Is AutoReject an Urban Legend

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Oct 14 2010

There is a controversy ongoing on one of the query tracking services I frequent that you might be able to resolve. Some of the writers there are convinced that some agents sometimes utilize an ‘autoreject’ for queries. The thought is the agents may go to an autoreject when they are on vacation or are so flooded with queries that they simply autoreject incoming queries for a time so as not to have to deal with them until, presumably, they catch up. Does this, to your knowledge, happen? Or is the query ‘autoreject’ theory simply another Urban Myth?

Interesting. I never considered this. So instead of closing to queries or even bothering to read queries, I could simply set up an automated reply that answers and then deletes the query. Interesting.

Honestly, I can’t say definitively that this is never done. I can say that it’s never done at BookEnds without you knowing about it, without the reply letting you know that the query isn’t being read, but as for other agents, I suppose it’s a real possibility that this could happen. I suppose there are agents out there who are afraid that by closing to queries they will miss out on something, but when they get overwhelmed they put on the autoreject. It’s possible.

All that being said, I also think there’s often a feeling that a quick rejection is an automatic response, when sometimes it just happens that, in my case anyway, the query comes in, I’m sitting there and immediately respond. So while I can’t say for sure that this is never done, I can say that it’s probably rare.


20 responses to “Is AutoReject an Urban Legend”

  1. Avatar Philangelus says:

    In one forum where I participate, I've seen "autoreject" used to indicate that the agent himself or herself will automatically reject the project because of some stupid thing the writer has done. "A 500,000 word novel is an autoreject" for example. Or, "It's a bummer that you addressed it to *Mr.* Faust, but I doubt that's an autoreject."

    The key being that someone will have had to see the query in order to realize it was addressed to the wrong gender or the novel is five times too long.

    If someone is afraid to close to queries for fear of missing something awesome, then autorejecting will still cause the agent to miss that awesome thing–and moreover will prevent the writer from resending the query at a time the agent would have been able to read queries. On first pass, it doesn't seem logical to me.

  2. The fastest rejection I ever got on a query came in under ten minutes. I assume, like you've said, the agent just happened to be sitting at their machine when it came in. I never thought about the possibility of it being automated, though.

    Come to think of it, I still don't. I agree with Philangelus – to me the term doesn't imply actual automation as much as a guaranteed rejection for certain circumstances.

  3. Avatar mdal says:

    I think some aspiring authors just fail to realize how much an agent can tell about the writing from the query or the first page of the ms. If the writing is very rough, it's obvious from very early on. The 500k debut novel, as Philanegelus pointed out, is another dead giveaway that the author isn't quite there yet, as is querying an agent who doesn't rep that genre. All these (and more) can make for a darn quick reject. I still think the automated reject is an urban myth.

  4. Avatar Amy Tripp says:

    Thank you! I would hate to think of queries hitting an agent's email, only to have the email program reject it! As if writers aren't oversensitive as it is. 🙂

  5. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Well, this made me laugh because once, with one agent, they sent me six separate rejection emails (to my one sole query)over the course of a year and I had to ask them three times to please stop.

    (One rejection a piece is all I can take – dear o dear – my poor little writer heart.)

  6. Avatar Cheyanne says:

    I think writers are just desperate to find excuses as to why their work isn't getting requested.

    Geez, just take the rejection and move on. Everything isn't a controversy.

  7. Avatar Poetic Zest says:

    I've never heard of 'autoreject' before. It sounds like a useless concept–a waste of everyone's time and opportunity. Agents would be better off closing to queries for a period of time to catch up. Closing to queries or setting up autoreject both have the same outcome–they're missing out.

    Thanks for bringing up the subject.

  8. Avatar Huntress says:

    I've never heard of a possible autoreject either.

    Just the thought of it makes me cringe.

  9. Like PoeticZest said, it'd just seem wiser to close off queries for a while, and in fact I've seen several agents do this recently. Still, they then get inundated with queries once they reopen, so perhaps that's where some of the auto-reject fears come from.

    I wouldn't really think twice about the amount of time it took if I got a rejection super-quickly anyway. I'd just assume that the agent was like me, with a tendency to work from the top of the inbox if nothing else is too pressing.

