‘It’s not you. It’s me’: why agents don’t connect with certain projects

It’s hard to understand why when agents say they are looking for a certain type of book, and then you query with it, that it isn’t the right fit for them.

Here’s why that happens:

We represent something similar

If we recently took on a project that has similarities to yours we cannot sign yours up too. It’s not fair to our client and it’s not fair to you. We can’t bombard editors with two projects similar to each other and risk the success of both of them individually.

The voice doesn’t grab us

It might have everything going for it, but for some reason the voice or main character doesn’t speak to us in particular so we need to pass because we’re not the best fit. Agents sign projects up when they are the whole package–in our eyes. But, every agent’s taste is different so what isn’t a fit for one agent can be the whole package in someone else’s eyes.

We like it, but aren’t head over heels for it

Sometimes we like something a lot, but love is different than like. Sometimes we want to love something, but we can’t get there for any number of reasons. Forcing a good fit doesn’t work out for anyone. Don’t settle for like, keep searching for an agent that loves it and they’ll be the right one to represent and support your project and your writing.

It requires more work than we have time to give 

Manuscripts take time to get ready for submission. Depending on how much work is to be done it’s at least a few weeks and can take months. Agents never have two days that look the same, but some weeks/seasons are busier than others which give us time to dedicate to editorial work for new clients. Agents want our clients to be successful so we know how much time and effort it takes. We can’t take something on unless we know we can get it to submission-ready status in the right amount of time.

A pass is never what anyone wants to hear, but some times it’s more complicated than a form rejection.

[Image via BippityBoppityBoo Tumblr]

Published by Carly Watters

Carly Watters is a SVP, senior literary agent and director of literary branding with the P.S. Literary Agency. She is a hands-on agent that develops proposals and manuscripts with attention to detail and the relevant markets. PSLA’s mission is to manage authors’ literary brands for their entire career. Never without a book on hand she reads across categories which is reflected in the genres she represents and is actively seeking new authors in including women’s fiction, commercial and upmarket fiction, select literary fiction, platform-driven non fiction and select memoir. She occasionally represents children's book projects. Carly is drawn to emotional, well-paced narratives, with a great voice and characters that readers can get invested in.

8 thoughts on “‘It’s not you. It’s me’: why agents don’t connect with certain projects

  1. Thank you for the excellent post. It’s sometimes hard to hear that someone just didn’t connect with your story, but I’d prefer a pass instead of lackluster acceptance. I appreciate the explanation of why it’s good to wait for the love match.


  2. I’ve seen the debate around blogs and was curious about your take. Do you always have to love a submission to sign up a writer? Or have you ever acquired something you like a lot, don’t love, but know you can sell? i.e. an editor told you only yesterday, they’re dying for a purple fuzzy sweater and a purple fuzzy sweater is what’s sitting on your desk.


    1. I have to love something. Because I represent authors for the long term so even if we don’t sell their first project I have to love their writing to think I’m going to love all their future books. I want to sell their first project, especially if it’s a ‘purple fuzzy sweater’ project, but I want to make sure all their projects have great writing that I think I can sell.


What do you think? I love hearing from you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: