I mean can we just stop with the "I'm not the best agent for your book" reply? Duh! Of course, you're not the best agent. I know that. You know that. The whole world knows it. How can a profession, or caste, obsessively fixated on crisp, to the point queries even make such a statement, let alone repeat it day after day, week…? Do they ever read their own writing? The best agent is retired or can’t be bothered with me. That’s no secret. I mean what is that response attempting to accomplish? Maybe someone else finds the pain of rejection soothed by those words, but I don’t it. Hopefully, if you agree and publicize the absurdity of this response, we can move forward together.
As Rejectioncollection.com will prove to you, there is no good rejection that satisfies the writer, unless the writer has extremely thick skin or is delusional. It basically goes something like this.
Rejection: "Thanks, not for me."
Author: "What, she couldn't take the time to write more than one line?"
Rejection: "(long and winding things about how the author should try other agencies and there's potential, but it's just not for this agent for some such reason, and good luck!)
Author: "How long does it take her to say 'no'?"
Rejection: Printed on a half-slip of paper.
Author: "She couldn't afford an entire sheet of paper?"
Rejection: Printed on a normal sheet of high-quality paper.
Author: "For two lines? What a waste of paper. I guess agents don't care about the environment."
Rejection: Photocopied form response.
Author: "How impersonal! Did she even read it or did she just stuff envelopes?"
Rejection: Personal note on original query letter, handwritten.
Author: "What, she couldn't afford the time to type out a whole letter?"
It goes on an on. The point is: We're saying no and you don't like it. All agents try to use different tactics to soften the blow, but none of them work, though intentions are usually good.
The "I'm not the right agent for this is" response is actually an honest, decent response that probably is true for any number of reasons. Maybe your work is really bad, or maybe it's that the agent doesn't have time for new writers because she's got 2 bestsellers on tour and she would only take on something if she had a lot of time to devote to it (new authors require a lot of hours to edit the manuscript and submit it to publishers, and then do contract revisions). Maybe you've written in a genre she doesn't represent. (I'm using the "she" here despite the plethora of male agents just for consistency's sake)
Chances are it's the last one. My boss doesn't handle most genres of fiction except for her stated specialties, so that narrows down the pile considerably. She does a lot of non-fiction, but not self-help, so that narrows it down even further. Seriously, guys, stick to what genres are listed on AgentQuery.