In 2014, I came across a rejection letter from a, once half-decent, literary agency that ran in full like this:
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
[Name] of Futerman Rose & Associates
This letter was 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 a poor letter for any agent to send.
Also, 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 alerted the Association of Authors Agents about this letter and letters such as this are, in my opinion, emphatically contrary to their Code of Conduct (certainly in spirit, probably in letter, too.).
In the meantime, probably useful to rehearse the basics once more.
And on the question of reading fees and all that, just remember the rules of the road. These can be found over here.