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5 Reasons You Might Be Hearing No

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 When hunting for an agent, you're bound to hear that dreaded two letter word a few times. While it's true that not every book can be right for every agent, no matter how well it's written, there are things you can do to increase your chances of getting requests.



Polish that query.

Remember all that time you spent making your manuscript sparkle like a vampire in the sun (well, certain breeds of vampires)? A query gives you around 500 words--usually less--to introduce your main character and the major the obstacle they encounter. All with dazzling amounts of voice and excitement. Don't take it lightly. You put countless hours into your book. Don't rush to query with something less than stellar.

Check in at Absolute Write's Query Hell. Read the stickies at the top about query writing and read through some posts that have already been critiqued. Many mistakes critiquers point out are common ones you can fix on your own. Once you're ready to ask for a critique yourself make sure you stick around and offer your help as well!

Research Agents

But really research them. Just because an agent is open to submissions, it doesn't mean they're the right match for you. Most post the specific genres they're looking for and some even include wish lists that detail what they're really hoping to find. Look up the agent's past sales as well. If they recently sold something that's very similar to your own book, they're more likely to pass simply because it could create a conflict of interest promoting two similar stories. Of course this doesn't mean you should rule the agent out entirely. It's only something to keep in mind if they decide to pass.

Follow Submission Guidelines

Agency websites give specific instructions for querying and failing to follow them will insure an automatic delete. Some ask for the query and sample pages pasted into an email, while others accept attachments. Also be sure to see if you query the agency or the agent directly. If you're querying a specific agent, you'll want to address the query (in a businesslike manner!) to them.

Speaking of Sample Pages . . .

If your query sparks some interest, the sample pages are where you need to bowl them over. These need to be free of grammatical errors, intriguing, and well-written. Take the extra time to make sure the sample pages are the absolute best you can make them.

Stay Organized

Agents are busy people and they're human just like the rest of us. Queries will be eaten in inbox folders from time to time. The best way to make sure you don't miss an opportunity at a great agent is to keep yourself organized. Try using a spreadsheet listing agents you queried and the date you sent them off. If the agent responds to all queries and it's past the time window they give, wait a few more days then send a follow up. However, if no response means no, don't badger the agent with more emails.

Bonus tip (because five just sounded more well-rounded than six haha)

When you're sure your book is ready to be sent out, it's nearly impossible to fight the urge to hit send, send, send. But try not to query more than a few agents at a time. Send out four or five queries and see the results. Were they all automatic R's? Maybe it's time to revisit the query and see if you can polish it more. If you got some partial requests that turned into R's look over the sample pages or consider any thoughts or notes an agent might have passed on.


It's a hard truth, but the road to publication is filled with rejection at every step of the way. Remember, you only need one yes to get your shot. Don't let querying be something scary. Put in the time and give yourself the best chance you can.

Have more querying tips? Share it in the comments section below!


Amanda Hannah

Amanda grew up on a big farm in a small town with one stoplight, one school, and a handful of imaginary friends.She would’ve gone to college forever, but eight years and five majors tested her advisor’s patience. So she moved to Germany to explore creepy castles before landing in Spain where she’s perfecting her Flamenco.

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15 comments:

  1. Thanks for the tips! Being patient for all of this to happen is hard, but I know it will be worth it. :)

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  2. how bout this: remember that ninety-nine percent people suck at queries. or at least they do when they first set out to write 'em. chances are, yours will be super sucky too in the initial stages.
    so keep on reading query critiques and rewrite yours over and over again because it WILL get better...one day.
    also important to not necessarily begin writing the query before the novel itself. ahem, ive got some pretty unsavory experiences by doing that.
    great post, amanda! have i ever mentioned your an awesome advice giver? cause you really are :)

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  3. Great post. I've received a lot of help from the folks on querytracker.net It's an amazing resource

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  4. These are awesome tips!

    I usually kept notes (in query tracker) about why I chose each agent, which made it easier to write a single sentence to personalize each query.

    Agents are people, too, and I think they appreciate knowing they're not just part of a big mass mailing.

    Great post!

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  5. Send yourself to Query Hell at Absolute Write. But at least redemption is possible there, once you re-work your query with their input.

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  6. Great tips. Thank you for sharing!

    I love the bonus tip. I wish I would have read this before I started querying!

    I would add another bonus tip: patience!!! The agent I ended up signing with had a response time of 4-6 months for queries, and it took almost 6 months for the initial response from my query. I had already given up and moved on to another project by then! Patience, patience, patience.

    Quitting My Day Job

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  7. I am bookmarking this for future reference. Thank you!

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  8. Super, duper encouraging. Thanks for this post! Marie

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  9. Great tips. I'm not ready to query my WIP yet but I'm gearing up for a long researching process before I do.

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  10. I agree with this, but can't believe how many times I hear writers say things like, wow, I sent my query out 50 times this week, I'm on a roll! cringe. Sounds like suicide to me. You only get one chance to make that impression. DON'T BLOW IT.

    I like the idea of doing my homework. One agent at a time, and revisiting that letter each time, making sure it's beyond great, making sure this agent is right for me.
    It's all more depressing when I get a rejection, because I invested that much more time in it, and I was sure this was the one!

    I bounce back, I'm a writer, and I know how to overdose myself with great fiction.

    Thanks for the great post, I'm recommending it to all who mass query. A MUST READ.

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  11. Great tips, Amanda!

    Two more reasons you might be hearing no:

    Agent already is working with a similar project or a book very similar to yours was recently published.

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  12. Don't forget to be honest as well. It may sound like a given, but an agent once thanked me for being honest. Apparently, a lot of people over exaggerate and embellish their credentials, plot, or claim to have received a reference from one of their clients. Be honest. It will do you well.

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Item Reviewed: 5 Reasons You Might Be Hearing No Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Amanda Hannah