Agent Rejections – Here are some samples. Read ’em and weep.

For a variety of reasons, I am no longer writing the Inspector Ramirez series. I had one publisher that owns world English rights to the first two books and another that owns Canadian rights to the second two books and all of that meant it was impossible to sell the series in the US or elsewhere. Lessons learned.

I had great hopes, nonetheless, for finding an agent for my historical fiction manuscript. After all, I’m a bestselling author, right? Well, wrong.

Here is a sample of the most recent rejections I’ve received. It’s a little known facet of the publishing industry, but the constant damning by faint praise can leave you without any confidence in your ability to write, much less get published. It’s certainly left me not wishing to query any further, particularly when so many of these rejections came from agents my fellow authors  referred me to.

(And for those of you who say don’t give up, it’s part of the process –  I went through 156 rejections before The Beggar’s Opera was published. I really didn’t expect to have to go through that number again.)

The one that stung the most came from an agent a good author pal had referred me to, the one who said it was like reading homework. Not going to lie. That one hurt.

Read ’em and weep.

“I have now had a chance to look at PEACE WOMAN’S DAUGHTER and the material on the psychic thriller series idea. While I admire your sure hand with plot, I didn’t respond to the writing in the way I’d hoped, and felt it difficult to really connect with the characters. This is such a subjective process, as you know, and I regret that I don’t feel that I’d be the best representative for your work.
* * *
“There’s so much to admire in The Peace Woman’s Daughter, but I found that I didn’t have the passion for it that I had hoped to. Responses to fiction are very selective, and I’m sure another agent will feel differently.
* * *
“Thanks so much for sending along THE PEACE WOMAN’S DAUGHTER back in October. Although the history here is fascinating, I’m afraid we weren’t connecting wholeheartedly, so despite our admiration we ought to step aside. We’re very grateful that you gave us another shot, though, and we wish you the best of luck!
* * *
“Thank you for the opportunity to read a sample of THE PEACE WOMAN’S DAUGHTER. I was struck immediately by the haunting voice of Jigonsaseh in that first chapter, but I didn’t have the same emotional response to the next scenes from Father Lamberville’s POV, which seemed just a touch stiffer, a bit dry. So, after a lot of thought, I’ve decided to pass on the project.
“I eagerly read the sample pages but unfortunately, your project doesn’t seem right for me. Since it’s crucial that you find an agent who will represent you to the best of his or her ability, I’m afraid that I’m going to have to step aside rather than ask to represent your manuscript.
“There’s some great prose in these pages, but I’m afraid I have reservations. I’ve been finding it really difficult to place historical novels of this sort, and I just don’t have confidence in my ability to find it a good home. I’m so sorry! I really appreciate the opportunity, though, and wish you the best of luck.
* * *
“Fiction, as I’m sure you know, is just about the toughest thing to sell in the current marketplace. I need to really fall in love with something before I can even think of taking it on. Though there is much to appreciate here, I’m afraid that I ultimately didn’t believe I would be its best advocate.
* * *
“As to your material, I’m afraid I will be passing. While your credits are certainly notable, I’m just not drawn strongly enough to the concept of your story to feel that I’d be the right agent for this project.
* * *
“Thanks so much for being in touch. I’m flattered that you thought of me for this, but it just didn’t strike a chord. I do admire the quality of the writing and the execution and I’m sorry it wasn’t a fit for me.
* * *
“Well, I just took another look and my reaction is that it feels like homework reading it – lots of information; and it feels like it’s trying so hard to be correct in all its details that it’s forgetting to tell a story that will hook the reader. The characters aren’t thinking or speaking like real people.
* * *
“Thank you so much for sending this along! So I love the writing here a lot. And the voice is fantastic. I can tell immediately I’m dealing with a real storyteller; ultimately, though I worry that the historical element of this isn’t compelling enough to stand out. Historical is extremely difficult in its own right, and I felt like the meat of this story took a little too long to get going, there’s a slowness to it that I think will prevent readers from really sinking their teeth in and hanging on.
* * *
“Afraid that I’m going to step aside. The writing was solid, but it felt like there was too much backstory and the characters weren’t quite driving the novel the way they could. Things definitely improved when we got to the native americans, but it didn’t feel like it was quite as strong as it could be. So sorry, but best of luck with it!
* * *
“I really admire your work, and I’m on the fence, but ultimately the deciding factor for me is that you need an agent who is completely passionate and committed and can sell your work with lots of determination and conviction. It’s not enough to be admiring. You need a strong advocate!”

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16 Responses to Agent Rejections – Here are some samples. Read ’em and weep.

  1. Deborah says:

    No doubt, you have a good story there. All the agents said in different ways, the praise wasn’t so faint. That they wrote so much is a compliment to your story. They might’ve just passed, or not responded, right?


  2. Anne Cobham says:

    I’m sad to read this. I’m currently writing a story which I’m frankly astonished has not yet been treated in fiction, but I don’t hold out much hope of getting it published. All people seem to want to read about these days is hot Highlanders.


  3. Duncan A Campbell says:

    They replied because they have a modicum, perhaps only a minute modicum (which ain’t much) of politesse, and as you say felt indebted to their friends. For me, much less successful than you, it begs the question of how one becomes an AGENT and how this person is capable of wielding so much capricious and arbitrary power. An adulterous, complicit relationship with the publishers? Or perhaps we just are not as good as we think we are at times. Is there an Agent’s school where one can acquire the blunt knack of letting a scrivener down easy? I wish you luck with the new book. Sandy


  4. Jo-Anne Ward says:

    Ouch! That “homework” reply is not-so-nice – But most of the replies were “somewhat kind” – I love your Inspector Ramirez series Peggy! Have you considered self-publishing your latest manuscript??


    • Peggy Blair says:

      Yes, I thought that one was a little on the mean side. It would be a waste of time and money, Jo-Anne. Self-published books simply don’t sell. Thanks for the feedback!


  5. Marilyn Norman says:

    Hi Peggy,

    These are indeed rather dispiriting responses and make me glad not to be the one receiving them.

    I have been a loyal fan of your writing from the first Ramirez novel and bought all of the books in the series for my personal collection. I taught English and writing for many years and like to think I am a discerning reader. I have recommended the books to many others, who have enjoyed them as well. Your personal background confers a sense of authenticity that is hard to match. The element of magic realism adds so much to the character development and overall themes; the cultural insights enrich the stories. The series is truly unique. Is it not possible for you to buy back the rights from one of your publishers? These are the stories that your readers want more of, as you must have gleaned from your many loyal fans. I will continue to follow your postings with interest and do wish you well with your work, whatever direction it may take in the future.

    Sincere best wishes,

    Marilyn Norman



    • Peggy Blair says:

      Thank you so much, Marilyn. I offered to buy back the US rights several times, and never received a response from my publisher. I’m glad you enjoyed the series so much, and thanks for your good wishes!


  6. SheriO says:

    A truism in the creative biz says posthumous discovery and celebration marks the true, enduring art. Meanwhile, you’ve got one life and while posthumous discovery may help your estate and your readers, it don’t motivate much in the real world. Oh well.
    I shared your blog with Nick Hopwood, an academic bravely posting his oh so numerous rejections

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Anita Herrmann says:

    I am very very sad that the series has ended. Writing is putting part of your soul on paper so I can well understand why you have chosen to stop. But I want you know that your books were fantastic and your characters very real. I will miss them.


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