Monday, June 22, 2009

What the hell is wrong with you, Janet

I send you a perfectly fine query; I've paid attention to your blog and the Query Shark blog. I even told you so in the query (I said I liked the blog, read it daily even)

All I get back from you is a form letter, not even a thank you.

What's wrong with you? You can't even say thanks for reading the blog? I get that you don't elaborate on the rejection, I do, but sheesh, c'mon.

I've never gotten an email like that. I probably should have. I cringe every time I send a form letter to someone who has CLEARLY invested time doing research, reading this blog and others. I hate sending them. And I still do it.

I can't even send a nicer form letter than the rather brisk and removed one I do now.

Why?

Cause every time I try to do so, the exactly wrong thing happens: people reply.
I'm in desperate straits about the amount of email I have to answer. I'm committed to answering every query letter. That doesn't mean I don't feel like a schmuck for not even saying thank you when the query contains praise for this blog, or client's works.

I guess I better teach the octopus to type.

40 comments:

Karen said...

It sounds like someone really should have participated in Nathan's Agent For a Day. I don't love the idea of form rejections, but at least now I understand them!

Melanie Avila said...

I appreciate the heads up -- I'll be querying you in another week or so.

I'd much rather you reply to every query than worry about niceties.

Kristin Laughtin said...

What a way to shoot oneself in the foot. Not only will you likely never consider working with this person if they query you with a different project, but if you had taken a less classy route and released this querier's name, I'm betting none of the other agents who read your blog (which is more than a few, I'm sure) would either.

To the querier: I get it. I'm sure that once I start querying, I'll angst on occasion on getting form rejections when I've spent hours reading the agent's blog(s). It's got to be frustrating. But seriously, you're not helping yourself any with this kind of rud, emotional response. I second the idea of reading Nathan's Agent for a Day series. After 10-20 queries, you'll understand why form letters are common.

T. Anne said...

If you teach the octopus to type can you have it send me a letter first? I sent a e-query months ago and I think it ate it for breakfast instead.

DeadlyAccurate said...

I never gave much thought to the fact that I got form rejections from agents I'd researched and whose blog I read. I can't speak for all writers, but I bet most (experienced writers) simply see the form rejection and move on.

Janet Reid said...

T. Anne, if you sent a query months ago, I didn't get it. I'm up to date on queries as of 6/1 (and actually beyond mostly too)

Requery if you want.

Remember I don't feel obliged to answer ones that aren't addressed to me, or come as attachments. Other than that though, I answer.

Margaret Yang said...

It sounds like you're damned if you do and damned if you don't. If you can't win, then all you can do is lose with style. I'm sure writers would much rather you answer every query, even with a form letter, than to adopt the hated "no response means no" policy.

Not all writers hate the form letter. Personally, I LOVE the form. I am all about the form. In my ideal world, agents and editors would be encouraged to use one-word replies. Yes or no.

jjdebenedictis said...

That...was an awfully entitled email.

You're not obligated to pat someone on the head for doing their job, as a querying writer, correctly.

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

I think when reading any agent's blog it's easy to start thinking you know them, and that if you met in person you would totally be BFF's. Then when the impersonal rejection comes it feels extra personal.

None of this is your problem though - it is theirs. Perhaps such people need to look into Google's "drunk email" protector to stop themselves from sending those immediate emotional responses.

Elizabeth McKenzie said...

you could open another email account and give that out for comments. That way you won't clog up yours and You can take your time getting back to people if you wish. Just a thought.

Mira said...

Hi Janet, you know, I think there is a way to attach something to your e-mail response to a query. This is hard to explain. If the you send an e-mail, and the person responds, there's a way to set it up so it will automatically fail to deliver. I'm not sure how to do it, but I'm pretty sure it's possible, I've heard people talk about it. Of course, I could be wrong, but I think there is technology for that.....

Vacuum Queen said...

I understand the part about the writers writing back to you. I sent out queries for a picture book this past month and am working on other projects, etc. When I got my first "pass," I instantly felt like writing back to apologize for wasting their time, or to thank them for their time or some other stupid thing. For the record, I didn't write back at all, but the urge was there for sure.

I was surprised to find myself with such doubts too. Weird.

A. Grey said...

As someone trying to gain an agent, I'm racking up rejections, most of them form letters. I must say I'm torn.

On the one hand, any hint as to how I can make myself more appealing to agents is something I'll eagerly utilize. So if you tell me too long, or cliche, I'll at least have something to ponder.

On the other hand, the rejections that have actually pissed me off were ones that said anything along the lines of: "While your idea is intriguing" or "Although your query posed a very interesting plot" and then had a rejection.

