Rejected by Your Own Agent

The reason for this email is, I’m a little (okay, a lot) heart sick over the fact that my agent has turned down my most recent book. I’m feeling embarrassed and I’m starting to think, oh my gosh, what if I lost my mojo? What if she’s sorry she signed me?

Can you tell me what it really means since my brain is clogged at the moment? Have you ever had to do this?

I should also mention that we have one ms on submission at the moment.

I’m so sorry to hear that. It is very frustrating and very scary when you feel like your agent might no longer be on your side. I’m afraid though that this is an impossible question for me to answer. The only one who can really answer this question is your agent. You still have something on submission so that’s a good thing. As long as she’s actively working on that submission it means she believes in you and your work and is working on your behalf.

I think the first thing you need to do is find out exactly why she rejected your most recent book. Does she think you lost your mojo? Does she think it’s the wrong direction for you? What’s missing? I’m sure my clients will happily pipe up to share stories of all the books or proposals they’ve written that I’ve rejected. In no way has it meant that I’ve rejected them, but many times it means that for whatever reason I think they could do better. Either the book paled in comparison to their other works or wasn’t up to the standards I knew they could write. Sometimes it was the hook. Whether it’s a fresh submission or a new change in career direction, hook is important. Was it a hook that would propel them in the direction we were both seeking to go?

There are millions of reasons an agent might reject a client’s work and the only way to know why is to ask. From that point you have to determine the next steps yourself. Do you agree with the agent? Do you want to stick with the agent? Ultimately only you and your agent can address your concerns.


Category: Blog



  1. I don’t have an agent (yet) but I’ve had this experience with editors, as I’m sure many freelancers have: after happily submitting for awhile to an editor, suddenly the next article is rejected. All you can do is ask why- no answer coud be worse than what you are telling yourself!

  2. Oh, I just had this happen to me, and boy does it hurt. I did actually ask my agent that very question, and was assured that wasn’t the case at all; that all my agent’s clients have at one point or another handed in something the agent didn’t like, and we’ll just keep brainstorming until we come up with something that we both love.

    So yeah, it’s worth asking. I wasn’t quite as scared since we’ve already sold books, but this was the first time I sent something that got that response, and just because some books have sold doesn’t mean I couldn’t be dropped too. And it just sucked; I loved that little proposal and was really excited about it. (Sorry. Like I said it just happened, so it still hurts.)

  3. I’m sorry for this.

    You have to remember that you agent works for you. This is a business relationship. Email and ask what is going on. You shouldn’t have to play a guessing game as to this agents thoughts. SHE should’ve taken the inititive nd discussed her reasons for rejecting the book. But since she didn’t, the ball is in your court. No agent should simply turn down a book without a thoughtful response as to why.

    It is vital to you as an author to find out what didn’t work about this book. How can you continue to write if you have to second guess what an agent’s response is going to be? Has the agent sold books? How many? Are her comments legitimate — does she know about this specific book in terms of genre, if it is different from your previous book with her?

    Agents can be wrong. They are a lot of the time. Just because the agent didn’t like the book does not mean it’s a bad book. (I speak this as someone who sold a book under a (now former) agent. The agent wanted tons of revision before she’d send the book out. When it sold, the editor had me undo every single thing the agent had insisted on.)

  4. The OP sounds like it was a whole book she sent, not just a proposal, and I think that makes a big difference as to what she has a right to expect from the agent.

    A proposal — or simply brainstorming some ideas, where things are in the planning stage might very well entail a lesser response, a brief, no this isn’t going to work and here’s why… blah, blah…

    But if this was an entire manuscript, as in finished, rewriteen mutliple times and polished, I think any agent worth their salt owes you a lot more that a simple, sorry, this doesn’t work. NEXT!

    Writing is hard. It takes the better part of a year to finish a novel. Having the entirety of a years work be met with, Sorry, NEXT, is completely unacceptable

  5. Oh wow. You know, this never crossed my mind that an agent would reject her clients work. I knew editors rejected their authors work, it just never dawned me agents did too. Complete brain freeze on my part.

  6. I hope it’s just a proposal that was rejected. If I put my work into a book for an agent I was already contracted with, and the whole ms was rejected, I’d be crushed, even with a good explanation. With no explanation, I’d be livid.

  7. LOL! My, this is so timely, since Jessica just rejected one of my proposals this morning…but, her reasons are excellent and her suggestions have me scrambling to revise and rewrite and head in a new direction. In my mind, it all comes down to trust–if you trust your agent’s instincts, it’s not a problem to change direction. If you are concerned that your agent is not looking out for your best interests, it’s time for a heart to heart talk–find out why the ms. was rejected and what, if anything, you can do to make it better.

