Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Agent Referrals

A reputable agent read my full manuscript and sent me a personalized rejection letter, saying that it was close, but he couldn't rep the project. But he was kind enough to give me two other agents' names and contact/query information and suggested that I try them. Let's call them Agents #1 and 2. Here's the problem. I've queried them already a couple of months ago.

Agent #1 rejected the query.

Agent #2's assistant rejected the query, and I doubt that Agent #2 saw the query himself.

Neither of them read the partial.

Should I send another query to Agents #1 & 2, mentioning the referral?


No, I’m afraid a rejection is a rejection. When agents give referrals it doesn’t necessarily mean that they know another agent will take on your project. It’s simply that they know another agent might be better for what you are writing. When I get referrals from other agents I have to admit it makes me a little reticent (unless I know that agent doesn’t represent a particular genre). After all, if it’s an agent I respect and she’s already rejected the work herself, then why would I want to take it on?

It was very kind of the agent to give you referrals, but even if you had a referral when going to other agents it’s likely you would have been rejected. A referral is not going to change anyone’s mind that much.

Jessica

13 comments:

Reid said...

Thanks for the advice on referrals. Quick question, if I've submitted a project to an agent before without going past the query letter stage, can you still submit further projects to that agent?

Aimless Writer said...

So, its better not to mention an agent referal in a query letter?
Although, I think my first reaction would be to tell you so and so refered me but then again...
I don't think I'd want to tell you I've been rejected before. It might color your view of my work. I'd rather you believe my manuscript is beautiful and everyone is going to want it!

Elizabeth Joy Arnold said...

Aimless--I'd think it would depend on whether the first agent actually represented the type of work you were submitting. If so, and they decided not to represent you, the new agent's going to assume it wasn't good enough to be represented.

I had an agent send an extremely flattering letter on a novel I wrote before PIECES OF MY SISTER'S LIFE, saying he loved the book and asking for changes.

After I made the changes, he ended up rejecting the book, but his response was so amazingly flattering that I sent copies of his letter along with all future queries on this manuscript to other agents. None of them even asked to see the material, although I'm pretty sure at least some might have, if I hadn't been so stupid to send the copy...

Anonymous said...

"When I get referrals from other agents I have to admit it makes me a little reticent (unless I know that agent doesn’t represent a particular genre). After all, if it’s an agent I respect and she’s already rejected the work herself, then why would I want to take it on?"

I have to admit I find this confusing. I hear so often from agents that just because something isn't for agent A doesn't mean it's not for agent B. Maybe you would fall in love with manuscript X when the other agent didn't. Isn't that what I keep hearing and hearing? And now you say that you are biased by someone else passing on it? Honestly, I'm just trying to understand... I am VERY grateful for your blog and your honest portrayal of what you are looking for and about how the industry works. THANK YOU.

p.s. Elizabeth Joy Arnold, I LOVE LOVE LOVE your book. Can't wait for the next one. :-)

Josephine Damian said...

How did this person know it was the assistant and not agent #2 who rejected them?

Also I wonder if this person is implying that "if only the agent had seen the query and not the 'lowly assistant', the agent would have seen the brilliance of the idea." This person seems a little naive about the role the assistant's role in the process, an their ability to recognize drek when they see it.

Aimless, I think a writer needs to give an agent the impression that nobody has rejected their work.

Erik said...

Here's another question:

When you get the referral, I would assume a "Thank you" note is in order. At that time, would it be reasonable to mention that you've already been rejected by the two agents you were referred to?

Given that this agent you are thnking has already gone an extra mile it seems like a lot to ask, but it seems that there is a chance they might have other ideas.

Thanks, I'm still trying to figure out the "process".

Anonymous said...

Here's another related question. Many agents nowadays have a "black hole" policy where they prefer one page email queries but only respond if they are interested.

Given the aggressiveness of spam filters, an author can be left wondering if their query ever got through--especially if they use one of the email services like Hotmail which many spam filters seem to block on principle.

