A Time to Vent
- By: Jessica Faust | Date: May 14 2008
As authors you have to listen to it all the time, agents and editors venting and ranting about everything you do wrong and all of the ways you irritate us. Well, now it’s your turn. I’m going to give you an open forum to tell your agent and editor horror stories, to ask kindly that we change the way we do certain things, or just to rant about the business in general. Anonymous posts suggested and recommended. The only thing I ask is that you not include the name of anyone you might be venting or ranting specifically about. If specific agent or editor names or houses or agencies are used, I will probably have to delete the comment. This isn’t meant as a witch hunt, but simply a way to let you let off steam. And I’m always interested in hearing horror stories or learning more about how we can be better agents.
I’m looking forward to hearing what you say!
I would just like to have the courtesy of a rejection from email queries. That’s all.
Just a form reply that says, ‘No.’
Then it is easier to keep track of where I am in the query wars.
My ex-agent and I parted company. She refused to tell me where (or even IF) she rounded my manuscript. The book is forever considered “shopworn” and I really don’t know if more than one editor ever saw it.
I’m a male writer who has been trying to obtain representation for my erotic suspense and erotic romance novels for four years. I’ve always signed my query letters with my full first and last name. I recently queried a NY agent and a publisher. Instead of signing my query letters the usual way, I signed them with only the initial of my first name and my full last name. Both the agent and the publisher have requested partials. I’m assuming that neither knows that I am a male writer.
My question is: why is it so difficult for male writers of erotica and women’s fiction to get agents’ attention?
BTW, one of my novels earned honorable mention from Bookends’ recent first 100-word women’s fiction contest.
I am well aware that you all get a zillion queries every day, and you can’t personally reply to all, but I’ve been very careful to always include enough postage when requests for a partial come in. I absolutely always do! I’ve had an agent request 100 pages and never reply! Yes, I know it was received.
A couple of others that were on my “worst” lists:
– Just as agents complain that writers put the wrong name in the letter head. (“Dear Jane” when it should be “Dear Jessica”) I’ve had agents send me letters back with the wrong name AND the wrong book title! “We didn’t think your book “Joe’s Pub” was a fit for us (when the title of my book was totally different.)
– But maybe the worst was when an agent sent ME mixed up pages from TWO OTHER people’s partials, rather than returning my own! I sent them back. That seems disgraceful to me.
– We as writers (okay, I’m speaking for myself here, so we’ll see if others agree with me or not!) try so hard to adhere to the strict guidelines, and often feel disrespected when we are not given the same respect we are asked to give from agents. Remember that we are trying out best to do what you ask! Honestly, we are. Our *intention* is to be respectful and deliver great work that you might be a fit for an agency. That’s why we send stuff. And when we’re new at sending stuff out, we are also doing our best, so I sometimes wonder whether agencies forget that…
I am not a bitter writer, I swear. 🙂 I just keep going and have had positive responses and encouragements from agents, although I haven’t had a sale or anything… but it really does get to feel that there is a disrespect when queries aren’t replies to at all… there must be a better way… Technology being what it is, it seems that an agent who says “we’ll only reply if we’re interested” when it’s an email query feels lame… Why can’t they set up an automated script that will at the VERY LEAST send a nice form letter so that the writer isn’t left hanging until five months go by and they say…”well, I guess they didn’t want it?” With email spam the way it is, it’s hard to be sure that they received it, but they said “don’t call us, we’ll call you” in the submissions guidelines…
Is that enough of a rant? 😉
Seriously, I love your column. You give great information and I realize it is a gift that you and other agents are willing to take the time to blog… but just as we are always trying to think of how we can best interface with you, it is important for you to remember, and remind yourselves, where we are coming from… sometimes it seems like you’re in that space, and sometimes not…
This is a very kind offer.
My only suggestions is for a query (or partial), especially if requested, to receive an update or a rejection.
I sent as requested, emailed for an upate six months later, and never heard regarding the partial or the update. I had to assume it had been passed over.
I can agree that even just an email form rejection would make it easier to keep track of submissions.
What is so discouraging to me is that new writers can’t seem to find representation (on the most part) unless they have a deal in hand or a revision letter from a NY editor. Once there is a deal, it seems they are coming out of the woodwork to represent you. The week before, you couldn’t interest them if you begged them. It seems they don’t want to do the work and get the first sale. They want the guaranteed sale.
Comment on Anonymous 8:36AM …
and if that’s the case, why does a writer need an agent? why not have a lawyer do the whole contract thing? isn’t the agent’s primary responsibility to make the sale?
I’ve got a well respected agent that *anyone* would kill to have, but he/she’s dropped me off her radar when my first book didn’t sell in 5 minutes.
This same agent doesn’t nudge editors that have had my ms for 7-8months. Apparently it’s my job to remind her to.
This same agent doesn’t return emails for 2-3 weeks at a time and then when he/she does, it’s not to answer the question asked, but to say he/she’ll “get back to me.”
God, I want a new agent. But the horror stories I’ve heard about other agents match mine. You’d be surprised the people that praise agents to their face or in public, but the stuff they say — the truth — about them behind their back would make your head spin.
Too bad we can’t set up a webpage where you could spill your guts about agents and name them. To warn others. Run! Flee!
It seems hopeless. This is a top-notch agent, with big sales. If you can’t trust that, what can you trust?
Sign me, Agented and Fed UP.
My only major irritation that I’ve had with agents is about networking. When an author goes to great lengths to establish some sort of personal connection with an agent outside of the query process through dinners at conferences or whatever else, it would be nice to receive some sort of personal rejection.
It doesn’t have to be a letter saying what needed to be revised, or anything fancy, but just something that says that the personal connection was made beyond the author meeting you at a pitch session.
Would it be so much more work for those few authors whose names and faces are more than letters on a page to write something more personal than “Dear author?”
If you can remember who an author is at the end of the day, try to remember that they worked hard to make that impression on you, and don’t insult that connection by ignoring it for convenience.
As an unpublished writer it feels as if “the query letter is all” attitude it taking over. Pages, plots, style and voice all come in a distant second. Yeah, the computer’s ease has made writing too easy. That may have made front-door screening a necessity, but amidst all that slush, serious writers are trying to get an agent’s attention. Several years of creating, editing, polishing, revising, polishing again etc, all for naught if that one–non-manuscript–paragraph doesn’t vive with an agent’s overtired feelings at two AM.
When I read on yet another agent’s blog that she or he can tell everything about a proposed manuscript from that short letter, I’m reminded of the World War One generals: “Just one more massive charge into the face of those machine guns and this war will be over!”
I only ask that agents and editors please remember most of us are hardworking, sincere, sane, polite human beings. The ones who drive you nuts are actually the minority. They’re just louder.
Some of the aspiring authors out here are going to make it into publication one day. They’ll have a choice then. Who do you think they’ll choose to work with, all things being equal? “Jessica – she was polite to me even when I was a nobody. She has grace under fire.”
I had an agent request revisions on a full. Nothing major, mostly tightening up, ect. I did them, returned them. A few months later, agent got back with me and needed to see some more changes. Most of these involved adding scenes and changes to the end. I sent them in about 9 months ago. Turn around time is 3 months. No response, not even to my status check email. I am thankful for the changes as it made the story stronger, but…hello, send me a ‘dear author’ letter at the very least.
But what I still haven’t figured is, if the agent wanted the additional changes, why not request those with the first round?
I’m in a similar situation as Anonymous 8:21. Had an agent who shopped my manuscript to 3 editors, lost the love, and then we parted ways. Unlike 8:21, my agent was ethical enough to send me a complete submission history- bless her heart. Still, my manuscript is “shopped too much” and is now shelved as I work on the next. It’s discouraging.
And I second the “I don’t care how busy you are, send a form rejection” folks. It’s just common courtesy. When the SASE is provided or it’s as simple as hitting Reply, there is just no excuse for a lack of response. Nobody, but NOBODY, is that busy!
I totally agree with anonymous 8:18. I am really disheartened when an agent posts on their web site, “We are very busy and important, so we won’t do you the courtesy of clicking on “reply” unless we think we can make money off of you. So please throw your query into our black hole.”
In the regular field, it’s considered standard etiquette to let an applicant know they’ve been rejected.
I don’t need anything fancy or encouraging. I just need a “No,” so I know that someone on the agent’s end actually received my e-mail and made a decision.
Thanks for this opportunity to vent–much appreciated!
Anon 8:36, that used to irritate me, too. But what really makes me go bonkers is this: when an agent takes on a writer with sale in hand after having previously rejected same at the query stage.
What I also find discouraging is being told “it’s all about the writing” when it’s not. That’s changing, I think, thanks to the presence of many industry blogs, but I wish I had known that starting out six years ago (and I joined writing communities and such from the beginning, but the emphasis was always on the writing).
Basically I’ve now learned that even an unpublished writer needs to find a way to promote himself or herself even before having a book published. Not everyone needs to go that route, but it’s a strategy worth considering if you’re going to be able to successfully compete.
I only ask for what would be normal business etiquette in any other industry. Reply to email queries, even if only with a form reject. Reply to submissions in a timely manner. The fact is that some agents do, so it’s not an impossible task.
I can see big differences between agents by how they handle the query process. I’ll bet that’s how they handle everything. Quick, organized and considerate shows. If I’m lucky enough to have a choice, guess which agent I’ll choose?
…and if they don’t want to reply (and I understand that a lot of agents have stopped sending rejection emails because of the high rate of “But WHY? You idiot!”-type responses…set up an auto-responder, at least, so we know you GOT the query. I don’t mind not hearing back if I know you got it, but not even knowing if the email went through or not…
Personally? Please, My Agent, when I send you emails, can you acknowledge you got them? When you suggest something, and I respond, can you send me another email to say “Okay then” or something? I’m not trying to be a pain-in-the-behind, and I know that you have a lot of other clients, but seriously, could you let me know you’ve started negotiating, or tht you’ll start when you get the chance, or whatever? Just some sort of acknowledgement of the very long email I sent detailing my thoughts on various things? Please?
