author, creative writing, writing

How to Cope with Silent Rejections

When I first started the submissions process the thing I found the hardest was the ‘silent’ rejections. These are not the explanatory-rejections that highlight specific flaws in your work, not the generic rejections which are copied and pasted to every unsuccessful applicant. No, these are the ones you never receive at all. The ones were months and months pass with no word, and so you must assume you’re not successful.

For a while, I found these hard to cope with, because a NO is still better than not knowing. But I don’t worry about it so much now, and if you are, here are some ways to cope with the silent rejections:

Remember it’s not personal
Agents are busy people. Super busy. Not all of them have assistants, but even those who do, their assistants are busy too. It’s not personal when you don’t get a response. Many agencies advise on their websites that unless they want to see more, they may not reply. They often receive hundreds of submissions a week, and even a generic response would take a while if it had to go to everyone. So don’t fret. I assure you, you’re not the only one to receive no reply.
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Note the “wait time” and then move on
As I mentioned above, most agencies have a recommended “wait time.” Their submissions page may say something like, “if you haven’t heard from us within 8 weeks, please assume we do not wish to take your submission further. It varies, usually anywhere between 6 – 12 weeks, though some are more/less. Make a note of what date you should’ve heard from them by, and when that date passes mark it as a no. It’s the easiest way to move on, and look for another agent to submit to.
novel writing (3)

Spend time doing something useful
I wrote a blog post once about useful things you can do while you’re waiting to hear back from an agent. These include working on a new piece of writing, revising your query and researching other agents. Keeping yourself busy is a great way to stop dwelling on those silent rejections/long waits for responses, and keep your progression rolling in the meantime.
novel writing (4)

Don’t give up hope
Sometimes, the reason you haven’t heard back within the suggested time is because the agent truly is snowed under. I know of people who have heard back long after they thought they’d been ignored, with requests for full manuscripts. So never give up hope. Move on, keep working, assume the worst but always, always, ALWAYS hope for the best.
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Have you had to cope with “silent rejections”? How do you do it? Pop your thoughts in the comments below, and until then,

Keep querying!

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26 thoughts on “How to Cope with Silent Rejections”

  1. I had a go at this a few months before deciding on self publishing. I agree on keeping a record, such as a simple spreadsheet, to track dates of submission and response / outcome. Also that a few can be submitted at once, in small, manageable batches, targeted to agents who accept your genre. One by one would take forever given the low odds. Most seem to reply, but don’t expect feedback on your actual work in most cases. As you say, agents are too busy for a ‘free service’. If you do get a specific positive comment, even alongside an overall rejection, it’s unusual I think and a good sign despite the disappointment.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love these tips, Meelie. Waiting to hear back from an agent is the worst, especially when you’re expecting an answer and get nothing. My tip for getting through is having positive feedback about the project to read through any time waiting or a rejection gets you down. Feedback that reminds you the work doesn’t suck has saved me from giving up all together.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. About ten years ago, when I finished my first novel, I looked into agents. I researched and made sure that all of the agents were still active and that they all handled every genre my novel could be considered., and that they all were specifically looking for new clients.

    I ended up with a short list of twenty-five or so names and sent out queries, tailoring each one to the specific agency and attaching whatever length example in whatever format they specified in their guidelines.

    Took me about a week, all told, making sure that each one was as a close as I could make it to what the agent was asking for.

    I never got a single reply. Not a rejection, not an acceptance, not a “we received your email and will look at it soon” auto-response, nothing.

    Since that time I have come to believe that advances for first time authors have dropped to the point that agents really don’t make any money unless the author is either already famous (or infamous) for something else, like sleeping with a politician, or is an established author poached from some other agency.

    My advice for authors starting out is to not bother with agents and to just query those publishers that accept unagented manuscripts.


    1. Hi, so sorry to hear you’ve had such a negative experience querying agents 😦 Many writers get success from approaching small publishing houses instead, so it’s a great tip! x


  4. I apologize for going slightly off-topic but I find these four tips just as good for dealing with silent rejections when looking for a job. I guess there are some similarities between finding a job and finding an agent for your book, though the “no reply time” on job applications is lower.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The thing that keeps me going is that I want the right yes. So, I know that I will get many, many silent and not-so-silent rejections and that’s okay. I know that what I write isn’t for everyone and I just have to keep working and trying until I find the right one.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The key to remember – It’s nothing personal.

    I’ve had a bunch of these and it takes a while to understand these silent rejections are not aimed at us or our writing. It just happens and the key is to move on and continue to find that one person who says yes.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Love all of your tips, the best one is not to take it personal.
    It’s worthwhile knowing that getting an agent isn’t a fast process, and that it might take a few novel before they take notice in our work.
    That’s why it’s best to work on something new.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The key is realizing it’s not personal. One editor told me his choices are as trivial as the piece being the right word length to fit into the current issue. Sometimes your piece is too similar in theme to another they’ve already formatted. As you say, move on!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Super post. So encouraging, as per usual! ❤ I think my main takeaway is to remember it's not personal. It's a tough process, but we are not more or less worthy because of it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Silent rejection is so hard ! Thanks for sharing your tips and advice, it’s so important to recognise that a lot of the time it’s not personal, although that can be hard when you are offering your best work and it’s not even acknowledged. That should just be a signal that it is time to move on….

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thanks for posting about this. It’s taken a while but the “no response” doesn’t bother me any more. Much. I still don’t think there’s any excuse for it.I think part of being a professional, or even a human being, is to build the time into your busy schedule to respond – even if it’s just a form email. I’m old school.

    Liked by 1 person

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