My First Rejection E-Mail

I was a little disheartened to receive my first rejection e-mail from an American literary agent yesterday. Not disheartened I received one but, rather, I received it less than ten hours after submitting it to said agent. I had been told it could be anything between 4-12 weeks to receive a reply, given agents are so busy. Given this agent works for a top U.S. agency I therefore had my suspicions.

To be fair, at least I received a response. Some agents state they will only contact you if they are interested in your work, otherwise you are left hanging in suspense until you eventually give up hope, assume the worst, and move on. I was prepared for rejection, it’s part of the process, but not quite so soon. Was this some sort of a world record? Were my sample chapters really that bad?

Or had the agent even bothered to read my submission? Given the five hour time gap between where I am and the Big Apple, it appeared she had dropped everything and spent her working day reading the query letter, synopsis and 50 page sample of an unknown Northern Irish unpublished author. High powered meetings were rescheduled and working lunches cancelled for little old me.

Her rejection e-mail offered little in the way of clues. I wasn’t named and it’s bland, generic quality suggested it was a standard automated rejection. It offered no feedback, stating I wasn’t the right fit and something about her heavy workload. I sighed, added it to my newly created rejection e mail folder and went to bed, the excitement of the last few days a distant memory.

How do you handle rejection?

Published by Fractured Faith Blog

We are Stephen and Fionnuala and this is our story. We live in Northern Ireland, have been married for 15 years and have three kids - Adam, Hannah and Rebecca. We hope that our story will inspire and encourage others. We have walked a rocky road yet here we are today, together and stronger than ever. We are far from perfect and our faith has been battered and bruised. But an untested faith is a pointless faith. Just as a fractured faith is better than none at all. We hope you enjoy the blog.

158 thoughts on “My First Rejection E-Mail

      1. I have had manuscripts of other people’s books sent to me in my own S.A.S.E., been thanked for the wrong title, and told “We realize it takes a lot of work to write a children’s story…” (My book was NOT a children’s story.) I got a mental picture of people stuffing the S.A.S.E.’s as fast as they could with generic rejection letters and whatever manuscript was within reach … I think this is why even some established writers are choosing to self publish. Nobody cares about your book as much as you do.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Hang in there! It hurts at first. But it also gives me perspective. There are a lot of people in the world who are doing the exact same thing I am. Keep throwing those nets out to the water. Your chances are better than one fishing line. Someone will find the connection with your story. And sometimes it’s just being in the right place at the right time. Keep looking at your story, too! For me, I’ve been told that a single word can change a whole page. Head up! 🙂

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  2. It hurts but you have to pick up yourself from there. Continue submitting your work to others , your day will come . And yes, that email will come with good news. Don’t worry about this rejection, keep soaring.
    ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

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  3. Keep submitting and don’t give up!! Have you tried other American publishers? You should try other companies out of NYC. You might get a more genuine experience that way. There are publishers all over the US who might give you a better chance. Don’t give up! Sending you luck from Houston, TX!

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      1. I don’t have any specific company names, but Houston is the 4th largest city in the United States, so I am positive there are publishers here. You might check Austin, TX as well! I haven’t looked in years, but writersmarket.com used to have lists of publishers looking for different types of writing.

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      1. Thank you. I self-published. It’s near impossible to get a poetry collection traditionally published. If I ever crank out a full novel I will probably try the traditional route first. One thing I have learned with self-publishing is the immense difficulty of marketing. That is an area where I am very weak. I’m learning some things here and there though.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I think this is some kind of record. Wow. Speedy response. He/she probably woke up late that morning, missed their morning Starbucks, and entered the office stressed about workload. He/she probably didn’t even read the queries as they attached form letters to the top one hundred hanging over their head. Nothing personal, but they just missed out something great. (Be nice if they’d update their website to say they aren’t accepting queries).

    One time at a writer’s conference an agent we pitched to told us she was “sold” and asked for the full ms. She even set us up with a publishing house at the conference and we pitched to the entire team who had been having a meeting. Their editor asked to see full mss. of both our completed books. About six months later, I heard back from the editor, but I never did hear back from that agent. I even resubmitted to her, thinking maybe the mss. got lost or something. No word. Ever. It was a good thing, though, because now I have a different agent who just got us a two book deal.

    How do I handle rejection? I pout, I get down on myself, I get frustrated and say unkind things that aren’t true (never publicly). Then the sting wears off and I move on.

