Rejections or: Why is the There a Form Letter in My Inbox?


Asktheagent Literary agent Ken Wright has returned to take some more of your questions! To make the exchange as productive as possible, we’re going to direct your questions in the next two weeks around a few broad themes. Ken will take a look at your questions and answer the three that he feels are most helpful (and creative!). What’s up this week?

Rejections: Any and all things related to why agents pass on certain manuscripts and accept others. The business is known for is subjectivity, but it’s always great to hear some of the reasons that agents reach for their form letters.

No doubt this theme will inspire a ton of questions from your literary brains. Hit Ken with everything you’ve got!

Wanna write? Enter our One-Syllable Challenge! Wanna read? Rate some PageToFame submissions!

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  1. I haven't recieved a rejection yet but thought I should ask these questions to possibly avoid one.
    Is there such a thing as too much information to submit to an agent? If I have 2 books complete and 6 more on the go should I just mention what's complete? Should I focus all on just 1 book? Should I explain every possible idea I have for a novel? Does it matter if the books are all related?

  2. I am working on a nonfiction book proposal.
    Is it up to me to identify a possible market for the book? How much market research might I be expected to do? I can take an educated guess, but is that good enough?

  3. Hi Ken,
    Thanks for taking our questions! Here’s mine: what is the most common reason that you to pass on a query that’s competently written, and has a good premise, but just doesn’t do it for you? Is it even possible to say exactly why you pass this type of query, or are you just kinda looking to feel inspired, and pass if lighting doesn’t strike?

  4. Ken,
    This one has been bugging me for a while. Why do so many agents require us to put a word count in our query letters? Is this truly critical information, and do you automatically pass on word-count-less queries?

  5. Hey Ken,
    I know that most of your rejections probably come in the form letter variety, but I was wondering if you ever provide authors with more detailed feedback, despite a rejection. If so, how often do you do this? Is it to encourage the author to make changes and resubmit to you, or just to keep their hopes afloat?

  6. Hi Ken, glad to see you back with us again.
    Of all the work you reject, what percentage would you say is rejected:
    a. "Unseen" due to a poor or uninteresting query letter?
    b. Because of an at least passable query but a disappointing (partial)manuscript?
    c. Due to the author not reading/following your submission requirements?

  7. Hi Mr. Wright,
    I have two questions. First, are the lists of book types agents are looking for seasonal; romance novels in the spring and action/adventure in the summer?
    The other question is, if an author submits a query letter to an agent but the agent has not responded or even looked at it in three months, is it ok to submit to another agent within the same agency?
    Thanks for your time.
    Ernest Dempsey

  8. I have received several rejections to a non-fiction book that is edgy and very up to date. I get the feeling the agents aren't giving it a full read (a publishing company called me back the next day off of a phone query detailing the book, requesting the manuscript), but I'm not sure how to properly reach them to get them to take a real look at my concept and how it is unique and different. Any advice?

  9. Dear Ken Wright,
    How do agents chose to request a manuscript or reject it? Is it a personal connection that they are looking for, something that grabs them or is it generally what would appeal to the readers in terms of profit?
    The reason why I ask is that I recently had an agent inform me that it was not a "good fit" for them, they wanted to see more romance in it and this was for a young adult/teen novel!
    For the most part, I've been very fortunate to have received very kind responses from agents/publishers. It's hugely ironic because I would be sitting in my kitchen, going "Wow!" even though it was a rejection letter. Their replies have been amazing, they often said that they enjoyed reading the sample chapters or found it charming. They have been incredibly supportive or added personal notes of encouragement.
    But I'm still baffled by the lack of interest in terms of requesting to view a full manuscript.
    Thank you for your time, I appreciate it!
    Jennifer Gibson
    Author of Sway

  10. Dear Ken,
    I have a terrific idea for a true-life story, but so far it has been written as a screenplay, and it is not quite finished yet. The story is about myself and my experiences and quite relevant for the times we are living in. My question is do I need to reformat the story to fit an autobiographical novel or book, or should I continue to fine tune the screenplay, because I kid you not--this is a story that must be told, needs to be told, and taken to heart as an autobiography, it could save someone's life to not make the same mistakes I made that got me where I am in life today. Please let me know if screenplays are acceptable. IF not I will try to reformat to a book version, but I feel the impact I am trying to convey won't be as dramatic as an actual movie about these series of events. Actors bring life to the script, and as a book, I am not sure I could make the impact I seek to make.

  11. Michelle Rodriguez2 March 2010 at 12:03

    I am currently writing a book. Do I need to have the whole book completed before I send a query letter to an agent?

  12. Dear Mr. Wright:
    When a prospective agent begins promoting editors, artists, and other people in their company who should be worked with before they attempt to find a publisher, is that a red flag to avoid the agent?
    I've had one who assured me she charged no upfront fees, but wanted me to: 1)use their critiquer to give an overall summary of possible problems; 2) use their editor to edit the book; 3) use their art department for any book covers or inside artwork needed. Naturally, there were considerable charges for using any of them.
    Is this normal? Or, are these things that would be more likely to come from a publishing house.
    I thought agents' primary concerns were whether the book was worth promoting to publishers.


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