Write It Sideways

Typical Literary Agent Responses and How to Deal with Them

Today’s post is written by Sarah Juckes of Agent Hunter.

After you’ve spent years writing your book, weeks researching literary agents, and days crafting the perfect pitch, waiting on a response from an agent can be agony. Unfortunately, they are extremely busy people and not always able to give you the in-depth response you want.

So what constitutes a good response from a literary agent? What are you supposed to say to a rejection letter? And what do you do when an agent finally says yes?

Below are four typical response emails and tips on how you can deal with them.

Type #1: No response at all

What it looks like

Nothing. Nadda. Zilch.

In my experience, this one is the most difficult to deal with. Questions such as “Did it even reach them?” and “Is this even a rejection?” can weigh you down after a while. As can constantly refreshing your emails for five months.

What to do

Type #2: An automated rejection

What it looks like

Thank you for your submission, which we have read with interest. Unfortunately, we did not feel enthusiastic enough to take this further. We are sorry to give you a disappointing response, but thank you for thinking of us in connection with your work. 

We regret that we are unable to give further feedback due to the large volume of unsolicited submissions we receive. 

What to do

Type #3: A personalized rejection

What it looks like

This can take many different forms, but it will usually contain a personal note or reason for rejection, such as the following:

Thank you for your submission, which I  have now considered. In general terms, your writing shows promise, but I’m afraid I don’t think we’d be able to sell this novella in today’s harsh publishing climate. However, if you’re planning to write a novel (which needs to be at least 65K words) I’d be pleased to consider sample chapters from this in due course.

I’m sorry to disappoint on this occasion, and wish you luck with all your writing.

What to do

Type #4: A request for a partial/full

Some literary agents prefer to see just a query letter in the first instance. If they like what they read, they’ll then ask to see a sample of your work. This is called a “request for a partial.” Agents who prefer you to send a sample of your work with your initial query will then ask to see your entire manuscript, if they want to read more. This is often referred to as a “request for a full.”

What it looks like

Thanks for considering me for this.

You have an interesting concept and I am intrigued as to how you might pull this one off. Would you care to send me the first three chapters/full novel for review please?

What to do

What not to do

If an agent goes on to read the full version of your book and is interested in representing you, then they’ll probably want to go into more detail about any work they feel needs doing and how they would like to approach seeking publication. They might invite you to their office or give you a call. Remember to remain professional and friendly throughout, and you’ll ensure that your working relationship starts on the best possible foot.

Until that time, keep reviewing your pitch and keep submitting. You can do it!