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This post is mainly for fellow-indie authors. I sent my historical novel, A Weaver’s Web, to more than 100 literary agents and some publishers before I published it as an ebook. I got some good responses and a few not so good ones, but most agents just said they couldn’t take it or something similar. I haven’t included every positive and not so positive comment here but what’s below is representative.

I didn’t make any changes based on literary agent comments, partly because there seemed to be no pattern to the adverse comments and partly because I had received such excellent comments from general readers – see book’s preface. I did make a number of changes based on earlier comments by a professional appraiser.

Fiction is very subjective. What one person loves, another hates. I can perhaps illustrate this by the fact that one reviewer gave A Weaver’s Web their book of the year and a literary agent suggested I could enrol in a creative writing course and learn story telling. I’ve got mainly five-star reviews from reviewers so far and I’m really glad that a lot of people like the book.

Summary responses:

– … we are unable to represent A Weaver’s Web.
– Alas, I cannot place this on your behalf.
– I’m afraid I do not feel I am the right agent for this work.
– I’m afraid I’m not taking on new novelists.
– … we do have to be utterly convinced about the project’s quality and commercial prospects.
– … we didn’t find it strong enough to succeed in today’s crowded and competitive fiction market.
– … we did not feel that it was suitable for our list.
– I am not taking on any new clients.
– I am not accepting new submissions.
– … this isn’t a project for us.
– … we are not in a position to take on any new clients at present.
– Although we found much to admire in your manuscript …
– I’m sorry but this is not one for me.
– While it looks interesting, we have a policy of not taking on clients who are not resident in the UK.
– You are clearly a talented writer but, after much consideration …
– … we did not feel enthusiastic enough about it …
– Your dialogue requires further work – partly because it is anachronistic in places, partly because it often sounds too 21st century, and partly because there is simply too much of it.
– …on this occasion we are going to pass.
– … we are unable to offer to read the novel you describe.
– I’m afraid this does not sound like the sort of fiction we work with here.
– Regrettably we are unable to offer our services.
– Fully booked sorry but thanks.
– I am taking on so few new clients right now.
– I’m just not enthusiastic enough about the premise of your story.
– I’ve got so much on my plate.
– I don’t think I would be the right agent to represent your interests.
– Unfortunately, your project is not right for the agency at this time.
– … we do not feel that … is the right company to represent your work.
– … do not think it is right for my list.
– … this is not something that seems right for me …
–… I’m not the right agent for your work.
– … I just was not grabbed by the storyline the way I need to be in order to offer you effective representation.
– … we won’t be able to help on this occasion.
– We enjoyed reading about your project, but the consensus is that we won’t be successful in placing it.
– … will need to find an agent with complete enthusiasm for your work …
– … we are not taking on new clients in this area at present.
– … we are no longer accepting new submissions.
– … your project is not a right fit for our agency.
– … we are not taking on any new clients at the moment.
– … we are unable to offer to handle your work.
– Thank you for your email and the material which I enjoyed reading. [but] …
– … I’m afraid that we are going to pass.
– We find it very, very difficult to get a long novel by a new writer off the ground.
– My fiction list is temporarily full …
– … I don’t think your book really sounds like my kind of thing …
– … not for me.
– You write well and your grasp of detail is impressive … The trouble is the subject is familiar (from Mrs Gaskell’s novels on) … [Her settings were later than mine].
– … we do not feel that we are the right company to represent your work.
– … we are not seeking new clients at this time.
– … we are no longer accepting any new unsolicited submissions.
– … I have decided not to accept your proposal.
– … we are afraid we have decided to pass.
– … not one for me …
– … your novel isn’t something we could be 100% confident of being able to handle successfully …
– Your submission has been read with interest, but … we do not feel we can offer to represent you …
– … this is not for us.
– … I read with interest. … I wasn’t confident I would find a home for the work.
– … not something I feel I can take any further.
– … not for us …
– We do not feel that it is right for our agency …
– We have read and considered your proposal carefully but do not feel it is something we could place successfully in the current publishing climate.
– I’m afraid we won’t be making an offer of publication: we have cut back our new fiction titles due to the climate of dwindling press coverage, closing bookselling chains and reduced [arts] funding.
– … I’m afraid this manuscript doesn’t work for me …
– … this project doesn’t sound right for me.
– No thank you.
– I regret to say that I don’t feel that I’m the most appropriate agent for your work.
– Not quite right for me.
– Unfortunately, in the current climate we are not taking on any new authors.
– Unfortunately we are not currently accepting fiction submissions as we work through a large backlog of submissions.
– Unfortunately we are not taking on any new submissions at this time.
– … do not think that I would be the right agent …
– Unfortunately I’m not the right person to represent this work to publishers. I am simply not sufficiently enthusiastic about it to feel I could offer it successfully.
– We are sorry that we cannot invite you to submit your work or offer to represent you.
– I am not going to offer to read your novel. As I am quite simply swamped at present I am only asking to read new fiction that really jumps out at me.
– I am not taking any further submissions until such time as my reading pile is reduced significantly …
– We are not currently taking on new clients …
– Unfortunately we do not feel it’s one for this agency and therefore are unable to offer you representation.
– … you have really “done the rounds” with this project and if you have not been successful so far, that’s unlikely to change.
– After careful consideration, we have decided not to pursue your project.
– Unfortunately I am not taking on any new clients for the foreseeable future.
