Decoding Query Rejections

broken heartIn 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:

How would you like to respond to the agent who rejected you? Remember, euphemism works great!

Or… tell us the best euphemism you’ve heard in a rejection letter.

P.S. Play nice, and no profanity please.

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. Sue Coletta on January 10, 2015 at 6:42 AM

    Actually, I received the best rejection from Janet Reid, Query Shark. She said it wasn’t a rejection at all, but a redirection to another agent because although she thought my book was publishable and she really enjoyed my sample pages she just didn’t have much wiggle room in her client list. I wanted to print it out and frame it!

  2. Scott on September 10, 2014 at 7:56 PM

    I understand literary agents don’t have time to give feedback. However, because over time I’ve sent multiple submissions to the same agent. They send a polite standard response rejected the submission. I can deal with that fine. However, it may be that I’m so far away from what they are looking for, it would be easier if they could tick a box that says “Stop sending us stuff”. It’s blunt, but it would save me time and save them time. And not add substantially to the time spent responding.

  3. kaye draper on January 28, 2013 at 7:33 PM

    First off, I want to say that the bit of spam about colon clense fits perfectly. I think I could use one after this last rejection.

    It just seems like, after you take six months to get back to me, you could please, for the love of jeebus give me something I can use!

    Dear Awesome Agent,
    Thank you so much for rejecting my “very strong” writing. Since you offer no feedback on what exactly is wrong with the manuscript, sadly I must assume you prefer writing that is much weaker. Best of luck in your search for something that is dreadfully awful. May all your subpar dreams come true.

    Author on the Edge

    PS: I apologize for the delayed response to your rejection. My typical response time is far less than five years….Its just that I’m so very busy and important…

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  8. Jeremy H on November 30, 2011 at 7:16 AM

    To the eleven rejections, I wonder if they all read a manual on best “one liners” for rejecting Queries. They have all, for the most part, said the same thing. To put it pointedly, they have all said, “it’s is good, but not a good fit for us.”
    Then please let WD know you are not into the business of fantasy children’s books or I would not have bothered you to begin with.

  9. Heather Webb on November 3, 2011 at 5:24 PM

    I’m a week behind on this blog post, but I had to thank everyone for the laughs. Timothy, you’re killing me.

  10. Marleen Gagnon on October 30, 2011 at 12:43 PM

    If I reply to a rejection letter it is: Thank you for taking your time with my manuscript. I look forward to seeing you in the future.
    It may not be appropriate, but I am appreciative of a busy agent or editor for taking their time for me.

  11. Jessica on October 28, 2011 at 3:32 PM

    Great post I sadly just did a rant on twitter about this subject.

    I do a lot of research on the agents I query. They all say that they like personalization in the query. So I construct my query accordingly and am always very excited to send the agent my query because after learning so much about them I feel they would be a perfect fit for my work. Then to get the dreaded form R is so disappointing.
    I am at the point where I want to, but won’t, email back saying WHY?? Why isn’t is a good fit because it has everything you want.
    I don’t mind form R’s but maybe more specific form R’s. Like your query sucks or I didn’t get a sense of the story, I don’t like your concept. Something anything. I think it would save a lot of agents from getting unnecessary queries. If they would say why it isn’t a fit then we could fix it and move on.

    I really LOVE the agents that do query critiques on blogs it helps us writers perfect our queries – which also make the form R after even worse.

    The formR after a full request is the worst!

    I understand agents are very busy and I think their job is incredibly difficult so I know they can’t respond to everyone but it would be nice.

  12. April Brown on October 28, 2011 at 8:23 AM

    I am sorry you didn’t find all the materials I was supposed to send. I thought it said to send all three parts for snail mail, and only the query letter for the email. Not sure why it reads that way….

  13. Jenny Hilborne on October 27, 2011 at 11:01 PM

    Funny to see this post today as I just had a form rejection, after waiting out an 8 week exclusive on a full submission, with the exact words: “isn’t a good fit for us at this time.” Disappointing, but I don’t have the time or inclination to worry about it or respond. I just remind myself JK Rowling got rejected numerous times and push on.

