Wednesday, May 20, 2009

No Reply Necessary

I know in the past I’ve written blog articles letting authors know that if they really feel the need or desire to send a thank-you note to an agent, go right ahead. It won’t hurt anything. Well I also know that there are a few agents out there who find these nice little notes irritating. They are a waste of time and a waste of inbox space. And I understand that too.

A reader recently received a rejection (via email) from an agent who had added at the end of her letter, “And you don’t need to bother replying to this email.” While the reader understands that there are a lot of writers who send scathing email replies to rejections, she was still a little put out by this line and wanted to know my opinion on why an agent would do this.

I’ll tell you exactly why an agent would do this. Because email invites conversation, conversation that many don’t know how to end and conversation that most agents don’t have time for. Sure, some of it is a simple thank you, but a lot of it includes requests for recommendations for other agents, requests for a more detailed explanation of why exactly the work was rejected, scathing, horrible, insane replies, snotty, in-your-face, “I already have an agent anyway” replies, requests for query critiques, and the list goes on.

Think of it this way: most agents are getting somewhere between 50 and 100 email queries everyday, and if every single one of those queriers decides to reply with something, anything, even a thank you, the agent is now getting somewhere between 100 and 200 queries a day. Queries that still need to be opened and read, or at least skimmed. Time that could be used for other things.

I wouldn’t be offended by this line in the agent’s letter. It’s not meant as a personal statement to you, she had no idea that you frequently send thank yous for rejection notes. Instead it was just a strongly worded request that the conversation stop here, an agent’s attempt to keep her incoming email to a minimum and protect her own time.

Jessica

32 comments:

Danette V. said...

After I had snagged a two book deal on my own, I sent a handwritten thank you note to an agent who'd given me great advice and the confidence to keep pushing on. In other words, she let me know I was on to something (that I wasn't crazy) and that kept me going. Know what happened a few months later when I had something new to shop? She became my agent!

Fawn Neun said...

I don't send that much out, myself, but I don't bother to reply unless I have been given a reason, i.e. some good advice or insightful comments were given to me, for which I am actually thankful.

I often get thank you replies to rejections at the 'zine and it always throws me, and yes it really is kind of irritating to get "please explain why you rejected this" emails. Particularly when I thought I'd already explained why.

My sympathy on the scathing, insane ones - I don't get many - but they are not fun.

Joan Mora said...

I send thank you notes to agents who've read my full manuscript or requested partial, email or snail depending on the original submission. The last thing I'd want is to be perceived as a nuisance, but it just seems wrong not to send--they've spent their time and, in some cases, offered detailed notes why they rejected it. There's so much agent bashing, don't you guys need nice once in a while?

LorelieLong said...

I'd send a very short (one or two line) thanks in reply to an agent who's gone over and above - resending a reply twice, after the first one bounces, or offers advice or so forth.

A policy that totally doesn't preclude me from immediately turning around and sobbing on my writing partners' shoulders. ;)

Kate Douglas said...

I was gone for about six hours yesterday and got home to over 400 email messages. Not that unusual for an average day, but what a pain after a long day running errands! If even a third of those contained queries from people wanting feedback, I think I'd run screaming into the woods...as it is, most of them are just chatter that I can go through and dismiss, but email is as much a curse as a blessing. Unfortunately, it's sometimes hard to NOT reply--it does feel rude, but I like Danette's solution of a handwritten note. Much classier than email anyway!

Dawn Maria said...

I'm in the process of trying to land an agent now. I always used to believe that all these scathing email stories were exaggerated, but the more agent blogs I read the more I realize the stories are true. Honestly, I can't believe someone who is trying to get into the business would be rude. It doesn't make good business sense.

So far, my rejection replies have been brief and polite. I think the hand written note to an agent for going above and beyond is a great idea and I hope I get to do that soon!

Anonymous said...

Makes sense to me. The less 'clutter' an agent has to wade through the better for all involved. While a 'thank you' is admirable, in this venue it becomes unnecessarily so much additional 'noise'.

jimnduncan said...

Perfectly understandable addition to the query reply. I'd send a thank you to an agent who commented on a partial or read the full, but the "this isn't for me" doesn't need a reply. Respect the inbox.

Anonymous said...

I haven't sent a 'Thank You' to anyone yet, but my partials are still out. I may send out a quick 'Thanks' once I receive a reply. Not to be a nuisance but to be polite.

Word verification: Hellyce- An annoying childhood scourge that cannot be conquered with even two large bottles of Nix.

Beth Light

Drew said...

Given the fact that a lot of writers don't reply to rejections with thank yous (I never did; it's pointless), I think anyone who ends any e-mail with the line "And you don't need to bother replying to this e-mail," might just need a good, long vacation.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe too many writers do reply with thank yous. I don't know. But for those of us who never did (or never will), how presumptuous and shabby is that sentence?

Gina Black said...

I'm with Drew. It could have been phrased more politely.

Jason Crawford said...

I agree, it could have been worded a little better. I understand about the time thing and I personally believe that a writer should NOT respond with a "thank you" AFTER an agent passes.

Thank her when you send the partial or even the initial query. If the agent passes, then she just wants to move on. You can thank her by letting her do just that.

But, I'm a firm believer in the idea that you can get your point across while being sensitive to another person's feelings. Yes, it is just business, but even in business there's no reason to be unnecessarily rude. Being polite (even when people don't deserve it) is the best business practice in the long run.

Jason Crawford said...

Now that I read it again, I think it's the word bother that bothers me.

I don't think I would have a problem with a simple:

Please do not reply to this email.

Laurel said...

Jason,

I think you're right. "Please do not reply to this email" seems less abrasive to me, as well.

I wouldn't even be annoyed with something canned below the signature line, like:

"Due to the large volume of email correspondence we receive...blah blah blah"

But "Don't bother" sounds pretty condescending.

Frankie Anon said...

I would never reply to a rejection email, and completely empathize with editors and agents whose in-boxes are full of uninvited responses and pleas for help. That said, I find this line bothersome. Word people should be sensitive to tone. The tone is this sentence is unnecessarily harsh. There must be a kinder way to get the message across.

Anonymous said...

It's just silly to say thank you for a form rejection. Unless the agent provides some sort of advice, leave him/her alone. They don't want to hear from you.

Joel Q said...

I have replied to a rejection, by just typing "thank you" in the subject line (leaving the "RE Query yadda yadda in place.) and did not put anything in the email. Short and simple.

Kristin Laughtin said...

Agreeing with all those who got here before me to say that it could have been worded better. The word bother can imply a less-than-friendly tone.

Something like "(Due to the large volume of mail received,) please do not reply to this email" or "No reply is necessary" (although this last one might still make some think a reply is OK) would probably be better received.

Anonymous said...

No time for anything except $$$$ makin'.

I don't even say "thanks" if they request pages or fulls...what for? I'll thank you when you make the sale, not before then. No time for that.

I've got widgets to knock off the line, baby. I'm either makin' 'em or selliin' 'em--anything else is a pure waste.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why all agents just don't use a standard auto-reply mail (from @noreply) that reads something to the effect of:

"Your e-mnail query has been received by the You-Write-'Em-We-Sell-'Em-Literary-Agency. We will respond if interested in your work within 4-6 weeks. If you have not heard from us after that time, it means that we are not interested in the project you queried about.

No replies are possible from this address, and inquiries made through other avenues will be ignored per company policy.

Thank you for your submission and best of luck with your work,

Chief Agent"

Doesn't that clear it up for everyone? On the Agency's website, under Subss, it would say, "If you don't receive the auto-reply, resend after a couple days, until you receive the reply."

So the writer knows their Q is being received, and the agency doesn't have to deal with e-mail exchanges.

Perhaps there's money to be made [implementing such as system that all agencies can purchase and then customize?

Sheila Deeth said...

Makes sense, though it sounds harsh. Thanks for the "context" and "translation."

Bane of Anubis said...

I agree with Jason about the wording...

I'll normally send a thank you for requests and for quick query rejection (i.e., thanks for the quick reply - it's much appreciated) unless otherwise stated in the email or the agent's website/blog.

Anonymous said...

