Thursday, August 16, 2007

Nice/Mean Wording

And I'm back. Been busy setting up my new digs, i.e. buying more bookshelves for books. Man do I have a lot of them.

Dear Rejecter:

I mean can we just stop with the "I'm not the best agent for your book" reply? Duh! Of course, you're not the best agent. I know that. You know that. The whole world knows it. How can a profession, or caste, obsessively fixated on crisp, to the point queries even make such a statement, let alone repeat it day after day, week…? Do they ever read their own writing? The best agent is retired or can’t be bothered with me. That’s no secret. I mean what is that response attempting to accomplish? Maybe someone else finds the pain of rejection soothed by those words, but I don’t it. Hopefully, if you agree and publicize the absurdity of this response, we can move forward together.

As will prove to you, there is no good rejection that satisfies the writer, unless the writer has extremely thick skin or is delusional. It basically goes something like this.

Rejection: "Thanks, not for me."
Author: "What, she couldn't take the time to write more than one line?"

Rejection: "(long and winding things about how the author should try other agencies and there's potential, but it's just not for this agent for some such reason, and good luck!)"
Author: "How long does it take her to say 'no'?"

Rejection: Printed on a half-slip of paper.
Author: "She couldn't afford an entire sheet of paper?"

Rejection: Printed on a normal sheet of high-quality paper.
Author: "For two lines? What a waste of paper. I guess agents don't care about the environment."

Rejection: Photocopied form response.
Author: "How impersonal! Did she even read it or did she just stuff envelopes?"

Rejection: Personal note on original query letter, handwritten.
Author: "What, she couldn't afford the time to type out a whole letter?"

It goes on an on. The point is: We're saying no and you don't like it. All agents try to use different tactics to soften the blow, but none of them work, though intentions are usually good.

The "I'm not the right agent for this is" response is actually an honest, decent response that probably is true for any number of reasons. Maybe your work is really bad, or maybe it's that the agent doesn't have time for new writers because she's got 2 bestsellers on tour and she would only take on something if she had a lot of time to devote to it (new authors require a lot of hours to edit the manuscript and submit it to publishers, and then do contract revisions). Maybe you've written in a genre she doesn't represent. (I'm using the "she" here despite the plethora of male agents just for consistency's sake)

Chances are it's the last one. My boss doesn't handle most genres of fiction except for her stated specialties, so that narrows down the pile considerably. She does a lot of non-fiction, but not self-help, so that narrows it down even further. Seriously, guys, stick to what genres are listed on AgentQuery.


Anonymous said...

The funniest one I've received started out: We regret to inform you . . .

Thank God I didn't have anyone near and dear serving in Iraq! I mean - come on, that's just plain, old-fashioned stooopid.

I don't care why you're saying no, just so you have the courtesy to send a reply.

Anonymous said...

I loved this post. For clarification, I'm a writer just starting on my journey of finding an agent. I would much rather get a rejection letter (nice/ short/ long/ mean/ handwritten/ form - it doesn't matter) than nothing at all. At least I know it's hitting their desk and someone has seen it. I figure that's a quarter of the battle, onto the next battle of getting them to ask for something.

moonrat said...

it's bad enough when it's slush authors--you just assume they're stupid and going to react stupidly to your rejections. the best you can do is make them absolutely airtight.

it's REALLY frustrating, though, then it's another professional--for example, an agent. you and i BOTH know this business. one of my favorites:

me: "sorry, it's just not right for us."

agent: "oh, i think you're wrong about that."

if i say it's not for me, do you really want to push it? you REALLY want your book being handled by a house that isn't at all enthusiastic about it? seriously? seriously?!?

Anonymous said...

How about when the shoe is on the other foot? When you've offered representation, only to find out that the author has a string of agents doing so, and is working all of them to get the "best" agent?
I heard this last week from a writer friend. I was taken aback, since I thought she had only sent to agents she'd love to have represent her. She got one offer from an agent I'd love to have, then took that to all the others. Her "endgame" is to have a large, dual-coast agency with a film dept take her on, since she sees her book as a film.
Honestly, no one except the first agent seemed to have the level of enthusiasm for the work I would want in an agent. Now she has a couple agents on the hook, but only because one agent wanted it first!
When we asked her about this, she said it's the norm. She knows the agent she wants.
This is so like applying to college all over again. I want to scream at her because while she's got all these people reading and waiting, I'm trying to get my stuff read.
Is this the norm? How long does an agent wait? Do agents realize that someone is doing this? Do you care if someone takes you as their "safety" agent?
How do agents handle this kind of rejection?

Mary Witzl said...

You're right, of course. No matter how you phrase it, 'no' stings.