  14. joan Cimyotte on October 27, 2011 at 9:57 PM

    Dear Agent,

    Your mediocre response makes me realize I am not a good fit for you. I’m currently looking for an agent who can pony up to my exceptional story telling.

  15. CG Blake on October 27, 2011 at 7:38 PM

    I’ve only queried agents I’ve met at writers’ conferences and they have all been very nice in rejecting my work. Each one has offered helpful tips. I suppose it helps to establish a personal connection and I’m also very selective about agents I query.

  16. lancelot on October 27, 2011 at 6:27 PM

    What about, “it wasn’t due to anything lacking in your submission. Quite the contrary, I found your presentation compelling. Unfortunately, I only choose to represent those works with which I feel a real connection.”

  17. Suilan on October 27, 2011 at 4:32 PM

    “I must say, your spelling is superb.”

    An editor told me that after reviewing my first manuscript. He actually called to tell me. They were his first words, right after the greeting.

    (This happened back in the days before email submissions and spell checkers.)

    That’s how I learned that there are people out there who want to get published who would send in their manuscripts with less than impeccable orthography. I had honestly not known. 🙂

  18. Jil Plummer on October 27, 2011 at 4:10 PM

    I sent a query synopsis and five pages, following that agent’s rules, and received a rejection about two minutes after pushing “send.” Now that’s speed reading! There wasn’t even time left for me to hope!

    • Timothy Fish on October 27, 2011 at 4:23 PM

      If you want it to take longer, stop following the agents’ rules. The whole point of the rules is to have everything where they know where it is, so they can scan through the queries more quickly.

  19. Voni Harris on October 27, 2011 at 3:10 PM

    I absolutely love the picture you picked to go with the topic, Rachelle!

    And thanks for the laughs, everyone. Can’t wait to get my first batch of queries out and add to the list.


  20. Ginger on October 27, 2011 at 2:28 PM

    Dear Miss DeBoat,

    I wanted to thank you for your recent rejection of my manuscript. Had you been interested, I wouldn’t have queried my current agent who has just secured me a six figured deal. I almost couldn’t contain myself when Steven Spielberg called me yesterday to discuss my vision for the screenplay (he’s such a nice man).

    These are exciting times to which I owe, in no small part, to you. I thank you and my agent REALLY thanks you. (She said something about a fruit basket, so keep an eye out).

    Liv N. Well

    P.S. I am developing this into a six book series so I’m sure more oranges are headed your way!

  21. Lisa R on October 27, 2011 at 1:59 PM

    The worst form letter I ever got was one that said “we’re sorry, we don’t believe your work is saleable material but good luck”. I think that’s pretty harsh for a form letter (and yes, it was definitely a form letter–on a pre-printed postcard). Who says THAT? Not saleable? I don’t think that’s very fair. I never minded the “not a good fit” or “not for me” or “not for my list” or “I didn’t fall in love with it” responses. Those were fine with me. I mean when I go to a bookstore and look at the backs of books, not every one of them resonates with me. I think it’s probably the same with agents and they simply don’t have time to go into the reasons why your query didn’t resonate with them. But to tell everyone you’re rejecting that their work is not saleable? How the heck would they know?! To that agency I would say: “I’m sorry but your agency is too unprofessional and thus, not a good fit for me”.

    • Timothy Fish on October 27, 2011 at 4:18 PM

      Ultimately, isn’t that what it comes down to? If an agent or publisher thought they could sell it, they would snatch it up in a heartbeat. They aren’t likely to think that someone else might be able to sell it, even though they can’t. They may say that, just to sound nice, but really, they don’t think anyone can sell it.

      • Lisa R on October 27, 2011 at 4:52 PM

        Well yeah, it does come down to them thinking that they cannot sell it but I don’t think it’s accurate to say that no one can sell it. I’ve had plenty of agents love my manuscript but tell me that they personally could not sell it for any number of reasons which were usually that they didn’t have the right editorial contacts. I’ve had plenty reject my query but say that I should query other agents because the project was sure to get snatched up by someone better suited to represent it. I kept trying and I DID get an agent so I guess the form rejection implying that the work was not saleable was not really accurate as my agent feels that she can sell it. I think it’s fine for an agent to say that they personally can’t sell a book but to tell authors that no one is going to buy it based on a query letter is not very professional. Look at Kathryn Stockett. 60 agents turned her down and now she’s wildly successful. There are stories out there like that. That’s not to say that some works aren’t saleable–I’m sure there are plenty of books out there that really are completely unsaleable. I’m sure there are some truly terrible queries out there as well. I just think for a FORM letter why not just say “this doesn’t fit our needs”. That’s much better than basically telling an author to shred his or her manuscript because no one will ever buy it when in fact the agency really doesn’t know that since they haven’t read it.

