Do Agents Give Second Chances?

Dear Anon….

Give that agency a second shot. Just be up front about it: “You passed on a previous submission of mine, but I do believe we’d make a good match and hope you’ll take a look at this new project, which is great in all these ways.” Put this in the second paragraph of your query rather than lead with it. If the agent’s rejection letter included specific comments about improving your manuscript, thank him for taking the time to give the feedback and tell him that you’ve incorporated his recommendations into this new ms. If you get a second rejection, then it’s time to move on because this agent isn’t responding strongly to your work. You want someone who’s as passionate about your writing as you are.

Happy writing!
The Editor


  1. thanks for this helpful post. I find this issue confusing, because my writing has changed and improved so much over the years- so what I’d submit to agents now is very different from what I was subbing two years ago. But I’ve heard them say at conferences exactly what you’re saying.
    I guess my question is, once you’ve gone through all the agents who rep books in your field, does that mean you’re out of luck? Or does a couple of years passing make a difference? thank you!

    • Indeed, writers mature over time. If you feel there’s significant change in your style or craft, absolutely try the agent again. They want to find a great project as much as you want to write and publish one.

  2. This makes a lot of sense! Good idea to be up front about it, because the agent might recognize your name. But it also makes sense that we can resubmit–especially if it’s ANOTHER manuscript. Maybe the next project will be something the agent IS passionate about! It might not be the writing ability at all. (Tho if it is, writers can and do improve over the years.)

  3. I’m afraid I do the opposite. I consider a new project different and have no qualms about submitting to agents who passed on previous projects. Most of the repped authors I know didn’t hook an agent with their first few projects–it took them a while to become better writers and write more original story-lines.

    • There does come a time when submitting every new project you write to the same agent is just submitting every new project to the same agent. Don’t just spin your wheels to be spinning them, wasting your time and theirs. When I was an acquiring editor, there were times when I had to draw the line for people, letting them know that their style/subjects/whatever just weren’t my cup of tea and that their future efforts would be better spent trying other editors. A lot–albeit not ALL–of agents and editors will give you clues if they’re interested in some aspect of your work but that this particular project isn’t for them. They may come right out and say that, or they may highly praise one aspect of the project even as they decline because of another aspect. And if they keep responding with personalized letters instead of form letters, that’s likely a sign that the door remains open. But if you’re getting form letter after form letter from the same agent, put your energies and hope into higher probability submissions. Why bang your head against the same door?

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