Form Rejection Letters

Wendy Lawton

Blogger: Wendy Lawton

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about interpreting rejection letters and confusing feedback. You can find that blog here.

I was a writer long before I became an agent. It’s one of the reasons I understand the angst of trying to get published. While poking around in old files on my computer, I came across this little piece I wrote thirteen years ago about rejection letters. I figured you’d understand . . .

——————–

Having been the recipient of many an editorial rejection letter, I pretty much consider myself an expert on the genre.  My juvenile fiction series sold early this year, leaving me in the enviable position of having to pen several rejection letters of my own. Only another writer can fully appreciate the satisfaction I experienced in drafting the following letter, withdrawing my proposal from simultaneous consideration at three other publishers:

Dear [Publisher];

Another fine CBA publisher is interested in acquiring the series that you’ve been considering for [umpteen] months. When submitting my proposal simultaneously, I promised to keep you posted when and if other publishers expressed interest.

I appreciate the time you’ve taken to consider this proposal.  I wish I could be more encouraging, but I have limited writing resources and must decline any interest you may still have in this proposal.

Please allow me to encourage you. You have a solid publishing house, and this rejection in no way reflects on that fact. I do hope you’ll continue to consider other writers in the future.

Sincerely,

Wendy Lawton

No, I didn’t actually send it, but I certainly relished writing it.  As you collect those sometimes too-frequent rejection letters, be sure to study them carefully.  In time, you may be called upon to write your own.

——————–

So, just for fun, I’d love to see the form rejection letter you long to pen to an agent or editor. Hopefully you’re feeling especially creative. I’ll pick the best and send some great books to the winner.

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91 Comments

  • Tiana Smith says:

    Ha ha, that’s great! It’s too early for my creative juices to be flowing, but I’ll try to come back later with a rejection letter of my own :)

  • Joanne Sher says:

    WWAAYYY too fun!!

    • Mary Curry says:

      Ohhhh! Love this, Wendy. Just reading yours gave such satisfaction. I’ll have to give some thought to composing one of my own – a task to savor.

  • LOL, sounds fun. I’m looking forward to reading everyone’s responses!

  • Jeanne says:

    I’m in. I’ll draft one and be back later. :)

  • Dear Sir or Madam,

    Thank you for your eleven-month perusal of my proposal, Armpit Melodies: Front Porch Singin’ for Backwater Livin’. I cannot imagine the time and effort you’ve put into tracking the digital file for so long and preparing the French press in advance of your many editorial meetings — not to mention satisfying all the fussy tea-drinkers on your team. I am so grateful for the care and effort you’ve invested allowing my rejection letter to marinate for almost a year before deciding not to say anything at all. That had to be tough.

    That’s what makes a letter like this so hard.

    I must withdraw my offer to let you publish my book. Steven Spielberg has purchased exclusive rights and is planning not only a major motion picture, but a theme park. I apparently caught the wave of the Armpit craze. Lucky me. I am not permitted to disclose the amount of the deal, but I can say I am writing from my new beachfront villa on Maui. I wish you were here.

    Don’t quit doing what you do. You’re smart enough, you’re good enough, and doggone it… well I don’t want to lie, so I’ll stop.

    Just remember, It’s not you, it’s me.

    Bill

  • Cheryl Dale says:

    Wendy – can’t tell you how timely this post was. I needed the chuckle. I just posted my anguish over yet another rejection letter on my blog (www.climbingoutofthevalley.wordpress.com) and your post was the perfect encouragement. Thank you

  • Lori says:

    Dear Agent,
    Thank you for the time you spent considering my submission. After a reasonable amount of time, I’ve been offer representation from another agent. When you were requesting a partial, this agent was requesting a full manuscript.

    Based on your recommendations of my partial, I will not be changing the format of my novel from a suspense/thriller to a sci-fi paranormal romance or to a non-fiction self-help book for the technically illiterate.

    I know you are one of the leading agents and that you have had a lot of success with many authors, however I don’t think we would be a good fit together. (Especially when you suggested that I should give up my day job to concentrate all of my time on my upcomming book.) I know there are many would be authors who would love an offer of representation by you, however I am not one of them. Best wishes.

    Sincerely,

    Would Be Author

  • Dear Publisher,

    Please remove The Shack from your consideration. I have decided to go a different route.

    Sincerely,
    William P. Young

    • Wendy Lawton Wendy Lawton says:

      These are the kinds of letters that change the course of an acquisition editor’s lifetime regrets.

  • David Todd says:

    Dear Agent:

    Your lack of response to my query letter, sent by e-mail in [insert year e-mail was sent], long after the time you stated on your website within which you would respond, must be for good reasons. However, the obvious legitimacy of those reasons are clearly not beyond the reach of my limited ability to understand.

