Giving Reasons for Rejections
Let’s talk about rejection letters! Lately I’ve been thinking about how writers wish they had a “reason” when agents reject their work. I’ve explained before (ad nauseum) all the reasons we can’t always give reasons. (And by the way, even though my policy states no response = no interest, I still respond to as many queries as possible.)
Anyway, last week as I was responding to queries, I decided to try and give a quick reason for each of the projects I was saying “no” to. Not a critique or anything in-depth, just a brief clue as to why the project wasn’t a “yes.”
Well, I think a lot of the writers may have ended up feeling worse than if I’d not even tried to give a reason. I found that a “quick” reason can easily sound harsh or even cruel, when it’s really just the truth but without the time to explain it in detail. So I’m going to let YOU weigh in on this.
Below are some of the lines I used to explain my rejections. Each letter opened with a “thank you for allowing me to consider your project” followed by some variation on “Unfortunately I’m not going to be able to offer representation.” Each letter also had a nice, encouraging closing. What you see below is the part where I tried to explain why.
Now, you tell me: Are these too harsh? Too vague to be of any help? Do you think the writers would have been better off with a simple “no thanks” and no attempt at explanation? Help me out here.
While your writing is strong, I didn’t find the story to be compelling.
I wasn’t particularly drawn in by the synopsis, and I found that the writing itself is not as well-crafted as I need books to be before I represent them to publishers.
Keep writing. Keep studying the craft. Write another book, and another. You clearly have a natural gift, and a beautiful way with words. Like all gifts, yours will benefit from being nurtured and refined. I encourage you to avoid being in a rush to publish, and instead, spend a bit more time focused on being a writer. You will get there, in the right timing.
The story simply isn’t to my taste; in YA I’m looking for contemporary stories that are a little bit closer to the real life of teen girls.
The story just isn’t my cup of tea.
Your synopsis didn’t capture my attention and you didn’t include a sample from your manuscript as my guidelines specify, so there was no way for me to make a decision based on more than your brief pitch.
The story didn’t capture my attention as particularly fresh, and in addition, I can’t tell what kind of audience you’re shooting for. I’d suggest you be clear about your audience and make sure you’re hitting your target both with the storyline and the writing itself. This seems like it’s intended for a young audience (young teens, perhaps?) but it’s not clearly defined.
It’s nearly impossible to sell a devotional like this, so I am going to have to decline representation. I hope you find a way to share your writing, whether through traditional publishing or perhaps through a blog or a self published book.
Your writing is strong and the story looks fun. It just didn’t quite capture me enough for me to take it on.
It doesn’t seem unique and fresh enough to capture an audience, especially with books like The Secret already hitting this niche.
You’ll probably need to find a strong hook to draw readers into your book and make them want to read it. Figure out what’s really fresh and unique about your story. Right now it doesn’t strike me as compelling enough to draw readers’ interest.
Books specifically for pastors are extremely difficult to sell right now. In addition, this feels like it has a dry and highly academic tone, making it even more challenging. I just don’t think I’m the right person to try and bring it to the marketplace.
The premise is pretty unique and the writing is strong, but the story doesn’t grab my personal interest and I don’t think I’d be the right agent to represent it. Here’s a good list of Christian agents:
You certainly have a strong topic, along with the passion and writing ability to pull it off. However, this would just be too difficult to sell and I don’t think I’m the right agent to find it a publishing home.
Your title is great; your writing is clear and passionate. However, keep in mind publishers have to actually sell books. Readers have to pay money for your book. They don’t want to pay for a book that’s going to blast them with criticism of every detail of their life. You have a strong message; now you have to figure out how to get people to want to read and accept your message. I don’t believe you’ve found the way yet.
I hope you can see that I was seriously trying to be helpful, but I’m not sure if it was worth the extra time it took (at midnight on a Friday night). Also, from these brief explanations, you can probably tell that the reasons for the “no” are often very similar, the most common being: It’s just not interesting/unique/fresh enough, and doesn’t make me want to read more.
So, what do you think? Worth the effort? Does it seem like I could or should be doing more? Or is it probably better for writers to get no input rather than these little tidbits? You tell me.
Rachelle Gardner, Christian literary agent, WordServe Literary Group, Colorado.