Why I didn’t say yes – An agent’s perspective

NoOn her excellent blog, literary agent Rachelle Gardner authored a useful post ‘Why I didn’t say yes to your submission.’

As Ms Gardner points out, most agents try to provide an explanation when they pass on a full manuscript. It’s interesting to read the reasoning from an agent’s perspective.

She likens it to when you are reading a book and you’re unable to put it down, whereas sometimes books are extremely easy to put down, and you even welcome the distraction. Housework, anyone?

We all know this has happened to us – even with books that ‘everybody’  is reading that simply don’t manage to grab us. So why shouldn’t it be the same with literary agents? After all, if they’re not in love with your book, chances are that selling it will be that much harder.

So thanks to agent Rachelle Gardner for letting us know why she might turn down a manuscript, and good luck to you authors out there for finding the agent who’ll fall in love with your work…


  1. Catherine on August 23, 2013 at 8:28 am

    Unfortunately this article brings another thought to mind – competition! Even if you manage to keep Rachel away from her house chores and email, you still have to better than the manuscript she received yesterday – or will receive tomorrow – to be taken on! Agents take on so few clients, and some digitally published writers say the age of the agent is over. I don’t think that’s true, well for me anyhow, but this is certainly an interesting time to be publishing. See you in Matera!

  2. kimberlysullivan on August 23, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    Great points, Catherine. And since you’re publishing your short story collection soon, I was speaking to an editor once on how writing careers were developed in the past. Often debut writers would publish a short story collection first before the novel. Today, who will take on a debut author with a short story collection? Seems you have to publish your novel first before you attempt it. As you certainly know. : ) Groan… so much to learn… BTW, hope that new bikini is getting lots of use! : )

  3. Claire 'Word by Word' on August 25, 2013 at 9:37 pm

    It does seem that an agent has to absolutely fall in love with the writing/story and therefore it’s a bit like matchmaking, because even if it’s perfect in every other way, if there’s no chemistry… It’s not necessarily something you can fix, look at Donal Ryan, 47 rejections until someone loved his writers voice.

    Like dating, it takes a few “rdv’s” to find the right agent and being introduced seems to help.

    • kimberlysullivan on August 29, 2013 at 5:56 pm

      Great analogy, Claire. Although – groan – who really wants to get back to the dating world (even to sell your book). : ) The things we literature lovers will do…

      • Claire 'Word by Word' on August 29, 2013 at 9:14 pm

        Groan indeed, I received a letter once that actually used those words, the need to absolutely fall in love with the writing and it did make me wonder what one has to do to achieve that, I mean as a reader, books like that don’t come along very often, some years they don’t arrive at all.

  4. J.Valentine on August 30, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    Reblogged this on Bugle Boy Publishing Co. and commented:
    an interesting perspective- thank you for sharing. It is always good to hear from a literary agent’s perspective.

Leave a Comment