    I’ve waited quadruple that time before deciding your agency does not meet my current publishing needs. Therefore, I withdraw my manuscript.

    Regards,
    Author B. Goode

  • Dear Mondo Grande Publishing Company
    Attn: President Doorknob

    I have finished reviewing the requested edits on my photographic memoir entitled “El Capitan-One Woman’s Journey In Overcoming Adversity”. While I once had respect and appreciation for your publishing house, I am afraid I can no longer work with you.

    I undertook and organized the highly publicized climb, and subsequent book, to bring awareness to women war veteran’s and their personal struggles with traumatic injuries. I take enormous personal and professional offense at being asked to re-title the book “Look Ma, No Hand”.

    It was only after reading the suggested edits and discussing them by phone, that I became aware that someone in the editorial department gave my book to their teenage daughter for her English Lit class senior project.

    No, I do not believe re-staging the climb with Zac Efron and Justin Bieber would “make it, like, hawt”.

    No, you utter moron, it is NOT “Yo-sah-mite” Park.

    I do believe safety equipment IS important and not there to give me a bad hair day. No, the proper word is not “cramps”, it’s CLAMPS.

    I refuse to blur out the photos taken from below me, no, my butt does not look huge in a climbing harness.

    Please do not consider this letter the final communication on the matter, my attorneys have already filed a lawsuit.

    I recorded the Skype conversation I had with the young lady in question. I believe the word is “viral”.

    You are all fired.

    See you in court,

    Mad Authoress

  • These are great. Definitely worth every chuckle. Wendy, thanks for a good laugh too.

  • Jeanne says:

    Okay, after reading current submissions, I’ve decided to sit back and chuckle. :)I’m not as creative as you all are. :)

    Wendy, thanks for the fun today!

  • Dear Ms. Agent,

    Thanks so much for sending me your resume. Please know that I read every resume with careful attention and I’m honored by the trust you show in granting me this opportunity to look at all your warts under a microscope.

    I loved your telephone voice, your professionalism, your many great sales, and the way you’re so highly regarded in the industry. Unfortunately, I don’t know any editors who are wanting to work with agents like you.

    If you give yourself a makeover so you look exactly like Jodi Reamer or Joanna Volpe or Andrea Brown, only different, please feel free to resubmit.

    Best wishes as you continue to search for clients.

    Sincerely,

    Sally Q. Author

    • Wendy Lawton Wendy Lawton says:

      Wouldn’t that be an interesting turnaround. Agents begging for clients. Interesting perspective.

  • Karen Porter says:

    What fun! Thanks Wendy for the laughs!

    Bill – you are a hoot! (as we say in Texas).

    Thanks for the smiles today.

  • Michelle Lim says:

    Dear Agent,

    It is with great regret that I inform you that I can’t at this time accept your representation. Yes, I understand you have been in the publishing industry since before I was born, but this in and of itself does not qualify you to represent someone of my caliber.

    Perhaps if you brushed up on your agenting skills by attending an agent retreat, learned to read, learned to edit and learned how to get me a $50,000 signing bonus I might reconsider.

    I do understand that speculative chick lit with elements of historical romance are not the rave in today’s market, but I assure you that God has asked me to write this manuscript and not change a thing.

    Part of my decision to reject you as my agent hinges on your lack of experience with Movie Contracts, as I am sure my book will be a blockbuster hit.

    Thank you for holding onto my manuscript long enough for me to realize the folly of my ways, before you accepted it, which of course you would have.
    Sincerely,

    Relieved
    Purse Moms Viral Collection
    http://www.specchiclit.brilliant.com

  • Dear Publisher and / or Agent:

    Thank you for your interest in my manuscript. After careful consideration, my team and I (read: me, myself and the fluffy stuffed unicorn that I hold while reading form rejection letters) have decided that you do not fit my needs at this time and / or you have not measured up to my standards for some or all of the following reasons:

    > response time too slow
    > no negligible acknowledgement of writer
    as a human being
    > your belief that writers are beggars
    who should be thankful when you
    deign to work with them
    > forgetting that it’s not all about you
    > forgetting that self-publishing is now
    a viable option for writers
    > the colors on your website are ugly
    > Peter Jackson has acquired the rights
    to my manuscript and has promised
    to make it bigger than The Lord of
    the Rings and Harry Potter combined
    > my manuscript is going to auction and
    you’re just too late
    > neither our astrological charts nor our
    Celtic Tree signs are compatible
    > my manuscript has already become a
    New York Times bestseller (sorry
    I was slow in notifying you that
    it was picked up by another pub.

