There’s An Agent Peeking Under Your Door

Jessica Faust at Bookends Literary LLC posted a question on her blog a few weeks ago from an aspiring author who had just received her fourth rejection. The author realized it wasn’t a lot of rejections, but she wondered if it gets any better.

I had planned on writing about this when I read it, but I’ve been preoccupied with other things, no, not just wallowing.

Here are my thoughts on rejection and they’re worth exactly what you paid for them.

Will called a few days ago and I could hear Logan crying in the background. I asked Will what was wrong with the baby. He was being cranky and ill-tempered, so Will laid him down for a nap and Logan didn’t want to lie down.

Logan stopped crying during the conversation, so we both assumed he conked out.

Will called later and told me he heard someone knocking at the door after I hung up and he answered the door, but no one was there. He looked around and no one was outside. Then he looked around inside the house in case Tim, his ex-father-in-law they are living with, had come in and was knocking on something. The house was empty aside from them. Finally, he went to Logan’s bedroom, got down on his hands and knees and looked under the door to see if Logan was shaking his crib and had bumped the wall even though it sounded distinctly like someone knocking on the door.

He looked under the door to see Logan peering back at him and grinning. Logan had climbed out of his crib, knocked on the door and then waited for someone to come answer it.

This is sort of how I look at agents. I’m not sure agents will be thrilled about this analogy, but it’s better than the horse sale one. Agents knocked on the door. They put out their shingle and said, “I’m open for business and I want your fabulous manuscript.”

Lots of people walk by who could open that door, but finally one comes by, gets down on their knees and looks them in the eye. They smile because they know this one is going to open the door and give them the wonderful manuscript they’ve been looking for.

Agents didn’t go in business to say no. Regardless of what some agents and editors say, they are not evil ogre’s who live to crush dreams and smash hope.

They want to say yes, but you have to give them a reason to. They are in business to sell books.

That being said, you need to remember there are a lot of people walking past that door. Agents often say they read a query, looking for a reason to say no. Many of them have “I stop reading when” posts where they say they get to this point and stop reading. You lost them at exactly this point.

They want to say yes. Don’t give them a reason to say no.

Keep this in mind. Competition is stiff. Most agents only accept a few new clients a year. Your chances of being rejected are astronomically high, so you better gird your loins.

1. Look at the rejections you’re getting. Is there a pattern?

2. If it’s a form rejection, keep in mind, the agent tried to write a generic, non-offensive, encouraging note. A form rejection isn’t a pronouncement on your skill. It simply means this query, work or sample pages didn’t appeal to them for any variety of reasons. You’ll drive yourself insane wondering what that reason is.

3. If you get comments, praise the Lord and pass the tators. Take them seriously. Agents are busy. They wouldn’t have commented if they didn’t see something.

4. It’s a completely subjective business. The subject matter, genre, writing style and a host of other things appeal to an agent. The same book one agent thinks has too much description might appeal to another because s/he loves your descriptions.

5. Talk to your friends about how depressed you are. Do it in private. It’s fine if you hate form letters that give you false hope, don’t address you by name or assure you it’s strictly one agent’s opinion. Hate it all you want, but hate it in private.

6. Once you get over the kick the cat phase, ask your writing friends if they have any advice. Most of them have probably been through it.

7. At some point, if you aren’t getting any interest, think about changing the query. Don’t change it to change it. Look at how you can improve it.

8. Remember this is a business. The agent didn’t reject you; they rejected this one particular work.

9. Keep very good files of what you are submitting and what kind of feedback you’re getting. In the dark times, pull out the good comments and let yourself be encouraged.

10. Have fun. When writing, and the myriad things that go with it, are no longer fun, it’s time to step away for a while. Recharge your batteries and attack it with renewed hope and energy.

Keep thinking about that agent peeking under the door at you, waiting for you to open it with your spell-binding manuscript.

Completely gratuitous picture of Logan and Will, since they graciously appeared in the post.


  1. Tara, I want to go to Surrey so bad. Financially, it probably isn’t possible. I’ve thought about selling off everything I can Ebay, but I just don’t see it happening.

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