of the situation, much of the time at least. Agents & publishers have to feel quite strongly about your work to go with it (“feel” in the broadest context, ask me to explain). A successful project will elicit quite strong feelings from most people it contacts, agents/ pubs / marketing / publicity / sales / retail / etc. And then, of course, the eventual readers. If you’re not quite hitting that level of response, then the project probably won’t ignite.
 

SarahC

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Jan 31, 2021
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Without knowing a whole lot about it, but knowing capitalism and its ways, I take a rather cynical view of the "I just didn't love it enough" line. I reckon there'd be a whole lot more loving if your genre/theme/story just to happened to be trending when you submitted (see; paranormal romance, commercial eroctica, book club fiction entitled The (insert profession)'s Daughter...etc.)

Of course, it's all business and so it should be. Agents don't get paid unless they sell the thing. So maybe just be honest about that, instead of claiming that it's love and not $$$ that is the main motivator here?

Too cynical? :rolleyes: (It wouldn't be the first time (today) I've had that accusation levelled against me :D)
 

Vagabond Heart

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I so sorry that this particular rejection was painful for you - I think we can all sympathise with that.

Having said that, I think that an agent/publisher who owns that they just don’t love what you’ve done enough - rather than putting the blame on you by saying what you’ve done is rubbish - is actually ok.

Because if they have to invest all the time, enthusiasm and money required into getting my work out into the world, they’d have to really believe it had legs, wouldn’t they?

And to be left with the idea that they, personally, don’t feel that way about it, but somebody else might, is a semi-win maybe?

Better than just saying sorry, what you’ve written is drivel of the highest calibre, that we couldn’t even giveaway to some lifer in solitary, who’s read every book in the prison library.

Just random thoughts I’m having today. Is an odd day.
 

E G Logan

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Having said that, I think that an agent/publisher who owns that they just don’t love what you’ve done enough - rather than putting the blame on you by saying what you’ve done is rubbish - is actually ok.
I believe they think that "owning that they just don’t love what you’ve done enough" is letting you down gently, though that, too, is a very subjective judgment.

I'm not suggesting they tell me what I've laboured over is rubbish – nobody with a brain in their head, or a lawyer in their contact list, would ever do/want that – just that their reply should be, if not useful, at least factual.

"It's not right for me/us/our list" is fine by me. Nothing intangible, no BS.
 

RK Capps

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is a very subjective judgment.

I have to respectfully disagree. I don't think it's a judgement at all, just the truth. Agents are readers first and foremost. And everyone has tastes on what they prefer in a book, everyone has different opinions and tastes. We either love something or we don't. And even something we love, there can still be things we're lukewarm over, but that's fine because writing a book is art, and we need to respect an artist's choices. Finding the right agent for your book is like finding a soul mate. Everything has to stem from love :)
 

E G Logan

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So true. @E G Logan, that rejection feels like a green agent, who doesn't understand the way the world works, and is trying something different and failing abysmally. I'd forget it and move on. Think of it as a near miss. Someone who doesn't appreciate the industry isn't someone you want to work with.
Absolutely. All of it. I do so agree.

Green – exactly. As I was reading it, I had a vision of a new assistant, fresh as paint, wanting to re-do the old form rejection letter... I have to tell her, this can be no improvement.

I do try to move on: I make each rejection (there, I've admitted there's been more than one) a prompt to send out another targeted and researched (this is hard work) submission. Personalised in some way, if possible.
I've also very recently started querying US agents, which is a rather different process, but they do tend to get back quicker, and briefer. (Results are too scant to comment yet.)Though one or two can be up-chuckingly fulsome, definitely not people I'd want to work with.
 
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E G Logan

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I have to respectfully disagree. I don't think it's a judgement at all, just the truth.
I meant their judgment of what was letting the writer down gently* was subjective.

I agree that everyone has taste and makes different judgements when they read, obviously – many agents say this in their rejections. "It's all subjective."

That was what I was thinking of in my reference to "that*, too" being subjective.

I'm having a very unclear morning, I can see.
 
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CageSage

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There are some good ones out there, so let me give you an example of a great rejection:

Thankyou so much for submitting your story 'Title' to [publication]. We were all blown away by the pieces that were submitted.

