"not right for us" means that but ONLY that

Dear Miss Snark,

I'm a very good writer -- and if you don't believe me, I've got signed notes from several of your colleagues to prove it.

Seriously, I just received another handwritten "you're good, you're a good writer, but this book isn't for us, and I personally wish you great luck with it" rejection.

If it's as good as they say, why won't they take it on? Any tips for when good writing doesn't seem to trump after all?

Query other agents.
Not every good book is right for every agent.

Just recently I got a query with blurbs from established authors I knew and liked a LOT. The book sucked. Not just sort of, but REALLY sucked. Do I think those writers were wrong? Yes. Do they think I'm wrong? Yes. Solution: find another agent.

Query widely.
Don't fret about no.
Get to yes.


Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

In the last few months I've gotten things like, "We loved your story, but it doesn't fit what we publish" more than once.

Knowing that someone loved the story, "but it's not what we publish and we hope you find a home for it" is more frustrating than a form rejection. It's also a nice pat on the back and ego booster.

Still...it's okay to give up. I do it all the time. (I think I've said that before.) I totally swore off writing yesterday. I sent out three queries today and, in response to an email, one full attached as a Word format document.

I'll swear off writing again on Monday. I know I will. ... At least for a day or two. I can't do it forever. I mean I've just married off my main character's seventh daughter to a nice engineer turned goat-herd. It was the result of early maturity brought on by stress. Pixies don't mature until sometime near 100, and she's not near 100. The stress came from being caged by an evil man. Pixies don't like to be caged. Stress can bring on … well … umm pixie urges and stuff.

So, next they have a daughter of their own. The daughter will meet her half-sisters. Then, of course, the human half-sisters will sneak along when their new pixie sister is presented to the fairy court.

Fairies and pixies are more or less mortal enemies. And if I give up writing, I won't know how the three girls will get themselves out of the mess I know they'll get in.

Then, too, there is the story that precedes this one. I'm so frustrated with that, that I've skipped it for now. Oh, I'll go back. The beginning is too good not to go back and finish it. But, I'll have to give up writing dozens of times first. You can too, just return to it later.

And, not to deviate too far from the original topic, Not Right For Us does NOT mean, "You suck lemons."

Examples of Not Right for Us that did not mean "you suck lemons":

1. Your manuscript was a real pleasure to read! Your voice is unique, and your writing style is tight. The storyline caught my attention and kept me reading. Unfortunately, it does not fit into the Romance genre published here at The Wild Rose Press.

2. Excellent read, very entertaining and a lot of fun....But not really Baen material.

3. We enjoyed the story and do hope you find a publisher for it.

Unfortunately, I have too many rejections of this sort.

Leigh said...

Haven't you walked into a bookstore, saw a title that interested you, read the back of the book, then looked at the first couple of pages, and put the book back because it just wasn't quite right for you? It's the same thing for an agent. You don't want someone representing you who thinks the book's good, but it isn't right for him because he isn't going to do a good job selling it.

Anonymous said...

There's no way to know when your story will land on an editor's desk.
Your writing may be wonderful -- but she just bought a similar story.
The story may be fabulous -- but they're overinventoried on what you write, because several option books came in at once, and those get first crack.
It might all work -- but the editor your agent spoke to about the story decided she wanted to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, and so she's taken a leave of absence, and her replacement isn't on the same wavelength as your agent or your writing.
Uh, oh, that pregnancy that wasn't going to keep your editor from working? Well, she's um, changed her mind and doesn't want to miss a second of those early years.
Your manuscript went into a story conference, but the editor who loved it can't get support from her colleagues on this one -- it's too different.
The line you're targeting has closed down.
The line you're targeting has decided to go in a different direction.

Sha'el, there are so many reasons that are beyond your control you can't begin to count them all. Just shrug it off and keep going. If it makes you nuts, think how crazed your agent is, since this is her world, and she has to do this with more than one manuscript.

Keep writing. Keep giving your agent something new. Do it because you love it and you have to.

Zany Mom said...

Really. I've heard tell of writers who queried agents and got rejected, only to find their novel idea trashed on a blog afterwards. Then same novel gets snapped up by another agent and then a publisher. Everybody has their own tastes and biases. Not everyone will love everything. Keep trying.

Elektra said...

I've already decided the first thing I'll do if I win the lottery is fund the publication of anything Sha'el ever writes (if she'd let me, of course). The world needs pixies.

Anonymous said...

"queried agents and got rejected, only to find their novel idea trashed on a blog afterwards"

The agent's blog? That would be a tad unprofessional.
And stupid. Who would want to send their work to an agent who publicly humiliated them?

Elektra said...

Anonymous, I think she meant a blog like Rachel (spelling?) Vater's--she goes over the basic ideas of a query, without being specific enough for anyone but the author to know whom she's talking about.

Anonymous said...

The fact that they respond with "we liked/loved it" is proof enough they really liked it.

KingM said...

There could be something else going on here. I used to pile up those little notes, too. Good writing, but we don't feel strong enough, blah, blah. And then I wrote something with greater commercial potential and the agents came running.

It could simply be that your novel is not commercial enough.

Anonymous said...



Just one example. Taste varies. Query widely.

Allison Poole said...

Here's a lousy no: agent is looking only for serious literary fiction but replies to my query with 'your serious literary fiction is not what I'm looking for, however opinions in this business vary.'

What, get an opinion from someone else about whether or not it's what you're looking for? Or get an opinion on whether my book is serious and literary at all?


Anonymous said...

Anon, 'The fact that they respond with "we liked/loved it" is proof enough they really liked it.'

If they really liked it, why pass? I wonder if it's not commercial enough (but if so, I'd love it if they said so)...

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

There's always an opposite opinion. Dear Elektra loves my pixies. An agent who shall go nameless (otherwise Snarkie wouldn't allow the post, and it would bruise his fragile male ego to be named) emailed me this morning more or less suggesting the my writing is trash, "though others might have a different opinion."

It's okay. We have a strong personality clash over other issues. I expected the rejection, just not the rudeness. But hope springs eternal. I thought I'd give him a try anyway. ... Bad idea, huh?

I have two fulls and two partials out there with publishers. It just takes forever to hear back from some of them. [Can you hear the deep sigh?]

I'm really puzzled by one of these. Their editor wrote a really nice email. He asked for four months to decide. It's been much longer, and a polite email from me asking about it has gone unanswered. I'm thinkin' that's a "no," which makes me sad because they're my publisher of choice at the moment.

Elektra, you're sweet. Thanks for the kind words.