Sunday, June 10, 2007

This is a very important post.

Question: Is is worthwhile responding with a short 'thank you' even when an agent passes? It seems like good manners, but knowing how full an agent's inbox might be with more pressing stuff, I wonder whether its worth it. Is sending that gesture of civility likely to be remembered? Will it just make them annoyed at more stuff in their inbox?

Thanks in advance for your opinion.

The answer to your question is: No. Do not send us a thank you note if we have rejected you. We won't really be mad at you, but we will be annoyed at more stuff for us to deal with, especially if everyone started doing it.

I'll make a larger point clear here and try to dispel a rumor. Back when I was hanging out at Writer.net and trying to perfect my own query letter about 4 years ago, there was a going rumor that you should send a thank-you card or note or whatever because agents log in the name and title of your novel in their massive agency database. Also, if you try to resubmit with a better query, you should change the title so that when we go to our database, it doesn't show up as already submitted.

We don't have a database.

I have never worked for an agent or known an agent who kept track of rejections, even of partials or fulls. It would be a massive effort and a complete waste of time. Publishing companies have the time and money to do that sometimes. I know that DAW does keep rejections on file because I got rejected by the rejection was lost in the mail and I called them to check on it and they looked it up. Agents do not do this.

I don't remember names. I don't remember the names of my friends or outer family members. I don't remember the names of teachers I've had recently or even current professors. Even if I want to remember your name, I will probably fail horribly. And I'm not much better with titles, because titles are pretty generic most of the time. But I am really, really awful with names. I will open 50 envelopes, read fifty query letters, reject all but three, and not remember anything except the plotlines of some of them. I tend to have a good memory for plotlines, but not names and dates. I'm worst than most people in this particular category of being a human being, but it doesn't affect my work. It just serves to make a lot of family functions very awkward.

Many people write their questions anonymously, or make comments anonymously, in some kind of fear that I will see their query at some point and reject them because of something they said a year before. This is not true. I will not remember, even if by some cosmic karma they do end up hitting my agency and I open the envelope. So, have no fear.

28 comments:

Heather said...

You know, I am so glad I'm not the only person who just cannot remember names.

It took me a year to learn my middle school beast friend's name, because I forgot it after I was introduced, and was too ashamed to ask.

True story.

Thomas said...

Beyond all that, why would I say "thank you" when you told me to fuck off?

Dwight's Writing Manifesto said...

Well, Tom, it's not so much "Thank You For What You've Done for Me" as it is shorthand for "Thank You Sir, May I Please Have Another?"

But faux civility is better than no civility at all.

Dwight's Writing Manifesto said...

Well, Tom, it's not so much "Thank You For What You've Done for Me" as it is shorthand for "Thank You Sir, May I Please Have Another?"

But faux civility is better than no civility at all.

garymar said...

A query letter is not a social call. It is a business and, above all else, a sales call. A terse exchange is appropriate and appreciated.

And when the agent says "no", it doesn't mean "fuck off", it means "not interested in your product".

Katie Alender said...

What is "DAW"?

In contrast, when I worked in TV development, we kept a massive database with names, dates, titles, notes, etc. More than once we got the same project back with a different name. But the legalities are a little different, and it's much easier to accuse a network of stealing your show than an agent of stealing your book.

Williebee said...

OH... Ok. thanks. No, wait....nm.
:)

Ryan Field said...

Those of us (writers) who've been around for a while don't care about names and thank you's either, unless it means money.

Stephen Parrish said...

Don't feel bad, Decliner, I have trouble remembering names too.

Peter said...

Hey Ms. Rejecter,

Do you know of a good resource for whatever-the-hell a plot line for a query should look like? Is there a structure? Or wrong way to outline a plot in a query? I did a quick search through writers.net (egad, more writers' bios), Google, and the brand new ask.com, but nothing seemed to really fit what I imagine would be appropriate for a query. Figured I better ask at the risk of being a newbie. Thanks for any guidance.

Merrie Haskell said...

Katie, DAW is a publisher--the sf and fantasy imprint of Penguin, I believe.

BuffySquirrel said...

DAW

The Rejecter said...

Go to writers.net discussion forums for literary agents and post your query. If something's hideously wrong with the way you've formatted it, someone will spot the problem. They won't make your book idea any better, though.

Andrew said...

Even if the urge to say "thank you" is based in politeness and general goodwill, the biggest danger might be a shadow of sarcasm. Even if you don't mean to be sarcastic, any amount of deference or self-deprecation might be seen as such: "Dear agent, thank you for taking a few moments out of your precious, precious time to look at my silly little manuscript just long enough to reject it. I really appreciate all the careful thought you obviously put into this decision." Conciseness might not help either: "Gee, thanks."