  8. It’s perfectly normal for an angent to reject the odd proposal from a client…I mean, not everything we write is amazing, or sellable…in my case, I tried something out of the box and my agent explained what was wrong with my initial proposal and I took her comments and reworked it. I just hit send this morning so we shall see….she sold my first book back in September but I trust her totally to know what works and what doesn’t…and she was right in this instance….but, she was open and forthright and more importatntly, encouraging….I was not upset, just pumped for the opportunity to get it right…I hope this works out for the author. good luck with your next proposal.

  9. I thought clients submitted their next projects (after several sales) based on proposals, not fully written books? It sounds like your clients have to write the entire book before submission. Is this a genre thing?

  10. I’ve already discussed my next book with my agent and gave her sample pages and 1-page synopsis before starting. So I got her buy-in before I got too far into the book. I think the key is to discuss your plans beforehand and get your agent’s blessing before going forward.

    The OP was unclear whether she turned in a completed book, or a proposal. That makes all the difference in the world.

  11. What would concern me in this situation is if my agent had rejected a project of mine, I’d expect her or him to tell me why up front so then we could discuss whether to drop the project or re-invent/improve it. Why would an agent leave her own client guessing?

  12. Another reason to make you want to self-publish. If you’re writing to become famous or rich- well…. Do you give up your story or do you take a chance? I just want MY STORY published, not my agents! Cha-ching!

  13. You should ask why, absolutely! Yet it’s though times and editors have become much more choosy. Whatever her answer will be, keep on trying. There are always other agencies.

  14. So, if your agent rejects your book, can you just submit it elsewhere without severing the relationship completely? Can you have two agents working on two different things (eg: you write fiction and non-fiction and each agent does not represent the other genre?)

  15. Anon 2:11 –

    In my ears, your Cha-Ching was the sound of money going out of the author’s pocket into the vanity publisher’s.

    The real money is in building a career and a backlist of well-written well-edited books that give astonishing reader satisfaction. Clearly, a professional-quality writer who already has an agent should be using that person as a resource to make sure her projects are salable and the best that they can be.

    Paying someone to publish your book is unnecessary when you get to that level of professionalism, and deeply foolish before then.

  16. Dal,

    I didn’t write a manuscript for the money. I wrote one because i had a story to tell, not tell my agents story. Maybe you should tell Christopher Paolini and his family about how un-professional it is.

    Anon 2:11

  17. I didn’t write a manuscript for the money. I wrote one because i had a story to tell, not tell my agents story. Maybe you should tell Christopher Paolini and his family about how un-professional it is.

    And they can tell you how they already had connections in and knowledge of the publishing industry, and over 30k to spend, along with over a year of their time.

    If you’ve got all that, too, more power to you, although you’d still do better going with a big house. There’s a reason why the few self-publishing successes–rare enough to make huge news–always end up signing with a major house.

  18. Anon 5:27

    You missed my point. As I said before, if your about money do it your agents way. My point is they controlled how their book was published, what was in it, and what was on it. Sounds to me like we have some touchy agents and/or authors who compromised the integrity of their book for money.

  19. Sounds to me like we have some touchy agents and/or authors who compromised the integrity of their book for money.


    Sounds to me like we have some unpublished people who don’t know how publishing actually works, and thinks everyone who gets a book deal has to “compromise their integrity” in some way. For the record, my book is mine, and nobody else’s, and I didn’t have to compromise one tiny thing about it or me in order to get an agent, or to get it published.

    It also sounds to me like some of us made the mistake of trying to save you a lot of time, money, and heartbreak. Sorry we bothered. I wish you the best of luck.

  20. Anon 6:11

    LOL I’m confused wasn’t this article about having a book rejected by your existing agent. Are you telling me your not professional enough to publish a book on your own? or that nobody is capable of doing that. I would think a published author would have a little bit of knowledge. I can also tell you that just because one agent doesn’t like a book doesn’t mean the rest of the world won’t. This was about a published author being rejected, not an un-published. Apparently you’ve never butted the system. An agent tells you to sit down in a pile of dung, you’d plop down. Your assumptions are almost as funny as you wishes of luck. If I thought my book was good and I spent a year working on it, I wouldn’t roll over and die because one person didn’t like it. I believe that was the point. Self-publishing for an author who has their name already out there is certainly an option, along with finding another agent. If un-published authors can do it, surely you would be capable. Cha-ching.

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