I’m sure this recent submission question, sent to the blog questions account, came primarily out of frustration, but it presents a question that I would like to clear up.
On Saturday at 4:10 pm I submitted an e-mail query to you and on Sunday morning, 10:09 am, I received the following rejection response, obviously program-generated: [copy of rejection letter deleted for space considerations]
This response is identical to a response I received from you about a year ago for a different book.
After spending weeks crafting just the right query letter for my new novel, I find it incredibly discouraging to get an automated brush off like this. If you are so busy you can’t entertain new work or new authors, why not be honest with your followers and just say so. I chose your agency, and you in particular, because your website and blog offer encouragement to unpublished writers – from your website: ‘So often we hear about authors caught in the middle of publishers who don’t want to see their work if they are unagented and agents who don’t want to see their work if they haven’t been published. What’s a writer to do? Luckily you’ve found BookEnds, a literary agency accepting queries from both published and unpublished authors.’
I realize my work may not be good enough to be published, but the only way to determine that is to get someone who knows what they are doing to actually look at it.
While I definitely use form rejections for many things, the only time I use automated responses is when I’m out of the office, at which time you’ll get an out of office message. If I am closed to queries I will clearly alert readers and writers through my Twitter account, the blog, and the Web site.
Any queries that are sent to my email account are read by me and responded to by me. In fact, at least a few times a week I do take that extra step to give some feedback that may or may not be helpful to the author. As for the times you mention, I assume you gave them as a representation of how quickly I responded. In the same way authors often spend their weekends querying, agents often spend their weekends responding to queries. Sunday is the quietest morning of the week for me and I can get a lot done before the world even wakes.
I can only imagine how discouraging the query process is for authors and I do wish there was an easier way, but the fact that I’m using the same letter after a year does not mean I’m not looking for new authors. In fact, so far in 2009 I have taken on roughly six new clients in both fiction and nonfiction, many of whom have sold already. I’m always looking for something new and exciting for my list, but keep in mind those six new clients came out of roughly 1,500 queries.
I hope you’ll stick with your writing and keep sending out to agents. You’re right that there is no way to know if your work is publishable until you can get someone to read it, and for that to happen you just need to keep plugging away.