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      1. All that time we waited for her to reply, we didn’t submit anywhere else. That’s how optimistic we felt. Kind of silly in a way. But we did write a third book. It wasn’t until the next year at a different conference, I met our current agent, wasn’t really even pitching. As you know, that’s how God leads. He often closes doors to guide us in the right direction.

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  5. As I read this message and even remember the excitement and anticipation you had leading up to the submission, the Lord reminded of 1 Samuel 16:7…

    “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

    One may say, what does this passage have to do with what you’ve experienced? When the Lord has gifted a person with certain gifts for a certain purpose (His), just any ole’ platform won’t work, even those that may “seem like” a good fit “to us!” And what I love about God is that as we journey seeking this place, sometimes He protects us from being planted in the wrong garden. Sometimes it may not be the wrong garden, just the wrong time, only God knows! Therefore, He doesn’t allow everyone to see our gifts, until He’s ready for us to be planted for His purpose. THEY MISSED A DIAMOND!

    Sure, things like this can be disheartening, but God amazingly gives us the ability to look at moments like this as His little nudges. I have a major Dear John letter that I filed away from 2007, but what the Lord taught me was that I wasn’t a fit for that place, because He was leading and equipping me for a different platform. Boy do I know now, that what He was ultimately doing, if I’d gotten that position, it wouldn’t have worked!

    Blessings!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ah rejection, something with which I am well acquainted! When our kids still lived with us, we formed a band named Unlimited. My wife Betsy wrote our original material and we did covers of much of the popular Christian music at the time (as well as a few of my personal rock faves of the ’70s). We even produced a CD with the help of some friends. When we tried to reach out with it, did the rejections ever pour in! I think in all the time we tried, I only talked personally to one person, and that was so he could deliver the rejection in person!
    My response to rejection has changed over the course of time: I started by being hurt personally (real mature) to resigned failure (no one wants to hear this stuff: more self-pity). Blessedly, God has toughened my skin while softening my heart. We still enjoy making music. I don’t need a big stage for that and I know in my heart that this truly is good music we were making.
    For you Stephen, you know in your heart you have written a good book. Please don’t allow 1 or 100 rejections change your mind! And should you waver in this (it happens), also please remember there are lots of us out here who DO believe in your ability.
    Blessings,
    Chuck

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You’re right — she was probably overloaded and did not read it but sent out a form letter rejection. It often takes a personal recommendation- meaning a personal phone call from a current client or her colleague on your behalf— for an agent in a top agency to read your submission and, as you said, at that point it would take some time for you to get the reply. Take the rejection with a grain of salt because it has nothing to do with the quality of your material since it likely was not read. It was simply not a good fit right now. However, you began the process and that’s what is important. Keep at it and you will eventually, without doubt, find the right person for you.

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  8. Just a thought…It could be she is looking for certain types of books right now and she could tell by the title, your letter or reading a few pages that your book did not fit that category. They are looking for whatever will sell best…what is hot right now, or what they are short of at the moment. I noticed when I was looking at publisher websites that many of them stated what kinds of books they were looking for at this time: Young adult, books with diversity the story…that type of thing. Some even stated not to send in certain types of manuscripts because they had too many of that kind at the moment. Could be what happened here. It doesn’t mean no one else will want it. =)

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  9. Before deciding to go indie, I’d sat it on some conference sessions where publishing professionals discussed reviewing submissions. It was common to hear that they often won’t read past the query letter unless it grabs their attention and is a book they believe they can market. Sometimes they may even be interested in the idea but if it doesn’t fit their needs or there’s no clear path to market it, they’ll pass. That’s why books that go on to be bestsellers often have their own trail of rejections.

    Hearing that helped me (I’ve gotten a few rejections from magazine publications).

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  10. One more thing: As for the speed of the rejection, many, if not most or all, have staff that do the initial screening. I doubt every agent/publisher looks through them personally unless someone thinks it is a likely fit.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Maybe she was already over-committed, in which case you’d have had to be another Neil Gaiman to get read.
    Rejection-wise, I haven’t submitted to an agent I have a practice novel with first draft finished, but I thought better of it.). I have sent off loads of short stories to web sites and competitions unsuccessfully. In fact, I have a little verse on the subject. It’s here somewhere…

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  12. I’ve entered writing competitions, taken courses too.
    Perhaps I’ve left it late to be exploring pastures new.
    I’ve never won, but twice came third, and twice I made the shortlist.
    Sent stories off to magazines but never had one published.

