You’ve Been Rejected (Again) By a Literary Agent – What Now?

Recently I had my fifth (possibly sixth – I lost count somewhere, I think) rejection from a Literary Agent for my debut novel Don’t Eat the Waffles. We’ll just call it Waffles from hereon out.

I decided to write some thoughts both about why my book could have been rejected, and why your book might be rejected.

First of all, do not give up. Five rejections is nothing. JK Rowling literally has a box of rejections in her attic, and many other successful authors have been forced to wade through the pain of rejections before finding success!

When you get rejected by an agent, it’s almost impossible to know why you were rejected, since most will either give you no hint whatsoever, or will simply say something like “this is not what we’re looking for at this time”.

So how do you know where you went wrong or, indeed, if you went wrong at all? Let’s look at some ideas that might help you realise. These are certainly things that I am considering regarding the rejections of Waffles.

Did You Send it to the Right Agent?

This can be a kicker. Did you research your Agent? Most agents will list somewhere either on their website or Twitter, or wherever they advertise that they are open to queries and submissions, what they are looking for.

If they are looking for women’s literature and you send them a cyberpunk story, you’re lucky to even receive a rejection e-mail. If they want high fantasy and you send them a vapid chick-lit novel, they’re simply not going to be interested.

Sometimes your chosen Agent is vague or simply doesn’t mention what they want. This isn’t necessarily bad! Simply send it over, and try your chances. Who knows, they may just be who you’re looking for.

Is it Easily Marketable?

Firstly, look at the genre of your novel. If it can’t be easily categorized, then it’s easy to say that it’s not as easily marketable as, say, a chick-lit romance or a crime thriller. Since the primary goal of an Agent is to find a book they can sell, they will always go for the obvious genre over the obscure.

Waffles certainly falls into the ‘hard to describe’ category. I suppose you could put it into the Dark Contemporary Fantasy or Dark Urban Fantasy genres, but then again it’s more Allegorical than pure fantasy, given that it toys with the much believed concepts of a heaven and hell, but in a strictly non-religious way.

Is it the Right Length?

At the moment, Waffles is quite short, at a mere 55,000 words. The standard novel these days pushes 80,000 words – at least. I know that once I add what I have planned onto my current draft I can reach 60,000 words, but it would be quite a push to reach that 80,000 mark. It would in fact ruin the novel, as it would be full of filler.

Shorter books make a novel much harder to sell, however it is not impossible. You simply have to find an Agent who is looking for a debut author with a short read that appeals to the masses.

Is it Well Written?

Hm, this is a tough one. I have had proof readers tell me that Waffles was the ‘best book they had ever read’. A successful author friend once told me she feels like quitting when she reads my work. Another compared my writing to that of Stephen King.

However, I am fully aware that Waffles is a bit like Marmite; it’s an acquired taste due to its bizarre subject matter. Therefore an Agent (and by proxy a Publisher) might think my book was the biggest load of tripe they’ve ever laid eyes on.

Whether a book is entertaining is subjective, however, there are certain unwritten rules that go without saying in the publishing world: grammar, paragraph structure, spelling and a good grasp of the language you’re attempting to get published in are all vital for actually finding an Agent.

It is always a good idea to get a couple of proof readers – preferably 3 or more – who are willing to be brutally honest about their thoughts, and willing to point out plot holes, spelling errors and such. You would be surprised how reading your own book twenty times will still gloss over really obvious errors that a second pair of eyes would easily spot.

Is My Book Online?

If your book is available on Wattpad, your website or anywhere at all, take it down. No Agent or Publisher worth their salt will ever consider publishing your novel if it’s available online.

They simply do not care if it has had 5,000 views and 1,500 comments. For many reasons (many of them legal), they cannot and will not publish a book that is already released for free online.

Do you have any other thoughts on Agent rejections? Post them in the comments, or share this post and share them on social media!