Agents that don't respond to your submissions

Discussion in 'Publishing' started by markus, Nov 8, 2009.

  1.  
    markus

    markus New Member

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    Thought this was funny, as well as apt. But what do you think. Have you been ignored by agents in the past, after sending in a submission? Please forgive if this issue has been covered before.



    Dear Miss Snark,

    A protocol question.

    Many agents who accept or even prefer email queries indicate in their listings that they will respond only if they're interested in seeing more. Aside from whether a no-repsonse policy is "******* rude" (your words for it more than a year ago) or whether it's even logical (it takes less time to hit REPLY, paste in a form rejection and hit SEND than it does to stuff the same letter into a SASE and seal it), it also creates a problem for writers considering a subsequent query to another agent at the same agency.

    Let's say I do my homework and assemble a list of twenty agents to start with. Agent 5 and Agent 19 both work at the same large agency. Both accept only electronic queries, but due to the overwhelming number of submissions they receive, they are afraid they can't respond to each of them.

    I email a letter and some embedded pages to Agent 5 and wait, oh, six weeks. Does her lack of reply mean a lack of interest? Probably, and I'm okay with it. But I've worked my way down to Agent 19 in the meantime.

    I know enough not to send simultaneous queries. I could shoot Ms. Five a quick email to make sure she's already moved on, but how clueless does that look -- and how effective is it likely to be -- in an environment in which replying to a query is too much trouble? I could assume that two months on a query is long enough, but that would be just a guess, and I once received a positive response after waiting longer than that.

    So at what point does " " shift from "I'm working, be patient" to "not right for me, thanks"?
    30 days minimum, 45 maximum. If someone can't bother to reply to an email in 45 days, **** em.

    I find it loathsome that my colleagues do this. And if you're reading this, and you're an agent, and you do this, stop it. You're making us all look like arrogant asswipes, and frankly I don't need any help on that score.
  2.  
    SJAB

    SJAB The storyteller

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    Yes, I was ignored by agents, but is par for the course when submitting, especially when it is just a one page email query. Most agents put in their submission guidelines if they "only reply if interested".

    You just give them 30 days and move on, no big deal, no need to make a fuss, or wring your hands in public about how horrible such and such agent is. It does not give a good impression of you as a professional. It is just like applying for a job. How many applications do you fill in not to hear a peep? Being asked for sample chapters is a bit like getting through to an interview.

    I have had agents ignore me on one novel submission., then request sample chapters on the next one.
  3.  
    Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    At one of our annual local conventions (I say local, because it was always in the same place, but it actually attracted writers and editors from everywhere in those days) they used to have a panel from time to time called Whining Authors, where they'd bring together a number of professional writers to complain about all the different ways editors, agents, etc. had done them wrong. They had all had a significant amount of success and they all had stories to tell. (They didn't name names, of course, but if you knew who their agents and publishers were ... ) Most of them told their tales of woe with a sense of humor. The one author that I know who let these things embitter him, and who said so often and openly, seems to have disappeared from the SF/Fantasy field. I think he just wasn't quite good enough that anyone wanted to work with him once he gained a reputation for being difficult.

    As SJAB says, these things happen. Agents do their jobs the best way they can. Having limited time and resources, they make priorities. They may be reasonable priorities, they may be unreasonable. Either way, they are unlikely to match up with ours, until and unless they see something they like. In the meantime, we just have to shrug it off, and figure it will make good material for dinner conversation someday.

    Over the years, I've gained plenty of material for dinner conversation. Enough to keep me talking from the appetizers right through to dessert.
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2009
  4.  
    dustinzgirl

    dustinzgirl Mod of Awesome

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    Agents don't get paid per contact, they get paid per contract.

    They have to eat too.
  5.  
    markus

    markus New Member

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    Hi SJab, Teresa, dustinzgirl,

    Thanks for the reply. I agree with some of what you all said but not all. I guess the bottom line here is having good manners. And it is simply good manners to reply to a submission. In this age of instant messaging it doesn't take long to reply to an email. I don't buy the excuse that these are super-duper busy people and couldn't possibly spend the ten seconds to say "Thanks but no, its not for me." This is part of the job description for an agent surely. After all budding writers are the lifeblood of the industry, so why not have a little courtesy towards them, or is that too much to ask. Now too be fair the vast majority of agents are really nice people and will always get back to authors, no matter how bad the submission. The article is not talking about them, just the few that can't be bothered. Manners cost nothing. That is what the article was about. They are not my words but they struck a chord me as I'm sure it will with many others. If I treat someone with respect, I expect to have it returned. Or maybe, that's just a step too far.
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    Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    Actually, it's not part of their job description. Their job description is to represent the authors that they've already got. An agent's first responsibility is to his or her own authors, and this is where the vast majority of their time and attention goes and should go.