    For every lucky prizewinner you’re always going to find
    A crowd of wistful ‘also rans’ straggling behind.
    But not all readers share the judges’ taste. We can take heart
    From prestigious awards in other disciplines – like Art.

    Because I didn’t win, I don’t intend to take up knitting.
    It doesn’t mean that I can’t write and I should think of quitting.
    I’ll strive to dream up storylines and think creatively,
    Cos everybody can’t be best. I’m in good company.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I got a next day rejection once, or possibly same day. It does feel insulting! They should be more sensitive and at least hold off a day or two! But try not to take it personally. I’ve sent out over 35 query letters for my book, and have received 34 rejections, 1 request for full manuscript, and then that was also rejected. That’s even worse! But I’m not giving up. I tell myself I’m still learning and that half the battle is persistence!

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  14. You’re in this think now Stephen! Good luck. 😀 My quickest rejection was 4 hours. If they don’t like your letter they won’t read all your sample pages. Im currently not querying and in a rewrite and resubmit situation. I got some amazing feedback tho and I’m going to take it to improve my book and start again in a few months. I got 22 rejections before that. Some nice and personalish and some just dear author. It’s not a reflection of your work. You just need the right fit. Don’t be disheartened 😀🤞

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      1. It was disappointing but I’m ok with it now. It’s good. Many writers get way less. My goal is to rewrite using a deeper 3rd person POV and cut more backstory. It’s going to take some serious time unfortunately but hopefully I’ll get it right. Good luck. I hope you get some requests in your first batch of queries.

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  15. “…overwhelmingly nauseating, even to an enlightened Freudian … the whole thing is an unsure cross between hideous reality and improbable fantasy. It often becomes a wild neurotic daydream … I recommend that it be buried under a stone for a thousand years.”

    That was a rejection response to Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita!!!! Can you imagine?!

    Keep going. Chin up.

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  16. Yay!!!! You got your first rejection, what an awesome milestone! Years ago I heard of a sales manager who against common practice told his salesman that they needed 500 rejections per month, that was their quota. He didn’t care how many they won, he wanted to make sure they were trying relentlessly. That rejection folder of yours will become the most valuable tool you have in marketing yourself. Each rejection should be celebrated. We miss 100% of the shots we don’t take, congratulations on taking your first shot. You got this brother, how exciting!

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  17. I am very confident in my writing so I take it as their loss and move on to Plan B.

    For me worse than rejection emails were the ones who didn’t even bother to respond. It takes what, two seconds to say no?

    I chose the self-publishing route because I wanted to get my book out on my terms and because I felt that maybe exposure would lead to bigger and better things. I encourage you to keep trying. If you were not successful with that particular agent, there are plenty of others. And would you want one that is that dismissive anyway?

    Keep on pushing!

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  18. Don’t be worried. That agent is going to regret sending you a rejection letter when your book lands on the bestseller’s list. I was rejected by the New Yorker so decided that I would put together a book of my poetry and self publish. Now I just need to add that to my ever growing list.

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  19. Awww try not to get too disheartened by it although I completely get where you are coming from! I always think it is harsh when there’s no reply whatsoever mainly because I think it is rude but at least you got a reply. Yet the fact like you say could have been a generic response sort of makes the fact you got a reply slightly disappointing. Either way, keep doing what you do and one day the perfect position will be yours! 🙂

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  20. Rejection hurts. Period. I hate the whole ‘grow a thick skin’ crapola. It isn’t possible – at least for me. I think you are right, it is an automated response. Try not to give it too much credence and as for handling it my suggestion would be to write it out or make the feelings it evokes part of the makeup of one of your characters. It’s been said that adversity makes us stronger. I think it also makes us better writers. Keep your chin up – you have a large number of fans already who are rooting for you.

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  21. I could wallpaper my home with rejections, my son sent he book out the sixth publisher accepted it. All of my children are avid readers as I am, he is the only one who took up the same interest as his mother. Thank you for the follow and it allowed me to find your wonderful site. E.

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  22. My issue is with the lack of empathy with which the publisher delivered the news. One can say “No,” without making it feel as though you’ve been smacked in the head with a brick. I am so sorry this happened to you. I’m also sorry someone thought this was acceptable behavior. But I will echo what others have said here: Let it go and try again.