And also…would it kill you to compliment me once in a while? I know in your mind “I’m very pleased” is a compliment, but in mine it’s what I say to my husband when he puts away his own folded laundry. Could you add an exclamation point or something, once in a while? A smiley face? A “I knew you could do it!”? Just anything at all?
As a well established e-published author I find agent’s attitudes astounding. The publishing world is changing and agents are not required to make a living writing. As e-publishing expands and big NY print houses tighten their budgets, agents are the ones who stand to lose the most. It amazes me that agents are not actively finding a way to change with the times.
My first agent never sent me submission records EVER (even though I asked over and OVER again). I have no idea who my book went out to.
Also, same agent let submissions languish at the publishing house for 9 – 12 months and never followed up. No matter how often I followed up, nothing ever happened.
Not surprisingly, I have a new agent.
I’m very new to this agent/author “game”, but EVERY post on EVERY writer site and blog portray what I see as a very embarrassing and self-destructive reliance. If the agents are that incosiderate and boorish toward submissions and writers, why do we even think we should go through the process? Just because we want to feel humiliated by a total stranger?!
It seems to me we are all in this for the same reasons–the writer to get published and the agent to represent good writers, ergo to make money. Unfortunately, the agent is being characterized as a pompous, lazy and arrogant power monger and I for one avoid at all possible costs self-inflicted trauma.
The self-publishing option is looking more and more appealing–it is the path of least resistance and void of rejection.
I was surprised and disappointed when a well-respected West Coast agency never responded — even after one of the agent’s lucrative, multi-published, international authors referred me…
…even after email correspondences in which the agent encouraged me to send query and pages, even giving me precise instructions on how to title the email and get through the slush…
…even after I waited 10 weeks only to surmise that the email never made it through, and on advice of the client, resubmitted with a 2nd polite submission that made reference to the previous email conversations, etc…
….then waited another 8 weeks with no response, at which time I presumed the chapter was closed.
What concerned me most was an apparent lack of professional respect for the agent’s own client, who, BTW, stayed in touch with me throughout the entire process and with whom I continue to enjoy a professional connection.
Thank you for this forum! It should be required reading for every agent of conscience.
The self-publishing option is looking more and more appealing–it is the path of least resistance and void of rejection.
It is also the path, sorry to say, of the “not good enough”, the “gives up too easily”, and the “Good luck getting anyone to actually read your book”. Oh, and the “maybe you can sell enough copies to buy a large order of fries.”
My comment is in this thread. Yeah, I have some vents about my agent. I have them about my husband and children too; should I give up on them?
What I didn’t say above is that no matter how these little things might annoy me, when something important happens or I have a question that needs an answer right away my agent is THERE. That he’s offered help in uncountable ways. That his feedback has made my work 100% stronger and better. That he always treats me with respect. That with his help my work goes places and gets on shelves, rather than being stuck in my hard drive or waiting in some editor’s slush pile for two years.
The idea that you can’t get an agent without a big contract in hand is crap. I did it. I know countless others who’ve done it. If the work is good enough, it will find its representation. Self-publishing may work okay for non-fiction in certain specific areas, but for fiction, you might as well stick a sign on your head that says “I couldn’t make it in the real world of publishing.” I’m sorry. I’m not trying to be mean. I am trying to dissuade you from making a big mistake by being frank with you. Keep trying. Really.
I sent a query to X agent, she refused. Okay, par for the course. Received several requests from editors from NY publishing homes for the full of my manuscript. Resent the same query letter several months later with this new tidbit. Guess what, lo and behold, she requested. That happened to me for the same manuscript 5 times.
Do you think they suddenly thought the story idea better after several months? Nope. This is a business. Believe me, with the right incentive, that ‘I just don’t feel passionate enough’ can turn into ‘Oh, this is wonderful! Send me the full.’
I had a NY Times Bestseller refer me to an agent she knew and the agent later invited me to drinks when I ran into her at a conference a couple of weeks later. She talked about how excited she was to read my story, but then never responded. Ever.
I signed with another agent about 6 weeks later, having several offers to choose from. My agent made one round of submissions, advised me against making requested changes, and then lost all interest in me or my next book. Meanwhile, my first novel is dead and I don’t have an agent for the second.
The other agents who offered have no interest in either book, now sensing death and decay surrounding my chances of a career.
I’ve seen agent blogs where they protest the use of the word Ms.
Do they really want me to pry into their personal life to find out if they are a Miss/Mrs?
One agent (who I really would love to have represent me) protested the “I hope to hear from you soon.” closing. But that phrase is just being polite! What should we say? “whenever dude?”
And I understand why agents don’t want to be thanked for the rejection because their email boxes are flooded but please know that most of us really want to thank you for just taking that peek at our work. However, we are learning to restrain ourselves. 🙂
Even if you have to send a rejection, make it nice. It can be a cut and paste (I know your time is valuable) but it can still be nice. Mr. P. writes really nice rejections, but the one liner from Mr.L. not so much. I don’t have a problem with rejection as I know its all part of the game but it can still be nice.
Please don’t look at me like I’m strange when we meet. I’m just really really nervous and forgot what I was going to say! I’m not half as stupid as I look.
One last thing; keep blogging. I’ve learned more from blogging agents then anywhere else.
The courtesy of more than a form rejection when an agent turns down something they’ve asked to see more of. That drives me nuts!
That’s just a pet peeve above. It took me a long time (Almost a year of querying) to figure out, my genre–para/historical–is one of the tiny money makers in the industry. Doesn’t matter if the writing is good, the story is good. There is such a tiny market with very little $ value attached to it, that agents can’t be bothered, so why not just tell me that in the first place.
Just think, I could have saved myself a lot of rejection and time if I’d bypassed the agents in the first place. It’s not necessarily that I needed to do more research, there were already best sellers in my genre, and I more or less stumbled my way onto a path that revealed the dollar figures behind books. Agents sometimes give you a false hope…
Actually, I just have a regular old etiquette question. Suppose I queried an agent and she requested sample pages. I haven’t sent them yet. I sign with someone else.
Do I need to send an e-mail withdrawing, or should I just let it lapse into the aether on the grounds that she’ll never remember she requested them anyway, and she’s got no work for me.
I think what bothers me the most is that so many agents preach on blogs and such that writers should absolutely not go to editors on their own, and yet finding an agent without an offer can be next to impossible for some. Sure, many people do it — but the system is very much based on luck and what happens to strike a chord at that moment.
I’ve had much better luck with editors than authors, and although I’m still pre-published, I currently have a handful of editors reading my books (all pulled from the slush, I might add) — and yet I just read the other day on an agent blog that a writer mentioning they’ve sent their work out on their own will actually be a black mark against them when they’re querying agents.
I don’t get it — the thing is: this is my career. Yeah, I’d love to have an agent handle things for me, but I’m one who agrees with a couple of others here who said that you can tell how an agent is by the way they treat you before you’re making them any money (or before there’s an offer anywhere).
Consideration, respect — that’s what stays with us.
Anon 10:27 wrote: The other agents who offered have no interest in either book, now sensing death and decay surrounding my chances of a career.
My reply: One book does not make a career. Not even two. If YOU believe in your stories, keep writing and keep subbing. Only one person can end your publishing career. That is you. Good thoughts!
Keep an eye on those interns!
During my last agent hunt, 5-6 years ago, I received a rejection letter from a well known, well respected agency, along with a rejection letter addressed to a woman I’d never heard of – with her query letter – and in the bonus round, a check for a well known author from Kensington for $25,000. I’m not making this up. I called and was directed to an intern, and I had this mental image of her twisting her hair, staring at the ceiling, chewing gum…”Uh, yeah, I guess just mail it back?” I did, of course, but not before noting that the check was dated some four months prior. Why hadn’t this agency deposited the money? Were they ‘waiting’ on it, while the check was languishing beneath the slush pile?
I still wonder if I should have contacted the agent, so she would know the level of her intern’s incompetence. I also wonder if I should have contacted the author. Had I known her, even slightly, I would have.
Now I’m on the hunt again, and there are a great many lovely, competent agents I’m excited to talk to – the one with the dimwit intern isn’t one of them.
Anon 10.05 You said if the work is good enough it will find representation.
That’s the truth. It’s what this discussion boils down to, how to make your writing better when you keep getting rejections. I’ve had some that left me scratching my head because they lacked specific direction. If my work was good, if I was indeed a fine writer, or I had an excellent story, great and likeable characters, why didn’t they sign me, or why didn’t the editor buy the book?
Because the truth was the writing wasn’t strong enough but they wouldn’t say that, they candy coated the rejection which is to me, worse than saying a straight out no thanks, or your writing sucks, go back to school.
I keep getting nice rejections that tell me nothing about my writing. After my last “very nice” rejection I had a NYT bestselling author offer to critique my first chapter. She didn’t pull any punches and after I picked my battered body up off the floor, I knew EXACTLY where and how to not only make my story stronger but improve on my voice.
It’s taken six years of questioning my own beliefs and often times my sanity with the agent/editor rejections but this woman put me on the right track in one day. She showed me examples through tracking changes of what to remove, what to embellish, and why. I’m moving on now reworking the entire manuscript, and maybe a few more that are stored under the bed, then I’m starting this agent/editor hunt all over again.
Now I know and understand why my prior work was rejected.
(Thank you so much for this. Much appreciated. You rock.)
– Say what you want. Don’t solicit fantasy novels when you want paranormal romance. Don’t say one thing in your agent biography and another on your agency page. (Looking at you, Jessica – areas of expertise include fantasy […] open to anything […] currently accepting queries in the areas of romance (and all its sub-genres), erotica, mystery, suspense, women’s fiction, and literary fiction. So… am I wasting my and your time querying you with my fantasy novel?) I’m meeting this again and again – Publisher’s Marketplace listings, agents own webpage, agency webpages – and they all say different things.
