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If You Thought Literary Agents Were Harsh

Authors often get discouraged by the rejections they face from agents and agents are often criticized for the harshness of those rejections. Sadly though, these rejections are simply part of your training to becoming a published author.

Think about it, once you have an agent she’s going to start submitting to publishers, who can be even more brutal in their feedback since they are usually talking to a trusted colleague (the agent). Once a book is published it goes to reviewers whose job it is to be harsh, and reviewers can be harsh.

If you don’t believe me, read some of these quotes from actual reviews,

[Award-winner Author’s] subpar novel…

Early in [Author’s] mediocre first novel…

Only diehard fans of the series need apply.

…there’s a remarkable lack of real conflict.

…[character] is too boring to be a romantic hero.

…the central premise doesn’t quite hold up its side of the bargain.

I feel bad every time I read reviews like these. I wince a little. Being an author means learning how to be tough. Or just never reading reviews (which I do recommend to a number of clients).

Category: Blog



  1. Not being confronted by reviews yet, but I’ve had very harsh feedback from contests – and no avoiding those. Luckily my shoulders are pretty broad. I see all those query rejections and feedback as the training ground for the public comments to come when published. Just have to believe in yourself =)

  2. How do you coach your clients to respond to direct emails, Twitter messages or mentions, or Facebook messages–especially if they’re negative? Is the best advice simply to ignore these comments?

  3. Is it possible to be active on a platform like Goodreads without getting caught up in the reviews?
    I’ve dealt with reviews for knitwear designs. There is nothing better than reading how your pattern was the perfect touch for someone’s wedding or birthday, and was a joy from start to finish. Very little is more frustrating than a screed from someone who completely changed the pattern, and then told other knitters not to buy it.
    So, where does the balance usually fall for authors? Are the warm fuzzies enough to keep back the flames? Do they find good friends to pass on any particularly wonderful reviews, but not search through them personally?

    1. I think that’s going to be entirely personal to the author and something you’d have to figure out on your own. Some authors are able to easily let the bad reviews go and focus only on the good. I think that’s a pretty special rare author though. It’s human nature that we obsess over what we did wrong or what we could have done better. I have authors who do read reviews, those who read them selectively and those who won’t read any of them.

  4. It is discouraging. I do know what my audience is and all that r the other points with a good query letter. I also have researched which agents might be amenable toward my work. However it often seems they are still not willing to give a new author a break unless that person is on the level of a Grisham, King, I can’t be these people and they can’t be me. So why expect me to be just like them?

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