– Unfortunately we do not think the project is right for us.
– Unfortunately, the project you describe does not suit our list at this time.
– Unfortunately, I do not think I am the right agent for this project.
– We’ve read your material, and I’m sorry to say that we don’t think it is right for the specific talents of the people working at our company at this time.
– I read the first fifty pages but I couldn’t identify a protagonist in these early scenes. … lack of a protagonist and story. [Agent suggested I could enroll in a course and learn story structure.]
– Unfortunately, we did not feel your project was a right fit for our agency.
– Unfortunately this is not right for us.
– I am sure that this could be very intriguing but I’m afraid that I don’t think that it would be quite right for me at this present time and as such I’m going to have to pass, but please do not give up. [Many agents were encouraging in this regard and stated that fiction is very subjective or similar.]
– Thank you very much for the offer but the project does not suggest a market to this agency.
– After careful consideration we have decided that we may not be the best agency to represent it …
– Regret I must decline this proposal. I am not the right agent to handle this genre of fiction.
– Thank you for sending us sample chapters from your novel, A Weaver’s Web. They were very enjoyable and it was almost like a Mancunian Grapes of Wrath, but with the poor family finding its wealth. The location of Manchester during the industrial revolution dictates the action excellently and I can see why readers could not put it down. However, I feel we can not represent you at this time. Although we enjoyed reading your work, it would not fit well within our list at the moment. I hope you understand.
– … this isn’t right for my list.
– Unfortunately, I do not think I am the right agent for this project.
… you recreate the times well. [but] …
– You have a very readable writing style but … It didn’t have that extra ‘something’ [throw in a vampire?]
– Unfortunately we do not feel that we are able to take things any further at this stage.
– … despite its qualities, we do not feel sufficiently enthusiastic to offer to represent you.
– … isn’t something for us.
– While I appreciate the thought and dedication put into your work, unfortunately I am not enthusiastic enough to pursue this further.
– … we are not the right agency for your work.
– Thanks, but we will pass.
– Having considered it, we’ve concluded your project is not the right fit for us …
– I do not think I can express interest in the project at this stage. … the market is very tough right now, much tougher than it has ever been.
– We regret that your project is not right for our list …
– Alas this is not for me …
– … I am not a good fit for this.
– … we do not feel able to offer you representation.
– Unfortunately, I must reject what you have been kind enough to submit. I am very selective …
– Not for us, thanks.
– I’m sorry but I’m overwhelmed with submissions and this didn’t pique my interest enough to add to my stack of manuscripts.
– This is not for me …
– After consideration we have decided not to pursue this project, as it doesn’t seem quite right for us.
– Sorry this is not for us.
– I don’t feel I’m the right agent for your work.
– Alas, we are not taking on new clients …
– Unfortunately we do not feel that we are able to take things any further at this stage.
– Although we did enjoy looking at your material, in the end we did not feel that it was something that would be suitable for our list.
– I’ve had a good read and I’m afraid I’m going to pass. I do think you write well, and I do think there is a huge market for this kind of fiction, but I didn’t feel passionately enough about it to be able to offer representation.
– I wish I could help but you have caught me at a time when my fiction list is full and I simply cannot do justice to your novel.
– After some consideration, I have decided that your novel is not quite right for our list at this point.
– Unfortunately I am afraid that we do not feel we can offer you representation at this time for your work …
– Unfortunately this is not right for us.
– I read the chapters this weekend and have just been letting my thoughts on it settle.
– I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the chance to read your material and do think you [write] really well, but I’m afraid that, in the end, I just didn’t love the novel enough to be able to offer representation. This may be entirely my fault – I’m not as familiar with the saga side of the market as I might be.
– … sadly not for us.
– I have read your material, but I did not feel it would be right for my list …
– We have read your submission with great interest, but we are really sorry to say that we are not able to offer you representation for this work.
– Unfortunately the agency is not taking on new clients …
– We have reviewed it and decided to pass.
– … having considered your work, we do not feel we could offer to add you to our list.
– … I’m sorry to say that I won’t be able to represent you.
– We … do not think we are the best agents to represent you.
– While we do think that the novel sounds potentially interesting, I’m afraid that it’s not quite right for us.
– … it just doesn’t quite grab my imagination in the way that it must for me to offer to represent it.
– I appreciate the spirit of the writing, but I’m afraid I wasn’t entirely gripped by the narrative. … I think it’s down to personal taste more than any direct criticism.
– Unfortunately, we do not feel sufficiently committed to your material to offer representation.
– … isn’t something for us.
– We have given your submission serious attention and even though your work is intriguing, unfortunately we have decided not to pursue it further.
– I enjoyed reading your submission but I’m afraid I won’t be able to go further with it as I am taking on very few new writers at the moment.
– … I’m afraid we are not in a position to offer you representation.
– … this isn’t right for me.
– We have looked at it with interest but, unfortunately, do not think it is suitable for our list.
– Our agents … have decided that this is not something for them.
– We read it with interest but … we do not feel that … in the right firm to successfully publish this book.
– While we enjoyed the characters and historical setting, … this genre is highly competitive … and … very difficult to break into.
– … unfortunately it is not right for [our] list.
– … unfortunately we have decided not to make an offer of publication.
– … we could not place your work with a suitable agent here.

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