– if you squee over tired tropes as ‘so original’ you probably haven’t read enough in my field to advise me on my career.
– talking on your blog about how the only queries you reject immediately are the utterly dreadful ones when you’ve just instarejected my ‘not for you’ query? Just plain rude.
– autorespond does not invite nutters to talk to you, but it helps genuine authors to know that their queries and your responses aren’t sidetracked into spambuckets.
– if you mean ‘send me a synopsis of no more than two pages’ don’t ask for a ‘short synopsis’ and mock the people who send you three or four pages. See above, we can’t read your minds.
– writing query letters is a skill. One that can be learnt. Some people write cracking queries but can’t hold things together over the length of a novel. Some people write solid, coherent novels and can’t boil them down to two paragraphs. Some people write high concept novels that are easy to summarize, some write books that are complex and less easy to squeeze into two paragraphs. This might not be what you and the market want, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad books.
– Don’t say things like ‘if your query isn’t brilliant, it shows you can’t write a novel’. There is _some_ correlation, but it’s not automatic, and the person who sent you a so-so query probably worked hard at it and did their best. It didn’t catch your attention, you can find enough good books among the ones with brilliant queries – fine, move on, but don’t mock.
– If you allow us to include even just the first five pages, we’ll feel a lot happier that you’ve given the book a chance. If we feel we’ve been treated fairly, we’re more likely to reccommend you to our friends and requery you with our next kickass manuscript.
My first agent sent my mss to the wrong editors. My second agent doesn’t have a grasp of the market and therefore only submits to one house. She doesn’t get back to me when my mss are returned. After waiting months to hear from her, I get the same response when I finally call. “Oh, I just got it back.” Really? Isn’t it a coincidence that you just got it back on the day I call? She’s sweet but not aggressive enough. No follow-through or feedback. And I want to know where and to whom she is submitting my work. When it comes back, I want to know immediately. If there’s a rejection letter with it, I want to see it without having to ask for it.
As for editors, what gives when my editor tells me that she absolutey LOVES my proposal and we talk for over an hour on changes, and then when I submit the changes she requested, she doesn’t buy it?
When you’ve done 5 books for a pubisher and they reject your next one without any explanation, that’s disrespectful to me as an author. After 5 books, I would think they would work with me on making the next book good enough, or at least give me the courtesy of an explanation. To call my agent and say simply, “we’re not buying it,” isn’t good enough.
I was afraid that if I started venting, I would never stop, so I’m going to stop now.
– if you mean ‘send me a synopsis of no more than two pages’ don’t ask for a ‘short synopsis’ and mock the people who send you three or four pages. See above, we can’t read your minds.
Oooh, that’s a good one! Please give a limit! I saw on one agent (a lovely and personable young lady in all respects, let me preface) that a synopsis is supposed to be exactly six paragraphs long. No more. And while she of course has the right to ask for whatever, if she wanted a synopsis of exactly no more than six paragraphs it should have been in her guidelines as such. I can write a synopsis that short, but if the guidelines say “a short synopsis” the agent is getting a full page. Which is great for some agents…but others consider five pages to be short and think less than that is odd.
We WANT to follow your guidelines! (At least those of us who are serious do.) Help us by making those guidelines as detailed as possible. TELL US which font to put our work in (believe me, this comes up on writer forums all the time, if agents want TNR or Courier). TELL US if you want us to use MS word count or 250 words per page. TELL US how long a synopsis should be.
I’m going with the crowd that says even form rejections are better than no response at all. If agents (or interns) have time to open emails, they have time to send out an auto-respond “no”.
If an agent has requested material, they owe the courtesy of a reply to authors asking for updates after the agents stated respond-by date has passed. They should also have a standard auto-reply “we got this” message when requested materials are received.
Every actual signed client is owed an immediate reply, even if it’s to say, “I’m swamped, let me get back to you later.” Yes, some people are high maintenance and haven’t “earned” (as in bringing in boatloads of money in sales) the privilege to be treated as a prima donna. Those clients should politely be told exactly when and how often they can expect a response (every other month, for instance). Businesslike clients asking ordinary professional questions deserve businesslike, professional responses within one or two business days.
I constantly read on agent and other writing blogs, “this is a business”, and I’m astounded at how unprofessionally many agents run their businesses. Not responding is just plain unprofessional.
I have to agree with Kimber an. I’m submitting my latest ms and I’m seeing more and more agents take the “if we’re not interested we won’t respond” route. And some actually give the reason being they don’t want angry responses from their form rejections.
Agents, please don’t lump all writers with that rare loon who responds with bitter words. And to any writer out there that has given into the temptation to hit reply and go off on said agent – Knock it off. It’s a business. It’s not personal.
Until then I’ll be leaning toward not querying the agents who don’t have enough backbone/time/courtesy to respond with a yes or a no.
“But what really makes me go bonkers is this: when an agent takes on a writer with sale in hand after having previously rejected same at the query stage.”
Anon 9:38 – why would you send to someone who has already demonstrated they don’t want you? Why are you so surprised that an agent takes on someone with contract in hand? They’re in business to make a living, not stroke your ego. Duh.
I don’t get the personal feelings here. Business is business. You get no response, you don’t do busines with these folks. You find someone who does like your work, and who responds. Otherwise, you can’t complain after the fact.
Wow. What a can of worms. I’m new to the query scene and just want to thank both Jessica for the vent post (awesome idea) and all the readers for their (brutally) honest feedback. I feel a little less like a rookie now 🙂 Good luck to all of you.
Hands down, it’s the non-responsive agent that chaps my a$$ big time. The email queries are annoying enough (and the number of them is absolutely staggering), but not half as bad as the snail-mailed queries sent with SASEs. I used Forever stamps, too, so it’s NOT a postage issue.
It’s the silence you get after mailing out a requested partial that’s the lowest of the low. SASE totally ignored, author totally dissed.
Karma, baby. It exists, and the thoughtless agents will get theirs.
the rejection via non-response with no indication that this is their way to reject is daunting. but you learn to write it off after a few months.
the worst part is the waiting.
honestly, after querying over 100 agents, i have no serious complaints. everyone who did respond were polite and some were kind. quite a few took time to write personal notes–which usually led to more obsessing, but it was appreciated. i do understand how busy all agents are, it’s a crazy business.
and i also personally love my own agent. he’s fantastic and i feel so fortunate to have him as my advocate.
I’m not going anonymous, nor am I going anomalous (too much, anyway), but I would say:
Sure, I have some issues with my current agent. I have issues with my former publisher. I have even more issues with the publishing industry and it’s so-called business model even more.
And from time to time I do crab and whine and piss and moan, etc, but…
It is what it is, folks. Whining about it won’t actually change it.
Some agents try to respond to everything and equitably. So do some editors. Some don’t.
My biggest pet peeve? Dunno. Maybe it’s when your agent or you sends something to someone and IT. JUST. DISAPPEARS.
You confirm they got it and yeah, they did. BUT. THEY. DON’T. DO. ANYTHING. WITH. IT.
Which always brings up a perhaps even more important question:
Why would you want to be in business with someone who runs their business that way?
Ooh, and sending out a form rejection on Mother’s Day is kinda harsh. This wasn’t Jessica, btw.
Thanks for doing this, Jessica. It was obviously needed!
You guys rock. This is a wonderful opportunity for us to have some cheese with our whine. Here we go.
It irks me to no avail how some agents are just narrow minded and only want paranormal romance or cetain kinds of chick lit. I wrote a novel that is now undergoing publication, and it’s a contemporary romance, what some blogging agents refer to as the “Non-selling book of your heart”. Whatever. While book publishing is predictably subjective and the goal is ultimately a book that will SELL, name me one best selling great novel of all time that was not unpopular when it was published. Books are about breaking barriers, things that touch us, scare us, move us to tears or laughter, incite us, etc. Every response to my query letter went something along the lines of, “Though the writing is good and the plot is very well done, it is not what we are seeking at this time.”
Ode to the agent that dares to be different, to take a chance. Those are the kind I want.
The one thing I will say for your agency, and this is a strong compliment, is you answered my query personally, and though you didn’t decide to read the book at all, at least you took the time to read the query letter. Thank you for that.
One thing I would suggest is that in personal replies to authors after reading MS’s (this is for agents), don’t be afraid to say what was wrong with the manuscript or honestly what could use reworking, even if you’re rejecting it. It helps to know WHY it was rejected beyond “Though blah blah blah, we feel it is not right for us.”
Lastly, rant rant rant, for anyone still trying to publish their book or get an agent, remember you do not necessarily have to have an agent. You just have to have a great book and determination. The book will sell itself.
Here here on the following comments!
“I think what bothers me the most is that so many agents preach on blogs and such that writers should absolutely not go to editors on their own, and yet finding an agent without an offer can be next to impossible for some.”
I agree – what do you think it says when an editor, after reading a query and five pages, asks for the full immediately? Yet, five agents prior to this rejected? Honestly, what does this mean? Jessica, love your blog – would totally love to know what you think about this! But, otherwise, yes, I agree. I understand the overshopped issue but geez, I don’t want to query 100 agents to find the one I want. I have a specific list of 15 who I’ve done a lot of research about and what if they all say no? Why shouldn’t I be able to then approach an editor? And I have no issue about going back to an agent I want with offer in hand. In fact, I’d LOVE for that to happen!
Ditto on this one too: “I have to agree with Kimber an. I’m submitting my latest ms and I’m seeing more and more agents take the “if we’re not interested we won’t respond” route.” I’ve bit my cheek and went ahead and sent and all I can say is ouch. I don’t like the awful feeling of feeling as if I’m being ignored. Maybe it go through, maybe not. All it means is no matter how interested I might be in the agent, I’m not going to send a hardworked query to someone with belief they should show the courtesy of a reply unless they want more.