Unfortunately, while we enjoyed your piece and appreciate the work that you put into it, it has not been selected to be a part of the anthology. Your writing style is great, and there was some great imagery in the story, but it's hard to keep track of what was going on, especially with so many characters. I think the main thing that was lacking from the story was motivation. We need to know what the protagonist (and side characters) want, and what the stakes are, you know? Not knowing what their motivations were meant there was very little story tension or investment in the characters.

... we understand how disappointing it is to receive a rejection email, and given that it is a well-written and engaging piece, we expect that you will find a home for it somewhere.

They are out there.
 

Jake E

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Apr 6, 2020
139
331
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I encourage everyone here to move away from the “Is it good enough?” mentality to the “Did I arouse them enough?” mindset.

This is something we talk about a lot in Huddles (come along tomorrow, folk).

Agents & publishers are not, in reality, independent taste arbiters of all that is good in writing. Some of us may believe we are, but that’s just fuzzy thinking.

“Good” writing doesn’t necessarily sell. And the converse is true (we can all think of lots of examples of shoddy writing that’s sold oodles of copies).

Which is one reason we now separate “Craft” from “Bang” in Pop-Ups. They are two distinct measures.

And btw, I’m using “arousal” in the psychological sense, i.e. eliciting an emotional response.

This is a deep subject, and I’ve got one more call to make today, at 6pm in about 7 mins, but do hussle along to a Huddle and we’ll explore it more. I think it’s quite important for writers’ own self-regard / mental health to appreciate the essence of what I’m saying here.

:) p.
I think because I have such a low opinion of my own writing, I'm constantly surprise when anyone says something nice about it lol.
On that same token, whenever I receive a rejection I assume they're just being polite with their wording when they say 'we wish you better luck with another agent.'

Perhaps you're right, and I'm projecting my own lack of confidence onto the words.
 

Vagabond Heart

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I think because I have such a low opinion of my own writing, I'm constantly surprise when anyone says something nice about it lol.
On that same token, whenever I receive a rejection I assume they're just being polite with their wording when they say 'we wish you better luck with another agent.'

Perhaps you're right, and I'm projecting my own lack of confidence onto the words.
Keep your confidence up if you can.
Nicest rejection I ever got said that they didn’t feel strongly enough about that particular book to want to represent it, but if I had other work to show, them please contact them as they liked my writing.

Which just shows that if the book doesn’t fit what an agent is looking for, or sit well with the other work they cover, or just doesn’t do it for them, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a bad writer or the work is bad. And another agent might feel entirely different.

Is a funny old game this tho.
 
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Ed Simnett

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In my experience US agents do this a bit better than UK agents. This may be a cultural thing- people in the US generally have more practice at the passive aggressive no. e.g. "I can't sell this" "While the writing is strong, this is not a project I feel I could successfully represent." It's all about the agent, not the work...
 
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Steve C

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In my experience US agents do this a bit better than UK agents. This may be a cultural thing- people in the US generally have more practice at the passive aggressive no. e.g. "I can't sell this" "While the writing is strong, this is not a project I feel I could successfully represent." It's all about the agent, not the work...
I agree. The US agents tend to say it straighter. The process is not about love although that is sometimes a bonus, it is about business. Agents must judge the market then judge the submissions they receive and make a cold-hearted decision as to whether they fit. If they decide yes there is a fit then they will look to represent you because there is money to be made. The relationship may develop from there but the initial decision (the reply to your query) is about money.
It's why crap books like 'Shades of Grey' get published and my masterpiece has been ignored :)
 
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RK Capps

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the initial decision (the reply to your query) is about money.

Not always. My memoir was picked up by an agent within a week. The money question only came up when we went to publishers because that is where and why the project stalled. The book is niche market and surely reputable agents (one of the top 10 in Australia) would have known that, but there must have been something they loved to make them pick up the phone and ring.
 

Steve C

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Not always. My memoir was picked up by an agent within a week. The money question only came up when we went to publishers because that is where and why the project stalled. The book is niche market and surely reputable agents (one of the top 10 in Australia) would have known that, but there must have been something they loved to make them pick up the phone and ring.
Of course, there are exceptions but you only have to listen to Agent Pete. Every submission in pop-ups or discussion about submissions he openly admits that the first thing he considers is whether he can make money out of it. No money, no honey. Brutal but true.