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Why the ‘Why?’ Behind a Lit Agent’s Rejections are Often Left Out

litagentg.JPGLiterary Agent Rachelle Gardner (pictured, via) explains why literary agents don’t usually write “a word or two” on the reasoning behind manuscript rejections. First off, adding an extra two words for every rejection would mean hours of more writing for the agent. Some agents are so busy they don’t even write a personalized greeting on their rejection letters.

Second, people underestimate the difficulty required to explain the rejection in words. Committing to a written explanation means analyzing all the feelings that went into decision. Sometimes a manuscript fails to appeal because of a random premonition or a gut feeling. How can those instances be put into words?

Gardner offers this analogy in her post: “When you walk through the department store looking for clothes, do you stop at every single item of clothing and dissect why it’s not right for you? Of course not. And if you did, you’d spend an awful lot of time trying to identify exactly why it doesn’t appeal. Something about the style?…Is it just plain ugly? Or is it… (drum roll please)… just not what you’re looking for right now?”


Gardner gives a logical and concise explanation. Judging from the people who agree with her in the comments section, it seems that many literary agents share her pain. To the readers and especially to the Grumpy Literary Agent, what is your opinion? Please make it a grumpy one, but feel free to share any thoughts in the comments section.

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