How to Decipher an Agent’s Rejection Letter Part 3

Last week, we looked at why an agent might reject a partial manuscript. Today, we’ll discuss why she might reject a full manuscript.

First of all, I want to say that if you have sent material to an agent, material she REQUESTED not just pages in addition to a query letter, you should expect a response be it negative or positive. Lately, I’ve seen posts from authors claiming such-and-such agent has had their full manuscript for over a year and hasn’t responded to any nudging. This is rude and unprofessional. The least you should expect from REQUESTED material is a form rejection. So, if this happens to you, take the agent off your list and move on. If she’s not courteous when courting potential clients, how is she with her clients? Agent Janet Reid talks about this here:

Back to our post. If an agent requests the full after having read the partial, you know you’ve done something right and have hooked her so far. But, if she rejects the full, it could mean many things.

-Maybe she expected the story to play out in a different way.
-Maybe the middle sagged.
-Maybe the characters didn’t grow or not enough.
-Maybe she didn’t like the ending.
-Maybe the pages in the partial were more polished and the rest of the work went downhill.
-Maybe a similar story appeared in her inbox and was stronger.
-Maybe she just heard back from editors and they no longer want this type of story. The market changes all the time.

Ironically, agent Carly Watters just reposted about this today through Twitter. Here are the reasons she says she often passes:

-All internal conflict, no external. This means too much happens in the character’s head.
-Pace: The pace has to be right. If it’s too slow, readers will skim or close the book. If it’s too fast, the author might skip important parts in scenes.
-Voice: Agents have to fall in love with your voice and they need to tell the difference between the character’s voice and yours (as a person).
-Length: The story must fit within genre expectations.
-Dialogue: This needs to be realistic, not stilted, and must add to the story. Fluff doesn’t cut it.
-Structure: This has to do with chapter and scene lengths and how long you’re in one character’s POV. If you have more than one POV, there should be some sort of a balance or rhythm in place.
-Characters: The agent has to love ‘em. Simple as that.

To read more of Carly Watters’s post, go to:

I started this post off talking about agents behaving badly, but some writers really don’t take rejection well and don’t act all that nice either. It is NOT cool for you to respond to a rejection with anything other than thanking the agent for the opportunity or her time. Some writers will ask why the agent rejected their work, which is often frowned upon. If the agent has given you a personal rejection, mentioning specific things about your story, I think it’s probably okay for you to ask about one of her comments and have her clarify. But, she’s not going to give you a free critique and she may not respond. And that’s okay. You’re not paying her to give you advice and her time is worth something.

However, it’s NOT okay for you to tell the agent that because she rejected your manuscript, she will go to Hell or she’s a (fill in the blank with the nastiest names you can imagine), or she should die. Come on, people. Get real. Agents are just doing their job. They don’t have to like your manuscript. They don’t have to take you on as a client. And if you responded like that, guaranteed they’re glad they rejected you. But, this is a small industry. Word can get around. Do you really want to be THAT author? And if the agent, for whatever reason, didn’t want your project, isn’t it better that she rejected your work? If she doesn’t share your vision or your passion for this story, will she be able to get top dollar for it? Probably not.

So, instead of insulting the agent and possibly ruining your reputation, accept that this agent wasn’t the agent for you. You’ll find someone who truly believes in your work and will stop at nothing to sell it for as much as they can because she believes it’s worth it. If not for this story, then the next. Not everyone sells their first story or their fifth. But, if you’ve mastered your craft and your passion for writing shows in your stories, eventually, you’ll hook an agent and a publisher. Or you can self-publish and be in control of your destiny. It’s up to you.

In the meantime, keep writing.

My next blog post will be up April 7. “See” you then!

Lynnette Labelle

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