    Only if they are talented enough, or have whatever it is that the public is looking for at the moment. The rest are just extra (unpaid) work.

    It's not ten seconds. It's 10 seconds x the number of submissions rejected. Imagine you are in a room with dozens of people jumping up and down saying, "Me, me, me, choose me." You choose one, but the rest all expect you to tell them individually, "No, I don't choose you." Meanwhile, you have work you have promised to do.

    Edit -- And another thing ...

    When new authors aren't complaining because they didn't even get a form rejection, they're complaining because they did. They want to know why, since the rejection is being sent, the agent or editor couldn't take a little more time to tell them why the submission was rejected. I've never heard a writer express gratitude at receiving a form rejection. And if someone was going to be mad at you anyway and call you hard names, would you want to take a little extra time to give them a response?
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2009
  7.  
    cyberpunkdreams

    cyberpunkdreams New Member

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    I'm joining this discussion late (new here, hi!), and I'm not an agent, but I have been in similar situations, on and off, as an editor for a publishing company and as someone who has done on-line recruitment.

    First, for our small press, we do send an email to all rejected authors (it's a form email, which I feel bad about, but I guess that's better than nothing). We can do that because we publish in series, so we can send all the acceptances and rejections for one series quickly and easily. Having to reply on a constant basis would be mind-numbing and a real distraction for a basis. Remember that although writing a quick email might take ten seconds (plus another ten to check for errors), that kind of thing can really break your concentration and suck quite a lot of time out of your day.

    Second, when I was recruiting people on-line, I fully intended to reply to everyone I received a contact from (and even specified that I would in my email). I got about 250 responses, most of which weren't even close to what I needed. I did start replying to everyone, first with a personal email, then with a form one, but it's really a soul destroying activity. I gave up after about 100 or so I'd guess, always meaning to continue, but never doing so.

    So, I can kind of empathise with agents who don't reply. Sending quick emails seems like something that should be really easy, but if you have to do this thing day in and day out, it's surprisingly time consuming and draining. I suspect that every agent who doesn't reply started their career thinking, "I'm not going to be one of those rude agents who doesn't get back to people", before being quickly battered down by the reality...
  8.  
    markus

    markus New Member

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    Hi cyberpunkdreams,

    Thanks for the input, very constructive and well put. I would ask agents to continue to send the form rejections via snail or email. I know I appreciate it, as I'm sure all budding authors do, when my submission is acknowledged for bad or good. I can totally understand how easy it could be for agents to fall into the trap of refusing to reply, but I would beg them not to. Authors spend possibly hundreds of man hours writing their little masterpieces, then more hours spent looking for a list of suitable agents to send it to, plus setting it out to the spec's of the agent. So to all those wonderful agents who do reply to their submissions, I applaud you, and I thank you, and please keep it up.


    To Teresa- unless you are an agent I cant see how you could know the workings of an agency. Your comments were at the very least, stating the obvious, and not at all helpful in getting a healthy debate going. You come across more as the forum police, stamping out any signs of dissent. Or perhaps you have a crystal ball. If so, can you tell me the lottery numbers and I promise to split the winnings with you. ;o)
  9.  
    dustinzgirl

    dustinzgirl Mod of Awesome

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    Or it could be that she's a published author who has had agent contracts and does know quite a bit about the industry, likely more than any of us unpublished, unagented authors.

    And to that point, respect is all well and good but honestly it doesn't feed my family. I've met lots of nice people in my course of work, but that doesn't mean I'm going to work for them for free or rush work for them for free when I have other paying contracts I have to worry about.

