Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Another morning of query responses. I'm continually amazed by the number of queries you all send us--some great, some so-so, some just not for us, some awful. Each week we ask a few of you to send us more. But, most of these queries are rejected--a sad fact of this business. As I've written before on this blog, we've developed a pretty standard rejection email which states that the query simply does "not meet the needs of our agency." A few days ago a rejected author asked, "Why isn't it right for your agency?" I didn't answer his question because I simply can't get into that kind of dialogue.

But I can address questions like that here. So, without further ado, here are a few reasons your project is not right for our agency:
  • We don't represent the genre--If it's a memoir (unless you're Hillary Clinton or Madonna), a business book, Christian fiction, or deals with child or animal abuse, it's not for us.
  • The query is badly written--Face it, if you can't write a good query, you probably can't write a good book.
  • I'm bored after the first two sentences--Nuff said.
  • You've told me much too much in the first paragraph--Please, please, please, don't tell me about your husband, wife, children, education, parents, job, etc. I DON'T CARE! (at this point). Later on, when we're working together, I'll care--a lot.
  • You've sent us attached material. We don't open unsolicited attachments.

I could go on and on--in fact I think I have gone on and on at some point!

But let me close with the "Pip of the Day." An author asked in his query if I was the right agent for his work and if not, if I could please recommend other agents who would be better for him.

Hello? That's not our job. Get thee to a bookstore and buy a copy of Jeff Herman's Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, & Literary Agents, The 2009 edition should be available soon.


Patti said...

i used to run my own business that sold products that we found, but didn't manufacture, to major retailers. i liken trying to find an agent to being on the other end of what i used to do. this time, i am the product looking for a home to sell myself.

while mostly it is a business arrangement of buying and selling, i also want an agent i can enjoy...and maybe they can enjoy me.

we'll see.

Kae and Jon said...


That's a good analogy. An author-agent relationship is a business agreement. But, once that partnership is forged friendships often emerge.

Anonymous said...

I do understand the question, though. It's hard to get back the "It's not right for us" rejection because we want to make our work better. We want to make it "right" for you (or someone else, at least). And without any guidance, some never find the key to improvement. Believe me, I understand that you don't have time to do personal rejections. When I get back one of those "Not for us" notes(and I haven't checked my email--I may have one from you today :-) ) I ask someone new to look over my query and make a suggestion for how I can improve it. Even though I think it's a good query letter, it continues to go through revisions. Then I send it out again. It's trial and error for us, sometimes. And I've had some agents love one version of the query and ask for a partial, and some agents like a completely different version.

Lisa Iriarte

Kae and Jon said...


I think you just beautifully explained our position in your last sentence: "I've had some agents love one version of the query and ask for a partial, and some agents like a completely different version." That's exactly right and that's why some queries we receive just "don't meet the needs of our agency." It's not personal. Every agent has his or her own tastes and prejudices. The name of the game is finding the agent who loves what you do.

Bill Steffenberg said...

I think I can understand where Lisa is coming from, but one can go mad trying to please everyone. For myself, I think the way to go is evolve your query so that it makes you, the author, confident in the work you are promoting and hang in there. It's an over-employed saying, but too many cooks can wreck your dish.

Novelist said...

Kae and Jon,

On a new subject, how would you, or do you, handle someone who submits a novel that he has already published on the Amazon Kindle, or similar e-reader device? I currently have three previously self-published titles listed on the Kindle and have just finished my third round of edits on a new novel and am considering sending that straight to the Kindle, with or without an ISBN. If I do would I be killing any chances of obtaining agent representation for it.

J.R. said...

My first thought about this posting was the person who emailed you back has never received a personal rejection from the industry and your rejection was merely one of a dozen that he/she has recieved for their manuscript.

I'd recommend to any aspiring writer to do their homework prior to querying ANY industry person. (agent, editor, publisher)

Even a glance at their recent sales will tell you what type publisher, or editors they deal with on a regular basis. Read the agent/editor/publisher's 'wants' or 'needs.' You don't want to query a romance person with your thriller manuscript.

Furthermore, prepare yourself for the first 'personal' rejection that you receive. It's a much harder pill to swallow if someone (a publisher in this case) tells you that the query intrigued them, the synopsis was good, but the execution wasn't quite there.

Those type rejections make your hair fall out. (Usually in clumps between your fingers.)