Quoting Rejection Letters

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Feb 16 2010

I don’t care who wrote it, I don’t care if it was an editor, an agent, or another author. Do not, ever, quote a rejection letter in your query.

I just received a query in which the author said, Your Best Friend from Top Literary Agency called my book, “a beautifully written book similar to Bestselling Author,” and my first thought isn’t that I need to nab this book because Best Friend Agent has impeccable taste. It’s what else did Best Friend Agent say that made her reject the book instead of offer representation, and how many other agents have rejected the book before you even thought to query me?

And then I think I’ll just trust Best Friend Agent and reject the query too because I don’t have much time on my hands and she really does have impeccable taste.


27 responses to “Quoting Rejection Letters”

  1. Avatar Steph Damore says:

    I get that Jessica, but from the author's standpoint, I think she's just trying to connect with you anyway she can. She's saying that she knows you well enough to know who your best friend is. The author probably didn't look at the negative aspects of her comment. (Although technically I don't know that, seeing I have no idea who said author is.)

  2. Avatar bigwords88 says:

    That goes in the "it was a good idea at the time" stack of queries. I don't think I would have the nerve to quote anyone in a query, never mind a rejection.

  3. Avatar Lydia Sharp says:

    That final paragraph says it all.

  4. Avatar Kim Lionetti says:

    Steph —

    I think this is blurred a bit because of the "Best Friend" comment. But generally speaking if a publishing professional rejected your manuscript, it's not a good idea to put that in your query letter. It just doesn't start you off on the right foot.

    I also wanted to touch on this "personal connection" comment you brought up. I think that most publishing professionals have gotten jaded when it comes to these "personal" referrals. We've receive so many of them from every possible connection you can think of that it becomes like Six Degrees to Kevin Bacon. I've received submissions from a woman in my cousin's Sunday School class, my mom's dentist and the guy my uncle sees at his coffee shop every other Wednesday. Yes, it would help if my family didn't tell every acquaintance what I did for a living, but honestly I now view these submissions just like any other. Or sometimes with an even more skeptical eye, because these are often writers that haven't researched the publishing biz at all.

    The only "friend" referrals that carry any weight with me are direct recommendations from editors, clients or other writers with whom I've worked. Because usually they've read the work, I trust their taste and they're recommending someone that's already knows something about the industry.

  5. Avatar Steph Damore says:

    Kim–I could see how the personal connection could get old really fast. Thanks for sharing your perspective!

    I'm not saying I recommend doing what the writer did, but as a writer who doesn't have any publishing contacts, I can understand the temptation.

    I guess the lesson learned here is us writers need to make our own industry connections and let our work speak for ourselves.

  6. Wow. Thanks for sharing the perspectives on this. I can't imagine having the guts to do what this author did. Hopefully their bravery will get them far in life.

  7. Avatar Sara says:

    I've heard that agents sometimes refer an author to another agent they think might be better suited to the project. When that happens does the agent make the referral to the other agent directly, or is this possibly one of those situations?

  8. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Now I'm worried cuz an agent referred me to her associate after rejecting my ms., saying it was more suitable for that person, then left the agency. Does that put a black mark on me and/or my ms?

  9. Avatar Shelley Sly says:

    I can't imagine ever doing that, but I guess I can see the writer's intentions. Even still, it's best not to flaunt that so-and-so rejected you, especially if, like you said, so-and-so has good taste.

  10. Sara, That happened to me – a wonderful agent (Agent A) referred me to another wonderful agent (Agent B) b/c she didn't rep my genre. (I queried Agent A b/c one of her authors urged me to do so hoping she might take my project on anyway.) When I queried Agent B, I told her Agent A sent me. She requested pages, but ultimately said my work was too similar to an author she already repped.

    My point is: As long as it's legit, go for it! But remember: agents talk to each other – they'll know if it's a "true story" or not.

    ALSO: Sometimes an agent will directly pass your work on to another agent. Maybe Jessica or Kim could comment on that?

  11. Avatar Lexi says:

    I've never done this, for the reasons you give. But I suppose the temptation is there when one gets a rave rejection because it doesn't fit the agent's list.

