What to do When an Agent’s Query Letter Response is a Pass

Here’s another question about what to do when an agent’s query letter response is a pass. From Kim:

When an agent has rejected a requested full or partial is it ok to send a thank you email or letter? Especially if they give personal feedback? I’m reading that some agents say not to send any rejection letter response. What do you suggest?

query letter response, response to rejection letter asking for feedback, rejection letter response
A “thank you” email is probably best for all kinds of rejections, especially for the more personal or involved ones.

In my earlier blog post about rejection response, I covered two responses I frequently get to just your run-of-the-mill rejection. But, as I said in my post about query rejection, there are many different types of rejection. So what do you do when the agent has sent you a more detailed rejection, like a Revision Rejection?

When the Agent’s Query Letter Response is Above and Beyond

Any time an agent goes above and beyond in their query letter response — to give advice, to give you notes or to ask to see more work or a revision of the current manuscript — we are opening a door. We like what we see. There is potential, talent, a certain je ne sais quoi to you and your work. While this particular version of your project — or this particular project — might not work for us for any number of reasons, we’d like to see more down the line. Note that last part. The learning curve to learning the craft of writing is a long and brutal one, full of slow going and road blocks.

Hold Back on Sending Different Material

If an agent sends notes or feedback with their query letter response, make sure to a) thank them and b) keep them in mind for later. In my first rejection follow-up post, I warned against sending everything else under the sun right away. This still holds true for a nicer or more detailed rejection. Unless the agent says “Do you have anything else right now?” I’d hold off on unleashing your entire back catalog with your rejection letter response.

When we give notes, we’re saying: you’re not right for us right now, but we see potential. So give yourself some time to revise, to cook up something new, to improve your craft, and then reach out to the agents who have been helpful to you in the past or who have left doors open or encouraged you. I remember the projects I reject but like and, if that writer approaches me again with something that’s really gone to the next level, you better believe I’ll be excited to read it.

A “Thank You” Email is Usually Safe

So yes, a “thank you” email is probably best for any rejection letter response, especially for the more personal or involved ones. If an agent reads a full and you really can’t stop yourself from sending a card in the mail, there’s really no harm. I remember that urge and, yes, the first time I queried agents, there were a few Crane & Co. casualties. As for sending correspondence in the mail to an e-jection, I’d hold off. That’s a little much. Stick to the same medium that you’ve been interacting in, whether it’s mail or email.

Feeling unsure about your query letter, synopsis, or manuscript? Hire me as your freelance editor and we can work on your submission materials or dig deeper into your picture book, novel, or non-fiction proposal together.

11 Replies to “What to do When an Agent’s Query Letter Response is a Pass”

  1. Right on.
    I’m all about the thank you email. 🙂 Seriously, each step is a learning experience, whether you get a bunch of feedback or not, as far as I’m concerned. To me, it’s just about respect. They took the time to read a query, partial, full–so they deserve a thank you whether the rejection was to a query, partial or full in my opinion.

    Happy Friday.

  2. It’s so exciting to get anything personal from an agent, especially after reading so many form rejections. Even the quick “Sorry, I’m swamped. Good luck” rejection I got made me want to frame it. It’s hard to resist the urge to send a thank-you (or flowers, or chocolates, or gold…), but it’s nice to know we can do this (the thank-you, not the other things) if we get some really helpful notes from an agent.

  3. Such great information! I was just wondering this the other day. It makes sense, to send a “thank you” note if they go beyond the form rejection; to say nothing if they send a form rejection or say nothing. I will definitely have to keep it in mind.

    Thanks for a very helpful post! They always are! 😀

  4. This was helpful, and I actually sent a thank you for the agent’s time and she wrote back saying how kind it was. Never underestimate the power of being nice!

  5. I read this posting ages ago, and had to come back and thank you–after an agent requested a full and gave me helpful feedback, I felt comfortable enough to send her a brief thank you note (thanks to your advice)!

  6. Great info. I always like thank people who go that extra mile. Esp the ones who give detailed feedback. It’s interesting to hear what an agent thinks about this topic.
    Thank you, Mary!

  7. Question.
    My story received a favorable critique at a SCBWI event. Should I email or write a “thank-you” note to the editor?

  8. Sandie — You could, sure, but know that they might not respond. On the one hand, following up is great and proactive. On the other hand, they get 300 or more emails a day and are usually super busy catching up after an event (as well as every other day of the year). Whatever you’re comfortable with. Just don’t expect it to be a magic bullet.

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