Dear Puzzled Writer…
Shrug this one off. Sometimes an agent just isn’t enamored with a piece of writing. Is it the narrative voice, the sentence styling, the dialogue? Who knows? Maybe the agent doesn’t even know—and it’s not their job to figure it out, so you don’t get any details you could use to strategize a revision. I know that’s frustrating. But consider this: It’s just as likely the agent thought, “It’s good…I’m just not wild about it”—which is a fair Subjective Reaction. I’m sure you’ve read books that your friends raved about and thought, “It’s good, but I’m not wild about it like they are.” Don’t let this response seed doubt. Log it in the “Not the Agent For Me” column and move on. After all, you’ve got a project with a fascinating premise—there’s an agent out there just waiting to rave about it to publishers.
The Editor, Deborah Halverson, has been editing books for over 25 years and specializes in Middle Grade/Young Adult fiction and nonfiction, New Adult fiction, and picture books. For her editorial guidance in making your manuscript ready for submission to agents and publishers or for self-publishing, click Editorial services. Learn more in her books: Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies and Writing New Adult Fiction.
Such great advice. As authors, we spend so much energy trying to understand and to read into rejections so we can help our chances of an acceptance improve. But sometimes, as you say, it’s simply best to shrug it off and move on when a rejection has little potential to provide more information. Thanks!
Thanks, Rilla. It’s hard advice to take, I know. But sometimes you just gotta do the shrug-off.
I received a response that my MS wasn’t “right” for their agency; however, the editor continued by writing in the margin of the rejection letter to say she found nothing “funny” about one character. That his attempts at being funny were very hurtful! The character was the bully in my story, and I wondered if only a few words of the MS had been read. I read and re-read my story looking for a clue to her reaction, because it bothered me. Then a more confident and wiser writer said, “There’s someone who has been bullied and the topic is too sensitive for her to handle.” Sometimes it isn’t us.
Goodness, what an unpleasant experience. I agree: Sometimes it isn’t us.