And finally, I love being a writer and I love this business (despite its frustrations). I just wish agents would stop telling us to write what we want to read but then only buy stories for the current market. Sure, it isn’t easy to think about a year but since I’m being told that books being bought now are being published next year – and when I read sales I see the same old, same old vampire, shape-shifter, etc. how is that NOT buying for the current market?
Jessica – as always – you not only give us great, relevant information, you allow us to share our woes.
Some agents need to watch how they treat unpublished authors. Before I was published, I was an unpublished finalist in a contest.
The night of the awards party/event, I sat at an open seat at the finalists’s table next to the agent who’d judged my category. She ignored me for one of her writers (who was a published finalist), which I really did understand. Sometimes agents need a break. And I ended up meeting a wonderful finalist/author on the other side of me.
But, when the awards were given out and I saw this agent had requested my full, I did introduce myself and thank her. I also mentioned an editor had requested the full from a different contest. She told me to send the book to her first, then turned and walked away. End of converstation. It was fine. I wasn’t offended, but I realized she wasn’t exactly the warm and fuzzy type either.
A few weeks later, that agent made an offer of representation. At that point, I had another agent offer. I’d never met agent #2 in person, but she was great on the phone and the writers I knew talked about what a nice person she was. Guess who I signed with?
Even though agent #1 was nice, sweet and personable when she made her offer (translate: a different person when she knew she wanted to represent me), I couldn’t get beyond the initial snub. And, really, it wasn’t even an overtly impolite thing, it’s just that I felt “less” when I’d met her and I remembered.
So agents, my message is to be nice. It doesn’t mean you have to get dragged into huge, long conversations. But a nice, polite response to someone will be remembered.
First, let me preface by saying that I love my agent (who signed me without me having a contract in hand). She has been nothing but supportive and helpful. Even though no one has bought my dang book.
I wanted to start that way because I see some newbies are checking out the blog responses, and it was starting to get a little grim around here. It’s a brutal business, of course, but it’s not completely hopeless. I promise.
My gripe — and it’s one I don’t think anyone can fix — is how quickly a book can die. I spent a long time on the ms my agent is shopping, agonizing over pacing and word choice, trying to get the thing as polished as I possibly could. Then it goes out to all 10 brick-and-mortar publishers currently in business (thank you mergers and acquisitions attorneys of the word), and within a couple of weeks all but one have said “no.”
In a matter of weeks, this book went from “full of promise” to “DOA”. Sure, all the rejections were of the “I totally loved it, devoured every page, but don’t think I can sell it” variety. The “I loved this writer, send me something else she has written” variety. But “something else” takes time.
I know this is just the way it is, and I’m going to keep plugging away, but it’s depressing. It’s like the Olympic sprinter who trains for 10 years and in a matter of 5.6 seconds the dream goes “poof.” Not quite that bad, mind you, but tough.
But, hey, there’s hope, right? That’s how I started this and that’s how I’m going to end it.
I agree with the first anonymous. I think it’s plain rude for agents and publishers not to at least respond with a simple “no” to an e-query.
To anonymous 12:59
I hear you re: wanting to have that editor offer to make agent hunting easier. But realize that can backfire.
When my editor offer came (from a contest) I’d just started querying agents. Quickly, I emailed my “dream list,” telling them of the offer.
Most great agents won’t take you on, even with an offer, unless they love your work. BUT I did have something happen that was a bit unsettling.
One of my “dream list” agents who had requested the full (after being informed of my offer) emailed again the night after she received my manuscript. She wanted to let me know she was loving the book so far. Everything was falling into place, but something was really bothering her and she had to let me know about it. The weekend before, she’d gone through a heap of queries and rejected most of them. She’d been overworked, it was late, she was tired, etc. Now she was really afraid she’d rejected me by mail and that I’d be getting it soon. But she was terribly excited about the manuscript and would I just toss and forget any rejection I received from her?
I wanted to understand. I’m a terribly understanding person about most anything. But…
The rejection came the day after. A form rejection. I didn’t want to let it matter. This was a dream agent. She’d been sending me rah-rah emails as she read my book. But it mattered. I called her and took myself out of the running. I didn’t want her to waste time reading anymore.
And I felt bad. But I didn’t think I could get beyond the idea that she didn’t want to read me until I had that offer. When I say I had X agent offers and X rejections, I count her as the rejection.
Maybe her form letter really was a mistake, and in her overworked state she put me in the wrong pile and heaven knows I get tired and let things slip. But, I never wanted an agent to take me on just because I had an offer in hand. And I never wanted to wonder about her.
So the point of this long story? I think it’s smart to go the traditional route and find an agent who loves your work, you voice, your style. Do that first and the rest will follow.
Anonymous @ 1:25pm:
Bit of an anecdote for you. I actually had a similar issue, once upon a time. I had just left my previous agent (who sold my first book) and was searching for a new agent with a project near and dear to my heart (that I’d been sitting on for a good year+ while waiting on some other things).
My friend says, My agent is awesome. Let me hook you up with her.
Friend’s agent is INDEED awesome and a big name in the industry. My issue? She’d already form rejected the manuscript I was shopping through one of the query ‘contests’ that she’d hosted. Not to worry, friend said. Talk to her. It won’t matter.
I talked to the agent on the phone. She was sweet, enthusiastic, and wonderful. I was worried she’d hate my manuscript. I sent her a sample of the writing and said that she had already form rejected it through a query contest on her website.
I even pointed out that she’d form rejected it. She said to send pages anyhow, and that when the queries pour in, they all start to blur together and a form reject doesn’t necessarily mean bad writing.
I sent it. She loved it and offered me representation a few weeks later.
Agents DO get behind, and when they’re working fast, a lot of queries blur together. Your book could have been a mystery with a ‘cooking’ theme to it and maybe she’d already gotten 4 of those that day. Or heck, maybe your query just wasn’t punchy. Or maybe it was 3 am and she was just half-asleep at the time.
There are so many factors that can knock out a query, so I don’t see why people take form rejections personally. Let someone read your pages and decide if they want to rep you or not. If she called you to tell you that she loved it, I think you should have given her the chance.
Never burn the bridges in this business. I know all too well how it can circle back to bite you in the tush. =)
I love love love the agents who list “Do Not Represent” – thank you for making it easy.
I love love love the agents who send ANYTHING back to let us know we should scratch them off the list.
I love love love the agents who are straight. Those ones you get introduced to at conferences and you have a great personal relationship but they don’t want to rep the kind of stuff you write — Don’t ask for it. We don’t mind.
I love love love agents who have clear guidelines on their site – page amounts and such
I love love love agents that HAVE sites. Really, is it that hard to have one page with your address, how to query and what you accept? (TO THE AGENT WHO GAVE AN INTERVIEW, DOESN’T HAVE A SITE AND TOLD THE READER TO DO THEIR RESEARCH IF THEY WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT YOU – WE DID DO THE RESEARCH, WE PULLED THE INTERVIEW – DON’T BE A SNIT)
I love love love agents who have the same info on their blog/site/publishers marketplace/etc. Please don’t have differing info and expect us to guess and then laugh when we’re wrong.
I love love love agents who understand that we’re working our butts off to create a product that is going to make you money – yes. we understand you’re working your butt off to make us both money, but please, without a book there’s no money for anyone
Reply to Anonymous 1:41:
Interesting story! I’m really glad to hear that. And just so you know, I wasn’t rude to the agent who sent that rejection after the fact. I just thanked her for her time and told her that I wanted to accept an offer from a different agent. And I knew I would go with another agent, so it was basically a nice way of pulling out. Because you’re right – it’s not a good idea to burn bridges, especially in this business. 🙂
The number of comments sort of speaks to the frustration of writers when it comes to agents.
I have nothing new to add to the fifty comments before this one. Just wanted to say thanks for the opportunity to vent. Now if only agents other than you fine folks would read and heed what’s been posted.
I think my biggest peeve, is getting a request for a partial from what seemed to be an over excited editor, asked that you keep them exclusive and not hearing from said editor in 9 months.
In this fast paced world, when we as authors are expected to jump through hoops, why is that agents and editors can take all the time in the world to respond.
At this point I’d be pleased with a rejection so that I can consciously move on.
Like others have already indicated, I think the policy of many agents refusing to send any kind of reply on a rejection is not only rude, but bad business, as I know many writers who will simply re-query until they get some kind of reply, which clogs the channels even more.
I agree with many of the posts — especially about email submissions and wondering if they are in someone’s spam filter. My venting, though, has to do with editors. I don’t understand how editors can request a full ms after reading a partial and then just never get back to you. One editor, who is well-known for the length of time she takes to respond, has had my first ms for over 4 years. I sold it to another publisher in the interim, but this same editor (through a contest win) has had another full ms of mine for almost two years.
To add insult to injury, this editor was on an RWA panel several years ago during which she described an author she had just bought — from her surfing of fan fiction sites. Oblivious to the irritated rumblings from the crowd, this editor waxed eloquent about how she had contacted this author, asked for more of her writing, mentored her and helped her come up with a saleable ms. Granted, this editor probably did this all on her own time, but it was such a slight to those of us who had requested mss sitting on her desk at work.
Great post, and so timely, too.
I published my first novel in the 1990s; I’m currently on my third agent. Even though we’ve only been together for 18 months, I plan to terminate our relationship after national because it’s obvious we’re not compatible. I would sever the relationship now but we’re in the middle of contract negotiation.
I don’t think of myself as being demanding. All I really ask is that an agent does his or her level best to represent me and my work. Mine has too many clients and it’s beginning to affect his/her relationships with clients. Not only has my agent stopped answering emails in a timely fashion (it sometimes takes a month or more to get a response to a simple question!), she/he takes months to get my proposals out, even when an editor is waiting to receive it. And this is assuming she even sends them out at all. In fact, the ONLY sales I’ve made while with my current agent came as a result of my efforts.
Two years ago, I had hope and a wonderful attitude about the submission process. Now, not so.
