Tag Archives: manuscript rejection

Why Did You Pass On My Query?

no-thank-you.jpgI finally finally made a dent in the queries that hit my inbox in January, when I was open to submissions for a short window of time. It is intense. There are a lot. I’m still getting through them, and reading some full manuscript requests as well. And I still have to get through many of the Open Call to Muslim Writers queries. I don’t have the time, sadly, to go into specifics of why I’m passing on individual manuscripts. It would take so much time to do that. My first priority is taking care of the clients I already have. After that I have room in my brain and my day for looking for new clients.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about near misses… about manuscripts that I almost want to represent. Sometimes I pass on a project that seems like it would be perfect for me. Maybe it’s poignant and odd and funny and smart. Maybe it’s super queer. Maybe it’s beautiful. Maybe it’s ridiculous in just the right way. And it must must must be well written. But then I pass anyway.

I can hear you, right now.  You’re saying, “Oh my God! Why?! Why would you do that?! Is it my manuscript you’re talking about? I want an agent!!!!” Just sit down. You’ll be ok. Listen to me. Take a breath.

Here’s how it is: I already have clients. I love my clients. I work really hard for my clients. I have a small client list because I know that’s what I can handle. My clients are at many different stages of their writing careers. Some of them have been with me for years and we haven’t sold anything yet. I say yet because I’m pretty sure we will. They are talented writers. I’ll stick by them if they stick by me.

But I do take on new clients. What makes me do it? What has me make room for them, squeeze another writer in? Well, when I read a manuscript that feels essential, like I must have this. Must! When I feel like I’d fight other agents (I hate fighting other agents). When I’ll put everything aside for it (at least for a moment). When reading it sets up a humming in my body. When I start thinking about editors I’d like to send it to. That’s when I make an offer of representation.

So to answer the question, “Why did you pass on my query?” That’s why. Because that’s what I’m looking for and it’s not easy to find. It’s why I pass on most things, and why I don’t often ask to see full manuscripts. Because if I don’t feel like there’s a magical imperative to me having it? Then I’m not the right agent for you. And I know that’s disappointing, but that’s the truth.





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How to Deal with Rejection 101



The following email exchange really happened. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.



Me to my client:

Hey <Nameless Client>,
FYI, <Editor 1> at Big Publishing House and <Editor 2> at Another Big Publishing House both passed. 😦

My client to me:

I feeeeel like a real writer now!! Thanks for letting me know. 🙂

Me to my client:

You feel like a real writer because I just told you about two rejections?! You’re a weirdo. 🙂

My client back to me:

Well, you know…it’s humbling and all. I’m pumped to work on kicking my writing up a notch. I’m sort of anticipating many “passes” so I want to get something new (and hopefully even better) done so that if  <INSERT NAME OF FABULOUS MANUSCRIPT>  isn’t the one, I won’t take 7 years getting something else out.

So, what can we learn from this, besides that we are both stupid with smileys? First of all, holy shit, right?! I mean, what a great attitude! Part of the business of being a writer is expecting and dealing with rejection. Welcoming rejection though, is a whole other ball of wax. It’s ‘kicking up a notch’ what rejection means, or rather, doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean you don’t ever expect to get published because your current manuscript is getting passes. It doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel. It doesn’t mean you suck. It just doesn’t mean any of that. This client took a pass as acknowledgment that she’s finally “arrived.” She welcomed getting rejected because it’s part of being a real writer. Rather than being bummed out, she took it as a call to action to take on writing something even better the next time. Wow. I’d probably just cry or something. One of the greatest things about having the privilege of working with my clients is that I have the opportunity to be inspired by these creative people, not only in the area of writing, but also in the area of being a great human on the planet.


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