Why I Say No


A quick off-the-cuff list of reasons I’ve said no to projects–not queries but projects:

  • Great concept, writing didn’t follow through (usually these are things where the person did not include ten-ish pages of writing as requested in my sub guidelines–usually I wouldn’t have requested otherwise)
  • Concept had potential, execution wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t how I thought it would be (this happens all the time and is the source of that frustrating, “but you said you WANTED vampire books!” Yes, but it wasn’t quite what I hoped and didn’t win me over).
  • As I read it, no editor names came to mind as people I just had to share this with
  • Writing technically proficient, story too familiar/not fresh feeling
  • Solid project, didn’t make me jump for joy, know it will make someone else really happy
  • Solid project, too similar to something one of the existing clients is brewing up
  • Solid project, but didn’t totally slay me, in a genre where I have lots cooking and am less likely to take on a new author

If you’ll notice, maybe two of those are you. The rest? It’s not you, it’s really me.  Just a quick reminder not to get discouraged if you’re looking for that right match. And a killer ms blazes right through all of these.


10 Responses to “Why I Say No”

  1. You’re saying no for the same reason anyone would say no to a book they pick up with a thought of buying.

    The flap copy doesn’t grab you so you put it back on the shelf. You read the first few pages and you don’t like the author’s style or nothing happens soon enough for your taste. You put it back.

    Maybe you’ll sit down with a cup of coffee and skim into the middle section, to see how the story develops, and you can’t suspend disbelief. You put it back on the shelf and pick another.

    Sure if I were the author I’d be disappointed that everyone wasn’t taken with my brilliant wordplay.

  2. I love when Waxman Lit Agency is at the top of my blog roll! This is such a nice, tight list of reasons it (often) truly isn’t personal. Excellent inspiration to just keep knockin’.

  3. Another reason to say no. Fear of the fluxing market and the fact that your contact of yesterday just may not be at the same company tomorrow. With the market in turmoil, can you wait for your payoff?

  4. 4 Kathy Nickerson

    Thanks Holly. This is both helpful and hopeful.

  5. Hello Ms. Root,

    When you receive a query that doesn’t immediately strike you, do you still read the following ten sample pages? Or, if a query is excellent but the sample pages aren’t what you expect, how do you react?

    When a Full is requested, do you always read the entire manuscript?

    Thanks! …and I love this blog:)


  6. 6 Jessica M. Lavallee

    Ms. Root,

    (Adding to last comment… )

    I don’t mean to make you repeat yourself! Just wondering how often the two (the query letter and sample pages) work together.


    J.M. – again (Sheesh).

  7. Hi JM, I read the pages if something, anything in the query seems intriguing (I know they are tough to write). If the query’s great but the pages don’t float my boat (and aren’t obviously a prologue or other bit of writing I’d probably edit out anyway) I will usually pass. Voice is huge for me so if it isn’t intriguing in the first ten, I doubt it will be later.

    When I request a full I read as much as it takes. That’s often the whole thing; sometimes less.

  8. 8 movie

    Thanks Holly. This is both helpful and hopeful.

  9. 9 Phyllis Rose


    Just read the article, “Why I Say No” Thanx. We, as writers get frustrated I believe basically from fear, ‘Will they take it? Is it Good enough? Etc.
    But thanx for giving the perspective from the other side. It sounded very caring, a good feature and reputation. We understand you, too, are human beings and it is hard work and I am sure at times it is hard to say “no”. While at others, it is easy and necessary.
    I believe in giving everyone credit and anyone who does good work for me gets praised a great deal because it is very appreciated. I love kindness and like to give it and would love to have someone like that to work with in getting things published. I love to collect “friends.” I once got in with some “bad people” who did not use many of us right in many ways (and leaves fears in your heart) so a good deal would be heavenly.
    Keep up the great work. BLESSINGS, Phyllis

  10. It’s always nice to see why an agent would say no. It helps us writers understand what to look for in our manuscripts before querying an agent. Sometimes by an agent communicating their likes and dislikes so openly, they can help an author spice up their work prior to submission and possibly help inspire them to manufacture a novel the agent will say yes to!

    Thank you for your input,


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: