Why Agents Don’t Go That Extra Mile

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Jun 12 2015

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

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

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

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

Fair enough, but she asked me.


13 responses to “Why Agents Don’t Go That Extra Mile”

  1. Avatar Artemis Grey says:

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

  2. Avatar Elissa M says:

    I fully agree with Artemis Grey.

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

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

  3. Avatar John Frain says:

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

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

    People can be odd. Have a good weekend anyway.

  4. Avatar Caitlin Lane says:

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

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

  5. Avatar jfaust says:

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

  6. Avatar Artemis Grey says:

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

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

  7. Avatar Hollie says:

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

  8. Avatar E.L. Wagner says:

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

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

  9. Avatar AJ Blythe says:

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

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

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  11. Avatar Roslyn Reid says:

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

  12. Avatar beyonce says:

    Thank you for another essential article.