I don’t really try and hide that I have a standard rejection letter. All agents do, and there’s just no time for me to write out individual letters to thousands of people. So naturally, my rejection letter is 1) vague (so it can address nearly any reason for rejection) and 2) brief.
Here it is in all its bland glory:
Thank you for your recent letter. I regret to say that I don’t feel that I’m the most appropriate agent for your work.
However, opinions vary considerably in this business, and I wish you the best of luck in your search for representation.
I know it’s bland, I know it’s not terribly helpful, but I do hope that people find it 1) honest and 2) polite.
Now, if you mention my blog or my clients’ books, I’ll almost always write you a short personal note thanking you for reading my blog or expressing appreciation that you read my clients’ books. But that’s about as expressive as I’m able to get. I wish I could do more, and I honestly do wish you the best of luck in your search for representation, but the time crunch necessitates brevity.
When I’m responding to a partial manuscript request I have varying degrees of vagueness or specificity. If there’s one or two specific things I can point to that made the partial a “no” for me, I’ll try and point it out. If, however, I just have a general feeling that it’s not for me but can’t point to anything in particular, I write a similarly vague rejection note back — I just don’t think it would be helpful for me to say something just to say something, and I’d rather be vague than lead you astray.
But despite the inevitable blandness of these letters, I just want to say here that I very much appreciate the care and time that (most) people take to write to me when they’re querying. I know how asymmetrical it is for me to expect an amazing query letter that takes a great deal of time to prepare, only to send a vague rejection letter in return. I definitely get that. But just remember that you have one query to write at a time, while agents are receiving dozens a day. It’s asymmetrical for us too.