      • Botanist on October 27, 2011 at 6:21 PM

        Hi Timothy,

        Your first statement may be true, but I have to disagree with “They aren’t likely to think that someone else might be able to sell it, even though they can’t.”

        Agents sell through their contacts and relationships with publishers, and they specialise. It’s entirely possible for an agent to know that they can’t sell this ms, but that another agent with the right contacts and experience could.

  22. Cyntha Ivers on October 27, 2011 at 1:29 PM

    Dear Rejecting Agent:

    I would like to say your rejection is the most unique, melodic and, yes, downright eloquent, I’ve received to date. Sadly, however, it is not. Your alternating use of the words “stink” and “drivel” throughout the piece were too similar to another rejection I received from a much more prolific rejecting agent. Additionally, your use of the ill-conceived phrase “just kill me now” was oddly juxtaposed next to “I’m gong to barf,” rendering the sentence devoid of real emotion. However, I did enjoy the just-filed restraining order attached to your submission. I’ll file it away with my others. 🙂

  23. Brianna on October 27, 2011 at 1:21 PM

    I know it would be difficult, but I do wish more agents would take the time to find something specific about each piece they reject, so that we know what we need to work on. I do save the rejections I receive and use them to motivate myself to do better next time. It’s hard not to take it personally, but that’s definitely a skill that can be learned.

    • Beth MacKinney on October 27, 2011 at 3:04 PM

      The thing is, agents can get hundreds of queries/submissions a week. That’s like telling a person that you’d like them to work 20 to 30 hours a week for nothing, because agents don’t earn anything from the time invested in telling writers no.

      500 queries at 1 per minute is already 8 and a third hours. And that’s just to look at them. A quick reply might take two to five minutes more. That’s at least 16-24 hours plus. There goes the work week. (Also, if you think about it, we’d all go crazy if we actually had to reply to all the mail that came to us that we didn’t want.)

      • Timothy Fish on October 27, 2011 at 4:14 PM


        I can’t disagree with your numbers or your assumption that we don’t want people working for nothing, but if we turn your argument around, we could make the same argument. The author who spends an hour putting together a package for the agent but receives no feedback is working for nothing. If the author submits to 20 to 30 agents, that is 20 to 30 hours.

        The argument is usually made that the author will eventually make money once an agent is found. But we can turn that argument around too and say that the agents will find more manuscripts they like if they will tell authors what they don’t like about the ones they submit.

        • Beth MacKinney on October 27, 2011 at 4:49 PM

          I would say that an agent who spent her time telling all authors what was wrong would soon find herself out of business, because she wouldn’t have time to agent her own clients. It’s up to the author to get his work up to a quality standard.

          (Also, not every author with an agent makes money. Sometimes even the agent can’t sell her work, even if it’s good, for whatever reason. In addition to this, there are authors who haven’t invested time in studying their craft who really don’t want to know what’s “wrong” with it. They want affirmation that someone else likes it as much as they do. I can understand this feeling, but it won’t help them get their writing to a salable point.)

          • Timothy Fish on October 27, 2011 at 5:49 PM


            As I said, I agree with your numbers; telling authors why their work is being rejected has to remain a low priority if an agent hopes to make money. My point is that authors have no reason to care.

  24. Jackie Ley on October 27, 2011 at 1:14 PM

    Dear Agent

    Thank-you for your standard rejection letter. I’m afraid I don’t hate it enough to attach it to my dartboard, but do persevere. I’m sure one day you’ll achieve the bulls-eye.

    • kaye draper on January 28, 2013 at 7:32 PM

      First off, I want to say that the bit of spam about colon clense fits perfectly. I think I could use one after this last rejection.

      It just seems like, after you take six months to get back to me, you could please, for the love of jeebus give me something I can use!

      Dear Awesome Agent,
      Thank you so much for rejecting my “very strong” writing. Since you offer no feedback on what exactly is wrong with the manuscript, sadly I must assume you prefer writing that is much weaker. Best of luck in your search for something that is dreadfully awful. May all your subpar dreams come true.

      Author on the Edge

      PS: I apologize for the delayed response to your rejection. My typical response time is far less than five years….Its just that I’m so very busy and important…

  25. Janet on October 27, 2011 at 12:54 PM

    My most interesting rejection thus far came in two separate emails from the same agent. The first was of the “your manuscript doesn’t fit my current list” type, but with the added nicety, “although your writing style is quite excellent” – which I thought was a very nice touch. I replied to this one thanking the agent for graciously taking time to review my proposal and for her encouraging remark about the quality of my writing.

    I was surprised to see another email from her the following morning. This second meessage pointed out that some of the comparative books I had evaluated in my marketing plan were self-published and the agent suggested I consider self-pub for that particular manuscript and contact her again when I had fiction for her to consider.

    The reason I found this so odd is because I had specifically queried this agent because she accepted memoirs and narrative non-fiction. She had responded to my query with a request for a book proposal, which I provided – prompting the responses noted above.

    So…does this mean she wants to start a fiction list and is really interested in hearing from me again? Or was she just being uber-polite?

    he experience certainly left me with mixed emotions. I didn’t know whether to feel rejected or uplifted. Perhaps being able to make the author feel pretty darned good about being rejectes is actually the mark of a great literary agent?

  26. Nancy Petralia on October 27, 2011 at 12:33 PM

    Thanks for all the laughs.

  27. karen lee Hallam on October 27, 2011 at 12:28 PM

    What about-Not right for our lists? Even knowing, of course the Agency does represent what your book is. What are these mysterious lists?

    • Rachelle on October 27, 2011 at 12:41 PM


  28. R. H. Culp on October 27, 2011 at 12:22 PM

    My first rejection (though it was for a short story, not a manuscript) was, “This story just didn’t quite work for me.” I drove myself batty trying to figure out if they were talking about the story subject, my writing, or something else. A month or so later I submitted another story and go the exact same rejection. I felt a bit ridiculous for all the wasted time spent focused on the first one.

  29. Kathryn Elliott on October 27, 2011 at 12:09 PM

    Dear Agent:

    Thank you for rejecting BEST STINKING BOOK EVER. You personalized note rejuvenated my long dormant feelings of self-loathing and inadequacy, sparking a catastrophic need to invite my innately hostile mother-in-law for an extended visit. I only hope her snarky comments regarding my weight and housekeeping skills can match the wisdom and insight your seven word correspondence offered.

    With thanks,
    Delusional Writer

    • Heather Gilbert on October 27, 2011 at 1:56 PM

      HA! Loved this, too.! At least WE know it is, right!??

  30. Jerry Eckert on October 27, 2011 at 11:40 AM

    My standard, conceived but never sent, response is: “I wish you best of luck in filling your unimaginative rag with the pedantic writings of neophytes. I will, however, in my Pulitzer acceptance speech give you credit for proving that there is a bottom to the swamp above which good writers float.”

  31. Timothy Fish on October 27, 2011 at 10:06 AM

    Dear Sir:

    Thank you for responding to my query. You can’t possibly know how much it means to me to know that you liked it so much that you decorated a bird cage with it. Not long ago, I would have thought that was an insult, but I’ve seen from your blog that you are an animal lover. My mother is an animal lover and she has been using my manuscript to teach her dog to read. An interesting fact is that dogs are very slow readers, so she is only giving him a few sheets at a time. They also have an unusual method of reading. I’ve watched him and he will stand on top of the pages, turn around three times, and then he’ll lie down to think about what he has just read. Sometimes, he will mark the pages with a yellow spot to show that he is finished with it.

    I still have a few other agents I’m waiting for a response from. I hope you don’t mind, but I plan on sending a copy of your e-mail, so they’ll know how much you liked it, even though you aren’t able to offer representation at this time. I’m really excited about this. I was afraid I wasn’t any good, but your response has given me the courage to continue. When I get a publisher for my book, I’m going mention you in the acknowledgments. I want to make sure that everyone knows that you saw value in this book.

    Once again, thank you so very much. I’m sure it will be several months before my book goes to press, but I’m sure you will want to order several copies. I’ll send you an e-mail to let you know when it is coming out.

    Come to think of it, I really feel like I should put your name on the from cover. You’re response has been that helpful to me. You weren’t involved in writing the book, so maybe a blurb instead of just putting your name there. I’m thinking I could use your statement, “in the twenty years I’ve been in this business, I’ve never seen anything like it.” It could go next to the one from an author friend of mine who said, “I never thought anyone could write a book like this.”

    I’ll keep you informed on the progress of the book.


    Timothy Fish

    • Heather Gilbert on October 27, 2011 at 1:54 PM

      HA! Love the yellow spots…

  32. Ann Bracken on October 27, 2011 at 10:05 AM

    Dear Agent,

    Since I’m not the right fit for you, would you please send me a list of agents who are? I’m certain you personally know every single other agent in the industry, what they represent and if any of their authors write similarly to me. I simply don’t have the time to research them all myself since I’m working on my next bestseller.


    Lazy Author

    • Iola on October 28, 2011 at 3:25 AM

      Excellent letter!

    • Julie Nilson on October 29, 2011 at 7:30 PM

      Ha! This is awesome.

  33. Alexis on October 27, 2011 at 9:54 AM


    What about cases in which the publisher commends your work but thinks it will be a better fit for another publisher and recommends that you shop it around?

    How do you go about finding that perfect fit?

    • Rachelle Gardner on October 27, 2011 at 10:00 AM

      Ummm… isn’t that the whole purpose of the query process?

    • Timothy Fish on October 27, 2011 at 10:09 AM

      I got a response like that from an agent and I just assumed it was a form rejection.

  34. Gina Burgess on October 27, 2011 at 9:44 AM

    Dear Agent,

    Thank you Soooooo much! I have only 30 more rejections left to go and I’ll have my office re-wallpapered. Do you mind if I resend?

    Author Dowell

  35. Nikole Hahn on October 27, 2011 at 9:39 AM

    I like dissecting query letters. If it’s an obvious form letter, I add it to my records and then re-read my manuscript for anything I missed. After a quick edit, I examine other possible places and re-send. If there were suggestions, I reply with a question if I can re-submit if I make changes, following their sometimes vague suggestions.

  36. Marielena on October 27, 2011 at 9:36 AM

    Thanks, Rachelle, for help in decoding query rejections. I’m grateful that many agents have asked for the first few pages, chapters, or as I mentioned, the entire manuscript. Then comes the rejection! For the most part, they will tell me they like my writing and concept, but obviously that undefinable “something” is missing and I’m still not sure what that is. In the meantime, I’m putting in solids hours of writing, continue to re-write and query, and in addition, have gone the e-publishing route. It’s all a learning process! Thanks again, Rochelle.

    • Rachel Pudelek on October 27, 2011 at 12:00 PM

      I’ve had the same thing Marielena. An agent liked my writing style, idea, plot, flow, etc. She requested the full and then said she wasn’t in love with the story. She was sweet enough though to tell me it’s only her personal preference and nothing to change in the story. I wonder if it’s too dark for her, and I wish I knew.

      • Rosslyn Elliott on October 27, 2011 at 2:06 PM

        Hi Marielena and Rachel,

        I’m one of Rachelle’s clients. When I read your responses, it seems to me you are at the perfect stage to hire a pro editor to take your work to the final level. (I’m not a pro editor nor am I trying to somehow plug one. 🙂

        Randy Ingermanson talks about how the most important thing a novel delivers to a reader is a Powerful Emotional Experience. It is very difficult to take your novel from “well-crafted and interesting” across the border into a Powerful Emotional Experience. What’s more, if you actually achieve the PEE, some readers will like it and some won’t. You will have left the land of bland. But in my opinion, only by achieving that level of power can you be 90% sure that you will eventually get an agent. (That is, unless you’re publishing for a specific category line that doesn’t want that level of power, and that’s absolutely fine too for those who wish to aim for category fiction. Each to her own taste, and kudos to all writers who do the hard work to publish in any form.)

        A pro editor is often the only one who can teach you the higher-level skills you will need to create a Powerful Emotional Experience. Rachelle has a good list of them elsewhere on her site.

  37. Sharon A Lavy on October 27, 2011 at 9:21 AM

    I have not had many rejections. For a pre-published author that tells you something. Like I have a hard time letting go of my work.

    But with my first wip, I thought it was ready to go. And I went to a local writers conference where I paid for a critique. (I almost always benefit from a paid critique at any conference I attend.)

    Even if my work needs help I have been blessed with encouraging critiquers. This time it was a team. The first man told me he didn’t like my writing. That was a first for me.

    Even David King liked my writing enough to give me pages of ideas for revision. At least that’s what he told me.

    I asked what he didn’t like about it. He didn’t like my style. What does style mean, I asked. He said he meant my word choices. Okay, I can understand that. We all write for a different audience.

    The other one said, no, nothing wrong with the style. What I didn’t like was the girl ended up with the wrong man. They have nothing in common.

    I think this was a bit of bad cop good cop dialog because I learned later that these men each had their own business for coaching writers. I wonder if they took turns. I’ll upset this one and you pat her on the shoulder and she’ll hire you to help her fix her book.

    I know that good writing is not enough. I aspire to be a great writer.

    Even multi-published authors cannot be satisfied but must keep honing their craft. And even multi-published authors have a proposal rejected at times with a request for something else. (At least that is what they tell me.)

  38. Stephen H. King on October 27, 2011 at 8:52 AM

    Funny, I was just revising a blog post of my own about the numerous rejections I received leading up to the yes. I used to be quite prickly about them, despite my efforts to keep a detached and clinical mindset on what is effectively a numbers game. But I got to know some agents at a conference I attended, and so I can kind of understand, or at least put a face behind, the responses of “I didn’t fall in love with it.” I’m still receiving rejections. Got one last night, in fact, as I was looking at the graphic designer’s first ideas for my cover art.

    Thus, it’s difficult for me at this point to be really snarky, but “That’s okay; I’m sure you already have enough authors whose phone calls you don’t return,” keeps wanting to fall off my fingers onto the keyboard.

  39. Jodi Aman on October 27, 2011 at 8:21 AM

    I had two agent who personalized it to say it was “well-crafted.” I understand that they do not need to do that, so I was pleased. I think my rejections are on the basis of no platform, which I have since improved drastically. Yay!(I write NF self help) Unfortunately,it is too late for those agents since I cannot resubmit. Lesson learned the hard way. But perhaps the “right” agent for me is in the second tier. Since I write about hope, I need to keep it up! Love Jodi Aman

  40. Peter DeHaan on October 27, 2011 at 8:11 AM

    For my day job, I publish trade magazines. As such, I receive many articles, proposals, and pitches that I can’t (or won’t) use.

    My typical “rejection” phrase for these is: “Thank for the consideration, but I will need to pass on this article.”

    What this actually means is: “Do you even know the focus of the magazine? Have you ever read the publication? Did you think you are exempt from following the submission guidelines? And, by the way, do you know what a spellchecker is?”

    Sorry for the rant; now I feel much better now.

    • Gina Burgess on October 27, 2011 at 9:50 AM

      Thank you, Peter, for the rant. I felt that exact same way when people would submit articles for the newspaper. Since I live in a small town, my publisher made me rewrite the articles and put them in the paper. It would have been simpler if they had just invited me to the event and I could have written my own article.

      Engraved in His palm,

      • Gina Burgess on October 27, 2011 at 9:52 AM

        To be fair, he didn’t really make me. I wanted as much local news as possible.

  41. otin on October 27, 2011 at 7:22 AM

    I sent out a query letter one night at about 7:30. At approximately 8:00 I received a one word response. It said: “NOPE”.

    I would have preferred no response at all in that case. The following week I had someone request the first fifty pages.

    • Jodi Aman on October 27, 2011 at 8:16 AM

      Otin, That is so harsh. But I laughed anyway. “Nope.” Really?
      Best of luck, Jodi Aman

    • Timothy Fish on October 27, 2011 at 9:19 AM

      Straight and to the point. I actually like that.

    • Julie Nilson on October 29, 2011 at 7:25 PM

      Wow–that agent sounds like kind of a jerk. Probably best that you didn’t end up working with him/her.

  42. Nicole Basaraba on October 27, 2011 at 4:44 AM

    Dear Agent,

    I’m currently closed to rejections.

    Thank you,


    P.S. I haven’t submitted my manuscript yet to any agents and so I have not yet felt the sting of rejections. I hope this comment makes some people smile. 🙂

    • jeffo on October 27, 2011 at 7:21 AM

      *I* smiled.

    • Nancy Petralia on October 27, 2011 at 12:26 PM

      It did.

  43. Nancy Kimball on October 27, 2011 at 2:21 AM

    Dear Agent,

    Thank you for responding, even in a form rejection. I cannot tell you how delighted I am to include you in the count of rejections that will one day astound my readers, since at the end of the day it is all about the numbers.

    Best wishes with the slush pile, and making the moment described above possible for another writer, even if it will not be me.

    Many thanks,

    Nancy Kimball

  44. Katherine Bolger Hyde on October 27, 2011 at 1:36 AM

    The euphemism I heard the most—and got totally sick of—was, “I just didn’t fall in love with it.” To which my mental response was, “WHAT? How could anyone not love my beautiful baby?!” I really would rather have heard any of the others you mentioned.

  45. Krysten Hill on October 27, 2011 at 1:23 AM

    I actually get a lot of ‘This doesn’t sound right for me’ or ‘I don’t think I could represent this well’ and other variations. I like to think it’s because my novel is too unique (a fantasy novel about dragons and dragon-kin) but I honestly don’t know what kind of euphemism that would be for. Oh well, just keep trekking on, right?

    Thanks for the insight. The more we lowly writers know about you agents the better!

    • TC Avey on October 27, 2011 at 7:39 PM

      While I am sorry to hear of your rejections, it is nice to know I am not alone. I think that is one of the best things about this post and it’s comments, is knowing we are all (for the most part) in the same boat.

  46. Botanist on October 27, 2011 at 1:20 AM

    Dear Agent,

    I am unable to accept your rejection at this time. I receive many worthy rejections and can only take on a very few. Although well-crafted, your rejection did not resonate with me and does not meet my present needs.

    Aspiring Author

    • Natalie on October 27, 2011 at 1:38 AM


    • Kelly Combs on October 27, 2011 at 9:10 AM

      Loved this!

    • Lisa R on October 27, 2011 at 1:54 PM


    • Ida on October 27, 2011 at 10:53 PM

      After I read that “The Help” was rejected 60 times I felt much better.

      • IMD on July 23, 2012 at 5:59 PM

        Nice to hear that The Help got rejected that many times…. Definitely makes me a little less gloomy about my ‘thanks, but no thanks’ letters that keep trickling in. =)

  47. Nina on October 27, 2011 at 12:39 AM

    I’m at the stage close to finishing my novel’s edit where I am mindful that there are going to be editors that will reject my work but it is still scary all the same. I think I’d prefer hearing why rather than the standard reasons, but also know that reasons will not always be given. I love that you’ve deciphered it and thanks for the link to the queryshark.

  48. Mary Ruth Pursselley on October 27, 2011 at 12:33 AM

    I’ll never forget the rejection letter I opened that said “We’re sorry, but this poem just didn’t work for us. However, we do wish you well in your journey towards poetry.”
    So I’m thinking “My piece was so bad that it doesn’t even qualify as poetry yet?”

  49. Janet Reid on October 27, 2011 at 12:13 AM

    Thanks for the link to the QueryShark blog Rachelle! I always see a bump in traffic when you mention me!

    I want to mention two things right at the start for any readers new to QueryShark:

    1. It’s all volunteer. These are not queries to me as an agent. They are queries sent specifically to Query Shark. If you query me, your query doesn’t go on the blog.

    2. QueryShark is pretty profane. Rachelle’s readers tend to be nicely mannered people and sometimes QS …well…isn’t.

    Thanks again Rachelle!