  10. I'm with Philangelus. I doubt it's happening that way because it defeats its own apparent purpose.

    I did have one experienced author (thrice published) tell me that "If your query / first pages have glaring mistakes, you'll get rejected so fast you get whiplash".

    So maybe that's the problem?

  11. Avatar Anonymous says:

    The fastest auto-rejects I ever get are from Amanda 'Binky' Urban. They come fast. And it's because she apparently reads them all herself and writes a personal quick note saying no thanks.

    I don't care, compared to all the artificial intelligences that pass themselves off as literary agent answer-backs, La Binkster is refreshimundo

    happy jackass

  12. Avatar M.A.Leslie says:

    Do you ever send a rejection and then have second thoughts later and change your mind. Have you ever read a query that you didn't like then sent an instant reply of no. Then went to lunch, did some work, and finally went home with the idea suddenly popping in your head and making you wish you would have reconsidered or given it more time?

  13. I think this has to be an urban myth.

    If an agent wanted to set up an auto-rejection, they could just as easily set up an auto-rejection that says they are closed to queries.

    In other words, they don't need to be sneaky about it, so why would they be?

  14. Avatar Anonymous says:

    What JJ said. Also, seems like the technology couldn't handle it. Even if you filtered it to only reject things with 'query' in the subject line, the supposed Auto-Reject program would still react to non-queries the same as queries, meaning people would get rejections in response to status requests, e-mails asking whether the agent was open to queries, etc. Seems like that would get obvious too fast. Unless you came up with some pretty fancy programming logic to detect what makes a "real" query (word count? the word "represent"?). Which, again, more trouble than it's worth.

    Long story short, the agent may not be deliberating passionately, or there may be an intern or assistant dismissing some queries, but nearly all rejections come from the same place: the agent is not interested enough to want to read more. And that's something you can often tell right away.

  15. Avatar Wendy Qualls says:

    This would be a phenomenally stupid thing to do, if anyone has tried it the way you defined "autoreject." As JJ pointed out, it would be just as easy to autoreply that they're closed for queries. Or (and I had this happen to me) they could just not reply and then post a message on their website two weeks later saying "Sorry, I accidentally deleted my entire inbox last week so if you want to re-query, please send me something after X date."

    I do 100% believe that agents "autoreject" queries which don't follow the rules – the ones in 24-point font, with the 500,000-word children's book text in a .xls attachment, and where the author doesn't actually say anything about the book other than it's the greatest thing God will ever read.

  16. Avatar Mark Terry says:

    Dear (fill in here): Thank you for your consideration, but unfortunately your rejection does not meet our needs at this time. Please do not view this rejection of your rejection as any reflection on the quality of your editorial acumen.

    We apologize for the form letter, as we prefer to respond to each rejection with a personal note, but unfortunately the volume of rejections now makes this impossible.

    We wish you the best of luck in all your endeavors.

    (fill in here, too)

    *I wish I could take credit for this, but I can't. I don't even know who wrote it, but I've had it pinned to my bulletin board for about 20 years!

  17. Avatar ryan field says:

    I have a friend who is an agent (not mine). And I know for a fact he reads all queries that come in. I also know that sometimes authors don't get replies for months. But the queries are always read and taken seriously.

    I say urban legend.

  18. Avatar clindsay says:

    I don't think I've ever head of this. Usually when agents talk about an "autoreject" it's because the query didn't follow submission guidelines in a significant way, like adding an attachment when guidelines specify otherwise. But many agents just delete queries like this without sending a response at all.

    Just pretending to answer and rejecting by rote seems counterproductive and misleading. I can't imagine an agent who would actually do this when closing to queries for a short spell works just as well and gives both the agent and the writer a break.

  19. Avatar clindsay says:

    Er, that was supposed to say "heard", not "head". LOL! Oooops!

  20. Avatar Kirsten says:

    I've wondered about this before. No way to prove that it does or doesn't happen, but when you get a rejection within an hour for an agent that has a posted 4 week turnaround, you kind of have to wonder.