Decoding Query Rejections
In yesterday’s blog comments, Marielena wrote about the responses she was getting to her query letter. She said: I know it’s probably individual to each agent, but what makes a book “not a good fit” — is that a polite way of saying the book still needs work?
That’s a good question, Marielena. Yes, it’s specific to the agent. But just so you don’t waste too much time trying to decode query responses, here’s a word to the wise: Query rejections are all about the euphemism.
If the agent isn’t going to take the time to give you specific feedback on your work, then you’re going to get some kind of standard platitude, such as:
Not a fit at this time.
Doesn’t meet our present needs.
I don’t have the right connections to sell this.
We receive many worthy manuscripts and can only take on a very few.
Not quite right for us.
And what does it mean? What it means is: We don’t have time to tell you why we’re rejecting your project so we’re just trying to be polite and let you know as nicely as possible that it’s a “no.”
Now, if there is anything specific in your rejection letter — something that’s not a generic form letter — pay attention. Many agents will personalize slightly. They may say, “I did not find your fiction to be well-crafted enough for me to present it to a publisher.” Which means the agent thinks your writing needs work.
Novelists who are querying should read the Query Shark blog, where agent Janet Reid dissects query letters. You’ll notice that every query she rejects gets a “form rejection” but each letter has its own reasons for being rejected. So for the most part, you’re not going to be able to tell from a form rejection what the reason was.
And by the way, there’s no mileage in responding to a query rejection. Best to file it and move on.
Since you don’t get the satisfaction of responding to your rejection letters, go ahead and do it here in the comments: