Don’t Send Me Everything You’ve Got

I’ve written previously about authors arguing with me when I send them a rejection. They write back trying to convince me that I’m wrong and I should take another look.

There’s another kind of “not taking no for an answer” I get sometimes that seems like a better approach because it’s not an argument, but I have to be honest, I don’t like this one any better.

It’s when people respond to my pass letter with a list of their four or six or ten other ideas. They say, “Okay, you didn’t like that one but I have plenty more! Do any of these interest you?” Then a list of pitches.

This rarely works out for either of us. I can’t tell in such a brief format whether your ideas are marketable or not. Also, you don’t know whether I passed because I didn’t like the idea, or because I felt your writing wasn’t quite good enough, or because you have no platform.

It’s GREAT to have a list of book ideas! Take it to your critique group, discuss it with friends, or consider hiring a freelance editor or consultant to help you identify your most viable book ideas. More importantly, try to determine if it’s the idea or the writing itself or your platform (or any combination thereof) that’s causing you problems. Go from there.

In any case, please respect the time of the agents and editors you approach. Don’t send them a laundry list unless you are invited to do so (which sometimes happens when a writer is extremely impressive).

Choose which idea you want to pitch. Make sure you have the required materials—a complete manuscript, or a proposal and sample chapters. Then craft a terrific query and send it out there.

Have you been tempted to send an agent a whole list of ideas? What did you decide to do instead?

Image copyright: olegdudko / 123RF Stock Photo

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. Neurotic Workaholic on July 30, 2018 at 12:00 PM

    This reminds me of some of my former students, who send me e-mails arguing with me about their grades; that is, they “reject” the lower grades that they earned and insist that I made a mistake, rather than take a step back and evaluate their own work for possible weaknesses or mistakes. I think that some people are just convinced that they already know everything there is to know, and it angers them when people don’t agree with them.

  2. Pat Iacuzzi on July 25, 2018 at 2:15 PM

    I have to apologize for this, Rachelle; I don’t know if you recall my sending a list of about 40 story tag lines. It must have been like inviting someone to bring a dish to pass at a little get-together and the guest taking it upon themselves to order a catering service for an entire party of one hundred–and the hostess paying for it! You were so gracious about it…thanks for these much-needed tips. Agree with Tiffany; need to polish up on professionalism.

  3. Steven Fantina on July 25, 2018 at 8:17 AM

    I have gotten plenty of rejection notices. I cannot imagine a less productive waste of time than trying to get the agent to change his/her mind.

  4. Nancy I. Sanders on February 15, 2008 at 1:34 PM

    >Rachelle, thanks once again for an insider’s perspective. I feel like every day I can just listen to your advice as if you’re inviting us into your living room for tea. Thanks!

  5. Tiffany Stuart on February 15, 2008 at 11:47 AM

    >You are a truth speaker. It’s great to hear this kind of info in advance. I can’t imagine sending a laundry list of ideas to an agent.

    I believe in starting and finishing with professionalism. A random run-on list doesn’t sound like good business to me. Plus we need to be considerate to your time. And follow the steps of querying, ect. as required by the agency.

    Keep on telling us like it is.
    Good stuff.

  6. Aimless Writer on February 15, 2008 at 8:25 AM

    >I would hope if a writer had a book idea they believed in they should just write it and then query.
    I’ve received a rejection from an agent who gave some really good comments on the work. I was so tempted to write back and ask her to elaborate but thought that was over stepping my bounds. It was very nice of the agent to give her brief critique for my work, but she wasn’t MY agent, editor or best friend.
    I think sometimes we get over anxious about the writing we love and need to exercise the restraint. So, I just kept rereading her comments, looking at my work, and reading her comments again. It was a niblet of help, but I’ll take what I can get.

  7. Richard Mabry on February 14, 2008 at 11:21 PM

    >Quality of writing, unique idea, viable platform–am I sensing a pattern? Seems like I’ve read those words before somewhere. Here, perhaps?
    Thanks for continuing to give us a look behind the scenes. It’s fascinating.