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Why Agents Get Cranky

I received a query.

I rejected it and suggested the author do some research on how to write a strong query.

She responded by thanking me for my advice, but assuring me it’s a great book and wanting to set up a meeting so she could pitch it to me in person.

Me, “I do not accept verbal pitches.”

She responds by sending the proposal anyway and telling me she looks forward to hearing my thoughts.

I delete.


Category: Blog



  1. You deleted her email — that means you have a contract now, right? And the editors won't return her phone calls either, so that means she has a three-book deal, right?

    Seriously, I know in business-speak you're supposed to leverage any opening in order to make the customer listen and want your product, but how much more clearly could you say no? And why would she think you'd want to work with an author who doesn't respect your "no"?

  2. That reminds me of the solicitor who came to my door this weekend. I politely told him I wasn't interested. He refused to leave, and screamed his sales pitch through my closed front door. Still wasn't interested…

  3. Cranky? I TOTALLY get that. The sad thing is that you did something nice and were instantly punished for trying to help…the frustration!

    On a happy note – reading things like this always make ME feel more normal. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing a little insight into your day!

  4. This is what is frustrating; many of us understand that a personal response from an agent is already an act of generosity, and appreciate any feedback. Without argument. Yet others haven't bothered to do their homework, apparently feel entitled, frustrate agents, and then they understandably back off from offering advice for fear of this kind of reaction. The correct response, of course, is to take your advice under consideration, and a "thank you!" if any reply at all. And hopefully to query you again with the next project, a stellar one that will land the writer representation.

  5. This reminds me of that cereal commercial where the guy's crunching so loud at the office he can't hear that he's being fired.

    Too bad you can't get some kind of electronic letterhead that says "No means no!" in five inch letters.

  6. "NO", she said to the boyfriend who wanted one more kiss.
    Kiss !

    "NO," she said to the boyfriend-now-husband who wants to do 'it' more than once a week.
    It's 'love' on even days, odd off.

    "NO," she says to her son who wants another cookie.
    She brushes crumbs off his chin.

    "NO", she says to her daughter who wants to date a scalp shaved, tattooed, tongue piered boy named Snake.
    "Mom I'm pregnant."

    "NO," the agent says regarding her query.
    New Yorks Times top ten?
    Oprah loved it?
    Ah…NO !

    Sometimes people listen with their dreams not their ears.

  7. That is sad!! But thanks for the heads up that there are actually people out there that just don't get it.

    They don't understand the concept of burning bridges…tsk…tsk.

    I am almost ashamed that I got a chuckle out of that post. I said almost.

  8. My husband works in sales and has most of his life. I had a hard time getting him to grasp that pitching to editors and agents is not the same as what he does…but he can't get his mind around it. He's of the "don't take no for an answer" school, which makes me wonder if some of these authors who take drastic measures to get noticed are of that same school. Of course, I've learned, working in computer tech support, that no matter where you are, there will be people who feel like they are above following the rules. They think they get to go to the front of the line because they are "special." I don't think they ever figure it out but us computer workers have no choice but to force ourselves to deal with them.

  9. This is what I mean when I say I'm okay with the million-to-one odds I face in the long, hard march to publication. Those odds do not differentiate between the savvy and the idiots. Understanding how things are done, understanding what it takes to get a positive response from an agent, goes a long way in bringing the tremendous odds down to a more manageable level.

    We must get out of our screwy little creative heads long enough to understand what does on in our targets' minds. What do they want to hear? What do they need to hear. What turns them off. If you can figure that out, then you're starting to get somewhere.

  10. Thanks for sharing this and I agree…it's totally annoying. Do you want to hear about the shoe being on the other foot? I am filling a job right now for a Global PR Director and received a resume from a literary agent who was not qualified. After sending her a nice note saying she wasn't qualified, she responded saying in fact she was qualified. And so it goes. Thanks for the post and know you're not alone.

  11. Yes, sad. What troubles me, though, is a rejection because the query was not strongly written.

    I hope the project behind the query seemed as weak as the query, as well?

  12. I still don't understand how some writers can do things like this.

    Yes, we should be persistant, but c'mon this is begging, being pushy.

    If they had an interview and the boss said they didn't need them at this time, would they do the same thing?

    Not professional.

  13. Well, I'm not an author. I'm not an agent. Aside from reading books, I'm not involved in the industsry in any manner. But this post just cracked me up….just goes to show that no matter what industry it is, there will always be stupid people who just won't listen. 🙂

  14. Steph,9:49
    You nailed it.
    Some people think the rules do not apply to them.
    Just check out the no parking zone in front of the drug store, the post office or supermarket.

    How about the kid who wants an extra day to finish his report because mommy and daddy say he deserves it. He's entitled because he's 'special'.
    I'll bet when that kid grows up he parks in no parking zones and when he protests his tickert he writes about it and I hope he gets, REJECTED.
    Can you tell I just got back from Shop Rite.The curbs are painted yellow for a reason moron.

    Ah…now I feel better. So what we were we talking about?

  15. Wow. Just…wow.

    I think it's helpful that you offered a bit of advice on what her next step might be. You'd think she'd jump off from that point- it's more than many agents are able to offer.

    Elizabeth, I hear you! I'm getting a lot of pushy sales people too, and this reminds me of that scenario 100%. What is it about no that makes people hear "maybe"?

  16. *sigh* I understand not wanting to take no for an answer, but shoving your MS down an agent's virtual throat isn't going to make them like it. Not at all.

  17. "If I force you to read it, I promise you'll like it!"

    Yeah. There's a difference between being persistent and forcing yourself on someone. You only burn bridges that way. Like Dwight said, though, at least it ups the odds for the rest of us (who are reading this blog…and should know better than to behave in this manner anyway…).

  18. So maybe she's a complete 'nutter'.

    Either way, expect a follow up e-mail on her submission. I don't say this to be mean or sarcastic, but as a voice of reason.

    At least you dealt with her professionally. And I'm sure you'll continue to do so until a restraining order is necessary.

  19. Magdalena Munro said:
    …received a resume from a literary agent who was not qualified. After sending her a nice note saying she wasn't qualified, she responded saying in fact she was qualified.

    Gotta love it when someone tries to argue with you about facts, eh?

  20. Just wondering. How many stories are out there about authors behaving 'badly' and having their worked picked up as a consequence. Just wondering.

  21. You just have to wonder when – if – this approach ever worked for that particular author. Applying for a sales job? Getting her kids into a particular college?

    When did she learn "Hey, this is effective!" and start doing this to everyone?

  22. There are those of us who hear "NO," cry, eat chocolate fudge cake, burn or hide the letter, and wake up the next day to regret the cake and remind ourselves to try again..then I guess there are others.

    Thanks for letting us in on what your life is like : )

  23. If she can't understand a rejection, she's got no business being a writer.

    (Also: does this make her better or worse than writers who get all butthurt and emotional when agents reject their queries via form letter?)

  24. I must admit, I've faultered the odd time sending out a query letter. I'm not sure if anyone has similar issue with their laptops like I do, but I find that sometimes in the middle of writing, the cursor will jump back up the page. Once in awhile I might fail to notice this. Sadly it happened while writing a query letter to a fairly reputable agency.

    Live and learn…

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