Over the past several years, beginning in late 2011, I’ve been sending out queries to literary agents around the country, trying to persuade one of them to take on my first novel and sell it to a publisher. (This is what most people refer to as the “traditional” method of getting published.) So far I’ve been singularly unsuccessful in my efforts. Rejections nowadays come in two forms. Some agents still actually reply to a letter, invariably by email anymore. But some agents have decided they have just too little time to send out rejection replies, and the only way you know if you’ve been rejected is to check their website and note their usual response time. If that amount of time, or more, has passed since you sent in your query letter and you haven’t heard from them, you can assume the agent won’t be taking you on as a client. Sadly, that second method of query rejection is becoming more and more common.
But what I want to focus on for this blog post is the general response from those who still do reply in one form or another. Replies are invariably short and sweet, usually one or two sentences, although I have had a few rejections that took up to three paragraphs and went into exquisite detail about how busy they are and how they can take on only a few clients at a time, and so on and so forth. That may be important to them, but it’s hardly informative.to a prospective client. What has become interesting to me is the use of the word “right” in so many of the rejections I’ve actually gotten. Boiling rejections down into the few significant and concise words that actually convey a message, the word “right” occurs frequently. The agent will say, referring to the manuscript, “It’s not right for me,” or “It’s not right for our agency at this time.” Or, “We’re not the right agency for this project.” Or, “This particular work is just not right for me.” Or other variations on the concept.
I’m not sure exactly what to make of that type of response. Of the 50 rejections I’ve received so far (that’s out of over a hundred sent out), 21 have used the word “right” in one context or another. That’s 42 percent. (The rest have not responded at all.) None of these have told me anything as to what the agent thought of the manuscript, so I can’t really draw any significant conclusions from their statements. Granted, these responses are designed to be wholly and uniformly generic and serve as a rejection for any type of manuscript that crosses their computer screen. But it would be nice to be able to conclude something from all these rejections and revise the manuscript to reflect what people are saying.
Ah, the caprices of being a writer.