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The author critiques the literary agents' rejection letters

May 12, 2017

There are plenty of contests and for-cost seminars, webinars, and conferences to help existing and newbie authors hone their query letters into razor-sharp weapons which, like the brilliant plumes of a peacock, are aimed at getting attention. All of them typically involve literary agents taking their red pens to the author's query letter and making it bleed, either from a single, fatal blow or death by a million paper cuts. 

 

We all know that no two agents will react in exactly the same way to the same query letter, which leads me to the result many of us see---the dreaded rejection letter.  Several well-known websites are full of quotes from rejection letters.  What if the tables were turned, and literary agents' rejection letters were subject to the same scrutiny?

 

Rejection letter example #1:

 

Dear [Author's name redacted for privacy]:

 

Thank you for your submission.  [I like this sentence---good to at least acknowledge the writer's submission].  Unfortunately, I don't think it's quite a fit for me as an agent.  [This sentence is too vague.  What is the agent really saying about the work?  Doesn't like it?  Wrong genre?  This sentence needs a lot work to convince me of the agent's credibility and sincerity]  I encourage you to contact other agents about your project, and don't give up! [I like the encouragement, but it rings hollow in the greater context of the rejection, and fails to identify any other agents who might be interested]

 

Overall, this rejection letter is a good start but it needs some real polishing if it's going to be effective.

 

Rejection letter example #2:

 

Dear [Author's name redacted for privacy]:

 

Thank you for your query of [Book title redacted for privacy].  It's not for me but good luck. [I'm lost here---the agent provides no context for the conclusion.  Is the agent too busy?  Doesn't like the genre?  Unavailable due to alien abduction?  Remember, context matters, and there's none here]

 

Overall, this rejection letter needs a substantial  amount of work before it's ready to send out. 

 

Rejection letter example #3:

 

Dear [Author's name redacted for privacy]:

 

Thanks for your submission, [Again, good start in acknowledging the query] but it's just not quite right for my list right now.  [This sentence lacks direction and purpose, and leaves me guessing.  What exactly is the agent trying to say here?  A little detail would go a long way in connecting the agent's thoughts to the words on the page] As you know, literary trends change, so keep on querying and good luck! [I like the upbeat ending, but am confused by the agent's meaning here.  Does the agent mean that the list will change?  That the trend is different?  Should the author resubmit later or to someone else?]

 

Overall, the plot of this rejection letter is confusing and fails to give the author a real sense of the issues.  More work is needed.

 

I hope you've found these examples helpful, and happy rejecting!

 

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