Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Getting No Response

In a blog comment recently it was suggested that maybe I’m not as nice as my fellow Minnesotans because I haven’t responded to a query letter.

So, Jessica, because you are so nice, should I assume that the two times I've queried you and received no response whatsoever (not even a rejection) it was because the query was caught in your spam filter, and not because you deplored my writing? Or maybe you did hate my writing, but were too nice to say so? I know a lot of agents ignore queries they aren't interested in, but I think that's rude. After all, I did a lot of research before choosing you, and worked very hard on my query letter. Being so nice and all, you would at least send an acknowledgment that it was received, or a "not for me," wouldn't you? Because I sure didn't get one.

If you have queried any BookEnds agent and not received a reply, here are the reasons:
  • The material has not been read yet.
  • It got stuck in our spam filter, and since you did not put “query” in the subject, we let it get deleted.
  • Our response was stuck in your spam filter.
  • Our response was returned for nondelivery.
  • You did not include an SASE.
  • You did not include an SASE with proper postage.
  • You sent a snail mail package that never arrived, for whatever reason.
  • We replied and the package/letter never arrived for whatever reason.
BookEnds agents always reply to queries and proposals. If for some reason you have not heard from us (roughly 2-4 weeks for email queries and 10-12 weeks for requested material), you can always check in to learn the status.



Laura K. Curtis said...

For partial senders: I have the world's worst post office (and I say that with some authority, having lived in loads of places over the years). Once upon a time, it was a decision whether you should send your partial Priority Mail or whether it wasn't worth it. Now, the cost is the same and it doesn't even cost extra to put Delivery Confirmation on the envelope. This does NOT cause the recipient to have to sign for it (which I imagine would just annoy said recipient), it just means you can see whether the package got there.

Unfortunately, there is no delivery confirmation for email. However (and again, some authority here since I worked in the field for many years), if you pay for your mail service, it has a much better chance of getting through a spam filter. That is, a hotmail or yahoo or even AOL account is much more likely to be marked as spam.

In your own email account (again, if you pay for it--I don't know whether the free accounts have added this in recent years), you're likely to have the option to in some way mark the items you really want to see when they come in. That is, you can make their appearance different from your other mail by color or style, so you never miss mail from an agent.

Since many agents (and others who receive tons of mail) do this by subject line, be sure to obey their instructions to the letter. If they ask you to put the word "Zoomba" in the subject, no matter how peculiar you find it, it's probably because their email program is turning anything with the word "Zoomba" in the subject bright red. (Why might someone do this? Why, to be sure you've done your research and looked at their query instructions!)

So that's my advice for those who worry--as I did for ages--that the mail isn't going through.

Anonymous said...

I've learned a great deal both about writing and agents during my quest to sell my first novel. Probably won't sell it, but the lessons learned will be applied to future projects.

I am completing a very commercial project and starting to think about agents. One thing I know for sure is: a. I won't be querying agents whose policy it is not to respond if they are not interested b. I won't be querying agents who take an inordinate amount of time to respond to requested material. These agents are part-time, unprofessional dabblers with whom I hope I never have to work.

BookEnds is at the top of my agent list because of their professionalism. They, at least, recognize this as a business.

Anne-Marie said...

HI Jessica,
Thanks for the explanation- I sent an email query in late August, but included the title of my novel after the word query . I was patiently waiting for the 10-12 week time, but will resubmit properly now that I'm fairly sure the email went to the spam filter.


Unknown said...

I think when you submit, and after a lengthy period of time--resubmit. And never hear back. Hey, they don't want to speak to you, or hell--reject you, lol. Which means it's just time to move on. Why get upset about it?

There are a number of agencies that are very blunt and upfront about their policy of "no contact if we're not interested". And why on earth would you want to work "with" people who can't even bother to shoot off a pre-formatted thanks but no thanks?

Anonymous said...

A little off topic (a lot?), but when you make the call, I'm sure you're trying to determine compatability with the client you are calling.

So the question is: when does confidence come off more like obnoxious egotism. I ask this because in reading some writer's blogs recently, I have been surprised, and not a little disappointed, to see what looks like enormous egos poking through when the writer goes into promotion mode.

I guess what I'm trying to ask is how much is too much - too little?

Anonymous said...

I've queried twice, and been rejected twice, in a very professional and timely manner. I continue to read your blog and comment because I am impressed by professionalism of both you and BookEnds. Thank you for this post.

Anonymous said...