Quite frankly, you, as an agent, have a job to do, and I, as a writer, am trying to make a job for myself, and make something of myself in my chosen field. If you aren't interested, I thank you for you time in responding at all, and I accept your rejection. I don't care how intrigued you were by my query if you weren't intrigued enough to at least ask for a partial. So don't bother telling me you liked it at all. It's a slap in the face, a "you were ALMOST good enough."

Elizabeth Bradley said...

A rejection is a rejection is a rejection. But no news is the worst reaction.

Just as their are so many different types of agents, there are many types of writers. And so many people feel they deserve more than they have coming to them.

One stroke of a button when a writer is feeling angry and emotional, and the dreaded e-mail response is sent.

Heather Wardell said...

And this is why you are fabulous... while many agents don't respond at all, you're uncomfortable about not sending more personalized responses.

I don't think you should get an email like that, and I hope you never do. Writers with half a clue (even a third of one) know what 'form' means, and we don't get upset over them.

On the other hand, teaching the octopus to type might be fun and would certainly add interest to the proceedings. :)

Susan at Stony River said...

That sounds odd to me; I would have thought the thank you should go the other way. You did take the time to handle her unsolicited query, and in writing the blog that's teaching her query skills in the first place.

So, you could have replied to the queryer with, "So where's my box of chocolates, if you like the blog so much?" and it would have been on the same level as hers, I'm thinking, in being just not quite rational.

Oh well. Makes life interesting I guess. Good luck with e-mail tomorrow!

writeidea said...

Teaching the octopus to type sounds like a great idea. Just think how many wpm she'd acheive.

Fawn Neun said...

I feel lousy when I send them too, and I don't even blog.

Tell yourself it's for the best and that you're preserving the purity of their artistic vision by not sullying it with your personal taste.

Works for me.

Lara said...

An agent recently sent me a rejection that was nice, and she'd done some other awesome things too (like sending me a quick note when she received the partial that she requested, just to let me know she got it). It was ALL I COULD DO not to reply and say, "Thanks for being so awesome and professional throughout this process. Anybody who gets you as an agent is really damn lucky." It was only because of this blog that I decided not to. I posted something nice on the thread about her in the AW forum instead.

CKHB said...

Oh, I always respond with thanks to a nice rejection (i.e. any rejection with positive language that is clearly not a form letter).

If the agent has taken the time to make a comment about my work, I feel that a response is warranted, and I usually get a follow-up email from the agent wishing me good luck or a similar note that makes me think such emails are generally appreciated.

Thanking an agent for a form rejection seems unnecessary to me, although I can see how, in the light of too many non-response-equals-no policies, one would be tempted to thank an agent for acting in his or her standard fashion if that included status updates and the like!

mornara said...

A reply like that is simply unprofessional, and would get negative results in ANY business.

Hard to believe that people can't tell when they are crossing such a line.

Janet Reid said...

CKHB, you've made my point exactly. Anytime I say anything beyond a form letter, it generates more mail. No matter how it seems "more mail" is not a good thing.

Sarah said...

I got a nice rejection letter from an editor that gave some helpful advice and invited me to submit (something else) again.

I wanted to write a thank you note, but thought to e-mail Editorial Anonymous about it. She replied (bless her!) that I shouldn't send a note. Once the editor sends the response, they forget about the MS. The time to mention it would be when I submitted again. That really made sense to me.

Kate, I agree with you- we do tend to feel we know a blogger. It can be easy to lose perspective.

Laurel said...

Janet,

I totally get the death by email thing. My last job had so much email that my palms would sweat when I checked my inbox after being busy with something else for a couple of hours. (I'm not kidding.)At least 30% was not important or chatty follow up to stuff that was done. And the dreaded "Reply All" plague of Corporate America.

It's nearly impossible to explain this phenomenon to people who don't rely so much on email for their job. It seems fast, easy, effortless...as long as you're not getting 200 a day.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Janet,

Good point was made above about how a person who follows a blog comes to feel they know you. That's hard because you get to where you, as the blog owner, get to recognize the names of regulars too.

My take on this is simple. This is a business. As such, business etiquette is a must.

Look at it this way. If you want to get noticed in a chosen field, you may study how to write a resume for that field. You may read journals or the company’s blog to get a step up. You submit a resume and you're not chosen. You get a form letter and sometimes not even that. It's career suicide to get huffy or go on the attack. It’s not professional. Above all you want to be perceived as a professional, because maybe the next time, you will be what they’re looking for, but an unprofessional response now, on your part, can nix in a heartbeat any future opportunities.

I look at queries as a form of a resume. No one likes rejection, whether it is an idea, application for a job, or getting an agent. This is business. It’s not personal.

Mags said...