    Best regards in your future publishing endeavors.

    Crab B. Author

    Thank you, Wendy, for this highly creative post! I tried not to be negative in my rejection letter, but I’m afraid some might have crept in. Still, I hope that you enjoy it.

    Everyone has done a great job with this!

    Happy Tuesday! :)

  • Dear Editor:

    Thank you for your interest in No Commission For You.

    I appreciate your tenacity; the numerous emails, floral deliveries and weepy late night phone messages certainly set your offer apart from the rest. In fact, I forwarded your last email to several of my colleagues at the City Police Department for feedback, but after careful consideration and lengthy criminal records checks, we agree it is in my best interest to sign elsewhere.

    Again, thank you for your interest and I encourage you to keep visiting my blog. Perhaps, with a little professional help, I’ll be able to unblock your comments.

    Sincerely,
    Changing Phone Number

  • These are hilarious!
    Bill, I needed to laugh until my sides hurt.

    Thanks for the challenge, Wendy.

  • Michelle Lim says:

    Dear Agent,

    I understand that you are extremely busy, but I am writing to you regarding a dire situation that cannot wait another eleven months.

    You see, my manuscript is drowning in your slush pile. I have heard that agents are a writer’s lifesaver in this business, so I know you will drop everything to rescue my baby.

    If by chance it should need resuscitation, please note that I give my permission to perform CPR, edit the whole thing, or rewrite as necessary. After all you are the agent, I am merely the creative inspiration for your pen edits.

    I wholeheartedly pledge to you that upon its publication I shall nominated you for Agent Baywatch. Because you will have proved yourself to be among the best lifesavers in the industry.

    Sincerely,

    SOS

  • Dear major yet shall remain unnamed publisher,

    How it saddens me to inform you of my new unexpected dilemma.

    I must request the immediate return of the manuscript you’ve relished these past twelve months and held close to your irregular bleating heart. Please use the SASE I originally enclosed.

    Let me surfice to say, I’ve received a promising offer I cannot refuse. A film and book deal has landed cozily in my welcoming lap and it comes with little added perks that this, unknown, first-time novelist simply finds a must accept proposal.

    My faithful and diligent agent agrees this is a wise and needful choice for my future writing career.

    You will soon receive a detailed and polite request from her along these lines.

    I must close with thankful appreciation for your attentive and time consuming consideration this entire past year to my obscure and fascinating novel, on the demise of the publishing industry due to alien invasion of body snatchers in black suits with pet monkeys in yellow exploding turbans.

    Most sincerely,

    Yolonda Harper Philpot
    Author, screenwriter, and zookeeper

  • Oh my goodness! What a fun post and fun comments. :)

  • Dale Rogers says:

    To Whom It May Concern:

    Thank you so much for offering to publish Dream of the Moon. Unfortunately, your company isn’t quite what I’m looking for. Please forgive the imper- sonal nature of this form letter; I no longer have time to make individual responses.

    Don’t take this as a personal rejection. The publishing business is very subjective, and what’s not right for me might be right for someone else.
    I wish you the best in searching for that perfect
    client.

    Sincerely,
    The Best Client that Got Away.

  • Wow. I’ll jump into the fray, although bow to Bill’s superior skill on this one!

    Dear Agent,

    Thank you for your timely response to my query for representation. I appreciate the thoughtful and well-written form rejection letter I received yesterday. Although I was at first disappointed that we would not be working together, upon further review, I discovered that your rejection was, in fact, quite serendipitous.

    Although I clearly stated in my query that I am actively seeking an agent with your precise qualifications, your unique experience, and your smoldering good looks, for the following reasons, I no longer believe that you are a good fit for me and my books. You represent Christian fiction but I write Christian Women’s fiction. Not only are you an agent, but you edit, you blog, you read and review, you garden, you make your own bread, you ride camels, you paint lightning, you raise a family, and you write your own books, a potential conflict of interest, if I’m not mistaken. Unfortunately, your platform is a little too broad and unfocused and I’d prefer to work with an agent who has a keen sense of his or her identity. Being able to do it all doesn’t necessarily benefit you; branding is paramount in this industry, especially now with the changing face of publishing, e-publishing, and self-publishing.

    You obviously have great potential as an agent, however, I encourage you to work on your craft a little more. Tighten up the loose ends and clear any unnecessary distractions off your plate. Hone your skills, center your focus, and spend a little more time creating your distinctive brand.

    Good luck in your future endeavors,
    F. Heather Plume

  • Dear Agent;

    While I appreciate you taking your precious time reading my manuscript, I must inform you that I have had a change of heart. I no longer feel like this agency is the right one for me.

