AUPQ: Can Writers Contest Agent Rejection?

Hello everyone! On today’s post, joining us in answer is our newest contributor on the team! We’re excited for you to meet her. You can visit the Contributors Bio for more info and keep an eye out for her introductory post this month.

Now from a previous Roadside Cafe, Erica asked a question in the comments for an AUPQ: Can writers ever contest an agent rejection? Can they message the agent to contest the feedback given for rejecting a query?

This is a very interesting question, and wouldn’t writers like to be able to do that? Haha. Tell an agent, sorry you said my MS wasn’t a good fit for your list at this time, but you just tweeted last week that you’re hungry for an adult sci-fi with goat-like aliens which is exactly what I sent you! On a more serious note, when agents pass on queries it’s usually because they’ve decided they aren’t interested—and then often give a general rejection note. So messaging them to contest their reasons, most likely won’t change anything—unless the agent is super open minded. Agents talk about how they have to look at hundreds of queries a months and I’m not sure any would be happy to revisit mails from a writer insisting their MS is their fit.

This isn’t to say they might not be wrong? For instance, there are agents who reject queries, but then at pitch events ‘heart’ a pitch for that same MS and end up soliciting for full MSs. Which proves you were right and the story was a fit after all. But that’s a different occasion. In the end my thoughts is that: it’s best never to contest agent rejection.

—Lucia, the YA Fantasy Writer!

I mean you can, there’s nothing stopping you from sending a response to the agent, but I would advise against doing that because it will very likely not give you a different outcome. Lucia’s right when she says that agents who pass on queries likely already decided that they aren’t interested for 123456789 reasons, that might well go beyond the feedback they’ve given you. If they liked the book enough and think the issues can be resolved through editing, they would have offered an R&R instead of a rejection.

Agent feedback can be super subjective. For the same MS, there can be agents who find the pace too fast and others who find it too slow! Feel free to take whatever feedback you agree with and set aside what you disagree with, and press on! If the agent has rejected the MS, it’s likely this agent isn’t the right fit for you anyway. You’ll find someone who loves your work for what it is soon enough 🙂

-Amber, YA/NA SFF!

I agree with Amber and Lucia that contacting an agent to explain why you don’t agree with their feedback for rejection isn’t a good idea. It’s true that maybe you could contest the agent’s answer, if they used an email to contact you. However in my experience with agents using Query Manager, the moment the agent sent me a rejection, they closed the channel so there was no way of contacting them back (maybe because they really didn’t want to argue with authors about their decision). Also keep in mind that receiving feedback with a rejection isn’t that common. For me, it only happened twice, because I mostly received form rejections which didn’t give me much to work with. So, I appreciated receiving feedback in spite of not getting the result I wanted.

I think agents have the right to decide if they feel they are a good fit for the author’s story or not. And that’s the best interest for the writers too. You want an agent who loves your work, who believes in your stories, and who can’t wait to champion your book; not someone you need to convince to take you on. As writers it’s always hard to receive rejections, but instead of staying focused on those NO, we can decide what to do with that feedback and move forward with other agents (in the end, this industry is really very subjective). Contesting the feedback received might even hurt your chances of being able to query that specific agent in the future with different stories; so it’s up to you to decide if you’re willing to take that risk (especially when there’s a big chance the agent’s decision won’t change).

– Mariana, PB Writer!

I completely agree with my fellow contributors. Getting a rejection hurts and it hurts even more when it’s a full or a partial, especially if they send a form rejection. I always take the rejections with a grain of salt and remember that publishing is subjective. I remember one personalized rejection where a lovely agent wrote me back saying, I loved your voice, your query letter is strong, but ultimately I am only looking for historical romance. Ouch. Did I feel the need to say, but hey, I read your MS wishlist and the genres you represent and I am a great fit? No, not really. The only thing I thought was: Well, if I ever write a historical romance I might query her again. I didn’t want to burn bridges by contesting her decision.

Just remember, publishing is subjective and agents are the first step in this long journey!

Alex, Romance Writer!

I’m in agreement with my fellow contributors. “Contesting” a rejection definitely makes it seem like you’re trying to convince the agent to change their mind, which will most definitely not happen. The agent for you is going to love your writing, your book, and your potential as an author–and if you received a form rejection or unfavorable feedback from them on a book, they’re likely not the agent for you, or at least, not the agent for this particular book.