But any "daily even" reader of your blog already knows you use forms for rejection, as well as your reasons for doing so.

Strange Fiction said...

Did you mean CLEARLY as in "CLEARLY"? Cause I'm seeing a big ol' pair of quotes there...

Stef Kramer said...

I got a rejection from you just today -- I really didn't think it was that bad...I don't feel completely dejected. Of course, I just got a promotion at my day job today. Perhaps God is trying to tell me something...

Marsha Sigman said...

I still think your great and read your blog even though I received the dreaded form rejection letter! I completely understand about having to send a form rejection in order to be able to have the time to read the queries at all. I really hate the no response, then your hanging out there thinking well maybe I should just give them a little more time.....at least your quick to respond with a yes or no. I like my bandaids to be ripped off quickly.

Mags said...

I sent you a perfectly fine comment; I even told you I understood you didn't comment on rejections.

What's wrong with you? You can't even say thanks for reading my perfectly fine comment? It was replete with grammatical correctness and such...

Sheesh, c'mon.

Gumbo said...

People don't always understand that agents are people too. He might want to check out this short video on why literary agents don't always return calls:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQ8_mALzVec

laughingwolf said...

jj said it very well... keep doing it your way, writers need to develop thicker hides, not take everything personally... and realize just how busy everyone's lives are, just like their own....

Jason Crawford said...

Janet, I have never queried you, but it sounds like you're doing the right thing. My personal opinion is that an agent should respond in some form to every query that conforms to his/her submission policies. Beyond being common courtesy, I think it's good business. Just because you're rejecting a writer now doesn't mean he/she won't write a great book in the future.

At any rate, the form letter is the only way many agents can respond to all the queries they get. I would much rather get a form than no response at all.

Fran said...

I don't DREAD the rejection, rote-form or otherwise. I treat them as my proof of battle, evidence that I'm doing my bit.

And I just got an agent...haven't signed yet. Still playing it cool.

Mandy said...

Don't feel bad Janet! Form rejections are part of the game. Research is part of the game. I recently blogged about the "other side" of querying when I read a post from an agent stating that she had 1300 new emails in her inbox. If you wrote a personal, in-depth rejection to everyone--you wouldn't have time to agent anyone! I'm not going to say that form rejections aren't hard to read. Sometimes I wish that I knew why I was being rejected. But like I said, it's part of the process and writers simply can't be upset about it. Sounds like your querier just had a case of sour grapes!

Mira said...

Well....I have to say I disagree alittle bit. That was sort of what I was hinting at with the technology issue. And I think you're grappling with this one, because it's not so clear cut.

Since everyone is agreeing, I'd like to add a small voice of dissent.

I think it may be different with blog regulars. I spend alot of time on another agent's blog, and when I got a rejection letter, it was short but personalized. That felt appropriate. It just would have been hurtful to receive a form rejection.

Of course, since I was a regular, I knew better than to send a thank you letter.

But I think the relationship bloggers develop is a real one. It's a matter of role. When the role shifts to agent/potential client things get more business like, but the relationship is still there.

So, I think I might make exceptions for blog regulars, but again that's up to you. I know e-mail can be overwhelming. I also do think there is technology that will help out here.

tinkandalissa said...

Dammit, Janet, I love you! I just felt that warranted a Rocky Horror quote...
Happy rejecting!

Marjorie said...

Janet,
I would love to send you a query... but one thing I did learn from this blog is that you are interested in mysteries, not memoirs.

I actually prefer a form letter rejection. It is usually leaner and free of subliminal sarcasm. I think a form letter is the professional way to go:

"Thank-you for the query. I do not think I am the best agent to represent your work. Best of luck in your career." Or some variation of.

An agent should not use a reply for any other agenda except to accept or reject the query. Yes, I like form rejections.

Sara J. Henry said...

Have you ever considered going back to the olden days of snail-mail queries? I know, not environmentally friendly, but I'm betting it would cut the number of queries (and number of too-hastily-sent queries) in half. Or less. It's just far too easy for people to press that button - there's something about actually having to print it out on good bond paper that makes the author consider it much more carefully. At least some of them.

Jolie said...

I don't think you should feel bad. In fact, I think this querier is being unpardonably rude in both sentiment and expression.

You lived up to your promise of responding to the person's query rather than using the "no response means no" policy. You don't owe this person any thanks for sucking up to you in their query letter. Their reward for doing their research and personalizing their query is that you gave the query fair consideration and let them know your decision. That's all you have time to do. You don't work for queriers, you work for your clients!

The idea that you should THANK them for reading your blogs ... I'm stunned. It's not that hard to read an agent's blog. In fact, it's fun. I consider it a leisure activity.