Sending a thank you on a reject only reinforces the agent's notion that they've made the right decision, for what kind of poor soul thinks so little of their own precious time to use it thanking others who no longer want anything to do with them?

Personally, I and the other writers in my crit group don't even thank agents who DO respond favorably. Why would you thank someone whom you're basically giving $$$ to, should things work out? The thanks they get is the $$$ they make by selling the book. Same for me--I don't expect to be thanked--my thanks is the agent doing a good job of selling the book.

There's no need to be impolite, but there's no time to be expressly polite, either.

ciarcullen said...

Huh. It actually strikes me as a hair rude. Perhaps the wording, as others have said. I received an R from a full from Sara yesterday, and it would not have occurred to me to let it end there. I instantly wrote back "Thank you for your time and feedback" or some such. Of course I won't bother her again, but if at the bottom of her R she would have said "don't bother to reply" it would have been extremely offputting. As it worked out, she was kind, I was polite, and am left with a nice impression of this agency.

AstonWest said...

As writers, we're taught that words are important, and the way we string them together even more so.

I have to agree...the wording of that phrase was very rude.

Even "Please do not reply to this e-mail" seems a bit rude to me. I think something similar to the title of this post, or perhaps "No response is necessary" would have been sufficient.

Leona said...

I find this a curious post and conversation. Recently, it's been agent bashing, especially for the Agent Fail thing. With all the negativity, it would seem you would be happy that people were grateful for your professionalism rather than sending nasty emails.

On the other hand, I can see where so many emails are hard to juggle. My question would be, if you opened up 100 queries and 20 responded thank you to the rejection and 20 sent nasty, snarky emails, would the positive be enough to counter the negative?

( The rest didn't respond or sent partials, lol for, those type A that need it to add up to 100)

Is the clutter maybe worth more to negate the derogatory out there then previously supposed?

writermomof5 said...

Jessica,

Thank you for this. I've always wondered if it was impolite to attempt to be polite. If every author that queries, thanks the agent, the numbers in her inbox have doubled.

Anonymous said...

There is more to being polite than saying 'please' and 'thank you'. It's about being considerate. However good your intentions, adding to a busy agent's workload is not considerate. A short rejection note is a dismissal and the proper reaction is to leave without further ado.

On the other hand, for the agent to say "don't bother to reply to this email" is rather too dismissive for civility; the agent in question should definitely take Jason's advice!

I thank the agent for her time in advance, in my query letter. I would not contact somebody again after a rejection unless they had offered some specific advice - at this point the agent has entered into conversation, and it would be discourteous not to acknowledge the fact.

Anonymous said...

I'm the one who originally asked this question, and it's been interesting to read the replies.

For the record, I thought it was not only polite, but refreshing to send a 1-2 line 'sorry to hear this but I greatly appreciate your prompt reply.'

Why? Because I do. If an agent takes 10 mos to respond to a simple query, then no. No thank you letter. But in 3 days? The agent is busy and the quicker she responds to me--even with a R--the quicker I can focus efforts elsewhere.

What's sad is that this agent was quite nice in her R. I really didn't see why saying thanks w/no further contact was a big deal.
I do understand the high inbox nmbrs though. When all is said and done, I wondered if the agent would use such abrasive wording to an editor if she were rep'g me. I decided this was for the best, b/c if she sent editors replies like that, it's not an ideal fit for me. And this experience helped clarify it, which was a positive thing.

Thx for replies and to Jessica. Interesting thread.

Laura Martone said...

I thanked the first agent who rejected my query. It was just a short, polite "thank you for your time and consideration" - but even though it's in my nature to thank any and all people that I do business with via email, I wondered at the time if it was appropriate to do so in the literary world. So, this was a very helpful post - I thought I was being kind, but I realize now that it might just have been annoying for the agent.

Anonymous said...

I think the above anon who suggested the industty-wide noreply auto-confirmation system is on the right track.

Nicole said...

Glad I found this. I'd seen some places that said to send a thank you, so I have to a few agents. All the while though, I was thinking, "Isn't this just going to annoy some of them since they get so much email as it is?"

I think from now on I think I'll just skip the thank yous unless asked for a partial.