Tuesday, July 11, 2006

What Writers Deserve

I recently received a letter that said, among other things:

Writers deserve more feedback about their work. I think every writer deserves an honest, detailed response.

Really, why? Did you pay me to read your submission? Are you paying my electric bill, expenses, and salary? No, the people who do that are my clients, and they are the ones getting an "honest, detailed response." While I would love to give every writer a personal rejection (and I really would), even if it's to say that the work is just plain horrible, I can't. I don't have the time to sit down and read and critique every proposal I get. As it is I get angry letters and e-mails that I spend too much time on just getting a form letter in the mail. And I know I take too long responding to my clients (or at least longer than I would like).

An agent's first and primary responsibility is to her clients, not to those people who send in submissions, often unsolicited. If you want an honest and detailed critique, then you should really get involved with a critique group. Let's put in this way: I assume that when you get an agent you want one who is focusing her time and attention on getting you a publishing deal, reviewing the contract and making sure it's the best contract she can negotiate on your behalf, reading and critiquing your work, helping to facilitate communication between you and your publisher, guiding you with publicity and marketing, etc. I assume you don't want an agent who is spending her time sending out detailed responses to authors who may or may not ever be published and neglecting your work because she doesn't have time.

The only people who deserve my time and attention are those listed on my client list. The best I can do to help other writers is to attend conferences, provide information on this blog, and donate the occasional critique for charity. There are times when I am able to give a detailed critique, when I truly believe an author is close and will succeed with a little push. At other times my rejection could mean almost anything—I'm not the right agent, your work didn't resonate with me, the writing was horrible, the book was clich├ęd, I have something similar on my list, I don’t like mice. . . .

I would like to see all authors succeed and learn as they go. Unfortunately, I can't make it my job to see that happen.



Nonny Blackthorne said...


... the gall of some people. *shakes head*

I did minor slush pile reading for a friend who intended to publish an anthology several years ago, and I didn't have the time to answer everything personally. I can only imagine what it must be like for a real agent or editor.

Speaking as a writer, it's awesome to receive personal feedback, and I make it a practice to reply with a thank you if someone takes the time to do so ... but I don't expect it, and I certainly don't think all writers deserve it. (Some of the slush I've seen, what they deserved was to be banned from further defiling a keyboard.)

In other words... totally agree with you, all the way.

Cole Reising said...

I have to say I totally understand your point. Most R's I've recieved have been form letters.

But each in their own way have actually helped me. There was 'something' in each that told me a little bit more and I reached for a way to grow from it.

One R from an agent was personal, short but personal and I was extremely grateful! Even though she didn't say a single solitary word of what was 'wrong' with my ms. She did say enough that ironically - I knew immeidately what was wrong! And I personally sent her a thank you note. It was simple and to the point as well, thanking her for her time. I didn't ask for anything in return either. I truly was just grateful she'd taken the time to actually write me a short rejection.


Anonymous said...

I think the only thing writers "deserve" from agents is the courtesty of a reply--even if that means a scribbled "No, thanks" on the original query. Anything else is frosting, IMO.

Bernita said...

Agree with Anon.

Sandra Richards said...

As a friend of mine used to say, "And people on Tatooine want ice water."

I'm pretty selfish. If I had an agent, I'd want her/him to be focused on me, too. An agent is not a proofreading service. Comments cheerfully accepted, but never required. Frankly, I'm just grateful someone took a moment to read and consider my submission.

Anonymous said...

I think it would be polite if one got to submitting a full to get at least a short personal rejection. Of course once you get to that point the agent should get a card or a thank you too.