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The Perfect Rejection

Rejections are no fun. Especially form rejections. Every day you read Nathan Bransford’s blog and you feel like you know him, like you’re BUDS. You comment on his blog, you fill out the surveys, you post stuff in the forums, and he even responds to your comments now and then. He offers great advice to help writers through the query process, and he inspires you to send out yours. You do, and you put his name at the top of your list. You e-mail your query before you go to bed and when you wake up the next morning, you find this in your inbox:

Thank you for your recent e-mail. I regret to say that I don’t feel that I’m the most appropriate agent for your work.

However, opinions vary considerably in this business, and I wish you the best of luck in your search for representation.

Best wishes,
Nathan Bransford

Whaa? But I thought we were buds! I thought we were like THIS. At the very least, he could have said:

“Hey, Meghan. Great to hear from you. I read all your comments on my blog and have checked out your own blog, Writerland, and it ROCKS. I’m so sorry that I can’t offer you representation right now, but your book sounds awesome (LOVE the title), and I’m sure you’ll find the right agent in no time. Best of luck, and don’t hesitate to e-mail me if you have any questions.

Love, Nathan”

But, of course, agents are swamped, and it’s unrealistic to expect them to send everyone personalized rejections. What they need is a few tips on how to write form rejection letters, ones that will make writers feel loved and appreciated while still getting the point across: PASS. This will avoid unnecessary Internet outbursts about how agents suck:

1. Apologize for having to write a form rejection letter and for not having the time to comment further on the work.
2. Blame the publishing industry—how it’s dying and therefore agents have to be more selective than ever before.
3. Personalize your form rejection. Have writers fill out a form with their name, hobbies, etc. and create a computer program to inject that information into the letter.
4. Mention how subjective the business is and how another agent might very well love to represent him/her.
5. Don’t send your rejections out too soon. Sit on them for a few days, so the writer thinks you are mulling over his/her project.
6. Tell the writer what a difficult decision it was and that you made it with regrets.
7. Encourage the writer with his/her writing/quest for representation.
8. Don’t close with “All best.” “All best” is too impersonal. Use “Sincerely,” “Best wishes,” or “Love and hugs” instead.

For example:


Due to the high volume of queries I receive each day, I regret that I cannot respond to every one individually or offer any additional feedback on your work. Rest assured, however, that I take the time to carefully review each and every one.

Thanks to the impending death of the publishing industry, I have to be more selective than ever before, and it is with deep regret that I am forced to pass on (INSERT BOOK TITLE).

Please know that this business is highly subjective and that there may very well be another agent out there eager to represent your work. In fact, I’m sure I’ll be kicking myself when (INSERT BOOK TITLE) hits the New York Times bestseller list next year.

Best of luck with your writing and (INSERT HOBBY HERE). Say hi to (INSERT CHILD’S OR PET’S NAME) and have a great time in (INSERT PLANNED VACATION).

Love and hugs,


What about you? Have you received any form rejections? Which were your favorites?

16 comments to The Perfect Rejection

  • m++

    Love it! Great ideas. Why didn't Nathan write you that letter? That would have been epic. LOL

  • I am glad you posted this. I have been reading yor blog for a couple of weeks. Lots of good information. Thanks! I had my first rejection from an agent I knew was going to be my new best friend. It is worse when the agent has your proposal or full and shows a lot of interest and then Wham!…form rejection. No beuno.

  • I love this rejection! I'm used to the line about it being a subjective industry and how just because the project wasn't right for them, doesn't mean it isn't right for another agent. But one day an agent didn't include this line. It was a slap in the face. It was like she didn't think anyone would be interested. Fortunately another agent had requested a full, so I ignored the other agent's disparaging form rejection comments.

  • Yup. There is a high standard for etiquette in one direction (i.e., writer must submit query in a certain format, with tons of courtesy and charm, and follow up to the query letter with continuing courtesy, lest they be blacklisted)…and yet, the responses/rejection letters leave something lacking in comparison to all that formality and courtesy.

    Of course, there are writers who are totally d*cks but for the rest of us who try try try to be polite as we can…why can't we get some kindness in return?


    Sending you hugs.

  • Have I received any form rejections? Any? How about 100-plus? They're all variations on a theme, so I don't really have a favorite. I appreciate the ones that come back quickly. I got two from the same agent a couple of days apart – don't know what that was all about. I got one the other day (80 days after sending the query) that was addressed to someone else but correctly cited the title of my little novel. At some point it all becomes a big awful blur.

  • #1 actually kind of irks me. Don't apologize for your form letter IN your form letter. You can't have your cake and eat it too.

    #3 sounds awesome and hilarious. REJECTION MAD LIBS. Oh please, please let an agent read this and do it!

    Oh, now I see how you're doing #1. Okay, yeah, that wouldn't bug me. That's perfectly fine, actually. Your letters rocks!!

  • Love your version and I'm sure Nathan will too when he reads today's post 🙂


  • For the record, I am still a huge fan of Nathan Bransford. I used his letter as an example only because it's the only one I've received. I had some sort of rapport with the other agents I queried, so I got personalized rejections from them. Rejection is just hard. And extra hard when you've put years of work into something and receive a form letter in return. Not to blame agents. They are SWAMPED, and I'd be sending out form rejections, too, if i were them. But maybe there are ways to say NO that are a little more palatable than others. Or maybe not.

    Wait, I take that back. I did get one other form rejection and – Travener – I got it twice two days apart, too. But then the agent apologized for accidentally sending it twice, so it was all good.

  • This is priceless.

    Back in early 2007, when Nathan started blogging, he routinely personalized rejections. He has since become one of the most sought after agents in the industry and is just too swamped.

  • Worst rejection I ever got?

    It was my letter back, with my genre (romance) circled in red, and a pen scrawl above it that said, "don't take romance."

    Even though in more than one index I'd checked (agentquery, AAR, etc.) this agent had said she DID consider romance.

    AARGH. Waste of my postage and the stamp on my SASE.

    The most memorable rejection?

    Had to be the R on the project that I'd sold about a month before. 🙂

  • Stephen – that's proof that blogging CAN increase business, so maybe we're not all wasting our time 🙂

    Cynthia – Ugh. And yes, that last one much have felt GREAT.

  • Ha! Have so been there with Nathan. He seems so nice and accessible and then whammo! The Big R after 3 hours!

    Oh, Nathan. I thought we were buds. How could you? 🙂

  • Kristen – maybe we'll be that popular someday 🙂

  • Hahahaaahhaaaaa!

    *snort* *snarf*


    *wipes brow*

    Whoo! That was funny, good lady. Well done! I'll pass this post along, for sure.


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