Of course it really doesn't matter, because the rejection means the conversation is over, so no sincere or sarcastic note of thanks is going to change it. But if your goal is to end things pleasantly and cordially, and perhaps to give the agent a general good feeling about new writers, it's probably safer to say nothing at all.

But Thomas, I don't think a rejection means "fuck off," really. It's like when you go to the mall food court and choose one place to eat. You're not saying "fuck off, China Wok, and fuck off, Taco Time." You're saying, "Corn Dog on a Stick sounds better."

Anonymous said...

Peter:

You might try Evil Editor also.

Josephine Damian said...

Ms R.,

I think I've gotten to the bottom of this "thankless task."

In 2002, Carolyn See wrote a book called "Making a Literary Life." She advocates that writers turn a rejection around by sending a thank you note to the nay-sayer.

There's lots of great advice in this book.

That's NOT one of them!

Maybe you should send Ms. See a "thank you" note for her suggestion to writers everywhere? :-)

Josephine

http://quoteitwrite.blogspot.com
http://forensicsdiary.blogspot.com
http://josephinedamian.blogspot.com

peter said...

Thanks for the suggestions. I appreciate the help.

Anonymous said...

Those of us who hang out on writers' websites like Absolute Write (to name only one) hoping to figure out how to make agents Fall In Love with our manuscripts have seen this "database" nonsense over and over again. "You must never, ever resubmit to the same agency," they preach, as though fearing an angry God, "because agents keep *databases*, and if you submit more than once, they'll blacklist you, or at the very least, reject you without reading any further!"

They really believe this nonsense, too.

As for sending rejecting agents thank-you cards, well, I'll start doing that when they start sending me thank-you cards for submitting.

Anonymous said...

love your blog. -jess


www.whowhatweardaily.com

bran fan said...

Peter--Agent Nathan Bransford has been discussing queries on his blog recently, and you can also look at the crapometer archives on Miss Snark's (no longer active) blog. She took about a hundred queries and commented on them all. It was great.

Bernita said...

It seems redundant - unless they have kindly offered some useful advice in their rejection -because you may have already thanked them for their time in your query.

Jane said...

At least one agent I've queried maintained a database because when she rejected me, she added a snippy little comment at the bottom of the letter: "By the way, you also queried me back in 1997."

Well, yeah, after NINE YEARS I thought it would be okay to query you with a different product. My mistake. Sheez.

Dave Kuzminski said...

Some editors and agents have very good memories, particularly if they see some hint or promise of better writing to come. Over a decade ago, I encountered several such who commented on my submissions to encourage me to continue (or at least I hope that was their intent). A few I know of do maintain databases, though they're generally not the very formal kind you might expect upon hearing them called that. Then again, a list is a database. It doesn't have to be fancy to work.

Getting to the point, even though only a few editors and agents maintain databases, it doesn't hurt to treat them all as if they will remember you and be professional in your actions.

ORION said...

On the other hand I always sent a thank you note when my full was rejected especially when the agent took time to write a detailed letter with comments -- I did not expect a reply and interestingly I always got a short grateful note of acknowledgment which I did NOT reply to.

Andrew said...

Jane--that's so weird! Why would she feel the need to note that you submitted once years before? I could see the value of discouraging query spam; "You've sent me the same query eight times in the last three months. It's a no already."

I suppose it's a good sign that the agent keeps such careful records... and yet, doesn't she have something better to do?

bran fan said...

The ONLY time I would ever reply to a rejection to say "thank you" is if I knew the agent personally. For example, I met a lovely agent at a conference and had dinner with her. When she later rejected my project via e-mail, I wrote a very brief "Okay. Thanks anyway. Perhaps another project at another time." She wrote back to say that she'd love to see another project at another time, and that was that.

But an agent you've never met? Like the other writers here have already said, once you receive the rejection, the conversation is over. O.V.E.R.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but that's stupid advice. A query rejection? Of course not. But when an agent takes a query, requests a partial, and then takes the time to read a full ms it's different. And if the agent passes with a personalized letter with comments,it's simply good manners to write a short note thanking them for their time.

Anonymous said...

Hey Rejecter, what was your writers.net name (assuming it was also an anonymous one)? I, too, spent time on writers.net about four years ago, and actually remember the names of some of the most common posters. I don't go there at all anymore, though . . . got too tired of wading through horrible queries and the same newbie questions over and over. It's probably a good place to start, though.