'No, I hated it' is agonizing, but so is 'No, although I rather liked this,' which is damnation by faint praise.

Personally, I don't mind the little slips of paper. Okay, the agent didn't want to represent me, but at least I don't have to feel guilty about wasting paper.

Fellow writers have complained about rejection letters that tell them WHY, but those are my personal favorites. Even if I don't agree with the opinions, at least I know.

Danette Haworth said...

Ha! Funny! Reminds me of a list I saw that offered lines to give asked for a reference on a former bad employee:

Waste no time in making an offer to this person.

I can't recommend this person highly enough.

I can't say enough good things about this person.

Thomas said...

It strikes me that most would be writer's egos could use a bit of bruising. A little reality never hurts.

Dear Writer,

No thanks, sodoff and die.

Much Love,

Anonymous said...

Fran, this is absolutely accepted. Writers are expected to find the best representation for them. Agents know this.

Try to be happy for your friend. She's doing what's best for her.

Anonymous said...

Consider this one: a large conference is held, and someone says it's a good thing Ms. Agent So-and-So will be there to meet with face-to-face, because she doesn't take UNSOLICITED MANUSCRIPTS.

Man. Talk about prima donnas. I hope she doesn't actually land any clients.

If I sent her something, no doubt it would be "not right for me." It sounds as though nothing would be "right" for her.

And it's fine for a writer to "shop" different agents to see which one is the best fit. Don't agents do the same thing with writers? Give it up. It's either a business for all of us, or none of us.

Anonymous said...

Welcome back...

Anonymous said...

No, it doesn't really matter. But I did like the handwritten rejection letter I got much better than the form letter with a list of thirty things that "might have been wrong with your story" (not a checklist with boxes checked for the ones that applied, just a long list of possible pet peeves). :)

Anonymous said...

I know this is "accepted" and done all the time. I was surprised someone I knew was doing it.
My question was how do agents feel about this, and how does it impact their take on the potential client?

I guess it totally depends on if you're the first agent, or the guy who comes late to the party only when other agents want it.

As for me, I'd rather have someone who fell in love with my writing represent it (all things being equal), than someone with more (possible) connections to Hollywood. The guy didn't even look until someone else wanted it. Enthusiasm? For the sale maybe. Not the writing.

If the agent doesn't love it, they might as well be selling a block of cheese.

LindaBudz said...

So ...... how was Pennsic?!?!

(And welcome back!)

Unknown said...

Geez am I sick of whiny, sissy, cry-monkeys who submit their work to agents/editors/publishers and expect doors to open simply because it's what they want. Get a clue people! No one is entitled to anything! If you want a career as an author, you have to work for it.

writtenwyrdd said...

Your post is hilarious, but valid. If we want to grouse, we shall find an excuse.

I don't care what the rejection slip says except that it's a No, and I don't care what form it takes, just so long as they send me a response.

Anonymous said...

Good to see you back and everything!

Yeah, rejections are a real hard hit no matter how hard people try to soften the blow. It's not quite quite the way people reject that's the problem, just the fact that it's a rejection.

With the number of places I've been rejected by (scholarships, publications, and colleges oh my!), it's not finding fault in the rejecter but more like not accepting why I wasn't the awesome self I thought I was.

The Rejecter said...

Pennsic was awesome, even though the weather sucked.

Josefine said...

I agree with the people who rather have a rejection than nothing at all. Form rejections or not, many of us are used to being rejected (from colleges, scholarships, jobs etc.) live with it and learn from it.

Anonymous said...

Great post. Dead on. There's no way any rejection will ever be ok to the rejected.

Deirdre Mundy said...

I actually don't mind the "no reply unless interested" policies....

It saves me A LOT on postage. And why waste everyone's time with another form rejection virtually identical to the ones all the other publishers send out?

The people who are REALLY hurt by this policy are my kids... They like the little rejection slips. They color in the letterhead, draw on the back and ooh and ahh over the "tiny paper just right for me!" But there are more efficient ways of getting a good supply of "tiny pape."

R Matthew Ware said...

In the end, the answer is no. As long as the rejection isn't outright rude, I don't care. The answer is no, so let's move to the next agent. I don't expect a personalized note, but I do appreciate that the form letter tries to be friendly. I don't get why writers take it so personally. If you can't handle a simple form rejection, how will you ever handle a bad review?

Anonymous said...

Heh, I just loved that someone else came out and said the obvious.

Of course no author likes getting a negative response back, but they need to realize that it is going to happen, more often then not. So grow a thicker skin and get over it. It's the business.

We're just doing our job when we respond with a yes or no. It's nothing personal. Again, it's just business.