Thursday, January 08, 2015

Your Brand, A Professional Courtesy

After reading my post on Knowing Your Brand one reader made this comment:

I truly appreciate this post. I'm wondering if you could elaborate a bit on the flip side. What does it say about an agent or editor who (after meeting in person) fails to communicate in any manner to a writer? After pitching at several conferences sometimes I'm left...baffled. In my mind, a professional courtesy is to simply respond in some way, even if months later. Short and sweet does the trick. I've started to consider (or maybe it's a light bulb.)that the vast business of publishing has a dark side. As a writer, I enjoy wordsmithing so, most of the time, practicing my craft keeps me smiling. (I'm generally, a glass half-full kind of person.) I move on pretty quick after rejections, but I do wonder, why many times "no response" is considered okay? I'm just sort of curious. I look at pitching as a job interview and take the time to look and act professionally, so the "no response" is confusing.Any of your thoughts would be terrific.Thanks so much,Tricia Q. 

Tricia: I have to agree with you. Why is "no response" considered okay in publishing, in job interviews or anywhere for that matter? We use the excuse as a society that we're just so busy that we don't have time to respond, but that feels like just an excuse to me. Not an acceptable one either.

I'm not sure it's so easy to define someone's behavior and say that by doing x they are y. Life and people aren't that simple. I think the answer is what does it say to you. An agent might be incredibly busy with clients and not actively seeking new clients so "no response means no" doesn't have a big impact on her business. In other words, she is focused on clients and doesn't care about the rest. That might mean that should she take you on she'll be equally focused on you. It's exactly what you want. However, it could also mean she just doesn't like to respond to people.

I think it's easy to say that publishing has a dark side, but anything that is run by people has a dark side. People have a dark side. Not everyone is friendly and wonderful. That goes for agents, editors, authors, bankers, car salesman, Starbucks baristas and even ice cream scoopers. However, more often than not people in those same businesses are wonderful and kind and generous with their time. They go out of their way to help others whenever they can.

So if an agent acts in a way that seems unprofessional and that leaves a bad taste in your mouth then she's probably not the agent for you. If you're able to shrug it off and still hope for the best, feeling that she's the person to do the job for you, then that's great too.



Saundra Brookes said...

I entirely agree. Agents are not the only ones who are busy, and not bothering to respond is simply rude. It comes across to me as arrogance.

Stephen Kozeniewski said...

I don't really care for the "no response is a no response" (believe me, I reallllly don't care for it) but honestly, I'm not sure the job interview comparison is apt. It's more like sending in a resume, right? Because a job interview is the HR manager REQUESTING your presence. The thing about querying is you're basically cold-calling an agent. So it's nice that they take the time to let you down, even with a form letter, but let's be honest, the last time someone cold-called you did you hear them out and respond politely? Or did you hang up as soon as you realized it was a telemarkerter? Sure, once in a while the magazine you were hoping to subscribe to calls, but for the most part cold calls are an unwelcome intrusion. So, like I said, I don't really LIKE the no response policy, but I can certainly UNDERSTAND it.

BookEnds, LLC said...

I think that's an apt comparison Stephen. The difference though, and one that is often forgotten in this business, is that agents work for the authors so everything we do as business people reflects on our business as a whole. As much as I hate when people call to query verbally I never hang up on them. A telemarketer yes, an author, no.

Just thinking out both sides.

Either way, I can understand the no means no policy too, but I think it's just, well, rude.