Tuesday, June 18, 2013

I Wuz Wrong--A Post on Not Getting Discouraged by Jenny

It’s been a while since I’ve written an inspirational blog post and I’m feeling like the timing is right.  Today I want to write about projects that I’ve passed on that have gone on to get book deals.   People, I am here to tell you that there have been MANY of these, and any other agent can tell you the same thing.    Often, when I pass on something, I feel pretty sure it will get a book deal, but I know I’m not the right person to get it there.  But sometimes I’m surprised to see something that I didn’t think had much potential get a book deal, or perform very well in the market.  Yes, you heard me correctly:  I WUZ WRONG.  It happens all the time.  Agents are fallible too. 

What is the moral of this?   It’s the fact that I, or any other agent passes on your project, is no reason to a. get discouraged or b. stop trying.  Now, if you get 30 agent passes or no requests at all to see your material, that means you should probably stop and assess your project, maybe get some more reads, and try to figure out what the problem is.    I’m not saying to completely discount the fact that you are getting rejected.   But I am saying that a pass doesn’t mean that your project isn’t worthy or doesn’t indeed have a good chance of getting published.   There are many other possible interpretations:

1.    It’s not the agent’s personal taste
2.    The agent doesn’t know the right editors to send it to
3.    The agent thinks it needs work but doesn’t really have a clear vision for how to fix it
4.    The agent is taking on very few new clients
5.    The agent is having a bad day or is in a bad mood

See what I mean?   So here comes the inspirational part:  KEEP TRYING.   Remember the different possible interpretations of rejection.  Don’t take it personally.   Absorb feedback, consider it, and revise if necessary, but don’t give up because I, or any other agent out there, didn’t immediately see the potential in your work. 

Have faith in yourself and the power of what you write.   I’m pulling for you!


P.S. One last thing.  It kind of bugs me when I hear writers say, "oh that agent rejected me," or "so-and-so agent rejected me three times."  Agents don't reject YOU, they reject your project.     I think it's an important distinction to make.   I know that for at least a few of my clients, I rejected previous novels they sent me once or even twice before signing them up when they approached me with a new book.   I never rejected them, I just rejected work they sent that maybe wasn't quite ready to be sent out in the world. 


  1. This was the perfect post for me today as I sent out my first queries ever. I'm expecting some rejections for a few of the reasons you've listed, but can understand the full scope of what may be in an agent's mind...

    Thank you so much!

  2. Thanks for this post. Just sent out my first query and a day later I received notices. The agents were all nice and politely declined representing my work. Simply stating they were not the right fir for the project. Respectivelly, i respond with thank you. I know the right agenr is out there and when the time is right i`ll know it. Until then i`ll keep writing, agent searching, and wearing thick skin.

  3. Always love to see into the mind of an agent. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Thanks for the inspiration, Jenny. It's tough having a project rejected for any reason, but persevere I must. The nice thing about following agent blogs is that you get insight into how agents think and you can understand the whole relationship better.

  5. When I think of the popular books out there that didn't capture my attention, it's easier to understand this. In fact, there's one VERY popular book right now that I recently read. And it was one of the best-written books I've ever read, but for personal reasons, I really didn't like the book at all. Which doesn't mean it's a bad book, just that it wasn't for me. I try to remember that lesson when I get rejection letters. :)

    1. Veronica, this is exactly right and a great way to think of it.

  6. Thanks for this post! I think it's important for writers to hear this every so often, especially if they're feeling down. When I started reading submissions as an editor, it gave me a lot of perspective as to what agents must go through. Sometimes I love the book, but think it needs a rewrite to get to the next level. Sometimes there's nothing *wrong* with the book at all, but it just doesn't hook me the way I want to be hooked.

    I definitely think a comparison to general reading brings this into focus. We all have those books that so many people love, but are just not for us.

    I'll be back to submitting to agents in a few months, and hope that I can find someone who loves my book just as much (or maybe more) than I do. Rejections are just like relationships. Sometimes the attraction isn't mutual, but there is someone out there for everyone. :)

  7. Thank you so much for this blog post! It was just what I needed to read today!

  8. Great blog post and much welcomed for someone like me who is hoping to start querying agents after I return from attending the Squaw Valley Community of Writer's retreat in July (I'm so thrilled I got accepted!). I took a year-long novel writing class with Lori Wilde and she helped me turn my dream of writing a novel into reality. I keep hearing how much rejection is a given part of being a writer but your post will help me keep rejection in perspective. You are on my list of agents to query for my novel and now if you don't ask for me to send of my ms I won't take it personally.

    I was guided to your link by the wonderful gals at the fledgling Women's Fiction Writer's Association who post links to weekly industry news.

  9. Thanks so much for this blog post. You explain everything so clearly and cogently. The hardest thing to do is get rejected and not take it personally, but as an author, you have to learn to do that every day. Tweeted.

  10. Thank you for this post. I often fear that I will be judged as a person rather than a manuscript, so hearing that agents like yourself might have passed on a few manuscripts by current clients in the past is encouraging.

  11. Great post! I've been getting a lot of personalized rejections for my query and usually the first chapter of my novel. Every time I start feeling bad I get a nice and encouraging personal rejection. I know I can write so I'm going to keep sending my query out! I'm not ready to rewrite yet, but if I don't get a request for a partial/full soon I may rethink this.


  12. I don't see rejections - I see 'keep going's.' Because I'm a writer and that's what we do :-)

  13. Thanks, Jenny. Once again your words yield great power and inspiration.

  14. Thanks for the encouragement, Jenny. It will be great to keep in mind when I start querying agents, and is actually helpful now, as I'm building a platform.

  15. Encouraging words, Jenny, thanks. I think your final point is well worth remembering, it is not a personal rejection.

  16. I think that last point is very important for writers to remember. Instead of "I got a great review!" it should be "My book got a great review!" It's always about the work, not about us. Excellent post, Jenny - thanks!

  17. This soothes my heart as I wait (as patiently as I can) on responses to sending out two fulls a few weeks ago. Thank you.

  18. Hi Jenny,
    As a new writer i know the pain of rejections (all 144 of them) but i know that these give us strength, an urge to carry on and get that deal. What you and the others do is something that should not be taken lightly. I thank the ones who bother to respond as all should. Writers should never give up only use it as a strength.
    thank you.

    p.s. When i send my MS what wine should go with it.lol.
    All the best.
    P S Syron- Jones