February 20, 2024

What Rejections Still Hurt?


Note: I realize the title and graphics should say ‘which’ instead of ‘what,’ but this is a “Google” search, so just go with it.

Now, these rejections aren’t for the same project, but four different works. Two of which are currently on the back-burner while I focus efforts with the other two. I will label each rejection below the image with Project One, Project Two, etc.

Project One

I just got this rejection on 2/13/2024. When I found this agency/agent, I thought, this could go well. This could get me a partial or full request. I submitted. An hour later, a reply came. Keep in mind it was after 8:00pm. Usually such a quick turnaround means a rejection, but I was hopeful that just once a quick response was enthusiasm. Then came the disappointment, which only worsened as I continued to read the rejection.

Often, the same form rejections are sent to every writer, even when you think it has a personal touch. I had just received one that said my work had ‘merit,’ then a look at QueryTracker revealed that that particular agent says that to everyone she rejects.

Now, this one had the personal touch, actually stating that they loved the concept and my voice. Then came, “I don’t feel it’s quite what I’m looking for at this time.” No other words can be more infuriating. Looking at the agency’s website, my story was in the realm, but, yes, different.

Here’s why that’s so frustrating. Agents and publishers want what’s popular.

For example: romantasy is huge right now and a big want thanks to Sarah J. Maas. So if your work is, say, paranormal romance set in a world somewhat similar to ours but is different from other PNRs, then you’re shit outta luck. 

But the thing is, before Sarah J. Maas (romantasy) or Twilight (vampires) or Harry Potter (witches & wizards), nothing else had been like them. They set the path. They created the trend and the demand. So while sticking with the trend is profitable for agents and publishers, finding the next big thing would be EVEN MORE profitable. 

So that not “quite what I’m looking for at this time,” well, one day it may very well be. 🤷‍♀️

UPDATE: Now, here’s what’s interesting…I submitted Project Two (a contemporary romance) the very next day on 2/15 (and around the same time) to see if the same thing would happen, and I still haven’t heard back. Does that mean this submission is getting more attention? Only the agent knows.

UPDATE 2/22: Received the exact same rejection for Project Two. 😂 

Project Two

“…has promise but is too similar to an existing client’s work.” Ouch. I really wonder what aspects of my story were “too similar.” I tried to research which book/client the agent might’ve been referring to, but I couldn’t locate one, so it might not have been published at the time or reading the blurbs for the books I found did not help because none of them sounded similar to me.

Project Two

I submitted to this agent because she is the agent for an author I admire. While it was nice to hear my query was well-written and showed my “mastery of the genre,” because I’ve always questioned whether or not my queries/synopses are good, it was what followed that gutted me. Yes, there is some darkness. The characters were abused as kids, which can be a hard stop for many, but it sets up the story and their connection. It’s important to the story.

I figure their background is exactly why I’m getting rejections. Either because it’s a bit too grim or because I’m not diving into the romance immediately. It’s romantic-suspense, inspired by a popular book published in the 80s, which took the same route with showing the characters when they were younger before jumping ahead. I guess when you’ve already made a name for yourself, you can get away with it.

Project Two

“Didn’t quite feel connected to the characters as I had hoped.” Possibly because the opening chapters center around them being young? I stand behind setting this story up that way, though. Flashbacks or info dumps would not be the answer.

Project One

This isn’t a rejection, but I did get one later. A little context: I submitted to a well-known publisher. Months later, I got a detailed rejection pointing out things to work on. This is rare. I then went to my critique partner and made significant changes. I was given the opportunity to resubmit after a specific amount of time passed. I resubmitted. I waited and waited. This update came in my inbox requesting additional time to look over my submission. Surely a good thing. I consented to their request for more time. And I waited and waited. After a RIDICULOUS amount of time, I got a form rejection. No explanation as to why , unlike last time, and after they’d reviewed it for so long. Since then, my critique partner and I have taken another look. I made a few more changes and truly feel it’s how it should be and is as good as I can make it without an agent/editor/publisher.

Project Three

While it’s nice to hear an acquisition editor thought I’m a wonderful writer and liked the overall concept, it was the sadness in the story after the passing of two characters that landed me a rejection, with Hallmark Publishing, which is no longer operating (so a blessing in disguise?). Now, I’ve seen Hallmark movies with a bit of sadness. At the time, there was even a new movie out on one of their channels that began with the characters’ father’s funeral. I thought the warmth, lightheartedness, laughter, love, and holiday spirit in my story would’ve been enough to make up for that. Guess not. But (another blessing, although it’s still unrepresented) I ended up rewriting the story to fit a different holiday and to fix what another agent said. (See rejection below.)

Project Three

This rejection came after the previous one. She gave me good feedback on adding more character development in the beginning for the main characters and the characters who pass away. I planned to submit the revisions to her, but she closed to submissions by the time I was ready, and she hasn’t reopened since 2020!

Project Four

Here we have another rejection from the agent who sent the previous rejection, but this time for a middle grade book. Again, she offered excellent feedback. I made those few changes to the opening chapters. It was super easy and made me wonder why she couldn’t have taken it on and worked with me on those minor issues afterward. Once more, I have not been able to resubmit because she’s still closed, and I’ve been checking every so often…for four years now.

Rejections suck. If you are seeking traditional publishing, they’ll happen. It sucks even more when you see other authors get partial/full requests or finally sign, and you keep getting things like this.

Now, this post is not an opportunity for anyone to downgrade traditional publishing or writers who seek it. I am not considering self-publishing these books for multiple reason. That’s my decision. Maybe one day that’ll change, but it hasn’t yet.

QUESTION: What (query) rejections have hurt you? We’re in this together!


  1. Rejection sucks. But you just have to keep plugging away at it until that right fit comes along. Good luck.

  2. Hi Chrys - perhaps this is one reason I haven't branched further than my blog ... but good for you to keep going - all the best - cheers Hilary