Dear Agent

A year or two ago, I was looking for a new agent, since I’d ended my relationship with the only agent I’d ever had. Keep in mind that we, as writers, have been preached to over the years about being uber-professional in our dealings with agents and editors. Know what they represent/publish; get their names right; be polite; blah blah.

So I picked Ms. Big-Time Agent who repped several of my friends who seemed happy with her and queried her about representation. I told her that I’d published more than 70 books, had made the USA Today and Waldenbooks best-seller lists and had won every major award in our genre, and I wrote a few lines each about the manuscripts I was hoping to interest her in.

I emailed the query and time went on . . . and on. After weeks without a word, I emailed the agent again, and within a day or so got the following reply.


Dear Author: Thank you for the recent submission of your query. Unfortunately, I do not feel that the story is right for me at this time.
Please do keep in mind that mine is only one opinion and that another agent may very well feel differently. The publishing industry is a subjective one and it is often the case that material one agent doesn’t connect with is another’s success story.
 Thank you for giving me the opportunity to consider your work. I wish you the very best of luck in your future endeavors.



It was signed Ms. Big-Name Agent, though the email address was Ms.BNA’s assistant. I was miffed. I felt snubbed. She couldn’t even bother to type “Dear Marilyn”? And she could tell by the fifty words or so briefly describing multiple books that “the story” wasn’t right for her?

Reveling in insult, I whipped out a response: Dear Assistant: Thank you for letting me know that my story isn’t right for Ms. BNA at this time. I have to say, I would have been surprised if it had been, considering that I didn’t actually send a story.


Frankly, I wouldn’t want to be represented by an agent who cannot bother to use my name or to read at least a sentence of the material she’s rejecting. Please do keep in mind that mine is only one opinion, and another author may very well feel differently. The publishing industry is a subjective one and it is often the case that an agent one author doesn’t feel worth her time is another author’s success story.


 And thanks for the most interesting and impersonal rejection I’ve received in my twenty-four years in this business. It’s a first for me, having my writing rejected without actually sending a sample of it.


Did I actually send it? Of course not. Well, not all of it. Suffice it to say that Ms. BNA and Assistant, when she becomes an agent herself, wouldn’t represent me if I was the biggest-selling author out there. Then again, I wouldn’t have them, either.  

9 thoughts on “Dear Agent

  1. It was my first form rejection EVER, from agent or editor. Gosh, would it have killed her to delete “author” and type in “Marilyn”? That alone would have gone a long way toward making me blow it off and forget it.

    Except for the fact that they didn’t need to make an enemy of me (God knows, I love to talk), it all went for the best. My new agent used to be my editor, and she’s wonderful. I know her, I trust her advice, and I take direction well from her. We’re a great fit.

  2. Welcome to my world. 🙂 I’ve been bitching about this for a long time, but with the current trend of ‘no response means no’ maybe you should be impressed that they could even send you a generic rejection.

  3. I’m sorry about the form rejection. Ticked me off that you got that. The fact that BNA’s goonie didn’t even READ.
    Glad you have a good agent now.

    • Me, too! It was a peek into what unpublished authors are facing today, and I didn’t like it! My ego was wounded. 😦 People who keep persevering have my respect. Too many of those experiences would have me crawling into a closet.

  4. Sorry you got the “stupid” rejection. However, it really worked out better in the long run. (Except to tick you off, of course.) If they HAD actually read your query and offered you a contract, you might have signed and missed out on signing with the great agent you have now.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • I figure everything in life happens for a reason, so I’m guessing that I wouldn’t have been happy with that agency in the long run. God just used that agent/assistant to smack me upside the head and see who I really wanted to be with.

  5. Sounds like some clueless lackey who didn’t know who Marilyn Pappano…and didn’t bother to find out. I’m willing to bet she did this without approval from above, because I doubt the agent themself didn’t know who you were!

    • Thanks, Jackie! I’ve wondered if the rejection came from the agent VIA the assistant, or if I managed to piss off the assistant by nagging (though I never thought a second email in two months could be nagging, lol) and she just dumped me on her own.

      But it turned out great, so I’m happy. Now if I could just get past the grudge-holding . . . but heck, I’ve been doing that since I was a kid. I think it’s too late to stop. 😉

  6. I did actually expect a teeeeny bit more . . . I dunno, serious attention? At least acknowledgment that a lot of people out there thought I was worth publishing/reading. Huh. That’s what I get for thinking too highly of myself.

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