What I will say, though, is that sometimes, if you’ve received very personalized, actionable feedback that for sure isn’t a form rejection (the agent mentioned your book’s characters, scenes, subplots, etc.) and you’re able to contact the agent via email or if the Query Manager form is still open, it doesn’t hurt to reply with something like “Hey Agent! Thank you so much for the feedback. This is so helpful and definitely aligns with my editorial vision. When I do finish editing based on this feedback, could I send you the revised draft?”

A lot of agents don’t want to see revised work unless they explicitly ask for it, and more often than not, even if agents see potential in a book, they don’t request R&Rs simply because it’s time-consuming. I don’t think it hurts at all to ask the above question if the feedback seems actionable and definitely something you’d use to revise, anyway.

You might never get a response–or the agent might say, “Yes, you can query me again with the revision.” You won’t know until you ask! Just make sure to ask with professionalism, kindness, and gratitude.

Swati, Desi Romance & YA Author!

I agree with everyone else. Of course we think what we wrote is amazing. We spent so much time on it to make sure it would be good. But we also need to find an agent who agrees that is just as amazing and maybe even more. It’s better to have an agent who will stand by and support us from the get go. If an agent is not vibing with your book and that is why they rejected it, it’s a good indication that they would not be the best person to champion your work.

Agents also have a more clear image of the publishing world than we do. So yes, the rejection hurts, especially when you are so close. But to quote a very popular singer, sometimes you just got to “shake it off.”

-Briana, Slice of Life YA

What are YOUR thoughts, dearest readers?

Published by path2pub

From The Trenches To The Shelves

13 thoughts on “AUPQ: Can Writers Contest Agent Rejection?

  1. Oh hi new Contributor! How exciting! I think the main lesson of this is that you want someone who looks at your book and instantly says Yes, I want this! Not someone you have to coax and complain to or convince. (Wow so many marching Cs). Because somewhere down the road, if things aren’t going smoothly they won’t hesitate to drop you!


    1. Absolutely, Savanna! My agent requested my full after I nudged her with my first offer of rep from a different agent, and she read it in 3 days and offered rep on the final day of my 2-week “offer nudge deadline”! It was a pleasant surprise because I didn’t think anyone could read that fast, LOL! She is sooo passionate about my writing–not just this one book–and that is such an important trait to have in an agent.


  2. I’ve never heard of a scenario where a writer did this. And who knows, it’s likely because it didn’t end well and so they never shared.😊


  3. There are agents who don’t put out on their wishlist that they’re looking for certain things, and then happen to read an MS along that line and fall in love with it anyway. Like Graceling agent- she hadn’t been representing YA at the same she read Graceling and the book totally changed her mind on YA. That’s cause for celebration. You converted someone with your work. Oh happy day!

    But the vice versa? Where they say they’re looking for something, you show it to them and then they pass on it? That’s not a scenario where you want to insist. Adding pressure would probably just lead to an explosion some day. You deserve better than that!

    And welcome to this wonderful team Swati! Enjoyed reading your answer!


  4. I love how Path2pub keeps growing and expanding 😊 Excited for an additional Contributor!

    Erica, I followed the link to the AUPQ page and saw the tweet that prompted the question. I 100% understand the writer’s frustration too but I don’t think she proceeded to contest based on her Twitter. And if she didn’t, that was the best choice. She deserves better than to do that. Her time is best spent seeking out agents who are truly the right match—or working on her query in case something there is missing.

    I completely agree with Briana. It sucks, but *shake it off.


  5. Thank you for answering this question! And to others in the comments sharing thoughts too 😁!


  6. I have never thought to do this! I would be too embarrassed. It can be frustrating, though, when we send an agent exactly what’s on their list, and they respond with “this isn’t on my list”. Hah, it sort of feels like a Twilight Zone moment. I do love Swati’s point about asking if you can send a revised draft at a later time– I think it would be wonderful to have the agent on board with that possibility.


    1. Thank you! I recommended the R&R thing because it’s happened with me where I asked if I could send a revised version, and they said yes! Ultimately it didn’t work out with that agent, but it’s all good now that I’ve signed with my lovely agent 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Enjoyed reading the opinions here, both in the post and the comments. It really is an interesting topic but also a daring one, because I never knew writers considers pushing back on queries. I saw the post was retweeted by an agent—which was what prompted me to check it out— so it seems they like your answers too! 😁


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