If the agent accepts snail mail queries, does requerying via snail mail with an SASE after a two month wait make the author look like a jerk? Or is it a reasonable way to resolve uncertainty?

BookEnds, LLC said...

Hi all!

Great questions. I'll try to answer them all.

Reid: I think that you can always resubmit new work to the same agents. A number of my current clients were rejected by me before on other projects. You never know what's going to hit.

Aimless: I think it's up to you whether to mention it. It depends what it is. My concern is that there are certain agents who always give referrals. Those I'm always leary of. If it's an agent who I know represents something different from me I'm happy to see it. In the end though it's the work that's important.

Anon 8:34: You are right of course and there are some agents who have given me excellent referrals and who I respect greatly and of course there have been times I refer authors to them. Primarily because it's not something I represent. I'm not sure I can really go into in-depth detail of why I sometimes feel this way, but I think it is primarily when it's an agent who seems to reject by way of referral. It's easier to refer and look like a nice guy then it is to just say no. I hope that makes sense.

Josephine: It doesn't matter whether it was agent #2 or an assistant who did the rejecting. If we have assistants reject we trust them to make those types of decisions. And I agree with you. I think it's best to give the impression that the agent you're submitting to is the top of your list and the first agent you're sending to. Elizabeth's situation is unique and worked for her, but won't work for everyone.

Erik: Keep the thank you short and brief. There's no reason to say thanks, but no thanks.

Anon 10:36: If an agent's policy is not to respond that's the policy. Following-up is probably not going to do you any good. If you're going to stress about whether or not it's been received I would snail mail in the first place (if submission policies allow it).

Whew! That's another post in itself.

--jhf

beverley said...

I know this about agent referrals, but what if you get an offer from a publisher and all your picks for agents have already turned you down. Does that mean don't bother them again with an offer in hand? I guess an offer won't change their mind right, if they weren't passionate enough about to take it on?

April said...

Thanks for the advice.

cynical writer said...

"I think a writer needs to give an agent the impression that nobody has rejected their work."

Do you really think agents are so stupid as to believe that? How often (if ever) have you heard an author brag about getting a reputable agent with their first query letter and with no rejection letters (unless, perhaps, they had the deal in hand when they went searching or are famous)? If an agent is really fooled into thinking the manuscript has never been rejected, she's so naive that I wouldn't want her as my agent!

I can see that you'd want to make the agent feel like she is one of your top choices, though, and I try to do that even if it's not true. (Sorry, but if agents can send off form rejections letters saying "another agent might like your work" when they know 95% of the people they are responding to don't have publishable manuscripts, then don't ask me to feel bad about falsely buttering up an agent.)

Aimless Writer said...

"My concern is that there are certain agents who always give referrals. Those I'm always leary of."
How would us peons know if this was one of those "always" agents or one you respect?
I say keep all rejections on the QT. I'd rather you look with an open mind. Of course you'd be on the top of my list so there would be no referals before you...do you refer out like that if you don't cover a genre?
(was that enough of a backhanded compliment?)
;)

Kate Douglas said...

"How often (if ever) have you heard an author brag about getting a reputable agent with their first query letter and with no rejection letters"

I did. I was so naive when I was first submitting to editors I'd never really thought of getting an agent, until a friend mentioned a new agency that was just getting started and might be willing to take a look at my current ms. That was Jessica back in early 2001. She didn't sell my first submission, or even a couple of others, but we finally hit on a project that worked. Point being, you just never know in this business, but what I have learned is that you can't give up, either. If you believe you're meant to write, you'll keep on trying until you find the right match in an agent and the agent finds the right match in an editor. Perseverance counts as much as learning your craft. It's hard, sometimes, when the rejections pile up, but hang on to the faith you had in yourself when you first sat down to write that first story. You have to believe you'll succeed, or it's not going to happen.