Some Memorable Rejections I’ve Received From Agents/Publishers

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In my somewhat distant past, I did submit my work to agents/publishers. While I didn’t bank all of my hopes on it, it was part of my exploratory period when I was seeing if my work belonged at a publishing house or not. This is meant to be lighthearted, so don’t worry. This will not be a bleak post by any means. I hope it even makes you smile if you can relate to this experience. So, sit back, grab a tasty hot drink of your choice, and read along with a couple of amusing agent/publisher rejection stories.

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The Almost Agent

I hope that cup of yours is steaming. ๐Ÿ™‚ Okay, story time!

The first response I’ve ever received from an agent was way back in 2010 when I was seriously querying agents for my first novel. I did heaps of research on how to land an agent. My book was young adult Christian fantasy – apparently this is a really hard sell, but at the bookstores it seemed to be a popular enough genre, so I didn’t think it was going to be difficult. I found an agent listed who specifically represented Christian fiction as well as fantasy, so I gave her a try. A few weeks later, I received an e-mail from her. I literally squealed, because the very first line of her email read “I really love the concept of your story and it shows promise” before I read “but I hesitate to ask for a full since there isn’t a strong market for it in Christian fiction.”

I admit that at first, I was so stoked I received a personal message from an agent that I didn’t realize it was actually a rejection. I sent her an email back right away thanking her for the kind words and asking her when she would like to receive the full manuscript. When I didn’t hear back, I read her message again and realized that the “but” was actually a rejection. She worded it so kindly that it didn’t register as a “no” to me, at first. Of course I was disappointed, but I was happy that someone at least liked the concept. So, as I now know, when an agent says that they hesitate to ask for your manuscript, it’s a nice way of saying they’re going to pass. But hey, it was a lot nicer to get that than the 10+ form rejections that followed (As the months passed, I started getting more interested in indie publishing, so these automated responses didn’t have much of an impact in the end). The novel in question for this first experience is called By The Sword.

The Publisher Who Initiated Contact With Me

The second time I was rejected by the literary powers that be was from a small publishing house. One of the founders of the company messaged me personally on Twitter asking me to submit my work as he saw promise in my writing. I had recently finished transforming my short story, Eve and Adam, into first person present tense. It seemed to work better for the story and it’s one of my favourite perspectives to read in. I figured I pretty much had an “in” since this nice gentleman messaged me out of the blue requesting my work. After I sent it in, I received his response a day later which is FAST in this industry. His response was along the lines of “First present tense is really hard to write. I can see how hard you tried, but as you can see, it takes a lot of work to master it. It’s not quite what we’re looking for here. You’re welcome to submit another story if you want, or re-submit Eve & Adam if you decide to change the tense.”

I admit that I didn’t like how he worded it as me “trying” to get it right. I read my story again and loved how it flowed. So, I set that one aside and sent in another short story, The Red Coat & The Redhead, thanking him for his time and interest in my work. The final chapter of this tale was actually a semi-finalist in a writing contest, so I figured this one had the best chance. Once again, I received a response from the same man saying “Thank you, but this isn’t quite what we’re looking for either, but you’re welcome to keep us in mind in case you want to submit a new story down the road.” O.O

I mean, I get it, sometimes a publisher has a specific brand or taste of writing they’re looking for, but the fact that he went out of his way to ask me for my stories only to reject them was a bit of an exercise in futility. In the end, I took it as a compliment since he saw promise in my writing.

Conclusion

I have full respect for people who are querying agents and publishing houses at this time. It ain’t easy, and sometimes people will put you through the ringer just to reject you in the end. While I enjoy indie authoring very much, I may give querying a go sometime in the future. I think the best way to look at rejections is that they’re pretty subjective – and it probably doesn’t mean your writing isn’t good enough. You just have to keep trying until your book reaches the pair of eyes that really love it. Sometimes an agent could even love your work, but they don’t see it being marketable at the time. If someone takes the time to send you a personalized message about your work, take it as a big compliment, because you’ll mostly get form rejections with no explanation as to why they didn’t represent you.

If you receive any feedback like I did with Eve & Adam, you can try to change it if you think it will help. Honestly, I kept the tense as is and it’s more of more popular books that people connect with. Before it was published, I showed it to a coworker and he read it very comfortably and seemed impacted by the story – he wasn’t much of a reader and there were no complaints about it being hard to read. So, in this case, it was best to leave it as it was and go my own way.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post! I’m smiling. While it didn’t work out, I tried something new and got to experience speaking with a couple of professionals in the industry. Until next time, I hope you take good care and have a lovely rest of your day! Xx

4 comments

  1. I wrote a fantasy/private eye novel where the private eye is a walking talking cigarette smoking brandy drinking Saint Bernard dog.

    I submitted a synopsis and the first three chapters to 3 different literary agents.

    I didn’t hear back from one.

    The second was a con where if I sent them $125, they would read my entire manuscript.

    The third was a man in England named Christopher Little whose specialty was Fantasy fiction in the blurb on him in the little book of literary agents I had.

    He sent me back a 6 page handwritten note saying how much he loved my synopsis and my 1st 3 chapters and he’d represent me in a heartbeat he said if he didn’t have so much on his plate at the moment.

    He said he hoped I wouldn’t take this as a rejection letter since he sincerely meant that he would represent me in a heartbeat if he didn’t have so much on his plate at the moment.

    He said he really was overwhelmed at the moment with too much on his plate.

    I took the fact that he handwrote me the letter rather than typed it as a sign that he really meant what he wrote.

    Years later about 2007 or 2008, I was reading an article on Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling.

    About half way through the article I came across the phrase, “Rowling’s literary agent Christopher Little said…”

    What the- ?

    I guess when he told me that he had too much on his plate, he did mean it representing J.K. Rowling.

    The only thing that seems to keep me going is the fact that J.K. Rowling’s literary agent Christopher Little wrote me a handwritten note saying he loved my work.

  2. I’m planning to do some exploratory querying myself, ~for science~ haha but I get how a lot of it can be really driven by the market and/or the agent’s tastes. Thanks for sharing, Sara! This was insightful ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Haha for science is the best reason. ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿฅฐ That sounds like a good plan. It’s always worth it to try it & with some research, you can find fitting agents easier.

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