    Agents are busy people. I've had it take three months or longer for a reply. Most will not reply at all unless they are actually going to accept your work anyways.
  10.  
    Scarfy

    Scarfy Stephen J Sweeney

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    I can better that: I've got a rejection to an email query I sent over a year before. The email opened with, "Please accept our apologies for this late reply..." :)
  11.  
    markus

    markus New Member

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    Hi dustinsgirl and Scarfy

    Thanks for the input. I know that Teresa is a published writer, which leaves me scratching my head. Agents are well able to fight their own corner, what is she doing?. My comments still stand.
  12.  
    ctg

    ctg weaver of the unseen

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    Markus, would think for a moment before you write in here. The people are commenting based on your input. They don't know what you know, and at the moment it looks as if you didn't know she's a well established writer, and I happen to know that she's defending the industry and the people working in it against your snidely comments.

    We all have to go through the periods, where we get rejected more times then once. I know how humiliating it can be and only thing I can advice to you is to have a bit of patience. Even after if you manage to secure an agent, you get to the point where you're tearing your hair off because the publishers are rejecting your manuscript. So from what I've seen in this threat is that you're not thinking clearly. Publishing is a long process, and only way you can speed it up is by becoming a nova-hot celebrity. Even then, those people have to endure waiting times, while the ghost-writers and other people in the industry do their processes.

    If you're in hurry to get your book published, then I recommend you to give consideration to the self-publish route. But even then, you have to have more patience than what you're showing now. Don't be an if only man that Nathan Bransford describes in his blog,

    "If the process of trying to find an agent is getting you down, if it's interfering with your happiness, maybe you should shelve your novel to focus on rejoining the world. Maybe put it in a drawer and focus on writing another one that's even better. But one thing I tell people who are getting down by the business side of writing is to stop playing the "if only" game.

    The "if only" game goes something like this: "If only" I had an agent I would be happy. Then that inevitably leads to the next step: "if only" I had a publisher I would be happy. "If only" I sold X copies I would be happy. Which leads to "if only" I were a bestseller I would be happy. And so on and so on. Happiness is always just over the horizon.

    In my opinion, the only way to be happy in this business is to somehow avoid playing that game and appreciate every step. There's not a bed of roses waiting for you after every hill. Try to focus on enjoying each step as much as possible -- if it's not making you happy, then maybe you should put down the pen.
    " http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2007/03/when-should-you-give-up.html
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2009
  13.  
    markus

    markus New Member

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    Hi ctg,

    I think you need to go back and read the comments properly. If I came across snidey it was in reaction to being stomped on re: my first post. But this is not about one individual here, and we are getting nicely sidetracked.
    The issue we are meant to be talking about are agents who do not respond to submissions.

    There is no problem waiting for reply's, it is not a time issue. It is, as I stated at the start of the post an issue of good manners. If writers are prepared to accept these bad practices by the few agents that carry them out then there is a real chance that it will spread like a cancer.

    And please remember I have already stated that most agents are really decent human beings who will always take the time to get back to authors, this post is not about those agents.

    I hope this clears it up a bit. Thanks.
  14.  
    J-WO

    J-WO Pretentious Avatar Alert.

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    I think your arguments getting a wee bit ad hominem here, chap. I sort of see your point about how it would be nice to get replies but I fail to see why Teresa is the iron heel of some Orwellian literary police state. She's disagreeing with you. Its kind of one of the ingredients of free speech.

    She's also a professional with a lifetime's experience of the business and--with regards to this forum--someone happy to step up to some healthy and civil debate devoid of personal attack. And that last bits kind of like Dr Pepper, Markus; 'Try it, you might like it!'
  15.  
    RcGrant

    RcGrant Loves semi-colons

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    Jumping in, mostly because I can.

    Firstly, we ALL want people to display good manners. That isn't what this is about. It's not rude for an agent to simply not have enough time. I don't know about you, but if I was one of the agent's writers, I'd rather they spent time on my book, than using the 'copy and paste' function 50 times a day (and getting nothing for it!).

    Secondly, Teresa was simply expressing her opinion, and sharing her experiences. There wasn't the least bit of 'policing' going on with her comments - in fact, she, as a busy published writer of the ilk you mentioned (you know, who has spent "hundreds of man-hours" on her manuscripts) took the time out to reply to your message. In my eyes that's going beyond the call of duty.

    Thirdly, I find it ironic that your post was about rudeness and pretty much all you have done is be rude to the people who have responded to you. It blows my mind that people who say they wish to have a career in this industry come into a forum where there are countless published writers, agents, and editors, and make waves about insignificant things. To me, that's like walking into a potential employer's office and telling them that their filing system is all wrong, and asking why on earth don't they do it your way!

    Ultimately, it takes a long time to build a bridge, and only a couple of seconds to burn it.
  16.  
    Ian Whates

    Ian Whates Author and Editor

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    Deep breaths needed here, I think, folks.

    Marcus, it's always great to hear a new, vigorous and empassioned voice on the Chrons, but you do seem to have taken offence at comments made by Teresa when I'm sure none was intended. You have to realise that Teresa is a long-standing and highly respected member here. Whoever it might come from, a response as aggressive as yours which seems to strike out at such an individual is bound to evoke strong reactions from those who know and like her.

    There are some interesting points being made in this discussion from all quarters, so lets keep calm and civil and continue with that, without anyone getting personal. :)
  17.  
    markus

    markus New Member

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    Hi all,

    ok this is getting out of hand. If we cannot stick to the topic there is no point in continuing. In future I will only respond to reasonable comments. I didn't come on here to start a war, just a conversation. If the personal attacks continue then it is time to call it a day.
  18.  
    dustinzgirl

    dustinzgirl Mod of Awesome

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    In my defense, it was 3 am and I had just finished puking up my meatball sammich. Baby belly did not like.

    However, I would like markus, the op, to understand that nobody, especially Teresa, was attacking him, they were expressing opinions and experiences regarding agents and the industry. This was not a personal attack, it was an actual statement regarding experiences in the industry of writing.

    One month is not long enough to expect an agent to respond. Three months or even longer is. I've taken contracts for articles that lasted longer than a month. It's also taken me longer than a month to finish a book.

    Also, to my knowledge there is only one agent on this forum, John Jarold, and he has his own area for writers to ask him questions. I do not think he would be very inclined to reply in this thread as it doesn't ask a question so much as attack the agent business, which is how he feeds his family.
  19.  
    SJAB

    SJAB The storyteller

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    Sometimes the agent has replied. Emails get lost, bounced and eaten by the internet gremlins. Snail mail get's lost and found again lol. I once had a submission return in a post office labeled plastic bag, my SAE had been eaten by the machine at the sorting office. I have also had to collect SAEs containing returned submssions from the local sorting office and pay additional costs. As the agent's assistant had put a elastic band or a couple of chunky paper clips to hold the submission together, thus making it weigh more.

    I have had requests for sample chapters up to nine months after my query. I have rejections within a few hours (email). I have had stinkers back within a week with notes in thick black pen on my sample pages. It's all part of the process.

    If you read the agent's submission guidelines, most say if they only reply if interested. If you submit a query to them you make a note to give them 3 months then file the submission away as a fail.

    Yes, in a perfect world you should get a lovingly written reply, to every submission, but you don't. That doesn't mean the agent hasn't read it, or filed it way.
  20.  
    Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    Actually, markus, I'm not taking the side of agents so much as explaining why these things happen. I've said this before elsewhere, so those of you who have heard it already can plug your ears, but new authors undergo a lot of unnecessary stress by not knowing how the industry works and why it works that way. Understanding the reasoning behind some of these things, instead of nurturing a sense of frustration and ill-will against the people who do them, can save you a lot of grief. It can also save you from, eventually, venting to the wrong person at the wrong time.

    Of course, even at its best the publishing industry can be frustrating. It's the same way for agents and editors. We all just muddle along the best way we can, and a little charity (in the sense of having charitable thoughts about other people, their actions, and motivations) can help a lot. If you wish to vent instead, fine. Only know that if you vent in public, you may get responses from people who have different viewpoints. Insulting them does not get your point across any better.

    As a matter of fact, I don't take hundreds of hours working on my manuscripts, I spend thousands (which has cost me a lot in terms of my career by not cranking out the books fast enough). I well understand how much writers can invest in their books. I still don't think that gives me the right to tell other people how to run their businesses.

    As for any personal attacks you may think you have received, some of the people who have commented here are moderators. They are not here to insult you; they are here to keep the conversation civil.

    I suggest that you cool down and think about whether anything you have said has done the least bit of good in calming your frustrations, or if you are simply making them worse by trying to make this personal. For me, it isn't. I am only saying to you what I have said to many others before you. It is well-meant advice, though you may not agree with it.

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