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Agents Rejecting Queries

I hear feedback very similar to this comment quite a bit:

Publishers and editors are looking for diverse stories written by diverse authors, yet when we submit our queries to Bookends’ agents all we get is “not the right fit” or “didn’t feel strongly enough to request pages”.  This dismissal of our efforts is based on a query letter only since we are not allowed to submit even one page of a manuscript.   I really hope that publishers and editors are aware of this policy which does not help get diverse manuscripts into their hands.

The belief, I believe, is that editors don’t know what they’re missing because agents are too dismissive. If only we could rid the world of agents so many good books would be published.

Did you know that editors will reject a book based on a query, even if it’s from an agent?

Did you know that readers reject a book on query all the time? They just call it cover copy.

Did you know that writing to a market that many are looking for, like diverse books, still requires a compelling story idea, great writing, riveting characters, and a plot that keeps us reading?

There is no easy way into publishing. My suggestion if you feel your query is getting rejected unfairly is to quit blaming the reader, and instead take a very serious look at the query you’re writing or possibly the book to see what else it might need to grab the attention of readers.

BookEnds is very serious about finding more diverse authors. I think you’ll see that in the sales we’ve been making and the books we are representing, but taking on a new client requires a strong belief that it’s a book we can find a good home for.

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15 comments

  1. (Long post) There are some people who don’t think you know what you’re doing when in fact, it is them. Sorry this comment turned into a tangent.
    I have been a writer for longer than I care to admit and an real close to publication, finally. Should have paid better attention in school. Anyway, about five years ago my niece wrote a novel. She never mentioned it to me although she was well aware of how long I had been working on my craft. I would have helped, steered her toward organizations, been a support, but like many, she wanted to keep her story-line close to her chest, lest it be taken. No critique partner, no one to read it until it’s published, trademarked, all rights reserved, protected. We’ve all been there in the beginning. Then we wake up.

    She finally posted her novel is going to be published as a series and began the marketing process. Although my mother told me she is writing, she never did. When I read her post, the green monster rose and I allowed a bit of pity party, well, okay, more than a bit. Damn, I’d been writing all these years and she sells her first book. &^#$*&^%(#$@@%^. Then more *%$&*$##$#@. I finally sucked it up, told her congratulations and asked how can I help. She private messaged me well into the process complaining that the editor was screwing up her novel, making grammatical errors, changes that were not correct, now she would have to leave them and go elsewhere. After she demanded her money back (which eventually they did) and even though I wasn’t published, what should she do? She finally told me about the publisher and she fell into the pay to publish scenario and had paid almost $5000.00 to date. I tried to help, as family and an aspiring author, I know how hard it is to “get the call” (do they call anymore?). I did what I could to help, but she wasn’t interested in hearing she might have work to do and this is a scam.

    So, fast-forward to the end, we agreed to disagree. She felt that I was jealous of her pending success, blah, blah, blah. She said her work is good enough to pay someone to publish her, they’d make their money back ten-fold. My response was that writing is hard, hard work; it takes persistence and a bit of luck and if you’re one of the rare people who make it with their first book, more power to you. But unfortunately, I believe you’re being taken. She disagreed. I told her that I am good enough to not pay someone to publish my book. In the end, I am right and she has several cases of unsold books. There are lessons for those willing to listen and for others, there are cases in the attic. Just my two cents.

  2. I have always gone withe the approach that it comes down to the right fit. Many of us have well written queries but they did not spark the person reading them.

    I approach this the same way I approached my long ago dating life.
    Example: You did not find me attractive but your best friend did.

    It all comes down to who thinks you’r the hottie.

  3. And I’d like to add that you want an agent (and an editor) who LOVES your work, personally and professionally, to represent it. If it doesn’t click, that’s fine. Move on. This post is perfect. I’m in the middle of querying and the form Rs hurt, but they’re not meant to be personal. I also think Bookends has one of the nicer form rejection letters. 🙂

    Keep on keeping on, fellow writers!

  4. Is writing about characters that the author has no personal investment in a prerequisite for being published?If so then this is the beginning of the death of literature as we know it.

    1. I’m afraid I’m not sure what your argument is here. I do think authors need a personal investment in their characters, but I don’t know that it’s a prerequisite for being published.

  5. We all read different things, i have a good friend who like me reads mainly paranormal romance. I can almost guarantee if one of us likes an author, series or book the other won’t.
    Editors and Agents are readers and by nature of their work have to love reading, probably more than the rest of us.
    So even taking into account that not everyone likes every book. If you can’t write a query, which is maybe 1000 words in total and grab the attention of a known reading addict like an agent. Can you hold the general reading public for 50,000+ words?
    I would be going back and looking at both my letter and probably my book.

    1. As a super picky reader, I’m going to totally agree that not everyone likes every book. Also, I see this principle in action in my beta readers, which are a mix of writers and readers. There’s always a couple that just don’t seem to “get” a particular plot or character, while the others just seem to plug right in. Of course, when they all start agreeing they don’t get something, that’s a flag that I’ve got a problem I need to fix (which is a different issue of course). The thing is to make it as good as you can possibly make it… then keep trying because, again, not everyone likes the same thing. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of the right fit, and it can take time, and persistence. And time. And persistence. Ad infinitum. Just don’t give up.

  6. I love this! A good query actually gives a lot of information about both the book and the author. I’ve purchased books based on just one sentence. It was just that good. Thanks for sharing this.

  7. I think sometimes people don’t realise how many others might be submitting diverse (or cowboy, or princess, or psychic, or whatever the latest #MSWL calls for) and that you still have to wow the agent and stand out amongst the crowd. Having an interesting angle isn’t enough on its own.

  8. Don’t post a negative comment here, folks, unless you write well. You’re making a case for agents. The industry needs an overhaul. It’s antiquated. My three books are traditionally published and award-winning. But until literary agents and editors wise up, I will take advantage of new options for writers. Until they STOP allowing retailers to return unsold books to publishers, writers should seek OTHER lucrative avenues to put their work into the laps of readers. It’s time for writers to take charge of their own careers, which includes perfecting their work. Stop giving away your profit. Wake up, writers. The industry won’t change all that much until you take charge!

  9. Like someone else said, I think it boils down to being the right fit, and doesn’t necessarily mean there’s something wrong with your query, and/or manuscript.

  10. As an aspiring author, I hope you can provide some feedback to me. If I have a manuscript that is, say, 80% complete (mostly because I wrote it in my spare time before realizing the necessity of a proposal), and which meets the criteria on an agent’s wishlist, but I do not yet have a fully fleshed-out proposal, should I refrain from submitting a query until the proposal is complete?

  11. Pam, I guess it’s a matter of how you want to spend your money.

    I would rather be writing than having to do/manage every task that goes with being published indie. Rather than investing my money on those elements individually, I’m happy to pay a commission to an agent to help with that. Unlike you, I have no established readership which will help as an indie author and marketing as an indie takes a lot of work and has to be done well. There’s no point keeping all the profit if there is no profit to be had.

    Every writer has a different vision for their career and there is no wrong or right vision. In my case, it’s one that includes an agent.

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