QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Monday, August 4, 2014

Reasons for a Quick Rejection

QueryTracker is happy to announce a new feature here on the blog. We would like to invite readers to present us with agent and query-related questions and we’ll do our best to find the answers for you. So, if you have any questions, please post them in the comments below.

The first question I’d like to address is from an anonymous QueryTracker member.

What does it mean when I receive an extremely quick rejection to a query?

That’s a good question, and you can actually learn a lot from the time it takes the agent to respond. But before I go into that, I’d like to begin by explaining what a quick response does NOT mean. I’ve heard authors complain that, because they received a rejection in just a few hours or even minutes, that there was no way the agent even read the query. Not true. Think about it. If the agent wanted to blow off queries, why would he respond at all? He wouldn’t. He would just delete the email and move on.

What that quick response is telling you is that your query was so wrong that the agent barely had to think about it. It was an easy rejection. And when I say wrong, I don’t mean there is something inherently wrong with your query. It could be something as simple as your project is not for a genre the agent represents. If that’s the case, why would the agent bother to read any further than the genre declaration? He’ll simply reject it and move on.

There are other things that can be grounds for an instant rejection besides genre. Extremely long or short manuscripts could cause instant rejections, as well as not stating your word count or genre in the query. 

So, if you’re getting a lot of quick rejections, take a close look at your query and the agents. Are you sure they represent your genre? Is your word count within the norms for that genre?

If the above points seem to be okay, then you’ll have to dig a little deeper. Is your query letter too long? It should be about a single page. If it gets a lot longer than that, you could be inviting an instant rejection. Or is it too short? If your query doesn’t cover all the key points, the agent probably won’t take the time to ask for more information.

I’m not going to cover the ins and outs of writing a query letter. This is supposed to be a short post after all. But make sure your query looks professional. Odd fonts and text colors can also be grounds for instant rejection. You can learn more about query writing from past blog posts here and here

Other things that may cause an instant rejection are addressing the query to the wrong agent, including attachments, or not following the agent’s explicit query submission rules.

Does an instant rejection always mean a problem with your query? Nope. Nothing in this business is that cut and dry. But if you seem to be receiving a lot of instant rejections, then you should take a close look at your query. 

QueryTracker offers many tools to help you diagnose problems. Take a look at the “Query Response Time” reports for an agent and see if she tends to reply quickly or not. If she normally takes 30 days to respond to a query and you got your reply in 3 minutes, then your query may have one of the problems mentioned above. You can also look at the “Genre Reports” to see if the agent typically rejects projects of your genre. If she does, then that may be the issue with your query as well. You may also want to limit the report range to the last 90 days or less, since agent’s preferences can change over time.

Learn more about viewing QueryTracker Reports.

1 comment:

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

I feel a bit better after reading your post. I'm waiting on a full response from an agent. I must remind myself good things come to those who wait. :)