Literary Agencies: Form vs. Personalised Rejection

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Rejection is a huge part of any writer’s life; that’s true for both aspiring writers, and those who are more established.

I’ve had to learn to listen to criticism positively rather than viewing it as a personal attack. It’s something I’m still learning to do, and something that isn’t easy.

Especially, when as an aspiring writer, the rejections come readily, and acceptance still feels like a distant dream.

One thing I’ve been reading a lot about since submitting my novel is the difference between personalised rejections and form rejections from literary agencies.

The first rejection I ever received was a personalised one (I think)– something along the lines of ‘I had an interesting plot and good character development, but it just wasn’t for them.’

I took it well. After all, my research told me to take personalised rejections as a compliment. However, every rejection I’ve received since then has been a form rejection.

What is a form rejection? How can you tell if your letter/ email is a personalised rejection or form rejection?

From my experience, form rejections seem to all follow a similar format.

  • A thank you for considering them
  • The rejection – it’s not for them
  • An explanation – the agent must feel enough passion for a project to be able to represent it
  • A positive statement – keep trying, just because it wasn’t for them, it’s an incredibly personal business and other agents may feel differently.

It will not say anything specific about your novel.

I’ve found it incredibly helpful to spot the difference between form and personalised rejections, because:

  • Receiving a personalised rejection can be incredibly encouraging and should be taken positively
  • If you are only receiving form rejections, it might be worth going back and redrafting your submission again.

After a stream of form rejections, I’ve made the decision to stop sending my manuscript out to agents until I have the time to look over my submission and make sure it really is 100% as good as it can be. I realise this might not happen for a while (what with a new day job, general life and other writing projects taking up my time), but I want to make sure my submission at the very least gets a personalised response – and you never know, maybe one day an acceptance!

Are you an author seeking a literary agent? How many times do you submit your manuscript before taking a step back and deciding it might need more work before trying again? How many submissions are too many?

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts.




3 thoughts on “Literary Agencies: Form vs. Personalised Rejection

  1. Pingback: How to decide whether to work with a literary agent | Sarah EA Hunter

  2. Pingback: How to submit your novel to an agent | Sarah EA Hunter

  3. Pingback: How to get a literary agent | Sarah EA Hunter

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