I should add that, if agents at BookEnds are really busy, they may take a bit longer than 10-12 weeks with a partial/full. When I submitted my manuscript and hadn't heard in 3 months, I sent a letter asking how much longer it might take. Kim sent me an apology and within a week called to offer me representation. So make sure, if you haven't heard within the designated timeframe, that you contact them to remind them and make sure they have your material.

Anonymous said...

You cannot tell about an agent by reputation alone. I submitted a full manuscript, by request, to a very well-known, very "good" agent. Sent it priority mail, delivery confirmation. Because I was such a rube at the time, I also included a return envelope with postage on it(rather than telling them to trash it and including a response business envelope). I know it arrived. That was nearly six years ago.

When six months went by and I heard nothing (after two e-mail inquiries), I queried other agents. Signed with an agent, agent sold the book, and sold two more since then.

I still haven't heard back from big agent on requested manuscript. She's still out there, doing her schtick. I figure my manuscript is holding up a leg of her desk.

Don't buy an agent on reputation alone. Don't buy an agent on what writers' groups think of them. People are impressed for all the wrong reasons, because an agent is nice or easy to talk to. You still don't know how they run their business.

Taking reasonable time is not indicative of part-time status. However, excessive time is a problem. There are supposedly terrific agents out there who are disorganized, or who "cherry-pick" what they absolutely know is saleable. They are not looking for talent or potential. They are looking for a fast sale and a quick buck.

I met another writer at a conference who enjoyed the same experience with this agent, and others who have done so with other agents. It's not an isolated case.

Agents do take time, just not more than several months. Working agents want to get that manuscript back to you and out of their office as quickly as possible.

In the end, I had two offers, either of which I would have been happy to work with. Spoke with both, and basically flipped a coin.

It's wonderful to hear that BookEnds has a policy of response. I wish that policy were universal.

Anonymous said...

It is strange that this happens...I have a friend who's queried Bookends three times now -- twice by e-mail (two different acounts, just in case), and once through snail...and she's never heard back. She doesn't think it's personal, by any means, but it seems like the universe is saying this isn't the agency for her ;)

Anonymous said...

There are supposedly terrific agents out there who are disorganized, or who "cherry-pick" what they absolutely know is saleable. They are not looking for talent or potential. They are looking for a fast sale and a quick buck.

It does take talent to write a book that is absolutely saleable. I think you're being a bit harsh, criticizing agents for choosing writers who will make them money. How long could the agent stay in business if she didn't?

I do agree that some supposedly great agents don't have as much competence or foresight as one might expect, but in every profession, there are people who do their job well and those who do it adequately.

Agents are human.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 8:11 AM said...
I won't be querying agents whose policy it is not to respond if they are not interested.... These agents are part-time, unprofessional dabblers with whom I hope I never have to work.

I've done extensive research on each agent I've queried (not that it's helped). I've researched if they are reputable, their sales record in my genre, who their clients are, what those clients say about how the agent does business, what aspects of their job the agent puts emphasis on, etc. More often than not, the agents that don't respond to e-mails if they're not interested in are the ones who have a large client base and really know their stuff. They get tons of queries despite their "rudeness" and don't really need any more clients, so they have to be picky. (i.e. they probably don't care that their no-response policy puts some people off.)

You also need to keep in mind that even copy-pasting a form rejection letter into 100 e-mails is going to take time. Granted, this is probably why many of them have assistants. Still, it seems to me that you're restricting your field to the less experienced agents (who will have more time) rather than sucessfully ignoring the agents that aren't serious about agenting. It is your choice, though.

Anonymous said...

I think the comment about cherry picking was meant to imply selling as is, instead of with any effort. Writers say we want those agents who stick with a writer until a sale, no matter how long it takes. Agents who only take on this type of client aren't into writing or developing talent, but sales.

In my opinion, it takes a lot more skill to see a diamond in the rough than to choose a manuscript that is ready to be published.

Anonymous said...

"Still, it seems to me that you're restricting your field to the less experienced agents (who will have more time) rather than sucessfully ignoring the agents that aren't serious about agenting."

You're leaving out the agencies who choose to limit their client roster to fewer clients. There are a slew of agents who are all professional, experienced and well-known who choose to fly under the radar.

These agencies mostly get their clients through other clients, but most of them will take queries.

Kimber Li said...

Thank you for responding to queries, regardless on of interest. I didn't query Bookends on my last project because you don't represent the genre. Hey, you explain what you want and don't want really well too! Way to go!

