DNR: Do Not Resuscitate.
Writers on Query Tracker have a similar acronym: CNR. When an agent doesn’t respond to your query and you know they are all caught up, it’s a CNR: Closed No Response. I had to do a CNR for one of mine today. I saw on Twitter that the agent had zero queries left her inbox and I had not heard anything, so even though mine was only 3 days old, I CNRed it.
Just like a DNR, it’s pretty final. Oh, sure, there is always the very slim possibility that you will CNR a query and then a month later get a request. I think that happened to me once. But usually a CNR means you’ve had your one shot and you blew it, for whatever reason. Your query wasn’t strong enough, your sample pages weren’t strong enough, they weren’t looking for the kind of book you wrote, they just signed another author who wrote a similar book, they hadn’t had their coffee and were feeling cranky, they once had an old nemesis with your name... Frankly, who the hell knows why they didn’t like it? You certainly never will because they don’t tell you. Even the agents who do respond don’t usually tell you exactly WHY they are rejecting. Their answers are vague and polite. These are actual responses from my last book:
I understand why they are vague.
First, they don’t want to encourage more communication with any authors they don’t want to represent. They get hundreds of queries a week and if they are more than tersely polite, they will be getting follow-up emails from authors who now think they are best friends, looking for feedback, advice, etc. They don’t want to give us false hope or waste their own time.
Second, they’re trying to be gentle. Maybe your writing sucks and they don’t want to be the one to tell you. Maybe they're afraid any specific comments will come back and haunt them if your book ever does become a hit. I mean, even Twilight and Harry Potter were rejected before someone took a chance on them. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, so who knows? Maybe another agent will LOVE your stuff even if they don't, so they keep their thoughts to themselves.
Third, they may not even know why, exactly, they don’t like it. Taste is a tricky thing. There are lots of reasons to reject and the best they can do is just politely tell you no. It’s kind of like the whole “it’s not you, it’s me” saying of the relationship world. Polite, but not 100% truthful.
So I’m sure in the coming days I’ll have many more CNRs. I’d much rather have a clear rejection than have to do a CNR. Even though it’s more final, at least you know for sure.
I think it's better to know than to wait and wonder.