    I pitched an idea to an editor at an academic conference. I was a huge fan of this publisher, so the fact that the editor was there milling about was fantastic to me. Anyway, he asked me about my topic; I’d started my second sentence when he gave me the most bored look I’d ever seen. He grabbed his drink and said, “Yeah, we’ll see,” before walking off. Whole “meeting” lasted about four minutes. In the end, it was a friend of mine who suggested the publishing house I ultimately went with – a far better experience. As my friend said, I just had to keep plugging away because *someone* will answer.

    Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Rejection is major parts disappointment, I believe, mixed in with hurt. I tend to deal with it by sleeping on it and stopping myself from entering into negative thought spirals. However, this is easier said than done. I’m sorry this happened but I have faith that something better will come along for you soon! Have a nice day! :))

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  24. Rejection is hard but we have to keep going. I try not to let it get me down but to be honest it does make you feel like you have failed. Because we have failed with one doesn’t mean it’s with all. I know not to give up because that means I’ve accepted rejection as my fate and that isn’t how it should be. Keep going because you are strong and you will win.

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  25. Don’t lose heart! It sounds like an automatic rejection that has nothing to do with your work and more to do with the agent’s workload. It’s going to take a lot of fishing to get a bite (for about 99% of writers). Keep putting your work out there! Do you know about manuscript wish list on twitter? #mswl is a great way to find out which agents are looking for what.

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  26. I need to know who that was so I can slap her silly!! But seriously I would write back and ask if she had any specific pointers she could give you. That is way too fast to have given it any thought. Hugs Stephen! You are a great writer and SOMEONE will see it and publish you!

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  27. Stephen, I agree with the above comments. You already know the line “you have come too far to give up”. Keep pushing. You will get there in the end. Congratulations on everything!

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  28. In 1982 I got 46 rejections on my first book. The same book is my best seller as a self published since 2009. 45 of my rejections never read a page. The one that was read was an agent that gave me a tip to send it to a certain publisher. They responded, “We dont do westerns.” Top agent sent me. Ya gotta love the business.

    Liked by 2 people

  29. I had a hard time dealing with rejection for many years. I got to the point where I knew what to expect – initial disappointment, followed by denial of just how bad I felt, waking up in the middle of the night and having it finally “hit” me, then drowning in self-pity for the rest of the night, followed by a few days of feeling down, due at least partly to sleep deprivation.
    Then something was different. I was liberated. I posted about it on September 28 – “Growing Pains – or Lack of.”

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  30. Every no is one step closer to a yes. Most famous authors have scads of rejections. If they gave up, think of what awesome work would never have been published. Kudos to you for having the courage to start your submissions.

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  31. My time of Twitter was fairly toxic, BUT I did learn a few things hanging out with the writer’s community there.

    Agents and publishers are indeed overworked. You’ve already heard this in multiple comments already though. Don’t take it as a reflection of your work. You’ll probably go through multiple rejections before you get a winner.

    The only hints I can offer from my time there is to make sure you have a stellar query letter and that the first few paragraphs of the sample you send in are as catchy as possible. Stay positive, you’ll get there.

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  32. New record!

    Seriously -you are right that she didn’t even read it. How rude and not worth YOUR time.

    I had a quote on my blog at one point that I like -something about stapling your rejection letters to your chest and wading forward!

    So, keep it up! I need to get my signed copy somehow!

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  33. I would be the same!! I’m sure we do know and expect to get lots of rejection letters before it all comes together, but I can do totally understand the feeling! I’ve been there myself and no matter how much you know that even the likes of Toni Morrison went through this, it’s still a dampener because we believe so much in it and it’s something we’ve so carefully crafted and put everything into. You know this but take it in your stride, and when it gets in front of THAT agent who loves THAT genre and is at THAT moment looking for THAT very book….. It’ll happen. I’ll bet you sometimes they only glance at the genre or some other detail and reject before properly reading. Hm, I meant to be encouraging and all yay you so hopefully this comment doesn’t come across as too gloomy! Anna x

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  34. so sorry steven! but you will get there! Its just one rejection there will be other agents and someone will sign you! I just know it where one door closes another always opens! 🙂

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  35. OK … you’re dealing with Americans. Don’t ever send anything on a Friday. Or on a Monday that might be a holiday (& there’s one of those every damn month). Send it in the middle of the week. Make sure it gets to the desk of the person in the middle of the day, either before lunch (noon – 2 p.m.) or just after. So check your clock, remember you’re ahead of us (IN OH SO MANY WAYS)

    Do you know the magazine Poets & Writers? You can access it here: http://www.pw.org

    They have links to agents that are actually looking for work. I would check that out.