I recently eQueried an agent who sends an automatic reply stating that they received the query and will respond within six weeks if they're interested. That worked for me too. It let me know the eQuery was received and at the same time the agent doesn't have to take extra time to reject. And it's all done very politely too.

Chiron said...

I actually remember that blog post and the comment that followed. Probably because that same day I'd experienced a strange phenomenon of my own. A rare sighting of the elusive NICE customer service rep.


Of course, she lived in Minnesota. Since my husband was living there when we met (and consequently, I spent some time there myself) I chuckled fondly and applauded "Minnesota Nice."

Now for me, my e-query went to BookEnds back in early June. I did remember to put "Query" in the subject line (I just rechecked Sent Mail). That query did not receive any response.

After checking the website, I assumed it was caught in the spam filter. Silly, but I hesitated to send a "did you get it?" email. Instead, the query got resent by post in July.

There are some agents who state on their website if they're not interested, they won't respond. Yet you can't help but wonder if your query got caught in the spam filter. Yikes!

It can become second nature to assume that if an agent doesn't respond they're simply "not that into you." *smile* Takes even more courage to send a follow-up email. Which many agents no doubt find annoying.

It's a bit of a mine field.

Anonymous said...

I wish more agents would send some sort of Auto Reply to confirm receipt. There are so many things that can go wrong in cyberspace. (My agent once sent me an email that never made it to my inbox due to computer problems on her end.)

Anonymous said...

For Anon 8:11 --

Reality check. LOTS of agents take an inordinate amount of time to respond to your query. Because they are busy.

Also, by not querying the agents that "that choose not to respond if they aren't interested," you're letting yourself in for a very narrow querying list. These are usually the agents that have lots of clients, and lots and lots of great sales. You'd be lucky to be their client. Many of them are not "Part-time unprofessional dabblers" as you say, but fantastic agents. I know. I'm the client of one.

Truth is, even though you are the writer and it's your work that drives the business, you will learn very quickly that you bend to accomadate agents and editors scheduals, they do not bend to accomadate yours. That's just the way it is. And if someone is selling your work, it's nothing to complain about.

Sally MacKenzie said...

Hmm, Anon 2:47, I'm not sure I totally agree. Yes, I think it's inadvisable to draw lines in the sand about whom to query or not query--especially over something pretty tangential to one's actual business relationship, like whether an agent replies to queries. However, I wouldn't say I've learned to bend to my editor's or agent's schedules. It's a partnership. I keep them appraised of my schedule and they keep me in the loop as to theirs.

I can't really think of a time when I've had to bend to Jessica's schedule; I don't expect her to reply immediately to something--though she often does--but if more than a few days go by (assuming she hasn't already told me she'll be out of the office), I'd send a followup email--though I don't think that's ever happened in the year or so I've been with her.

My editor--well, yes, there are publishing deadlines that must be met. But that doesn't mean there isn't wiggle room--and certainly emergencies do come up.

I find the best policy to keep in mind is that we are business partners.

astrologymemphis.blogspot.com said...

Laura K: For partial senders: I have the world's worst post office (and I say that with some authority, having lived in loads of places over the years).

Laura, you must live in Avon or Beaver Creek, Colorado, right? Where the post master was indicted for extorting a local shop for expensive merchandise or he wouldn't deliver their mail? Where a person must stand in line for half an hour to buy stamps no matter what time of day or what day of the week? Where a friend of mine's father sent him an overnight package that should have been delivered on Christmas Eve and he finally received it the following May? That World's Worst Post Office?

Aimlesswriter said...

Wow, call that how to turn off an agent in 100 words or less. I've queried BookEnds a couple of times in the past few years and always recieved a polite and timely response. (Thank you!)I've also queried others who never responded. Its nice to hear what agents think of my stuff but I think its toxic to dwell on it. Take the comments to heart, work harder and move on. Better to put energy into writing then pissing off an agent you might want to work with in the future.
Now if that writer queried you again would you give her work an extra look or put her in the "drama queen" catagory and pass?

Laura K. Curtis said...

Southern Writer:

LOL! No, I don't live there, but with the exception of the criminal postmaster, all the other things apply. Our mail carrier doesn't bother delivering mail if you do something to irritate her. She doesn't like the wife half of my neighbors, so she delivers the guy's mail every day and his wife's mail...oh...every three or four days.

I drive two towns down to use the post office there when I have to ship something overseas or do certified mail. Anything else, stamps, etc, I do online. (And when I go to the post office two towns over, pretty much everyone there is from OUR town!)