Rejection: An Agent’s Perspective

Rejection – we’ve all faced it at some point. If you’re a prospective author submitting to agents, you’ll know more than most how it feels to get that email that dashes your hopes. Sending your submission out into the world is an incredibly exciting – not to mention nerve-wracking – moment, so it’s only natural to feel disheartened when things don’t turn out how you’d like them to. And the truth is no one is exempt from it: we as agents are also familiar with that sinking feeling.

We work hard alongside our authors to make their text the very best it can be and send it out to editors fully knowing that we could well be on the receiving end of at least one ‘it’s not quite right for us’ response.

The task of replying to unsuccessful submitters is also one we face each and every day and, trust us, this is not an enjoyable part of our job as an agency. So, in this piece we wanted to tackle the ‘R’ word and get our agents’ perspectives on this difficult aspect of Publishing.  

Tanera Simons, Agent:

Rejection – on both sides – is a huge part of an agent’s job. With the amount of submissions we receive, it is impossible to say yes to everyone and is therefore inevitable that we must reject a number of writers.

I know how hard it is to hear that ‘no’ and it is my least favourite aspect of the job, but I also hope that my ‘no’ is someone else’s ‘yes’, and I know that if I took on something I didn’t feel 100% passionately about then I would be doing that writer a disservice.

On the other side, I receive my fair share of rejections when sharing authors’ work with editors. There are often more rejections than offers and, even on the flashiest of deals you may see on The Bookseller, there is usually at least one editor who turned the manuscript down.

Whilst nobody likes rejection, it is in the nature of the business: bestselling authors face it in the form of a bad review, or a supermarket choosing not to stock their book. It is something we can all learn from, and means we strive harder to secure that ‘yes’.

Clare Wallace, Agent:

I really wanted us to do this post on rejection because it is a big part of life, and of course a big part of publishing and becoming an author. It’s also something that we don’t talk about enough because we don’t shout about the things we see as failures.

Tanera has covered rejection from an agent’s point of view brilliantly so I thought I might say something about dealing with it. In response to a rejection from me to an aspiring author I’ve occasionally been told I didn’t even read the work, that it’s insulting to receive a standard response, that I don’t care, and that I’m an idiot (to put it mildly)…

The truth is that we do look at every submission, we try and respond to them all, but we receive well over 300 submissions a week and we have to find a way to manage these responses alongside all the other aspects of our role. Agents are individuals with individual tastes, we have to love the work we represent to champion it effectively, and what isn’t right for one agent might be right for another.

Perseverance is key – in improving your writing and continuing your search for the right fit for you and your work. I love the idea that every no gets you closer to your yes, and you only need one yes. Rejection is universal, and rejection within publishing is no different, learn from it if you can, despite the sting, and let it push you forward to the next round of edits or the next narrative you’re going to write.

Chloe Davis, Agent’s Assistant:

A big part of my job as agent’s assistant is reading through submissions and informing writers when their submission is unsuccessful. This job is never taken lightly and we are always conscious of the disappointment that will be experienced when our rejection email is opened.

We really do give every single submission careful consideration because we know how hard each writer has worked on that manuscript and all the emotions that go hand-in-hand with sending your work out to agencies.

Even agency assistants are not immune to rejection: we often forward on submissions to our agents that we feel are of interest, only to be told that they aren’t quite right for the agency. It’s all part of the learning curve, whether you are an assistant, an agent, or a writer, but it ultimately helps you develop your skills and reach your goal.

We hope that this gives you an idea of what goes in to the submission and rejection process. We must stress that what might not be right for us could be the next big title for another Agency. We wish all submitters the best of luck with their search for the right Agent.

For further information on our submissions guidelines please go to http://www.darleyanderson.com/submissions

We endeavour to response within 8-12 weeks to all submissions. If you have not heard back after this period please get in touch.

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