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Decoding Rejections from Literary Agents

Agents get rejected by editors, writers get rejected by agents, and we’re all trying to figure out “when they said [x], what did they really mean?”

Generic Rejection/No Response


Rejections with Minor Feedback

Detailed Feedback/R&R Request


The Bottom Line

Rejections are just as much, if not more about “fit” than they are about talent. Even generic rejections don’t mean your work is terrible, and detailed rejections don’t mean an agent will definitely sign you if you revise. Rejections stress all of us out, but try not to take it personally. For better or worse, finding the right fit or perfect match is often the bottom line. An agent might think your work is terrific, but it’s just not right for them for any of the reasons listed above: personal taste, a list that has too many similar authors/manuscripts, or a concern about how to place the piece in the market (how to find the right editor/publishing house for it). Rejections are not always about you or your work: very often, they are simply about fit and that’s a really important reason not to take them too personally!

Jacqui Lipton is the founder of Raven Quill Literary Agency as well as a consultant on business and legal issues for creative artists. She also teaches law and legal writing at the University of Pittsburgh, as well as several online venues. She writes regular columns on legal and business issues for authors for the SCBWI, Luna Station Quarterly, the Authors Alliance, and Savvy Authors. Her book "Law and Authors: A Legal Handbook for Writers" is forthcoming from University of California Press in the fall of 2020. She is repped by Jane Dystel at DGBLM.