Agency Lessons: Not right for my list

I've been sending this rejection a lot lately so I thought now would be a good time to explain what this means.

For me, this is not a form rejection. I try really hard not to send those. What this means is that I didn't find anything wrong with your submission. The query was intriguing, the pages read well, the synopsis shows you have a well-developed plot. In essence, you get an A+ on your submission.

But...I'm not requesting more pages. Why?

Because a big part of the projects an agent takes on is personal taste. I see a lot of good queries. In fact, I see a lot of great queries. But I only request pages from a small percentage of them. Not because there is anything wrong with them, but because it simply isn't a story I want to read.

It's like browsing the shelves at the library when you really aren't looking for anything in particular. Or maybe you've narrowed it down to one topic, like Alien SciFi. Do you have any idea how many of those there are at any given library? A lot. You can't read all of them. There aren't enough hours in the day. You still have to go to work, do the laundry, talk to your family. So you pick only one or two that sound the best to you.

Does that mean the ones you don't take home didn't sound good? No, they could have really piqued your interest. You probably read the back cover and thought "Hey, this could be good." You might have flipped to the front pages, read a paragraph or two, and still thought "Yep, sounds interesting". But you still put the tentacle alien story down and opted for the alien pirate book.


Because on that day, at that moment, you wanted to read about alien pirates.

I'd love to take on all the projects that sound great, but I have to be realistic. I have to keep in mind what I have going on with my current clients. How many of them are on submission? How many have projects that will be ready soon? What releases are coming up that will need my attention? All of this factors into the number of new clients I take on each year. This year my clients have been sending me tons of wonderful new projects, so I've only taken on a couple new clients. It's a constant game of see-saw where I'm measuring how much time I have against how much I need to do.

And let's be honest, it doesn't do you any good to have an agent who doesn't have time for you.

So, I'll continue to send out rejections where my only feedback is that the project just isn't quite right for me. If you get one, know that I'm not brushing you off. Keep going and you will find an agent who wants what you're selling.


  1. This totally makes sense, and will help when I see these 'not for me' rejections in my inbox. Thank you!

    1. Glad to help. Rejections are never easy, but they aren't as hard when we have perspective on what they mean.

  2. Although I don't query anymore, I really appreciate finding this out. I always thought "not right for my list" was a polite way of saying "you suck." lol Thanks!

    1. Ha! Some agents may use it that way, though I think that's not really helpful. I would never tell a writer they suck (because everyone has different tastes). If there is something obvious I'll try to point that out or just tell them that the piece isn't ready yet.

  3. This is so great to find out what this means. Thank you very much. :)

  4. Great post. (Random, I hate this comment but this seems to be my comment today as I'm reading good posts that I just don't really have a specific response for--kinda like, "well said").

  5. Great insight, Sarah. One of the reasons why I wanted you to be my agent (and am so thankful you are) is because you are so open and willing to help authors. You're great at what you do. :)


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