Or so read the rejection letters (well, e-mails) from some of the literary agents I've been querying since late November 2011. I've queried 27 agents about my mythological romance novel so far and have heard back from 9 of them.
Getting any response at all is great, as it provides closure. Bear in mind that agents are hit with dozens, even hundreds, of unsolicited queries in any given week and they don't get paid to read them. Because of the sheer volume/time-suck of processing queries, some agents employ the "No response indicates I'm unable to offer representation" tactic, which isn't so kewl for the writer who's sitting on pins and needles, hoping against hope that something magical will happen. So, at least to my way of thinking, some news is better than none.
Still, bad response or no response, the kewlest thing of all would be to receive an e-mail asking to read my dang book! (Soon followed by an offer of representation, then a publishing deal, a big fat advance check and - what the hell, since I'm dreaming - a box of Lindt Hazelnut Truffles.) But, alas, to date I've received neither a bite, nor even a nibble - ain't nobody chompin' on my bait! (This is not a euphemism.)
They're all very polite, the rejections, starting with the standard, "Thank you for your query," (which I now hate, as a "but!" inevitably looms) (huh huh...looming "but!") and wrapping up with their best wishes for my success with the novel, which is kind enough. For the curious, and in the spirit of sharing with any aspiring authors who may be reading (and completely without malice and especially without desiring to open agents up to ridicule stemming from outrage on writers' behalf...behalves? Oh, you know what I mean, sheesh.), I present below some snippets (unidentified) from the responses I've received.
Short & Semi-Sweet:
"Unfortunately, this is not something I'm able to consider pursuing."
"...while yours [my query] isn't exactly what I am looking for, I would certainly encourage you to keep trying."
It's Not You, It's Me (a.k.a. Le Ouch!):
"With regret, though, I'm afraid the material didn't draw me in as much as I had hoped."
"I'm just not enthusiastic enough about the concept of your story to feel that I'd be the right agent for the project."
Somewhat Encouraging (I think):
"...I'm sorry to say that the project just isn't a perfect fit with my current needs. This has less to do with your strengths as a writer and more to do with my goals as an agent and the trends of the current literary marketplace."(That one hit me on my birthday for a bit of extra "OW!" But I'm sure the agent couldn't possibly have known it was my birthday.) (Right?)
"Unfortunately, this project doesn't sound right for me, but should you not find representation for it, I would be very happy to look at a different one in the future."So, you know. It can bring a body down. But there's no point in obsessing over these - it's nothing personal (at least, I'm determined to believe it's nothing personal until someone tells me to please, for the love of all that's holy, STOP WRITING, ALREADY!!!). I totally geddit - agents gotta really dig a book to pursue it, 'cause they only earn coin from it when they're passionately driven to sell it. Je comprends bien. And je will keep at it. I've still got 18 queries out and about another 16 agents to try. The oft repeated advice is to query as widely as you can. Generally, it's best to query agents who've sold (and so, presumably like) the kind of thing you write. For example, I won't send a query for my sexy romance to an agent who's interested in cozy mysteries. And if I get through 40-ish agents and find no joy, well, then...it might be the wild wild west of Indie publishing for me - because I believe in this project and I'm gonna keep pushing it till I just can't push no more.