A rejection letter to avoid

Oh dear. Today, I came across a rejection letter from a, once half-decent, literary agency that ran in full like this:

Dear John

Many thanks for this.

The writing is strong and the storyline intriguing. I have to tell you however, that agents are finding novels, even intelligently written commercial work like this, harder to place nowadays. Publishers are so subjective and only concerned with the bottom line.

What I can do is to suggest an organisation who, for a reasonably low fee will make the full arrangements to ensure a full Kindle publication of your work.

What is more, they will edit as well – obviously not a radically comprehensive edit – to a thoroughly presentable standard . Many Kindle books are going on at a later stage to traditional publication or Print on Demand.

Their fee is just £950 and you get a free Kindle as well. Let me know if you would like me to put you in touch with them.


There is a publisher we deal with now, (not vanity) who have taken some of my more worthwhile mss and I believe they will promote and publicise properly. They do charge a fee (£4,500 – refundable to you after sales of just 2,000) but I believe it is an acceptable deal as the writer enjoys a far better rate of royalties. One of my authors who has taken advantage of this, is Provost of one of the oldest Oxford colleges and is a knight of the realm. His work has just been nominated for an award for Political Fiction. My most recent was a High Court Judge.

Let me know if you would like me to submit [novel title] to them.

Very best wishes

Guy [Rose of Futerman Rose]

Letter copied from Novel Rejects blog – my thanks to it for existing.

I hope you don’t need me to tell to you that this is an APPALLING letter for any agent to send. Indeed, any ‘agent’ who sends a letter like this is no longer acting as a literary agent at all; but as some kind of pimp for the vanity publishing industry. Do I think that Oxford Provosts and High Court Judges fall for this kind of nonsense? Lord help us all if they do, but perhaps they do.

I’ve alerted the Association of Authors Agents about this letter and I strongly hope that they take action. Letters such as this are, in my opinion, emphatically contrary to the Association’s Code of Conduct (certainly in spirit, and probably in letter too.) I’ll let you know if there are developments.

In the meantime, it’s probably useful to rehearse the basics once more. If you want to find a literary agent, you do so like this. If you want to know what a literary agent does, he – or more likely she – does this. And on the question of reading fees and all that nonsense, then let’s just remember the rules of the road which can be found here.

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  • JD

    It’s very disappointing to find that some agents are behaving like this. I once received a rejection letter from an agent who is a member of the Association of Authors Agents, suggesting a well-known pay to play (vanity) publisher. I wrote expressing my concern to the agency about sending out rejection letters in which they suggest vanity publishers. They replied that they don’t use the word ‘vanity’ as she (the main agent) felt it wasn’t fair to authors to use the term ‘vanity’ when the authors will have worked hard on their manuscripts. What? It isn’t fair to authors if they get sucked into thinking it’s okay to go the vanity publishing route!

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  • Fi

    I’d be interested to know when you received this response as it has been a long time since I have heard the term ‘vanity publishing’, it seems to be a term publishers are avoiding for fear of offending! I’m finding most publishers and agencies are now sending back a mixture of advice – some immediately say ‘try Kindle’ and others are suggesting ePublishers specializing in launching unpublished authors via eBook. I’ve found some of the latter do charge but that tends to be for the publicity they offer and their ‘expertise’ that you don’t get when you publish a book DIY through Amazon. What are other people finding? Has anyone tried any of these eBook publishers?

  • Harry

    The trouble is that most of the ‘publicity’ these firms offer is totally worthless, and it’s hard for newbie authors to understand how worthless it is because they don’t have the experience that would allow them to know. So – just be careful before splashing teh cash. It usually isn’t worth it.

    And as for vanity publishing – the industry has withered a bit, but the real old-fashioned rip-off merchants haven’t disappeared at all. They’re still there and still awful. Again: anyone who charges you a load of money to publish your book will almost certainly not be giving you value for money. Just take care.

  • Your comments have been brought to my notice. I would be grateful if you would let me have your name so we can call up our past correspondence about your book. Warm wishes. Heather Holden-Brown, HHB Agency Ltd