Have I Been Rejected

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Apr 20 2010

Back in July of 2009, an agent made a full request for my manuscript. I sent it promptly. After not hearing anything for several months, I sent a polite request (with a copy of my original query attached) for a status update. No answer. Eight months later, I sent another polite request. Nothing, again. Being reasonably new to the querying process, I’m just wondering what I should do at this point. The obvious assumption would be that she has no interest in representing me; although, at this stage, I would think she’d at least let me know that. Or would she? I’ve been querying other agents during this period, so I’m not hinging everything on her, but it would be nice to know where I stand. Is this a usual way for an agent to respond (or, rather, to not respond)? Should I, in fact, consider this a rejection and give up on her?

This is probably one of the biggest frustrations writers have with the submission process. If an agent doesn’t answer, at what point do you give up and move on? I think the answer to that question depends on the writer. Some writers have the ability to let a submission go the minute it’s sent. They figure it’s out of their hands and they move on to the next thing. Certainly they’ll check up, but they are less dependent on an answer. More writers, however, wait and wait and question whether or not to assume something is a rejection.

I think you have to do what’s best for your sanity. You’ve sent two requests for updates. You’ve received no answers. I would, for your own sanity, assume you’re not going to get an answer and move on. You never know, you could still hear something, but moving forward, as you have been, is the best course of action at this point.

As for whether or not this is usual, I guess that depends on who you talk to. I don’t think it’s usual. I think that when requesting material, most agents respond, but there are always those who don’t and there are always those situations in which things fall through the cracks.


35 responses to “Have I Been Rejected”

  1. Avatar Ted Cross says:

    Me, I wouldn't worry about it, because if an agent acted like this I wouldn't want them to be my agent.

  2. Avatar Amanda J. says:

    I agree with Ted. I think at this point it comes down to whether or not you would even want to be represented by someone who hasn't responded to your emails since July '09 after seeming interested.

  3. Avatar Robby says:

    I agree with Ted as well, 100 percent.

  4. Avatar Anonymous says:

    No response on a Requested Full? I would not want that agent to represent me anyway.

    However, strange things happen in cyberspace. I'd ask around at Absolute Right and find out if this agent usually does things like this. If it's possible the Full got sucked down a blackhole and ended up in a parallel universe or something, try to find another means of contact to check on status, snail mail or a phone call or something.

    A Requested Full is a big deal. Sure, it stings to get a form rejection letter on one, but it's understandable. No response is Not Nice At All.

    Count yourself lucky for having dodged that bullet and move on. Be sure to cross the agent off your list for future projects. Maybe read a few posts or comments from authors who didn't realize they'd found an inconsiderate agent until AFTER they signed on.

  5. Avatar Jill Wheeler says:

    This happened to me once with a full, but I just let it go (without status updating). I figured if she really wanted to rep it, she'd be in touch. And, yeah, I wouldn't want her to be my agent if that is how she treats her clients.

  6. I am also in the Agreeing With Ted group. I wouldn't be crazy about working with someone like this.

  7. Avatar Tracy says:

    Count me as another who agrees with Ted. There may be a viable explanation as to why you haven't received a peep from an agent after 9 months and 2 polite follow ups, but it's likely an agent you're better off without anyway.

  8. Avatar Philangelus says:

    The problem is that if this agent works for a largish agency, the writer might want to query one of the other agents there (assuming they allow for such things) but can't as long as the first agent has it tied up.

    If the other agent were to request it and then offer representation, the first agent would hear about it and could potentially recognize the manuscript. It would only take one "Wait, *I* have her full manuscript too!" for the writer to lose out with both of them. 🙁

  9. Avatar Layne says:

    Behavior like this is the reason why I believe agents can be more of a hinderance to the publishing world than a help.

  10. Avatar Lorra says:

    You might want to go to Bewares and Background Check on Absolute Write and search (search is in upper right) for your agent, see what experiences other writers have had with them.

    Just google absolute write bewares and I think you'll find a link.

  11. Avatar Mira says:

    Philangelus, actually, I doubt that the second agent would pull representation at that point, although I could be wrong.

    To the writer, I'm really sorry this happened to you. I wonder if the agent realized how hurtful this is.

