ALL THE FULL REJECTIONS I RECEIVED WHILE QUERYING THE BOOK THAT LANDED ME MY AGENT—Anahita Karthik
Updated: Mar 7
Since lots of you found my thread of full rejections helpful, I decided to turn it into a blog post to make it more easily accessible. Below are all the full rejections I received for Desi Witch, the novel that eventually secured me representation. But before that, here are two links you might find helpful to go through before you dive into this particular post:
Query letter breakdown + tips: https://www.anahitakarthik.com/post/the-query-letter-that-got-me-my-agent-and-31-full-partial-requests
Querying journey + stats: https://www.anahitakarthik.com/post/how-i-got-my-agent-after-5-books-and-300-rejections-anahita-karthik
A couple other things to keep in mind before reading my full rejections:
I haven't included any agent or agency names
I haven't included all my rejections in this post because the text either showed the agent/agency's name, contained spoilers for the book, or was worded in a way I didn't find comfortable posting
I secured representation for the very version of my manuscript that received all the below rejections, which proves that no matter how many passes you get, there's still a chance someone will say yes. It's all super subjective.
Oftentimes, I found myself wondering what I was doing wrong because I was getting such contrasting feedback, but until least 3-4 agents say the same thing, you don't have to revise your manuscript—unless you align with some agent's vision, of course.
As a BIPOC writer, my concerns were different from what another writer might experience in the querying trenches (not to mention I was querying a queer manuscript), and I ranted about this here, incase you'd like some insight into what it's like being a BIPOC writer in the trenches.
Now, without further ado, here are all the full rejections I received for the novel that eventually secured me representation:
While I really appreciate the agent taking the time out to re-read my partial and assure me that all the pacing/plotting/worldbuilding/character elements were in place, what struck me about this particular rejection was that the agent thought that the magic/coven/spells elements seemed closer to middle grade. Which is bullshit because that is, in no way, true. The agent could've easily said my novel wasn't for them instead of coming up with a lazy excuse, which left me wondering if I'd made a mistake writing witches into a YA novel. Agents really ought to keep in mind that anything they say is taken extremely seriously by querying authors *sighs*. This was also the first full rejection I received for Desi Witch, so you can imagine how disheartening it was.
This reads like the usual form rejection, which I honestly prefer over the agent straight up ghosting the writer. At least they found a lot to admire in the project, and were clear that it was just about the book not being a perfect fit/match.
Again, a polite rejection letting me know that it was just a "connection" issue and that they wished me the best of luck. I gather it was because they were expecting something similar to what I'd submitted to them before—a dark adult spy thriller, which is so, so different from Desi Witch, lol. So again, it's about subjectivity, and not about the execution of the novel, per se.
Ah, the dreaded reply that comes in many forms and variations: either the agent "didn't connect to the project/voice", "didn't have a vision for it", "wasn't a perfect match", "didn't feel the spark" blah blah. These ones particularly hurt, because you feel like you got the recipe correct, but somehow the taster didn't like the food. It's no one's fault, honestly.
This feedback hits at the moment because while I was querying, I kept hearing that the pacing was off...except it wasn't in the sense that the agent was specifying above. Most of them felt that the plot was slow. And this agent was actually asking me to slow it down further. Back then, I didn't take it up as a signal to revise, but now that I'm on submission to editors, I have them saying the same thing: the reader needs time and space to connect to the world and characters before introducing the inciting incident. It's funny how everyone wants different things at different stages, and how some things work sometimes, and other times they don't. If I'd paced my story down last year after this feedback, I probably wouldn't have gotten an offer from Rebecca. Publishing is weird that way. Yet, in hindsight, I wouldn't have had my journey go any other way, because I love Rebecca and everything she's made possible for me!
Here's the feedback I was talking about above: agents wanting to get to the meat of the story faster. It's so weird how two different people can feel so differently about the exact same query letter and pages.
If you thought the "not being a perfect fit" rejection hurt, you haven't received this one. This is the one people like to call a step aside rather than an explicit rejection, because this one isn't about the novel at all. It's about the timing. And unless an agent is 100% desperate to read the novel despite being flooded with other manuscripts, it's unlikely they'll want to compete. Remember, once you nudge other agents with your first offer, it becomes a competition. A bid. And agents don't want to risk participating until they are entirely obsessed with the novel.