I would like to see more respect from agents. I’m very tired of living with the fear my latest query will make blog joke of the week.
It takes us several months to years to write our books. It only takes a few seconds to click reply.
Frankly, I’m tired of all this query hype–and the lies that go along with it.
I.E. Write an outstanding query and I will request.
This is a lie.
I’ve received rejections on my horrid, unfocused query and then the same day received requests saying how much my query hooked them.
To agents in general:
Remember that we may only be a name to you,(okay, not even a name,really) but we very well could turn into a person. Of course, we were always a person to ourselves. We will remember you.
If you think it’s offensive for writers to make negative and mocking remarks about agents, then why do you make mocking remarks about writers?
Speaking of making fun of query letters on agent blogs … I was wondering, hypothetically, about the legalities of taking actual query letters, written to the agent (and not for public consumption/publication), and cutting them apart at conferences, or publishing the letter excerpts on blogs — without the writer’s consent.
Is this not an issue? A legal concern?
With all these horror stories, maybe it’s the internd running the store? And remember, agents were interns at some point at something.
An agent waited four years to respond? What was he/she wating for? a shift in the market? If I ran my life like that I would have been homeless a long time ago.
How on earth is a writer to sort through all the bad agents out there? Are the good ones really out-numbered by that much?
And for the earlier post about self-publishing and enough money to buy an order of fries…at least he/she won’t starve to death waiting.
Not starve to death on self-publishing?
He/she must have a hell of a platform then.
While we are on the subject of venting – hey, if someone wins a contest, SPELL the winner’s name correctly! I recently received an email listing all the winners of a poetry and fiction contest – gee, why was mine the only one mispelled?
Personal pet peeve – dontcha just wish when you really, really, really need 3 or 4 months to go over your novel (final draft), craft your query letter(s) etc…there was someone there to tap you on the shoulder and say, hey, take some time off from work, a sabbatical, so what if you’re not a professor (i.e., the kind of person who gets to take sabbaticals as a normal course of their job), you’ve been working like a dog, you NEED this time, take it! Just a few months! At least give yourself that!
Call this person a “pre-agent.” I’m actually emailing a local group who gives scholarships to women, hey, do you think you could create a literary scholarship, living expenses for 3 or 4 months?
I can’t really rant or rave about agents, not having one yet. Just seems like there’s this “fence of time” to be gotten over first.
I had an agent for my second book. A really nice, extremely successful agent. I thought I had it made. She tried to sell my book, and it didn’t sell. She really tried hard. When I finished the next book, she wasn’t interested in the topic, but sent me a nice three sentence email saying so and wishing me luck. Just finished another book… her personal email no longer works, so I sent an email through her “queries” address. I did receive an email saying it was received, but no reply at all. We had a nice rapport… and again, there is a rudeness about not simply sending me an email. She WAS my agent. It’s a courtesy I believe is deserved.
I know this is a lot of frustration you’re seeing, but I want you to remember that you agents have all the power. Sometimes I feel like I have to write a book and behave well, and if I’m not ABSOLUTELY PERFECT, then I won’t even get considered. It’s a shame. I’ve won contests, and been told “send us the next one” by the publishers who rejected my book, and I’m still looking for an agent, N books later. We, as writers, are trying to see where you’re coming from. We KNOW you are busy. We KNOW you work hard. We KNOW the hours are long, but remember how long our hours are too? We are trying hard? If we goof up and aren’t perfect, give us a little break…
I’m wondering if you are regretting your post in asking for this kind of feedback. We all appreciate your blog. We just need a little respect.
Giving agents a break
I think it’s like with doctors – they are under tremendous pressure, NOT of their own making, to cram in as many patients as possible in a day – perhaps agents are in the same position, under a lot of pressure these days to cram in as many authors as possible. I don’t know. But it sounds like a lot of the complaints about agent nonresponsiveness are like those about doctors – i.e., (true story) someone faxes in a prescription for heart medication, and it doesn’t get filled for weeks, because the fax got stuck in a pile of such faxes – including test results, etc. And this doctor’s office was receiving literally 100 faxes a day!!!!! And this is a doctor’s office, people’s lives could be at stake! So the overload is everywhere.
Just a thought. **No I’m not an agent**
I have to agree with whoever said agents shouldn’t be upset by things like Ms. or how a letter closes.
I read a blog post from one agent who didn’t want anyone to “thank her for her time.”
What an innocuous thing to get wound up about! Ms. or a common closing like “thank you for your time,” are ubiquitous in business letters. Time to get off the horse, he’s a little too high for you.
My pet peeve is the synopses. There are agents who want them no more than 5 pages. Then the agent who says 1 page synopsis. Then the agent that says I want a 2 page synopsis. I don’t know about you, but I hate writing them. And sure don’t like to write 3 or 4 different synopses for the same book to satisfy everyone. Now I have 2 synopses. One is short(2 pages) and the other is longer (5-6 pages). If it doesn’t fall into that guideline, either it goes as is or it just doesn’t go.
The agent who doesn’t want you to ‘thank you for your time’ I believe is Ms. Jessica Faust. 🙂
All the little rules are silly. If we send something professional to an agent in a professional manner, the least we should get in return is to be treated as professionals and people.
Too often it feels like we are treated like neither.
“Now I have 2 synopses. One is short(2 pages) and the other is longer (5-6 pages). If it doesn’t fall into that guideline, either it goes as is or it just doesn’t go.”
I have the exact same approach to synopses as you do. I write 1 long, 1 short, and if the asgent specifies # of pages the synopsis should be, I send whichever is closer. If they don’t specify pages, I send the shorter one, even if it says “detailed synopsis,” because the real point of it all is to just hook their interest while giving them an idea of what the book is about, and get them to request the ms.
It sounds to me like the rant is boiling down to two major issues. Better communication, and less “rules” for us to navigate.
Sure, writing is a business. But if you want to find good writers, stop emphasising that writers need to work on their platforms. Stop praising your authors for pouring their own money into marketing efforts. Stop encouraging writers to submit in a personalised font/with a personalised paragraph that is just the right balance between ‘I have done tons of research’ and evil stalker vibes.
Instead, encourage writers to write better. Writers ought to spend their time polishing their own craft, not working out who their novel should be marketed to and which editors will be interested.
I get irritated when I have a direct referral from one agent to another, and the agent to whom I’ve been referred doesn’t even respond! Gah! I understand agents getting tons of manuscripts daily, and not having time to respond to each and every one, but a direct referral is supposed to mean something, is it not?
You know what I’m tried of reading on agent blogs: “Sometimes we’re just busy or tired, and we ship off query rejections without paying attention.”
ROFLMAO! I do hope agents realize how assanine that sounds, and how much it says about them.
If you’re tired, don’t read query letters. If you’re in a pissy mood because someone spilled coffee on you/your dog/your car, don’t go read query letters.
That’s like a cop saying he accidently shot someone in the leg because he was in a bad mood. Or a doctor misdiagnosing a patient because he had insomnia the night before.
Those excuses don’t fly for police/doctors, and they shouldn’t fly for agents either.
Another complaint: If an agent requests a partial – they should take the time to send a personalized rejection. If you’re asking a writer to take the time to submit a partial and conform to your particular guidelines (because it’s not like you’re the only agent said writer has queried – get over yourself) then you should take the time to personally reply.
Closing thought: If you’re an agent, don’t let the “bad or rude writers” cloud your perceptions of all writers, be it for an hour or a day.
No good teacher stops teaching because one bad student breaks all the rules and doesn’t learn. No good teacher looks at every report turned in and assumes because the first was bad, they all are.
A good teacher goes home at the end of a long day and smiles, knowing that while she might not have been able to reach every student, she gave each one the respect and attention they deserved.
I only got through about 2/3 of the above 72 comments, but was surprised to see so few about interns and assistants … Those 22-year-olds with no experience and shall we say evolving literary tastes who determine whether your query is worthwhile! Or who request your ms, then disappear without a word, leaving your ms in a black hole and your follow-up queries unanswered. But yes, in the end, the most infuriating thing is an agent who never responds to a query or a requested ms. How can they think that’s okay?
I’ve read through the comments. I think it would be nice if all agents had the same level of professional courtesy toward clients but I haven’t had any run-ins with crazy agents yet.
No rants :o)
Unless we count the economy.
I’m finishing a book. Polishing and editing with fingers crossed that it will be good enough for someone to read. But the markets bad for everything. Money is tight. And I write genre fiction, the stuff that won’t win awards or accolades but won’t put the reader to sleep either…. I worry about that. I know I get one chance to make my niche. It’s all or nothing. That worries me.
But, it’ll work. My name is up and anyone who wants to drop by my blog and kindly just drop names of agents to avoid. No notes, no bashing, just leave a name on the comment sheet and I’ll send you good karma :o)
“I know I get one chance to make my niche. It’s all or nothing. That worries me.”
I don’t understand this mentality. Why do you only have 1 chance? If you can’t sell this book, write another one and try another one and try again. Keep doing this. Or do you mean, once it’s published you only get 1 chance, because if it sells poorly that your name is dead. But even if that happens, you can always go with a pen name and start over. (That’s why pennames were invented you know–that and for erotica writers). So there are essentially no limits, other than your personal lifespan and burnout threshhold.
No response to requested material is ignorant and unprofessional. Sad that so many in this industry feel they have right to practice abusive behavior as if it is normal. The current agent business model has a serious flaw and eventually the market will correct for it. Translation- authors will find a different way to get published.
Oh wait, that’s already happened. And if you think I’m talking about self-publish you are putting your head in the sand again.
Publishing has a strange business model in that people outside the companies screen the submissions. Then, agenting has a strange business model. Agents are doing all this work with the hope they get paid.Until that time, writers expect them to provide professional services for free. Try that with your physician or lawyer.
In the UK, some agents do charge fees. Still selective, and the fees are nominal, but you at least get services rendered. Here, it sounds like a total chance!
