Friday, June 12, 2015

Why Agents Don't Go That Extra Mile

You've heard a million times that agents won't give feedback on submissions, even if they requested the full, or reject queries (no reply means no). You've also heard that you should never, ever, ever respond to a rejection. Once its rejected you move on.

Recently I was reminded why agents have all of these rules.

I am the agent who will sometimes reply if an author asks me a question after I reject her material. Don't ask me how far I read though because the truth is that really doesn't matter. That doesn't necessarily mean that's the point where your book fell apart. It just means that's how far I read.

Recently I had a small exchange with an author. She had some questions, because I had expressed some concerns that she had self-published and it would be difficult to find a publisher who wanted to take something that was already published. In the end the author felt that because I hadn't given her the answer she wanted, or because she hadn't changed my mind, I was, "lame."

Fair enough, but she asked me.



Artemis Grey said...

I think it's wonderful that you will, one occasion, answer questions about a rejected manuscript. Clearly that author has neither the understanding, nor the mindset required to make it in the publishing world. You are not lame, and you deserve a cupcake (or cookie, or eclair, or whatever your favorite goody is) just for
1) Taking the time out of your life to deal with that twit in a humane manner, and 2) Dealing with it all over again to post this so that any of us who might be inclined to act like we're three year olds getting told no to a sucker when we've been rejected might have a chance to grow up before it's too late.

Elissa M said...

I fully agree with Artemis Grey.

I'll never understand people who react negatively to generosity. Well, I do understand that the author was probably greatly disappointed, and great disappointment can often skew our perspective. But as we mature into adults, we learn impulse control (or at least we should). That means not popping off or behaving like a sulky teen when life doesn't meet our expectations.

Good for you, Jessica, for assuming writers will react maturely to helpful criticism.

John Frain said...

Not sure if it's any consolation, but this phenomena is common to most walks of life.

Example: I officiate basketball, and often after making a call a coach will ask me to explain it. I usually will, even though I'm well aware that's usually their way of setting up an argument where they can try to show me how I was wrong. And then call me lame -- or some variation of lame -- to put an exclamation point on their argument.

People can be odd. Have a good weekend anyway.

Caitlin Lane said...

Because I've heard time and time again that most agents don't offer feedback (understandably so, I can't imagine giving feedback on every last submission), but when - if ever - is it appropriate to send a follow up email to say "thank you."

After receiving my first rejection, I sent a short email thanking her for taking the time to consider my submission. A friend advised me not to do this in the future because I'd already addressed this in my query letter, and a follow up email was just one more thing for agents to sift through. I have not sent any of those emails since, but I still feel uncertain of what to do when receiving a rejection. To say thank you, or not?

BookEnds, A Literary Agency said...

I know most agents will tell you not to send a thank you note because it clogs up the inbox. I will never, ever tell anyone not to send a thank you note. A thank you, not or otherwise, just prove we are civilized people.

Artemis Grey said...

Because I know how valuable agents' time is, and because I often plan to submit a future (different) project to my 'favorite' agents, I don't usually send a 'thank you' email after a rejection because I'd rather err on the side of super professional and unattached, than annoying and too familiar. BUT, if I get feedback, or there's an interaction of some kind, like I haven't heard from them, so I nudge them, and they look at my submission but then reject it, then, I *almost* always send a brief thank you email, because I AM super thankful, and I want them to know that.

Frustrating as it is to get the rejections, I can't imagine how frustrating it is to send several (or more) of them a day out to people who, for the most part, you *know* are hanging their dreams on being good enough for you to accept.

Hollie said...

That's the kind of answer even my kids know better than to give.
What happened to being greatful for any and all advice offered?
Some of us really do want to do this seriously and take the time to do it properly, and have lots of questions, before that can be done.
As always the few can spoil things for the many.

E.L. Wagner said...

It's a frustrating truth that many people will take an attempt to explain a decision as an opening for negotiation over that decision. As a teacher, I've learned that the more carefully I try to explain the reason for a class policy, for instance, the more likely students are to challenge them, and comparisons with the different policies of other professors they've had will inevitably ensue. Of course, teachers have to provide some feedback with grading (that's what we're paid for in part), but some students do take that feedback as an opening to negotiate or haggle for points.

So I'm guessing that explanations of why a manuscript wasn't the right fit can have the same effect on some writers. And with such a high volume of queries (and even requested material), this would get frustrating and become a huge time sink (plus, no one likes to be called abusive names).

DLM said...

There are days I read my regular blogs, and I honestly wish I could say something elegant and to the point, but it's been a long week and my patience for juvenile histrionics is at a low ebb. All I can do is wonder WHAT rock exactly people congregate beneath in order to insulate themselves from the most elementary understanding of professional aspiring-authorial behavior.

Because - even if it's unpaid - the idea is to eventually get paid, and you can't wait for an advance to act like a grown up *professional* if you want to get there.

Great Zot.

AJ Blythe said...

So this author has obviously no intention of querying future books with you. What a way to shoot yourself in the foot.

Any feedback I receive is brilliant (and gratefully accepted) as far as I'm concerned.

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Roslyn Reid said...

Maybe a thank-you tweet would be a better idea?

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Anonymous said...

Looking at your guidelines I understand that Bookends ask for a query first.

My question is, when sending her query to you, did the author tell you that she had already self-published her book?
If she hadn’t, and you found this out after you had invited them to submit, then I can understand why you would express concern. However, if they had informed you from the onset, and you had still invited them to send a submission then as I see it, it would be very unfair of you to raise concerns at this point.

For a writer trying to get published, the odds are not in our favor. Whilst agents are not obligated to give feedback, it’s great when they do. Constructive criticism is something that all of us can use to learn, develop and grow, and it could mean the next submission we send out may result in an offer.

On to the ‘how far did you read’ question.
I have started many a novel over the years, and usually I know if I will stick with the book to see where it may take me. However, there have several titles that I have stuck with that I really wasn’t sure about, and sometimes I have that ah-ha moment as I understand why the author began their story in a certain way.

Did the author actually say that she felt you hadn’t given her the answer she wanted, or called you ‘lame’ because she hadn’t changed your mind? If she did, I understand why this would have been frustrating. If she hadn’t, it wouldn’t be fair to assume that she did feel that way, none of us are mind-readers. In my experience ‘assuming’ how a person feels is a guess, it’s not fact.

I know the feeling of disappointment when you have worked so hard on a project, only for it to be turned down, however, hurt feelings are never an excuse to act unprofessional and rude to call people names, the writing world is a small one, and I for one wouldn’t want to be the author that is known for calling an agent ‘lame’.

BookEnds, A Literary Agency said...


Thanks for your feedback. At this point I honestly can't remember if she told me in the query. I'm going to assume she did. However, upon reading I still felt that it was fair to give advice to the author that starting on a new project might be more productive since a number of agents, and publishers, will find it difficult to find a home for something that was already published. Usually this exchange often comes after I've gotten more details on the sales of said self-published work.

The author didn't explain why she called me lame, but did seem dissatisfied with any of the answers I was giving. This wasn't an exchange of one email. It was a few. In the end I don't care what I've been called, I've been called much worse, but I do find it disheartening in any situation when someone is trying to give answers and advice and the other person just decides to shut them down. This could be in my business, when someone can't get the food they want at a restaurant, or the answers wanted from a customer service rep.