The Art of Literary Rejection!

Your book definitely doesn’t have the X factor, Sweetie.

A few weeks ago I begin the querying process for my new book. For those who might not know, a query letter is basically a pitch for your book.  You have to sell your book in a letter to an agent to hopefully get representation.

The agent then sells your book to a publishing house. The publishing house publishes your book, and hopefully you become an overnight sensation and sell millions of copies and Hollywood comes knocking for the movie rights. Yeah, it could happen like that. But here’s how it usually happens, and how it’s happened so far for me.

I wrote a query letter, and then rewrote it, and then edited it and rewrote it some more. After I thought I had a good letter to send out, I began by searching for agents who I thought were a good match.

I started by using This is a useful website when searching for agents because it provides a clean and informative snapshot of agents and what they are looking for, who they have represented, and how to contact them.

I soon had a list of fifteen agents who I thought were a good match for me and my book, and I sent a query email to each of them over the course of about two weeks. That’s the good thing about technology these days.  Most agents will accept email. Some still want snail mail though.  Most also just want a query letter; some want the first five or ten or twenty pages of the manuscript along with the query. So, each email submission could end up being unique.

Here’s a quick timeline of how my fifteen email queries went.

I sent two query emails on August 19th.

I sent another on August 21st. I got two rejections on the 21st – one was from today and one from the previous sent.

I sent another on August 22nd and three more on August 25th. I sent two more on August 28th.

I got a rejection from one of the August 25th queries on August 29th.

I sent another on August 30th and got another rejection from a previous query on the 30th.

I sent one more on the 31st who immediately replied with a rejection.  This one got a chuckle because at the bottom of her rejection email was a note that said: Sent from iPhone – Please forgive typos.  It’s funny because agents expect your manuscript and query letters to be pristine, but their rejection letters apparently don’t hold the same caliber.

I got a rejection on September 1st, and two more rejections on September 5th.

I sent two more queries on September 7th, and two more on September 8th.  One from the 8th rejected me on September 12th.

To date, six of the queries sent have received no reply. The rest were rejected.

On August 30th, I decided to revisit This site as a program called Agent Inbox where you can prepare your query and samples and submit them to various agents all at the same time.  It takes a long time to do because you first have to decide on what agents you want to submit to.  Then you have to add your query letter and a specific sample for every agent based on what they want and how many pages they want to see. And outside of copy and paste, the program is a bit archaic at times.  So, it eats up a lot of your time and can be very frustrating.

Then, you have to wait for Agent InBox to approve your submission, and unfortunately you get no feedback here.  After waiting and waiting, mine was approved on September 9th and sent straight to all 26 agents that I had selected.  Agent Inbox used to offer tracking for each query sent – you could see what each Agent looked at and see their rejection on the site. Not anymore.  Now you get a blanket email from the site and that’s it – I got two rejections in just a few days.

But I also got two requests from agents who wanted to see more!  YES! Both came on September 14th when I was out of town and had no access to my files. One wanted to see the entire manuscript, and the other wanted just the first 50 pages but also wanted a complete synopsis.  I sent the full manuscript request off right away on the following Monday.

As for the other, I had to write the synopsis first which took about a week. I emailed it on Sunday night, September 23rd, but got a rejection the next day. Here’s what it said:

Thank you so much for your interest in (agency name here). After conferring with senior members of the agency, I regret to inform you we are going to have to pass on this project. Your concept is wonderful, but I’m afraid the pages didn’t draw me in as much as I hoped. I had trouble connecting with the protagonist’s voice and thought it took much too long to get to the conflict. This, of course, is entirely subjective and other agencies may feel differently. I encourage you to query widely, as you never know who will feel that “spark” for your book. We appreciate the opportunity to consider your work and wish you the best of luck finding representation.

So now what?

Well, I can sit and hope that the six agents I queried who haven’t replied will eventually, though I’m pretty sure I’ve already been deleted from their inbox and they just don’t have the courtesy to send even an informal rejection reply.  There’s also the agent who has the full manuscript! Believe me – I check my inbox everyday hoping and praying. I’d like to think the longer it takes just means she’s reading it through, or maybe she hasn’t even started. Either way is a waiting game.

In the meantime, I’m already searching out another batch of agents to query just in case. I can’t give up. I am determined.  As the agent said above, it’s all subjective. Indeed it is, and just think – someone liked 50 Shades of Gray enough to publish it – and now they are suffering from 50 shades of green!

For some fun and relief on the art of literary rejection, check out this post at about Famous Author Rejection letters.


  1. Good luck, Shannon! 🙂 I sent about 36 queries for Appalachian Justice to agents, because my goal was to shoot for the “Big Six.” I got 18 rejections and one nibble. The nibble was from Folio, who said “We can work with this, but let’s put it in first person.” I did – went through the whole manuscript in two days. Sent it back. Got a notice that that agent was no longer with Folio, best of luck, yada yada. I didn’t hear from the remaining 17. Then I queried small presses and was immediately accepted. It’s quite a process, isn’t it?

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