Kristin Nelson breaks down query rejections.
For amusement, some of my own query rejections for Liesmith (agency names redacted):
Thank you very much for giving us the opportunity to read your submission. We appreciate you considering us for representation of your work.
Unfortunately, after careful review, we have decided that [Agency Name] might not be the right agency for this project. This industry is incredibly subjective, and there are many agencies out there with many different tastes. It is for this reason that we strongly encourage you to keep submitting elsewhere, in the hopes of finding an agent who will be an enthusiastic champion for you and your work.
We wish you all the very best of luck and success with your writing.
Not even my own name injected into that one! But at least it was a reply, I guess…
Thank you so much for allowing our agency to consider your material. Unfortunately, after carefully reviewing your query, we’ve determined that this particular project isn’t the right fit for our agency at this time. As I’m sure you know, the publishing industry changes swiftly now, as do readers’ tastes and trends. As a result, our own agents’ needs shift and change, as well; therefore, we would like to encourage you to consider querying us with future projects as you may deem appropriate.
Again, thank you very much for allowing us this chance to consider your material, and we wish you all the best in your publishing endeavors.
This one was more “personal”, in that it used both my name and the agent’s name, but still nothing about the work itself.
I swear I got more rejections than that–although not too many more, because a lot of agencies just sent nothing if they weren’t interested–but those are the ones I can actually find in my email. Actually, I know I got more rejections than that, because at least one of the rejections I got was from Sara Megibow. Hers was the most customized rejection of them all, in that it described specific things in the story. Mostly specific things she wanted to see changed, and an invitation to resubmit if I did. So I changed the things, she offered representation, and that’s why we are where we are today.