I agree with the many who’ve referenced ‘no response unless interested’ agents. I actually saw, on one agent site, “If we don’t respond we’re either not interested or we didn’t get your email.” Well, that narrows it down.
I understand too many writers send back ridiculous/rude/annoying comments, and that’s unfortunate. An email address that doesn’t accept replies would stop that and still allow agents to respond to queries. A form letter is fine, and a letter that’s clearly form so I don’t spend a week trying to analyze it is even better. 🙂 But some reply, please, to all queries sent according to rules.
I agree with the need for rejection notices and synopsis guidelines, but I have one more: The Biography. Most of us aren’t rock stars, refugees or heads of state, but we do have some interesting things in our backgrounds. Let us know how much you want to know…and how quirky we are allowed to be. We’re painfully aware that this is a business, so we want to be professional but still show our creativity.
I researched for several hours before writing my biography, but found so little information that I was scared stiff that I was about to sabotage my fiction proposal via an improper bio.
Agents who blog are golden. They do it on their own time and writers are grateful for that.
My pet peeves are two. Like everyone else, I must echo “no response means no” is pure baloney. I refuse to send a query to an agent who operates that way. I like the form letter. It is quick and painless.
My second peeve–when you sign up a client and you tell him how much you like his book, do NOT promise him the sun and the stars. You have NO IDEA how much you can get for the book. It might sell for big dollars, it might not. When I was a new writer, I was weighing several agent offers. My now agent promised me she could get BIG money for the book. No, she couldn’t. It all worked out in the end, but I was mighty resentful for a long time. It felt like the agent just said that so that I would sign with her instead of someone else. It almost felt like blackmail.
Biggest gripe: the time thing.
I work hard to get my revisions done in a timely manner. Why does my editor take ages and ages to review them?
Does he know that I don’t get paid until he does his part?
Also, if you tell me you’re going to get back to me in X amount of time, why take longer? Just admit it’s going to take a while so I don’t have to sit around biting my nails.
I recently had an experience.
A very big-name agent emailed me to tell me that he/she had ideas how to “fix” my novel, and to feel free to call him/her. Well, great! I was thrilled, of course. When we finally hooked up over the phone, it felt like he/she was holding his/her nose while giving me his/her advice. Compliments were there, as was some good advice, but really… What was The Point? Because it did not feel like he/she wanted to see it again, and yes I asked, and yes, they said to send it, but it was like, whatever. So that’s my beef. It was a downer. And while I appreciate the attention, if you’re going to extend yourself to an author, please show some enthusiasm. Please know we are nervous and only want to work with you. Back-handed compliments, I guess, do not work very well for me.
Agents with androgynous names who don’t bother to clarify their gender and/or preference of address. Then, when you query them, addressing perhaps, a man as a Ms. or visa versa, they are not amused.
Golly gee whiz, neither am I.
If your name is a last name, or an androgynous name, please post your gender on your website. And thanks to those who do!
Having refined my query letter, pared my synopsis down to the required length and finished with the fourth edit of my manuscript, I emailed the required materials and pages to Ms. X, whose genre preferences I carefully researched. I worked hard to make everything professional.
Result: a form reply saying that my story “doesn’t resonate.”
Epilogue: Less than forty-eight hours later, Ms. X posts on her blog that she’s tired of getting submissions in a certain genre and would like to see more of other genres – – like the one I submitted.
And agents wonder why writers get so angry.
I agree with Anonymous@3:45 PM
“Sometimes I feel like I have to write a book and behave well, and if I’m not ABSOLUTELY PERFECT, then I won’t even get considered.”
I get annoyed by the agents who mention keeping black lists of authors that have offended them in some way, and those who coincidentally write blog posts about “difficult authors,” and how all agents know each other, and we should watch our step, the day after I’ve mentioned on my blog something I don’t like about one of them. And the ones who treat me like crap because my query was caught in their spam filter and I had the nerve to mention it on their blog after months had gone by without a reply. I definitely get the feeling authors are supposed to maintain an aura of sweetness and light, while the very same agents sound like shrews with PMS about once a month. Talk about a double standard. I only continue to read their blogs for information about the business. I no longer want them as agents any more than they want me as a client. The street runs both ways.
To my two previous agents, who signed me on my last novel, each saying “I love it, it’s so different!” And had me do the mandatory rewrites. No bitterness there; the book did get stronger. But then the silence, and asking finally what the plans were to submit the book, and being told “I’m not sure, it’s so different…”
Here’s to you two, for never sending any of my books to any editor, ever. For a fabulous five-year ride that made me give up writing novels and go to film school. Guess what? I sent that last book to a publisher all by myself last year and sold it. It’s coming out in October.
I lost ten years writing novels.
Holy crap, people. I understand that the writing world can be frustrating, but the hostility of the responses and objectifying of agents is exactly what you are claiming happens to you.
No, I’m not an agent. I’m an author. And I quietly plugged away for years, refining my writing, being open to all revision suggestions, twiddling with my query, and when one novel didn’t work, writing the next one.
And you know what else? Staying upbeat and remembering that agents and editors are human. I work in a profession where I get dozens of e-mails every single day – I understand what it’s like trying to plow through them. Especially when the odds of one them equaling money is slender and you have other projects you could be working on.
I now have three book contracts in a year’s time (with lovely publishers) and a drool-worthy agent. I’ve asked why they kept encouraging me to revise when the first version was so rough, and they said: Because you were indefatigable, upbeat, polite — willing to do whatever it takes and laughing the whole way.
I don’t think I could’ve ever written a single vent in this thread. It’s a hard business, yeah. *shrug*
Hey, she asked what annoys us. It seems we answered.
Just gotta keep writing and submitting–thats’ all there is to it. Those who get flustered over the details of that process aren’t meant to be pro writers.
It’s hard for the agents too, especially these days, with all these micropubs and POD houses springing up that will publish a good, edited book with quality production into stores and on Amazon. Some of those books go on to see big Amazon numbers, and then they have the agents coming to them. So I think more and more we’re going to see agents contacting the up and coming unagented authors who are moving mass units on Amazon, because these writers have proven they have a product people want and that they know how to market it. Now, some of these guys might decide they don’t even need an agent since they got to where they are without one, but when they get big enough they’ll eventually get one.
A number of the comments posted here seem to be from authors who are honestly making the effort to hone their craft and be professional. But they’re all frustrated by rules and customs serving as a barrier to entry into the marketplace.
Agents hold the power they do because they’re a convenience for publishers, but that’s unlikely to remain true over the long term because the business model for publishing is changing rapidly. The current crop of e-publishers and other alternatives to the brick-and-mortar houses are only the tip of the iceberg.
As soon as publishers determine their gatekeepers are an impediment, agents will be gone.
Actually, 10:08, I think you’re wrong. Publishers are downsizing the editorial staff all the time. This makes a lot more pressure to have a near-perfect manuscript at the get go.
Who ends up doing the editing? The agent.
And I never want to negotiate my own contracts or haggle for money, plskthx. I will keep my agent. 🙂
I honestly don’t understand the angry responses to this post. Yes, it invited writers to vent but look at what’s being vented about. If an agent says they represent your genre, but the story didn’t resonate with them, why would that make you angry? Do you adore EVERY book you read in the genres you like? People are angry if agents respond, thinking that they can’t gauge a book by a query letter. What do you do when you buy a book? Most likely you read the back cover, maybe flip it open and read the first few pages. If it doesn’t engage you, you put it back. Isn’t this exactly what the agents are doing? It’s part of your job to write the query letter that will make them want to request it. YOUR JOB. Why are you blaming the agents? It would be nice to get a response, that I agree with, but if the agent specifically says they don’t respond if they’re not interested and this bothers you…DON’T QUERY THEM. You don’t have to work with any of these agents. It’s up to you to research and find a group of agents to query that you would be happy working with.
Right now I have a stack of papers from my students (in a largish lecture section), each consisting of four short essay answers to questions posed from a reading. I also have stacks of lab papers to grade, and a stack of case study reports from another lecture section. It’s my job to read them all — every word — write comments on them, and assign them a grade in a way that I can justify if any of them come to my office and ask, “Why did I only get a 7/10 on this?” Creating a good rubric before I make the assignment helps. Then the students know exactly what’s expected of them and have a better chance of delivering it.
So I sympathize with agents whose eyes begin to cross near the end of the day. I know that kind of fatigue. But you know — it’s my job. It’s what I’m paid to do. Yes, agents make money when they actually sell a manuscript. They don’t make money reading queries, so it tends to be low on their priority list. But then again, I don’t get paid extra when I have to take papers home over the weekend to grade. I do it because it’s my job (especially if I forget to follow the educator’s maxim of never assigning more than I want to grade).
So from one tired-eyed reader of sloppy manuscripts to another, here are some suggestions that work for me:
1) Communicate your expectations clearly. If I tell students what I want of them, I’m much more likely to get it. Not guaranteed, but more likely. Be specific, as I must be on a grading rubric, especially if innocuous phrases like “thank you for your time and consideration” prompt you to chuck an otherwise good query into the reject pile. We like to be forewarned about secret handshakes.
2) Respond promptly. Students get irritated when their professors take too long to return papers. They’re justly angry if a paper never gets returned at all. Did the professor even get the paper? If an agent never responds, how is the author to know if the query even arrived?
3) Respond courteously. If I slap a grade on a paper with no comments, there’s nothing to help my students understand where that grade came from. No agent has the time to write the kind of comments that I do on my students’ papers, but a simple “No thanks” at least reassures the author that the query was received and considered. For a query, that’s enough. When an agent requests pages, something more than a form rejection would be nice. And if the agent requests the manuscript, then some changes, it’s only common courtesy to add sufficient comments that the author can understand why the agent ultimately rejects it.
As for that supposed risk of rejected authors sending snarky letters in return? Try looking a 300-pound linebacker in the eye and tell him that no, you’re not going to raise his final grade just because failing biology is inconvenient for him right now. At least one can just throw away the snarky letter. Linebackers take a little more effort.
Dear Jessica, you brave, brave woman!
You know, I can’t complain. Agents have been very kind to me in the past. But I was thinking of one thing in the business that has worried me recently, and if I ever have the luck to work with you, I’m sure we’ll be talking about it.
Somebody was talking about the problem of the sophomore novel recently, especially how the writer will work for several years on that first novel, and then be given only 9 or 12 months to write the second one, and the result is often painful.
My question, does it really have to be that way? Can’t I say to a publisher, “No, I’m only dealing with you for this book, but you’ll have the first option to see the next one”? Or is it always a package deal and they buy the next two books in the series or trilogy? Because honestly, it’s almost enough to make me put my foot down and say, “No, I’m not going to make any deal on books I haven’t written, because if a book is not ready, I WILL NOT put it on the market, deal or no deal.”
Just my rattling nerves… and probably a dose of ignorance of the business. Bless you for listening…
My first agents accepted my novel, but made it plain they were very interested in my historical if the first didn’t sell. It was, and still is, a fascinating story.
They didn’t represent children’s books so I found another agent for that. I loved her dearly and she was fantastic about sending me copies of correspondence she received from editors so I always knew what was going on.
Pretty good, eh? Two books. Two agents.
Yeah. Well, my computer crashed and I lost the mystery. No problem I had it backed up. Oops, problem. Back up disk is corrupted. Ah, still no problem. Agency has the manuscript. You don’t have the final manuscript? How have you been sending it out and getting these rejections?
Please return whatever you have of mine and let’s cancel this contract.
A year later I am in the bookstore browsing through historicals and find an interesting little book about a collection of women. Same collection of women I was going to do a series on if the first historical sold. Open the book and there is a glowing thank you to my former agents for their wonderful idea and help in publishing this book.
Fortunately, neither the agents nor their wonderful author had a clue of the real guts of the story and all they did was publish a dry history book.
I started rewriting the mystery and got most of it done, but kept thinking about my former agents and got mad every time I did. I threw it away and forgot about writing for several years. Well, actually I wrote, but I forgot about the hell of publishing.
Now that I have removed my head from that dark place, I am finding a very frightening world out there.
I had several agents call me about my manuscripts before. Most were very excited about my “style” and voice.
I think it’s much more polished today, but I have to admit I have doubts about getting an agent or selling a book.
It seems the entire industry is focused on killer first lines, queries and pitches. I know there are dozens of blogs about writing queries so we should all be expert at it.
It’s simple. Spell agent’s name correctly. Name your protagonist. What do they want? What stands in their way? Give your credentials. Polite closing. There it is. You now have the secret to the perfect query. Do it with style and plenty of voice and you will get our attention.
Don’t call us. We’ll call you if you knocked our socks off. If you didn’t just hang around waiting because we might let you know someday. Or, maybe, we never got your query, but you probably weren’t any good anyway so no big deal. Don’t ask if we got it because you will make us mad.
Anon 8:18 said it best. Just hit a simple form reply letting us know you aren’t interested.
Aside from that, I am now convinced writing a wonderful novel makes not a whit of difference if you aren’t one of those people who can knock out sterling query letters. I’m enrolled in a rather expensive workshop to polish up a manuscript and I seriously wonder if I shouldn’t have invested the money in a query workshop instead.
Having said that, even after reading the doom and gloom agents who warn me publishing is dead, I remain eternally optimistic.
There are wonderful agents and editors blogging, who are more than generous with their time and expertise. This is a golden time to be a writer. Never has so much help been available if we are serious about our craft.
If writing golden query letters is the key, then that is simply what must be done.
If I have to hook someone in two sentences then I guess I better make those two sentences stellar and follow it up with two more of equal quality.
I guess it comes down to if, when a publisher offers you a three-book deal with an advance, that you’re willing to say, “No thanks, I only want a deal for the book I’ve already writeen,” and have the advance downsized accordingly. Of course publishers want authors who can crank out the goods, so they’re going to ask you, “what else have you got?” But if you’ve got nothing else you’re willing to commit to, then I guess there’s nothing wrong with saying that, either. But then later on, when you finally do have something you want to get a deal for, you’ll have to renegotiate all over again, and meanwhile, if your first book hasn’t done well, they may not be interested at all anymore. So I’d venture to say that if you want to make a career of it, when you finally get your foot in the door, kick that puppy open and run in–don’t just say hi and leave.
A lot of these frustrations seem reasonable to me, and I’ve found this discussion thread a very interesting – if disheartening – read.
But the ad hominem attacks against agents are unwarranted, especially the misogynistic ones (e.g. references to PMS).
I totally agree with anonymous 9.40pm: “No, I’m not an agent. I’m an author. And I quietly plugged away for years, refining my writing, being open to all revision suggestions, twiddling with my query, and when one novel didn’t work, writing the next one.
And you know what else? Staying upbeat and remembering that agents and editors are human. I work in a profession where I get dozens of e-mails every single day – I understand what it’s like trying to plow through them. Especially when the odds of one them equaling money is slender and you have other projects you could be working on.”
I wrote to agents about my last ms. From one agent I recieved a letter telling me the characters weren’t engaging, the plot had been done to death, the storyline wasn’t remotely eye-catching, etc, etc. It went on, but you get the idea. Hey, at least it was a personalized letter, right? 😉 Yet the next day I got a letter from another agent telling me the exact opposite and requesting more material. Why did agent number 1 feel the need to email me and tell me how crap it was, while agent number 2 apparently liked it so much? Who knows. Maybe agent number 1 had already gotten 200 queries about similar books that week and mine was the proverbial straw. Whatever the case, you take everything on objectively and keep on working. I read an article a while back about a woman who’d been trying to get published for over 20 years, and guess what? Her first book was about to come out. So yeah, it is a frustrating business. But like all the other comparisons to other professions that have already been made, that’s just
the way this indusrty works sometimes.
I signed a contract with HarperCollins (India) for my first novel back in Nov 2006 with the understanding the the novel will come out by March 2008. I haven’t yet got the first edit from my editor at HCI who seems to be busy editing other books that he thinks are ‘time bound’. Is this common? Or is my novel jinxed?
Have to agree with everyone else here. The rejection letter is my friend.
I think it would help if agents remember that long days, impossible expectations, abusive behaviour, etc, are not unusual in other jobs. Many writers deal with these things all day — and then go home, do the housework, take care of the family, and *then* write. (And *then*, at 2am, work on queries.)
A very good and lovely blogging agent recently mentioned how hard it is to write a coherent letter at the end of a 12-hour day. Well, yes. Try writing a coherent novel in little snatches at the end of 18-hour days.
Anonymous at 6:11 am,
Check your contract. Does it specify a publication deadline (IE, must be published no later than 18 months after the signing of this contract)?
If so, call your editor and point that out (or get your agent on the horn).
If not, well, I don’t know.
Well, this is interesting.
Before I give my one and only “rant”, I’d like to say that many agents I’ve met are hard-working, considerate people who truly want to support and encourage aspiring authors but, like many of us, have only 24 hours in the day. I have enormous respect for Jessica and many other agents I’ve met (or whose blogs I read) and I think that, while self-publishing is an option (as one anonymous pointed out), being agented with the right person is the equivalent of an all-access backstage pass rather than just front row seats.
My one rant is about an agent from an agency I respect (two writer friends are repped there). I sent her a query, she immediately requested a full and said she couldn’t wait to read it and I NEVER heard back. I politely followed up six weeks after sending just to make sure it arrived (it was an e-send) and heard nothing. Waited for 3 more months and followed up…nothing. Decided even if she did respond now, I wouldn’t sign with someone who either lacks organization or consideration.
As for having a place where you can discuss your positive and negative experiences with agents and get some real feedback, I’m on a loop of other writers (not open to agents or publishers) and we have a “Vegas rules” policy (what is said on the loop, stays on the loop) and we are brutally honest about any experiences we’ve had with agents. I’ve added some names to my “must query” list because of this and deleted a number of names too.
It’s good to get as much reliable, firsthand info as you can before signing anything. 🙂
I would love to find just one human being on the entire planet that actually knows what’s going on in the publishing business.
I agree with this one as it JUST happened to me. “If an agent requests a partial – they should take the time to send a personalized rejection.”
A form rejection on a query – sure, I can handle that – no problem. I’ve seen the number of queries received each week (some agents post that info.). But, when an agent specifically asks for a partial, a personalized rejection (no details needed) is just plain nice and as respectful as agents would like us to be (and I know I am).
Now, that being said, my form “Dear Author” rejection was lovely and I applaud the agent for it. I just think that if the agent asks for a partial and/or a full and sends a form rejection – not so cool.
And to those who think this thread is harsh, I don’t see that. I see genuine frustration – not attacking a particular agent for the most part (those with your own horror stories – so sorry!).
It’s not sour grapes, it’s not hate mail. It’s just a venue to vent and I think people have kept it pretty calm. Probably because we all respect Jessica so much.
I love this business – in all its ups and downs and its interesting people. I’m just glad for opportunity to share my frustrations with someone I respect – and whose blog probably gets read by other agents. If it gives a few of them food for thought, all the better.
Happy writing and even happier publishing to all my fellow aspiring authors!
Just like the music biz used to be, publishing has become first and foremost a BUSINESS that cares little (if at all) about great art or literature. Once the big corporations bought everything up, it all became a “product.” I don’t seek to write product. Some of you do, and that’s fine. I write to reach people, to touch and inspire them. Sure, it’s always been a business when you get to the stage of getting your work out there, but today it’s the worst it’s ever been.
It’s been great to read so many frustrations here that I feel are completely warranted. If you don’t get lucky and write a product a few agents like, then you’re not a good writer? Um, what? Britney Spears sells MILLIONS of records. Does that mean she’s a good musician? This is not about being a good writer. This is about creating a PRODUCT that will SELL, just like Britney, or Coke. I’m sorry, but if I don’t “have what it takes” to be a product, well, thanks! That’s not what I’m doing.
I love, love, LOVE what’s happening in the music biz right now, meaning that it’s crumbling. The publishing biz has become similar, and once it becomes easy for artists to get their work to people directly, well, just watch what’s happening to all the “major” record companies now…
I know my new novel is good and that a lot of people would enjoy and connect with it. As it has always been, it’s a matter of getting past the gatekeepers, those in the biz, who keep you from sharing your work. Yes, most stuff out there is crap, published or unpublished. I’m talking about good work. Well, it seems to me that the major publishers and record companies still exist for one thing: distribution and publicity. If I can get publicity and distribution, then what do I need the big publisher for? Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’ve heard all the responses to that, but think about it. Unlike a few years ago, if you have a (GOOD) book that’s not a “good” enough product for the agents/editors, there are avenues opening up to still get it out there. If you’re willing to put in the work, then there’s a chance now where there wasn’t years ago when I was a professional musician, shut out because I wasn’t like Kid Rock. And if you think I’m talking about “vanity presses,” does it sound like I’m in this for the vanity?
And on this topic, stop insulting every writer who hasn’t passed the UTTERLY arbitrary OPINIONS of a handful of human beings who are mainly concerned with making MONEY selling a PRODUCT.
Then don’t be a part of the system, you say? Gladly, I reply, tipping my hat. I’m not so sure I need your system anymore.
A new day is dawning.
Best wishes to all the people out there writing for the right reasons. The rest of you trend-chasers and ego-hounds, well, you’re in another world I’m happy to leave to you.
I actually don’t have a problem with form rejections. It tells me I’m not there with the manuscript.
But make it a letter or even a post card.
I once got a scribbled “Not for me,” on the envelope I sent the query in. They’d stuffed it into my SASE.
That’s just wrong.
anon @ 1.51:
If I can get publicity and distribution, then what do I need the big publisher for?
Capital. Well, *I* need the capital invested in my book. I need an advance so I can concentrate on writing the next one, and somone else to pay all the professionals involved in the production of a good book- the editor, book designer, cover designer, marketing and sales people etc etc. I cannot afford to sink $40.000 into a novel, and there are some things – relationships with bookbuyers, for instance – that you just _cannot_ buy.
Once you start looking into publishing your own book – not just printing it, _publishing_, you begin to realise just how much a publishing house will do that you can’t easily do yourself.
(great thread, btw)
I’d like to add my “hear hear” to the posts that said requested material should get something more personal than a form letter.
Form letters for blind queries are fine, but a form letter after you’ve expressed interest in something feels really insulting.
Yeah, Anon 1:51, good luck with that. We talentless hacks will get by somehow.
Then don’t be a part of the system, you say? Gladly, I reply, tipping my hat. I’m not so sure I need your system anymore.
Then why are you participating in a blog by an agent? I’m not even trying to be snotty with the question. I’ve heard other people say/write similar things and if you truly feel that way, why bother hanging around here in the first place?
Anon 5:18: This is what I wrote:
“Best wishes to all the people out there writing for the right reasons. The rest of you trend-chasers and ego-hounds, well, you’re in another world I’m happy to leave to you.”
Obviously, you automatically identified yourself with the latter category. Keep hacking away!
One more vent, this one to writers who kiss so much agent a–. Stop. It’s pathetic. It’s like kissing up to the customs agents at the airport.
To lehcarjt: I read and study and learn about the industry to make informed decisions. Simple as that.
>>An agent waited four years to respond?
Anon 3:20 on May 14. That was an editor. I’m pretty sure I know who she is. She’s had one of my partials for like three years. I’ve also heard horror stories about how she treats some of her other authors.
I landed my first agent not even two years after I started writing (and in that two years I wrote a lot). For the first three months everything was wonderful…then she stopped returning my emails. She didn’t tell me about an almost sale (rejected in committee) so i could revise….totally lost interest after that book didn’t sell. Six months in I fired her.
18 months later, I hired another agent, refered to her by a friend, went with contract in hand and chose her over two BIG agents. THought I had made a good choice this time but she didn’t like anything I wrote after I signed w/her. Six months in I knew I’d made a grave mistake. We were together just over a year. She told me good luck on my last project which my current, and third agent is shopping.
I know there’s a lot of suckiness to this business from agents who don’t respond to queries (I once got a rejection written on my own query–and there was a coffee stain on it too LOL), to editors who don’t respond for years to the whole business model. It’s not for sissies….that’s why i’m still here despite all the bullsh*t =)
I would like to know why some memoirs that are just the same old thing are eaten up, praised and published, but a memoir that is truly unique, well-written and would also point out social policies that most people don’t know about, is passed over – even when some chapters were nominated for the Pushcart Prize.
Seems to me everything is luck and who you know.
So, you save up enough money to go to a writers conference, you are led to believe that REAL LIVE AGENTS will be there to talk to you…and guess what? All the agents are in their little agent groups talking to other agents and not the least bit interested in talking to “the very poor and very eager writers.”One agent even told a would be author..”I am not here to be hounded by you guys.”
I know there are good agents out there…it just seems they are few and far between….
Also..agents say they are interested in queries…than reply that “I don’t have the time to take on new projects right now”…Why not just say “I am not taking queries at present.” You are wasting my time and yours.
The agents upped their percentage to 15% from 10%. As a result, agents can now accept fewer clients and fewer writers are able to get agents. Writers also make less money.
I wish that the standard submission package really was standard, that every one was the same so I didn’t have to customize each one. A 2 page synopsis for one person. A 7 page synopsis for someone else. So-and-so hates Courier. Someone else auto-rejects Times.
If things were standard, I could spend more time writing.
And if you want me to research what you want, make it simple for me to do that. Put it on your website–so I can spend more time writing.
Also, it’s time to start accepting double-sided printing. This saves the environment and postage, which is extra expensive for me because I don’t live in the America.
Am I the only one to wonder how come so many terrible, awful and no-good books are published? What gives?
I too use to feel sorry for myself. But no more.
The way I see it now, agents are put through the same grinder with publishers as we are with agents. It’s not personal– it’s business. Of course it would be wonderful if agents could take risk with novels they know publishers aren’t looking for, but then they might lose credibility. And publishers are also under the pressure of producing money makers, because, as maddening as it is, this is the way the world is going.
We writers might be into this for the art and the self expression, but the rest of the industry has to worry about the bottom line.
Actually, I only have two gripes thus far.
I completely get the reasoning behind it, that it might be a little disheartening to an agent to be seriously considering offering representation only to be told that the author found someone else in the meantime, but I still sigh when I see things on agent websites to the effect of ‘don’t submit to us if you’ve got manus in submission elsewhere. Oh btw we take about 8+ weeks to review submissions’.
It’s a petty bother I know, but I still feel set-back timewise submitting to agencies with this proviso. I don’t have probems with the timelines agents set, because in most cases you can stimultaneously submit, and agents have a lot of flood to get through—I think some folks who do have problems with the timelines forget that agents don’t sit all day reading queries and mss and have other resonsibilities.
(At least my perceptive concept of time is so skew-whiff that 8 weeks feels negligible for me, but I know folks who’d have gone bald from hair-pulling by then XD (saves to say they’re not writers, haa).)
My other gripe I’ve only seen from one agency so far was being told to address my letter to ‘the Submissions Department’.
I’ve read a lot of blogging agents making a huge deal out of the fact that incorrectly or impersonally addressed correspondence is a bit of a gaffe. I have to admit being instinctually spooked by being instructed to do something that I’d come to consider amongst the various kisses of death in submissions.
I still submitted, of course, despite a bit of finger-biting over how to phrase the letter. So here’s hoping I wasn’t told to do something that was essentially a fatal faux pas (considering the talk of assistants and interns amongst the comments D: )
My first agent was not a big fan of paperwork. He tried to convince me that the IRS didn’t REALLY need 1099 forms, and that I didn’t REALLY need a copy of my royalty statements in those quarters when no income was reported. Once, when I pointed out that the royalty rate on a contract was incorrect, his response was, “Yeah, I noticed that, but it’s only one percent…” He was slow to send royalty statments and checks–eight weeks late was his record–and his excuses ranged from–I kid you not–“I ran out of stamps” to “My wife has chickenpox.”
I parted ways with my second agent, a more professional and highly respected agent, also for business-related reasons. A work-for-hire contract, something that didn’t have much room for negotiation, took more than six months to find its way from the from the publisher to me. Another contract took over nine months, and by that time my book had to be bumped in the schedule. It was bad–the editor and the publishers were calling me to complain about not being able to touch base with my agent. The kicker was when a co-owner of copyright for a book package project I was writing told my editor they didn’t want to continue the project if it meant dealing with my agency. When your agent starts losing work for you, it’s time to move on.
In a surreal series of phone conversations, another agent in that agency contacted me to ask who was writing the fifth book in a media tie-in series. I told her that no one was: the license had expired and the publisher hadn’t renewed it. “But we sold a five-book deal to Japan and Germany,” she said. (My agent was also the foreign rights agent for the publisher. Can you say “conflict of interest,” boys and girls?) She then proceeded to ask me if I’d be interested in writing a fifth book just for the Japanese and German markets. I explained to her, again, that this would not be possible because the license had expired and writing a book without permission from the IP’s corporate owner would be a serious violation of copyright. Call me crazy, but I don’t think I should have to explain this sort of thing to an agent. I also found it incomprensible that she thought someone would want to do this despite that fact that none of the authors on this project had been paid for these foreign sales (and haven’t to this day.)
This same agency has sent me other people’s statements and once went for over a year without noticing that they weren’t receiving royalty statements from one of my publishers. The level of record-keeping just isn’t sufficient to flag things of this nature, apparently.
So I guess my bottom line is this: I want an agent who will handle the paperwork accurately and in a timely fashion.