    Hang in there. That agent didn’t want to read your novel, you don’t want to work with her/him anyway.

    HUGS

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  36. I think that it’s hard to handle rejection. On a “personal” level one needs to understand we’re not all suitable for each other… on a writer level … one needs to keep trying and trying…
    🤗🤗🤗🤗
    Keep believing in yourself!

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  37. The fact it was so quick a response probably means they probably didn’t even look at it, or maybe gave it a cursory glance. Don’t be disheartened. The trick to it is just to keep trying and keep believing in yourself. This is essential if you’re a writer.

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  38. Sorry to hear that. Thick skin required right? Personally, I used to handle rejection very very poorly, going to great lengths to “fix” whatever was “wrong” with me. Now I recognize I am not everyone’s cup of tea and vice versa. I am trying to instill that in my little girl. Hopefully save her a lot of internal unnecessary pain. Have you ever read Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Big Magic”? She speaks in detail about the amount of rejections she received as a writer before “Eat, Pray, Love” and her subsequent books that were not as successful. Might make you feel better and even inspired.

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  39. I empathize 100% with this post! I began sending out query letters a few days ago. Most agents and agencies state that they won’t reply at all if they’re not interested. You simply won’t hear back from them. But I got my first response just 54 minutes after my email was sent! The agent had this to say:
    “I think you have an interesting story here, but I’m afraid I’m not connecting with it as much as I was hoping to, so I’m just not the best fit for this project.”
    I was slightly disheartened, but I thought it was amazing that she even responded to tell me ‘no.’ I thought it was pretty classy.

    Liked by 1 person

  40. The first few times (yes, few), it felt very personal. However, my last rejection letter came as a relief since I realized I’d made promises I couldn’t keep due to unforeseen circumstances. For now, my novel is shelved (so to speak, of course) where it awaits a very badly-needed trimming and I’m throwing energy and the tiny bit of time that I have toward a couple of non-fiction projects and some research.

    By the way, my last rejection letter had a hand-written note on it and some specific advice geared towards my submission. It was my third or fourth from the same agent, but I took a gamble and made my last submission to him a little less pat. I may have gotten rejection, but I look forward to my next submission now!

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      1. You’ll get there, too. At a conference I was able to attend, one agent advised that it doesn’t mean your book is no good, it means that all the things which need to line up just didn’t line up for that agent and your book at that time…

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  41. Congratulations- now you’re a “real writer” with your first real rejection letter. I think you’re supposed to frame it so when you are a multi million dollar best selling author you can look at it and think to yourself, “now doesn’t that agent feel like a loser passing over my story?” Keep sending it out – your story will find its home! 💐💐

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  42. Think about any published author you know who got rejected, it will help you see rejection as a stepping stone and not a dead end. Never give up on your beautiful work. I wish you success in your next submission.

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  43. Now don’t you worry a hoot! Keep on going and then keep on going some more. This is a long process and it’s only just begun. Start developing a rhinoceros skin and keep busy. Don’t forget, that now that the writing is done, it’s not about emotion Stephen, it’s purely business. Your biggest fan, Katie

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  44. Rejection is so often never personal. It manifests itself that way in our thoughts but it’s rarely anything other than a motion of fingers across the keyboard. Take heart — be encouraged and write again.

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  45. I know how you feel! You put your heart and soul into your work and then to be discounted so quickly is hurtful. Agents may be busy but writers put their hearts out there on a string and you feel a bit smacked when rejected so quickly. Writing is deeply personal. You make a great point, the agent must have found your work interesting enough to stop everything else to read your fifty pages. So never give up!

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  46. Hi there, I can’t say this for definite but a 10-hour rejection suggests your sample chapters weren’t read. Your synopsis didn’t cut it–and that’s not criticism of you either. My experiences of agents and publishers is the first thing they look for is marketability especially for a debut author, so perhaps something in your synopsis suggests either they can’t come up with a strong marketing angle or they are already publishing similar stuff. (And also, try looking up info on how to write a fab synopsis. It’s a skill, and a new one one for most writers to learn.) Now the marketability thing doesn’t mean YOU couldn’t market your book, and there are tonnes of examples of self-publishers who have proved that. Pursue the trad route, but remember there are plenty of other options. Hope this helps!

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