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Reasons for Rejection are Sometimes Simple

I recently had a long series of email exchanges with an author who wanted to send material for my consideration. It started with a query, then another, then another, then another. I requested the material once, then twice. Then the queries got a little harsher. I couldn’t figure out what was happening. Then the material came, not once, but twice. Just an email with a bunch of attachments. While I don’t mind one attachment with the manuscript and another for the synopsis, with a nonfiction self-help proposal I prefer everything in one document (all very clearly spelled out on our website which I point authors too).

The other day I got an email that simply said, “its been 15 weeks”. No signature, no address, not even punctuation or capitalization. I rejected the material.

Life is short and when an author seems rude and disorganized at this stage of the game I get the impression things will only get worse once a publishing contract comes into play.

Category: Blog



  1. Jessica, you’re right – the author seemed disorganized and that’s a red flag. If I may play devil’s advocate, maybe she was having computer issues. It happens, and when it does we look inept or just plain flaky. And on a similar topic, when you request a full ms do you always reply yay or nay? I can understand that given your time constraints, a requested ms may languor in your in-box for months before you get to reading it. How long is too long before the author should just give up and assume you’re passing?

    1. Computer issues happen. I get that. I suspect that was not the case here. There was a level of rudeness that implied otherwise. I always reply to queries as well as requested material. Under the submissions tab we suggest how to handle timing and our response times.

  2. That’s too bad. I work in vocational rehabilitation, and often find myself helping individuals who despite capacity and talent, just never learned how to constructively communicate as working professionals. Some project their persecuted plight or angry attitude so much that it becomes almost impossible for them to even get into a job, let alone keep it.

    Unfortunately, these are often the same individuals who air their grievances on social media with reckless abandon.

  3. Unfortunate. Sometimes we need a reminder that this is just like a job interview. There’s no sense in bringing our baggage to it, or throwing tantrums because we didn’t get the job.

  4. On the topic of “computer issues” causing a duplicate mailing or some sort: this does happen and it maybe embarrassing, particularly if it occurs when you first contact the agent. I once sent a query to one agent in a multiple agent agency. Ten days later I somehow screwed up and sent another query to a different agent in the same agency. [Most agencies ask you to submit to only one agent at a time] As soon as I realized what I had done, I sent an e-mail apologizing for my mistake. I was polite and respectful, blaming my somewhat addled brain and noting I understood the agency’s rules. The second agent responded the same day saying it was fine and she understood “such things happen.” From what I read in Jessica’s post is this writer not only disregarded the agency’s policy, the writer was rude in the e-mails, even noting how long it has been since the work was sent. Make a mistake, acknowledge the fault and make an appropriate apology and most of the time you will be forgiven. Behave rudely and…well, say goodbye.

  5. I struggle to understand how authors don’t get this is still a job! I get the impression there are authors out there who think because an agent needs a cohort of authors in their list the agents are beholden to the author. But it goes both ways (authors needs agents) – and there are MANY more authors than spots on an agent’s list.

  6. Jessica, you need to write one of those “yes this really happened” books.

    These are genuine emails from authors requesting literary representation.

  7. Wait, this was a self-help book proposal? Hmm. But email server glitches or not, we should never send attachments without a note explaining what they are. Perhaps it’s smartphone technology that works this way (not for me, smartphones make me stupid), but it’s not courteous and certainly doesn’t come across as professional.

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