    And I agree with Ted too! 🙂

    If I were you, I might like some closure. It's up to you, but I might send the agent a letter saying something like: I appreciate your interest, but it appears that my work is not a good fit with your list. I'd like to remove my MS from your consideration. Thank you for your time.

    That way it's done and over, and doing this may take some of the sting out of the whole thing.

    Good luck to you – keep on!

  12. I'm also going to agree with Ted and the others. Given that you have politely asked for a status twice with no response, there is very little chance that the full didn't get through. And if three pieces of correspondence have fallen through the cracks, the agent's communications system is too flawed. You would be frustrated trying to communicate even if you signed with that agency.

    There are many fantastic agents out there who communicate professionally. Hold out for one who is both responsive and enthusiastic about your work!

  13. Avatar Anonymous says:

    This is a prime example why you need to be querying and sending out to other agents all the time. If you ever grant exclusives, do it only under a very tight timeframe. Also don't be above violating the agreement. Agents and editors are not gods. They are fallible and sometimes flakey.

  14. Avatar Connie says:

    Sadly, I think this might be becoming more common. I've had it happen three times with my current manuscript. But at least I know that they're agents I wouldn't want to work with. When my current WIP is finished, I won't be sending anything to them again.

  15. Avatar ryan field says:

    "Some writers have the ability to let a submission go the minute it’s sent."

    If you're going to be a writer for the long haul, and you're not just screwing around between jobs, this is the only sane way to approach all submissions.

  16. Avatar Anonymous says:

    I find myself in the situation that Philangelus described. I'm waiting to hear from one agent on a full, and meanwhile, an agent at the same agency, who was closed to submissions when I queried, is now accepting them. And she'd be a better fit for my book. I wonder if after six months to a year (don't you think that's a reasonable amount of time?) you can pull your ms from consideration from the agent who hasn't responded to a few status requests?

  17. I agree also. I wouldn't want anyone this lame as an agent anyway, but I would send another email politely saying that as you haven't heard from them, you are reclaiming your "offer". Nothing wrong with that.
    Incidentally, I know an author who spent a long time getting an agent and now she has that agent, said agent doesn't respond to her emails – even with three books under the belt! I guess the lesson is that even when you have an agent, some of them are just lame human beings. End of story!

  18. I agree also. I wouldn't want anyone this lame as an agent anyway, but I would send another email politely saying that as you haven't heard from them, you are reclaiming your "offer". Nothing wrong with that.
    Incidentally, I know an author who spent a long time getting an agent and now she has that agent, said agent doesn't respond to her emails – even with three books under the belt! I guess the lesson is that even when you have an agent, some of them are just lame human beings. End of story!

  19. Definitely move on. I'd count that as a rejection. For me, anything over six months is a rejection by default.

  20. The quantity of submissions often stop agents from being able to have a more personal approach at the beginning stages…but after two ignored requests for an update on a requested sumbission…I agree that they might not be the right fit for you.

  21. Avatar Anonymous says:

    I just spoke with my agent yesterday. I am a client, and he sold my first mss last year (July 09) and it's being published in 2011. Contracts have been signed, advances paid, authors ques's filled out. We're often in touch. So, when I read this post I laughed a little. Not out of spite but thinking about my convo w/him yesterday:

    Me: "Have you, um, had a chance to look at my new mss?"
    Him: "It's in my stack."
    Me: "So you'll get to it."
    Him: "Yes."

    I asked him if he had a reader. Yes, but he ultimately reads everything. The reality of "having an agent" isn't someone who gets your work and turns it around in two seconds. I knew that going in. It took a very long time from writing a letter to him to receiving an agency contract. About as long for him to place the mss. A little bit less time to get the contract and advance (in two parts, part two being later than part one.)

    These days, when I read this sort of post i.e., trying to "figure out" the agent, I always think of my past and current experience. It takes a while for people to get back to you. Maybe my advantage was that I knew that going into it. Or, that I got a positive response and trusted that would – as it has – manifest into something.

    Last night, I googled something that lead to a guy who maintains an email list of agents. He publishes his correspondance with them, taking them to task for (__________ <<< everything), arguing, whining, the whole nine yards. It was somewhat of an embarrassment to read. Although he has, "The last word" – or, a public one – in the end, he didn't win anything. It was too painful to read the whole site, but my guess is that Mr. Argumentative still doesn't have an agent – just a long list of emails.

    The reality is, if you chose to step out of line – "Take that, agent!" – they don't care. And someone else more patient than yourself will take your place or move forward.

  22. Avatar katharrmann says:

    You would think after requesting a FULL, that they would at least have the courtesy to say "no, thanks." I've heard of queries being ignored into silence, but this is a bit much.

  23. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Hi all-
    I am the person who wrote this entry about the agent. Thanks for all your advice. I tend to agree: if this is how the agent operates at this stage, then who's to say the same thing couldn't happen at the next? If so, it's probably best to find out sooner rather than later! I'm moving on–have been for quite some time, and since then, have had other requests for fulls (and yes, ALL have followed up and responded so far!). BTW, this is a larger, more reputable agency–which shows, I think, that size and reputation have no relevance when it comes to proper etiquette.

  24. Avatar Lexi says:

    I'd pick up the phone and speak to him/her. Then you'll be able to draw a line under it.

    He/she might not like you to call? What does that matter, when you no longer want this agent to represent you?

  25. Like everyone else is saying, I'd assume the agent isn't interested and move on. If you are bothered enough, though, you could check the agent's blog or website to make sure there haven't been any extenuating circumstances delaying her response…although I couldn't imagine what would delay someone from responding to a full they were interested in for that long.

  26. Avatar Lisa_Gibson says:

    I try to go by their website also. If it says you can expect a comment, then I may check back. If it doesn't say anything, I assume no answer, IS an answer of 'No'.

  27. Avatar Lisa_Gibson says:

    Oh yikes, I just realized that was no response on a full. In that case, I think I agree with Ted as well.

  28. Avatar Kelly says:

    You are right that this is highly unusual, but it does happen. On the few occasions it happened to me, I later found out that there were extenuating circumstances; one guy had big-time personal problems, another guy just went out of business altogether. Wait a few months, make 2 attempts to contact (just in case the first doesn't go through for tech reasons), and then put it behind you.

  29. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Until the book is sold to a pub, keep pushin' it. Don't stop. You shouldn't be 'following up' on old prospects. There's only 2 tings to doL hit up new proespects and write new books. Anyting else is a waste of time.

  30. Avatar Anonymous says:

    I agree that following up is a waste of time (how often, after all, does an agent say "Oh, yeah, I do want that!" months later?!), but simply re-querying every 2 months until you get a response isn't a waste of time. There are only so many qualified uber-agents, after all, and no response doesn't mean no–only no means no!

  31. Avatar Anonymous says:

    To the questioner: I agree with the others; you don't want that agent to represent you.

    She'd never get around to submitting your manuscript, she'd never get back to you about anything, she gets a zero in communication. It does matter.

  32. Avatar nauthor says:

    Anonymous at 7:22– actually not one but two agents contacted me to say "oh yeah, I do want that" months later. Fortunately I had already signed with another agent.

    If I hadn't, would I have been tempted? I hope not.

  33. Ted has a good point. That being said, if you send a SQ, attach your manuscript to the email. It will make it easier for the agent to respond to you. He/she won't have to dig through files. (An agent I visited with this week gave me this adivice.) Best wishes!

  34. Avatar Sheila Deeth says:

    I've just been tidying up my lists of where everything is, so this is very timely advice for me. Thanks.

  35. Avatar joemullich says:

    You need to remember we live in an age of non-response. It can sometimes be hard for me to get a response from editors who I am doing contracted work for!

    In a time when non-response is acceptable etiquette, you need to be more aggressive. If the agent has asked to see your manuscript, it's perfectly fine to pick up the phone and call. This can be intimidating for some writers, but it's a good business practice that becomes much easier the more you do it.

    It's probably all moot in this case after a year. But still, if I were the writer, I'd pick up the phone and call the agent to see what was going on, if only for the practice of doing so. The agent may not remember your manuscript at all. But, heck, there's that 1% chance it's under a couch or something. So you lose nothing by calling. And like I said, it will be good practice for the future.

    Good luck!