    Just because I decided you are not for me doesn’t mean that someone else won’t want you. I encourage you to continue searching for the perfect client and I wish you all the best on your search.

    Best regards,

    The writer that got away

  • Yvette Carol says:

    The whole time I was reading this post and the subsequent comments I was busy formulating in my head my own rejection letter. But the further I read the more intimidated I became. These are SO good there isn’t another thing I could add. Well done everyone!!! Needed a good laugh while I shed another useless tear over the three unreceived rejections on my own plate…nope, still no word a year later. At least there’s some consolation in knowing we’re all in this boat together :-)
    Yvette Carol

  • Wendy Lawton Wendy Lawton says:

    How does one pick a best of the best? You guys are, in the words of Jennifer Major, “like Hawt.”

    I wish I could just award a prize packet to each of you rejection-meisters, but alas. . .

    I did narrow it down to three top contenders:
    Bill Giovannetti
    Christine Dorman
    Kathryn Elliott

    So if each one of you will send your mailing address to me at wendy[at]booksandsuch.com, I’ll send out a prize packet of some great reads.

    Thank you for giving us all some much needed laughter. You guys are the best. Here’s hoping you’ll all be in the position some day to pick and choose.

  • Ann Bracken says:

    Thanks so much for a laughing start to my day! You are all wonderfully creative.

  • nan kilmer says:

    One of my first rejections came several years ago from a highly recommended agent. She wrote that my story was fantastic, hilarious, universal,sassy, etc.– but she was passing on it. I cried a few hours before checking my computer later that night and reading an e mail from same agent: “Nan: I am SO sorry, I confused your work with another author; please send me your fist 2 chapters asap”.
    Confused, for lack of a better adjective, I did not contact the woman again.

  • Denise says:

    Dear Agent,
    I am sorry for the impersonal nature of this form letter. I do appreciate you going into business and standing in the doorway of the major publishing companies protecting the unknowing public of potential books that may not be the trendy thing right now. Heaven forbid a new thought arise that is not quite in sync with the vampire culture of today. I appreciate your restraint from taking a bite into my story and sucking the life blood out of my dreams. Having said that, I must refrain from sending you any more of my work. Please do not take this personal. This is a subjective business and I am sure there are writers out there that will champion your agent skills. At his time my series is doing quite well on Amazon, selling well over 50,000 ebooks in a few short months. I intend to use the extra 20 percent that would have gone to you for those faithful friends who believe in my work and are helping market my wonderful spine chilling yet heartfelt stories across the globe. I wish you the best in acquiring the next unoriginal wannabe of the latest trend.
    Most Sincerely,
    Denise Daisy

  • Sue Harrison says:

    Just love that letter, Wendy!

  • Thoroughly enjoyed this topic, left me laughing. Life is too short to be too serious, yeah? And by the way, I’ve had plenty of rejections myself……

  • Linda says:

    Here are two to choose from. I modified the actual rejection letters…

    Dear High-Profile Agent:

    Thanks for your form letter response to my query. Of all the form rejections, I’ve received yours was the most impersonal.

    As to your representation, I’m afraid I must pass — I’m just not enthusiastic enough about your response time or your boilerplate to feel you would be the right agent for my project. I must be highly selective about who represents me. I realize it is difficult to judge your potential from a form rejection; nevertheless please know that I give serious attention to every rejection I receive.

    Sorry I could not give you a more positive reply. Thanks for thinking of me, though, and best of luck in your search for clients.

    Sincerely,

    Best Selling Author of Highly Popular Book Series
    Oscar Winning Script Writer of Movie Trilogy Based on Highly Popular Book Series

    or

    Hi, Author,

    Thank you for your rejection letter. While your agency certainly has merit, I’m just not wild enough about the response time and wish to withdraw my query. As I’m sure you know, it’s important that your client be totally excited by/committed to /passionate about your representation, and I’m sorry to say that didn’t happen here. But, opinions vary considerably in this business, and mine is just one. I’m sure you’ll find others who feel differently. I hope so!
    I wish you the very best in your search for clients.

    Warm regards,

  • Sharon says:

    This is so funny because I recently sent rejection letters to six agents after signing with another. It was so, so much fun to send rejection letters! But when I sat down to write them I felt a little bad. How crazy is that? Three wrote me back right away congratulating me. The others didn’t reply.

    I included letters to two agents who’d had my manuscript for nearly a year. I had given up on them already, but I sent a rejection letter to them anyway…you know, just cause I could.

