It's Not You, It's Me

The most common theme you're likely to see in a rejection of your manuscript is, "this just isn't for me" or "I didn't fall in love with it." The big question you're left with is, is it your manuscript or the agent's preference? If you have revised and polished your manuscript and have had either beta readers or a critique group read it and give feedback, then it truly might just be that it isn't what the agent is looking for.

"But wait, how can this be?" You ask. "I researched the agent thoroughly and it says on their website, blog, or Twitter feed that they're looking for my type of novel." You say. I trust that you did and will have a glass of wine with you to help take the sting out.

Unfortunately there is more to finding the right agent than writing a good book and identifying an agent who is looking for your type of novel. I know, I know, please don't throw things at me. The industry is still in turmoil and no one knows what it will look like when the tornados of change are done with it. Agents and publishers are both apprehensive and run business with extreme caution. Your idea must be outstanding, your writing must be outstanding, your timing must be outstanding, it doesn’t hurt if your online presence is outstanding, and last and most important, your luck must be outstanding. Ah go ahead and throw things, I don’t blame you. In fact I'll join you. I didn’t need that paper weight anyway.

There are agents out there (so I hear) that are willing to take you on and help you polish your work. However, that falls under the outstanding luck and to get that you still have to have an outstanding idea, writing, and timing. To obtain those things all we can do is write, revise, get feedback, and repeat. When is it polished enough? When do you stop? I wish I had the answer. This industry is pushing us writers to either excellence or madness, I haven't decided which yet. When it seems as though you're ready for the straight jacket (I've been pre-fitted for mine) remember that the industry isn't necessarily changing for the worse and you have options.


  1. Heather, I'm not going to throw things. What you say is so true. The most important thing to remember is... don't give up!!! Keep following your passion and writing more books. The moment that one of our book gets through the barriers and makes it to print, the we've just created an instant demand for all the others. We're that much farther ahead.
    And yes, there are other options... and good ones too.

  2. Many of the most famous writers have been documented to have mental issues--do you think this might be how that happened?? Just kidding, that could never happen to peeps like us. :-) (Hey, at least once the breakthrough is made and they're all clambering for our old manuscripts, we won't run out of ideas or conflicted behavior to draw on for more and even better stories.)

  3. Karlene, you are so right! We only fail when we give up.

    Linda, lol! Perhaps! You make a great point, confliced behavior will never be in short supply. :)

  4. So true! It's a time of change right now, but having choices makes things easier to deal with.

  5. The only thing I ever threw was a tantrum . . . oh, wait, there was the wad of paper that was the rejection slip. Uh, there might have been a wastebasket along with a broom . . . huh.

    At my gloomiest, it was my husband who held me up. If you have great writing friends, those are also the people who you need to hear from in times when--ooo. I saw that fly across the room.

  6. Considering we just discussed the plethora of "meh" books on the shelves today at my own blog (, I don't know that it's driving the entire industry to excellence. So, I'll have to go with the madness option. LOL

    I think landing an agent and publisher is becoming more and more about luck as publishers' budgets tighten...meaning fewer risks on unknown authors. An agent doesn't want to put the time and effort into trying to sell something that they don't feel entirely good about. Selling is hard. Selling in today's economy is harder...add in a volatile industry such as publishing, even harder. Trying to sell in these conditions something you don't love and feel completely passionate about? A waste of time.

    I do get it when agents say something's not for them even when it seems like it should be a perfect fit. Not every book in the genres I love to read are for me either. But it does make you want to throw things because you don't know this until you've gone through all the querying work and hours/days/weeks of hope, only to get a rejection.

    Makes me glad to be out of that rat-race, to be honest.

  7. This industry is pushing us writers to either excellence or madness...

    How about excellent madness? An exquisite form of torture.

    And that is very true, it is about luck (I'm thinking these days) and we must remember there are other alternatives.

  8. Talli, they really do! They give me hope.

    Lorelei, lol! You sounds like me! Duck! Just kidding. You're right, and I'm so lucky to have you. :)

  9. Kristie, exactly! I loved that post. It was a perfect example of what I've been feeling about a lot of books I'm reading now. I'm glad you're out of the ratrace too, now I get to read your books!

    Anne, excellent madness, I love that! Brilliant! Other alternatives are a blessing indeed.

  10. It is a psychological truism : what people say they want, and what they truly want are often quite different.

    Our novels are commodities. In a very harsh economic market. Purchasing agents for publishers want a sure-fire return for their money. They OK too many misfires, and they are out of a job.

    So while agents and editors may groan at the sight of another bare-chested vampire or willowly schoolgirl torn between vampire and werewolf, purchasing agents see sure returns for their advance. Anything different is scary without sure promise of profits.

    The irony there is that if we are different and enticing as both agents and publishers would like to see, we are still rejected because the agent knows she has only so much good will to use in presenting her case. Same with the editors -- they know their jobs are on the line, too.

    You are right. It is all about luck -- in finding the right agent, who knows your novel is just what an editor is looking for. All we can do is to be ready with the best quality novel we can produce, authentic to the human condition, tense, funny, sexy, and leaving the reader with a warm glow after finishing the last page.

    Have a great mid week, Roland

  11. Argh! But it's so frustrating, Heather. So. Darn. Frustrating. And discouraging.

    Great post! :-)

  12. Heather, I had always wondered how it would have been had I not had this need to write. Just while away my day like most people do.
    Hmmm. . .
    Wow. Bored now.

  13. Roland, at some point I think we have to decide to make our own luck though and let our readers decide. They are after all the ones who really matter.

    Shannon, it really, really is!

    Lorelei, me too! I'm glad I don't have the problem of getting bored like non-writers do. ;)

  14. Ah, this is so true. It's so subjective out there. Just because an agent lists "YA" as a genre they represent, doesn't necessarily mean your YA is the one they are looking for. It comes down to personal taste and so many other things.

    And a good dose of luck is certainly needed. But, if you keep trying....your luck is bound to turn good sometime, right? :)

  15. Ah, unfortunately I think the days are gone when a "fledging writer with promise" can break into the industry.

    I think writers who break in a) really were on point with their writing b) really lucky of submitting the right story at the right time or c) have really have a kickass hook or concept.

    The "okay" story doesn't cut it anymore.

    But you know what? Doesn't matter about the odds. We all need to just keep pushing until it happens. We only need one YES!

  16. Ugh. SO true. But so NOT what any of us want to hear. Booo!

    [throwing tomatos!]

  17. Donea, yes! As long as we keep trying we cannot fail!

    Karen, exactly! One yes is all it takes!

    Julie, I shall join you in the tomato hurling...

  18. Oh my word, so well put. Definitely feels that way--excellence or madness. Sometimes both. It's a frustrating business, to be sure. But the strongest will persevere. Just have to ride that storm, so to speak.

  19. Well said! Often the agent responses can seem cryptic, but when you imagine the sheer volume of what they're dealing with it's easy to understand. If we think how many books we look at when we go to the bookstore but don't go home with maybe we have a small sense of what an agent is going through ...


  20. Carol, indeed, riding and navigating the storm is the key to success!

    Portia, that's a great way to put it. It's easier to understand once we put the scale of the problem in perspective.

  21. Hey Heather, just stoppping by to let you know you won a book on my blog!

  22. I like the last line of this blog post. :) Hang in there!!

  23. Lydia, thank you so much! Whoo hoo! I can hardly wait to read HOURGLASS by Myra McEntire!

    Krissi, ah thank. :) I'm leaning towards opting out of the straight jacket. ;)

  24. Keep trying, keep trying, keep trying, keep trying........ :)


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