I don’t really try and hide that I have a standard rejection letter. All agents do, and there’s just no time for me to write out individual letters to thousands of people. So naturally, my rejection letter is 1) vague (so it can address nearly any reason for rejection) and 2) brief.
Here it is in all its bland glory:
Thank you for your recent letter. I regret to say that I don’t feel that I’m the most appropriate agent for your work.
However, opinions vary considerably in this business, and I wish you the best of luck in your search for representation.
I know it’s bland, I know it’s not terribly helpful, but I do hope that people find it 1) honest and 2) polite.
Now, if you mention my blog or my clients’ books, I’ll almost always write you a short personal note thanking you for reading my blog or expressing appreciation that you read my clients’ books. But that’s about as expressive as I’m able to get. I wish I could do more, and I honestly do wish you the best of luck in your search for representation, but the time crunch necessitates brevity.
When I’m responding to a partial manuscript request I have varying degrees of vagueness or specificity. If there’s one or two specific things I can point to that made the partial a “no” for me, I’ll try and point it out. If, however, I just have a general feeling that it’s not for me but can’t point to anything in particular, I write a similarly vague rejection note back — I just don’t think it would be helpful for me to say something just to say something, and I’d rather be vague than lead you astray.
But despite the inevitable blandness of these letters, I just want to say here that I very much appreciate the care and time that (most) people take to write to me when they’re querying. I know how asymmetrical it is for me to expect an amazing query letter that takes a great deal of time to prepare, only to send a vague rejection letter in return. I definitely get that. But just remember that you have one query to write at a time, while agents are receiving dozens a day. It’s asymmetrical for us too.
I’m having a great time reading your blog; you make it not only informative, but fun. By the way, weekends are very lonely here… must you take time off? 😉
I’m curious how much time you spend on a query before you decide one way or the other? Do you usually need to read all the way before that little buzzer goes off in your head, your brain sends an impulse to your muscles that cause your lips to purse and your finger to fish for the Standard Query Rejection Letter?
Your rejection is very polite and nice, Nathan, nothing to apologise for. In my opinion the worst rejections are those when the agent/editor sends you your rejection letter back with a “NO” written on it or a “NO” stamped on it. Or those small slips of paper that don’t even have the rejecting agent’s/editor’s signature (even printed). In those instances I do feel mad that I spent so much time with my query letter, and didn’t even get a signed letter in return.
But you’re most definitely not in that category! I wish I could query you, but my manuscript is humorous “tween”.
Happy Easter! 🙂
Sue Eves says
I recognize it from last year! Following your blog has steered us to an effective query letter and two full MS requests .
Thanks for your continuing support.
Fox E Parker (AKA Sue Eves & Alix Parker)
Margaret Yang says
@patti auburn: I’m glad that the encouragement kept you writing. And I knew that I’d be in the minority opinion on liking the form.
About those people who want more specific information: I think that if an agent blogs 5 days a week, he’s already doing his part to give writers all the information they need.
(Anyone who wants more information, go see Miss Snark’s archives. There, you can find an education like no other.)
I’m fine with any agent using a form–love the form!–but if an agent is blogging as well, then they have even more reason to use the form!
susan dc says
The funniest rejection I ever received was for a middle grade novel – the agent sent me a “no” along with list of book doctors!
I appreciate the form rejection. It says what it needs to say, and I was lucky enough to get a sentence or two of additional comments.
What I really appreciate is the speed. I didn’t even have time to let the usual doubts and the feeling that people at the agency are hanging my query on the wall to laugh at, throw things at, and moon every time they walk by.
I once got an e-mailed rejection that said, simply, “no thanks.” No capital letters. No punctuation. It felt rather hasty, like the agent didn’t even want to take the time to copy & paste a form letter. It left me feeling kind of empty.
But just remember that you have one query to write at a time, while agents are receiving dozens a day.
Hmmm. Maybe I’ve been going about the query process all wrong. I’ve been carefully trying to supply precisely what each agent asks for…query letter only; query and first fifty pages; query, synopsis and first chapter; cover letter, list of credentials, cat’s name and dob, etc.
Last night, I listened to a speaker who said that we should blast all these instructions to hades! “They (meaning agents) are the ones who need you!” he announced. “Send them all the same thing. A cover letter, a synopsis and the first chapter.”
Well! I think it’s a two-way street, that we are looking for each other in hopes of forming a useful bond. I’d like to take this writer’s point and run with it. Looking for an agent has been sort of like standing next to an empty punch bowl, while watching my prom dress wrinkle. I don’t want to agonize over it any more. I want to take off these pumps, throw them at the wall and dance.
I’m with everyone else … it’s great that you send responses. And I have seen this one before too … except it wasn’t signed Nathan Bransford 🙂
Nathan Bransford says
Maybe I should clarify — I know that people write many many different queries, often a different one for every agent. That’s what I meant by “one at a time.” I know you don’t just write one query and send it out to every agent, just that you only wrote one for that particular agent.
Mark Terry says
Dear (fill in here):
Thank you for your consideration, but unfortunately your rejection does not meet our needs at this time. Please do not view this rejection of your rejection as any reflection on the quality of your editorial acumen.
We apologize for the form letter, as we prefer to respond to each rejection with a personal note, but unfortunately the volume of rejections now makes this impossible.
We wish you the best of luck in all your endeavors.
(fill in here, too)
This is a query to present the various options I offer for submission format. In an effort to minimize the time spent reviewing this package, I have added two new choices to my formatting options:
* Paper airplane format
Sorry…couldn’t resist. I hope you take this in the spirit of humor.
I always appreciate receiving a note and don’t expect the agent to take the time to write something personal.
In my prior comment, I guess I was trying to say that I want to take myself a little less seriously and just go with the process.
Nikki Duncan says
I have to say, as someone who’s received such a letter from you, I didn’t have a problem with it at all. I get that agents are very busy, and you add to that by blogging regularly about things that help us improve, which a lot of agents don’t do. That said, I appreciate the response and the fact that it came quickly. You may not spend 5-10 minutes personalizing a response to every person but you don’t leave them guessing and wondering either.
This is why Stephan Barbara is the best
As for me, I am glad that you take the time to send a form letter. One of my worst rejections was a rubber stamp to the “outside” of my envelope. In BIG letters “REJECTED.” That really did wonders for my depression.
Keep sending a form letter.