    For these guys I wish I would have had the nerve to write this:

    Dear Agent X:

    I really enjoyed waiting for nearly a year for you to respond to my query, unfortunately I’ve since realized that I didn’t fall in love with you as much as I needed to to continue waiting. However, I feel very strongly that you will find another writer who will wait around for as long as it takes.

    I wish you best of luck in all your publishing endeavors!

    Sharon

    • Wendy Lawton Wendy Lawton says:

      Congratulations, Sharon.

      You’ve identified one of the things writers probably don’t realize. Writing rejections or passing on projects is the hardest part of our job. We must be realistic about what we can do, but believe me, we follow those writers and though we are always pulling for their success, there’s always a little catch that we let them get away.

      There are successful writers out there I still regret missing out on. (You know who you are. :-) )

  • Dear Literary Agent,

    Thanks you for submitting your rejection of my query. As you know, I get hundreds of rejections each year. Unfortunately, yours is just not a good fit for me. Although I normally do not have time to elaborate, I shall make an exception in your case.

    Your rejection was based on what criteria? You stated none, so it leaves me wondering if you actually have any. Was it because I am a man? I am just curious because all your agents are women as are all of your fiction clients. Do men not read SO the book market is slanted to women or do they not read BECAUSE it is? I do understand if this is the reason for your rejection, because I cannot imagine the horror someone would feel when they look at all your authors’ lovely portraits only to see my bearded, butt-ugly face.
    Perhaps the reason was the subject matter? I realize that my work was not another cliche “Little House on the Prairie” book, but is fantasy really not a seller? I suppose all the Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Twilight, True Blood, Camelot, Game of Thrones, Grimm, Once Upon a Time, etc. fans are just a fringe group.
    With nothing to go on, I will simply presume your rejection of my query was based on my lack of other books. This makes total sense because if I had other published books that another agent promoted, I would most certainly be querying you now, right? Therefore, your rejection criteria is severely lacking and therefore received a failing grade.
    Obviously, the lack of feedback created a need to assume a reason and we all know what happens when we ass-u-me, right?

    (Tongue is in cheek, so don’t freak out, OK? :D)

  • Tom Honea says:

    you, all of you, have … i am sure read Norman Maclean’s letter to Alfred M Krofp (who choose NOT to publish A River Runs Through It. ) … http://writerunderground.com/2006/12/07/norman-macleans-lost-masterpiece/

  • Jack LaBloom says:

    Dear Literary Agent:

    My uncle died last week, and I have been informed he left me a considerable sum of money. From what my family and I have been able to determine, without my knowledge, Uncle Luther took two manuscripts I had given him to read and had them published by some outfit in New York. We all thought he was a recluse who never left the house.

    Supposedly, the millions he accumulated came from royalties on those novels. We are trying to figure out the pen name he used, a secret he may have carried to his grave.

    I hope you will not take this the wrong way, but that manuscript you requested from me months ago may be worth millions. Would you mind if I let a few other literary agents have a look at it?

    Sincerely yours,

    Jack LaBloom

  • Amy Leigh Simpson says:

    I can feel the knot of stress in my chest unraveling with each one of these. Hysterical! Thank you, Wendy, and all you brave participants. You made my day!

  • Dear Agent,

    Thank you for taking the time to reject me. After careful consideration of your correspondence, I’m afraid I can’t offer you any consideration at all. You see, someone else saw diamonds where you saw swill.

    Please remember, this is only one author’s opinion. I would encourage you to keep rejecting other writers with impunity. While I am out there earning my way and gaining an audience, it would give me a great deal of satisfaction to think of you toiling away in your little office, still waiting for that One Great Book.

    You already missed it.

    With petty-minded pleasure,

    Aimee L. Salter
    Published Author

  • Dear Sir or Madam,
    The considerable amount of time you have expended perusing my manuscript submission is an indicator of the dedication you apply to selecting only the most worthy writing to represent. I’m sure you have been enjoying my novel.
    Thus, it grieves me to inform you that I have accepted an offer of representation from another equally dedicated agent who reads a bit more quickly.
    I encourage you to continue your careful search through the submissions you receive. Eventually you will discover someone you will be able to represent.

    Sincerely,

    Marian O’Brien Paul

  • Nigel says:

    Dear [insert publisher here],

    It is with great dismay that I inform you that I have chosen to do business with another company.

    Despite the multiple copies of my book that have been given to you, for free, it seems as though you are too tight-assed to realize that such an act requires a response. You couldn’t even be bothered to send me a ‘stop sending this, we already have a copy’ note. Seriously?

    I hope that this makes you feel as worthless as those you reject feel when you don’t even bother giving them a ‘why’.

    Sincerely,

    Nigel

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