    Or perhaps this is just another polite way to reject?

  12. Avatar Suzan Harden says:

    @Steph – There's one thing to remember. You can have all the contacts in the world, but your work MUST stand on it's own merit. I think a lot of writers forget this when they look at getting published.

  13. Avatar Layne says:

    Or, Jessica could've asked Best Friend about the book. Maybe the friend loved it but it wasn't something she was good at representing.

    In other words, stop being such a jerk.

  14. Avatar R.M.Gilbert says:

    We live and learn.

  15. For referrals done between agents, am I incorrect in thinking that that would happen between professionals? As in, Best Friend would contact Jessica somehow and say, "Hey, I got this query and the piece seems like a perfect fit for you, even though it wasn't for me. Want to take a look?" This would seem to eliminate the issue of quoting a rejection.

    I don't think Jessica is being a jerk by telling us *not* to do something that will get us rejected pretty much outright. I actually hold her in high regard for that- sometimes the truth stings a bit, but it doesn't make it any less true.

    Just my 2/c. Thanks for the insight!

  16. Avatar David says:

    If we've heard rumors you dislike another agent, can we quote an extremely nasty rejection from them? 🙂

  17. Avatar Sarah says:

    Queries are so hard because everyone tries to be unique and find ways to connect with an agent that other people aren't trying. That, however, can pose problems because by everyone trying to be unique, many are probably therefore ending up similar and annoying the agent! And, it sounds like agents have already heard it all anyway. So potential authors just need to find a very basic winning format, stick to it, and write well. Do the best you can with what you have!

  18. Avatar Donna Hole says:

    To my eyes, this wasn't a form rejection for a query. "Agency called my book . ." which implies the Agency read at least a partial, not just the query.

    And if this is a standard form rejection letter from this Agency, well call me naive also; because it seems a mistake I might make myself due to the seemingly personal encouragement. Especially if I knew Agency B definitely talked to Agency A on a regular basis and might actually have a conversation about the reference.

    So for myself, I much prefer a simple "No thanks" in a form rejection; rather than one that tries not to offend or discourage the Author.

    Because I'm not a novice at reading Agent Blogs or interviews and researching their tastes; searching for that one piece of personal or professional information that lets them know I've done my homework and didn't just pick them out of an agent query list at random. So while I may be just another one of many thousands of queriers who have scrupulously followed the Agents guidelines; the Agent themself is a personal, individual quest to me.

    So yeah, I could see myself erring in this exact manner.

    Thank you query Author, for allowing me to benifit from your mistake. And thankyou Jessica for the valuable lesson learned. I sincerely appreciate your insights.


  19. This is not how we learn, this is depend what we learn.

  20. Avatar Matt Snow says:

    Thanks for that.

    Would it be ideal not to quote anything anybody has said. For instance if I were to submit to the most outstanding agency in the world, and they rejected it, but said that it was a good MS, would you not even encourage mentioning praise from a reputed agency?

  21. Avatar student aid says:

    Yes you are right & i am agree with you.

  22. Avatar politics says:

    We live and take chances for better learning.

  23. Avatar Janet Reid says:

    I'm amazed at how "don't quote rejection letters" generates so many "but what about this" and "what about that" scenario.

    I totally agree with Jessica. Do not quote rejection letters. Not now. Not ever. Never.

    No exceptions.

    If you can think up a reason and wonder "but what about this" here's the answer: No.

  24. On a related note, I can't believe how many aspiring writers quote rejections and bash agents on their own personal blogs.

    Sheesh. Nothing says "I'm a professional" and a pleasure to work with quite like maligning those who've rejected you.

    I'm humming INSTANT KARMA just thinking about it.

    Jessica, I adore your blog. I love the honesty couched in kindness. Thank you.

  25. Avatar jessjordan says:

    Shazam, that's succint!

  26. Avatar Henya says:

    Short and to the point. There are a lot of desperate writers out there (including me), who would try just about anything to get noticed.

    I am glad I read you.