Agh, the timing devil strikes again!! And with an agent I was so EXCITED to have read my manuscript. But alas, I had to brush aside the tears and move on. Because that's what we querying authors must do to survive the trenches.
Here's an agent that didn't really have a timing issue, but more of a competition issue. Some agents are like that; they don't like deadlines, no matter how eager they are about a certain project. Maybe this agent doesn't mind the occasional deadline, and just didn't find a reason to be enthusiastic enough to compete with other agents. I'll never know. Either way, it's a pass.
Short, and somewhat sweet, but it does the job of ripping the band-aid off quickly. I preferred these rejections over ghosts on fulls/partials, because hey, at least the agent tried. And them mentioning that they could see why I'd received an offer gave me the ounce of strength I needed to push this one behind me, because it came from a dream agent.
Sometimes, agents love what the query and sample pages promise. And most times, the manuscript doesn't deliver. This is just one of those most times. Another classic case of "wasn't a fit".
They sure do know how to write the perfect form rejection.
This one's sweet, and pretty much explains itself: the agent loved the manuscript, but didn't think they were the perfect champion for it. Think of it this way: you go to a bookstore and pick up a random book. You read it. You love it. Now, I ask you to point out how exactly you might make the book even better and sell it to someone else. Can you do it? And if so, in your opinion, can you do it the best?
Everyone knows that a bird in hand is always better than two in the bush. If I have an offer from a perfectly respectable agent, why would I want to consider an R&R at that stage, unless I 100% connect with it? And why would the agent want to take a gamble on my revisions in such a short period of time? There's so many questions to ask here, and so many ways it could turn out, but this agent wasn't ready to gamble, and I wasn't ready to let go of the bird in my hand.
This is one of those "almost" situations, where the person you're dating is amazing. But they're someone your parents wouldn't approve of, and you aren't obsessed enough with them to want to stand up to your parents. But, you think they'd be amazing with a friend of yours (who doesn't have overbearing parents), and you would definitely love to set them up if they didn't already have a proposal.
This one really hurt at that time because this was an agent who had been so excited about my query, pages, and reading my manuscript when I nudged with my offer, and assured me they'd get back before the deadline. But they eventually didn't get the time, and I felt let down because I'd raised my hopes so much. People make promises they can't keep all the time, so it's fine, but it still hurts.
I liked the tone and clarity of this particular rejection. The agent is encouraging, polite, and specific with their feedback. And I also like how they thanked me for keeping them in mind. Querying was such a nightmare, it was instances of positivity like these that helped me keep going.
This particular instance would be one where the agent didn't get what they were expecting. They'd been excited about the pages and the query letter, but sometimes you hype yourself up so much to the premise that it doesn't end up delivering for you. Again, super subjective, and I appreciate the honesty. Though, in hindsight, it's just another way of saying it "wasn't the perfect fit", haha.
This one is similar to REJECTION 14, where it would've been an R&R situation had I not already had an offer in hand.
WHY DO THESE TIMING RELATED REJECTIONS SUCK SO MUCH?? And the agent was bummed as well about not being able to read my manuscript. UGH. At least they were sweet and honest about it.
I remember cursing myself at one point for querying at the same time at the #Pitchwars showcase because so many agents weren't finding the time to read my manuscript. With all these agents saying such lovely things about my novel otherwise, I realize I might've gotten more offers if the time had been right, or if agents had found more potential in my project to prioritize it. This agent in particular was super huge, so at least it was encouraging seeing good feedback from them.
DO YOU SEE HOW MANY TIMING-RELATED REJECTIONS I GOT? But hey, at least they said they would regret passing on later, huh? AT LEAST MY MANUSCRIPT WAS WORTH A REGRET. Lol.
I really appreciate the agent mentioning that my project had marketability because it helps to hear from an industry professional that yes, publishing is looking for what you're writing! So, although it wasn't a fit, it didn't hurt as much.
I suppose it makes sense to end this post with the FATHER OF FORM REJECTIONS, because we've all received our share of these, lmao.
And with that, we have reached the end of this post! I hope these help you out, because lord knows I lost complete faith in my manuscript because of the ratio of requests/offers. It was so disheartening to see that my query letter and pages were working but the manuscript was letting down agents, somehow. But I later realized it all depended on timing, luck, marketability, and subjectivity. And the most important thing: whether you're willing to keep going.
*puts on professional voice* Anyhow, I hope this post helps you, and I wish you the best of luck in your publishing endeavors!