Saturday, September 10, 2011

No, you're wrong, and here's why

"No response means no" is the newest way many agents are choosing to handle the glut of queries.

Agents I respect do this. 

Here's a recent post by Jill Corcoran that I found via the nicest, most courteous agent in the biz Rachelle Gardner, and she too has this policy.

I profoundly disagree with the premise they use to justify its use:



1. It takes too much time to reply.

That means you haven't figured out yet how to simply your process. I reply to every query. It doesn't take me hours.  I have an auto-signature that is the text of the reply.  I click reply, I click "sig-query no" from my five options, and click send.  Total time: 3 seconds.  If you get 100 queries a day, that's 300 seconds to reply.  Do the math: 5 minutes.

Don't personalize it with their name. Don't type in anything extra. Just click the auto-sig line and  you're done.

What, you can't do this? Your mail management program doesn't allow it?

Get a new mail management program.

Now, it takes longer to READ the queries than it does to respond, but I'm assuming we're both reading the queries.  It's only the response time that's at issue.



2. Authors write back with questions/complaints/tirades.

So what? Ignore them. Delete them unread.  You don't owe anyone more than that.  I've had my share of those too, and these people don't deserve one second more of your time than it takes to delete them.


Further, "no response means no" is a BAD BUSINESS PRACTICE.  Who do you think writers are? They're READERS.

If I invest five minutes a day in not making writers feel like they don't  matter, I'll have done a good thing.

If I invest five minutes a day in not alienating potential readers for my client's projects, I'll have done a better thing.

If I invest five minutes a day in writers who may query me again with projects I do want, well, that's good for me too.

And you know what? Some writers actually prioritize their queries by who replies to everything. That means *I* get first shot.  Come to think of it, why am I telling you this?  If I work this right, I'll get all the good stuff!

112 comments:

Renee Miller said...

I wish you were my agent...sigh.

This post is why you were the first I queried. I love that before all else, you're honest.

Yes, I did get a rejection from you. But I appreciated that you took the time to send it and whether this is a good thing for you or not, I'll query again.

KellieM said...

Wow. Thank you for this.

Tony Noland said...

I agree. It's unprofessional to not respond at all. If my submission didn't make even the first-glance triage cut, it takes only a few seconds to do an auto reply "No thanks". Installing AutoHotKey for this purpose alone would be appropriate.

Faced with the daunting task of attending to dozens or hundreds of "No thanks" replies every day, the two options are A) save the time by shirking the responsibility, or B) create the time by streamlining the work necessary to meet the responsibility. Kudos to you for doing it the right way.

Heather's 2 Cents said...

I really like you Sharky Shark! :)

steenaholmes.com said...

Respect. It goes both ways and does leave a lasting impression. Thank you for your honesty.

Sandra Cormier said...

You were also the first I queried. And your response only confirms my determination to query you first when my current book is polished (notice I didn't say finished?).

I respect Jill and Rachelle's decisions, and I fully intend to query them, too. As long as an agent has some kind of auto-response proving they actually received my query, I'll accept their decision to respond or not.

However, when an agent has this policy in place without any confirmation system, it leaves me wondering if they ever received it. Re-querying might make me feel foolish and I don't want to look like an author who doesn't respect agent guidelines.

planetpooks said...

Awesome.

Bethany said...

Absolutely. This is why I and a million other people made sure to query you.

Guinevere said...

Thank you so much for posting this. It's everything I want to say as a writer querying agents, but can't, because... I'm a writer querying agents. :) I respect that agents have the right to run their business the way that works best for them, and I know there are some great agents that don't reply, but I personally do not think "no reply means no" is the best policy.

jesse said...

Seriously: how hard is it to send a form letter email saying no? I respect that agents are busy, but it's crappy on the author's side of things. It sends a bad message and makes me less likely to submit the next time around.

Sarah Allan said...

Thank you for writing the other side of this issue. All of your points were things that have occurred to me when I heard agents are starting to adopt this policy.

As a pre-published writer who hasn't queried yet, I do know that I'd rather query with an agent who will respond (one way or the other) to my query than one with a "no response means no" policy. I'm always paranoid that whatever I've sent someone has been caught in the dreaded spam filter, or that my email/internet/star alignment made some kind of goof and my message didn't get sent properly at all.

However, I would more easily accept a situation where there was an automated "We received your submission" email sent out, so at least I knew it got to the agent as it was supposed to. Then, the "no response means no" policy seems more reasonable.

A3Writer said...

This is one of the many reasons why I thoroughly enjoy being shark bait.

Mike Mullin said...

Thank you for this post and for treating writers with respect.

Jaime Theler said...

*applause*

Terry Odell said...

I totally agree. It's simply rude not to acknowledge a query, and, as you say, it doesn't take much time.

Maybe it's because I was brought up that one never showed up to someone's house for dinner without a gift, that one always wrote a 'bread and butter' letter afterward, and one reciprocated with an invitation.

An auto reply seems easy enough to do.

Francis said...

I think agents who believe it takes too much time are those who haven't yet figured out how to automate the process as much as possible, such as Ms. Reid has described.

There is many ways to approach this:
1. Using signatures
2. Using macros
3. Using an add-on

All three options are possible on most if not all e-mail clients, and that is especially true on the popular ones: Outlook and Thunderbird.

It does require a setup time, which for the less computer savvy, might take a little while, but once it IS running, it's a blessing. It is literally possible to setup either a macro that binds either a YES or a NO answer to a keyboard key in less than 5 minutes.

Example:
1. Open Query
2. Press F5 for yes, F6 for no
3. Done

Or the signature option is just as good. Simply put, a canned response is better than none!

Ramsey Hootman said...

When an agent says they don't have time to send an auto-rejection, that tells me one thing: he/she doesn't know how to use technology effectively. Understanding current technology is incredibly important for any businessperson - especially literary agents. Actually, I don't even think constructing auto-replies qualifies as "current" anymore. It's been around for years.

Escape Artist said...

Wow! You've just got oodles of energy just buzzing out of you! When I'd first read Jill's response, I thought it sounded pretty reasonable. I mean at the querying end, you've got to just accept that someone who is interested IS going to reply and if you don't hear back, well then it's not rocket science is it? No point in getting your knickers in a twist. They will get back to you if it's of interest. So the reply or no reply thing doesn't matter, so long as you have receipt confirmation. That helps ease the angst!
Great post and I'll say it once again...what amazing energy and passion!

magolla said...

I KNEW I would have loved you as an agent . . . too bad I don't write what you represent!

Keep up the good work, Janet!

I'm feeling a need to write some flash fiction. Give us 5 words with a 100 word limit, please!

Jeanne Ryan (Serenissima) said...

Before I got my agent, I had agents with a no response policy at the bottom of my list. Figured I'd save them as a last resort.

cyprith said...

Thank you. I hope this gets around.

Every time I see an agent or publication where 'no response means no', I roll my eyes and don't even submit the first time. Because, what? The internet is suddenly a magical place where nothing ever gets lost and courtesy no longer applies? When someone asks you a question, you answer. You don't ignore them and hope they'll take the hint. That's not fair to the writer and honestly, it's rude.

And granted, I may not be a big fish on my own, but I'm not exactly unique, either. The fact that I feel this way means that many people feel this way. Who knows how much business they're losing.

Personally, I don't even care if I get a proper form letter. For those who are not technologically savvy, I have an even easier way than the one offered.

Press reply.
Type 'No thanks'.
Press send.

Nichole Giles said...

Thank you for so beautifully voicing an opinion I've had since I started writing.

I feel the same way about authors responding to blog comments, personal tweet/FB mentions, etc. It only takes a few seconds to let a person (whoever they are) know they matter to you, and as soon as you do, they'll be a fan for life.

It's just good business.

Great post!

Michele Shaw said...

I believe agents should respond as a courtesy, but as you stated, it's also good business. I was lucky enough to find a wonderful agent. If I hadn't, I guarantee the first agents marked off my list for future work would have been the no responders.

Mystery Robin said...

I can't even tell you how much I wish you repped kid lit.

August said...

Totally common sensical, Janet.

You are the first agent I met in person. Your friendliness and prompt response to my materials were much appreciated! :)

Colin Smith said...

As a writer querying agents, I want to be careful with what I say. I will say this, though. I use QueryTracker, and I do pay attention to which agents respond to queries and how quickly they respond. Sometimes that's a factor in who I query. If I'm getting a form rejection, I like to know so I can move on and not be left waiting until the "if I haven't responded by..." time expires.

I respect like mad every agent who takes the time to read queries, whether or not they respond. And I know how busy you all are, and that this is just a fraction of what you do. So, I'm willing to roll with whatever policies you put in place. But we all have our preferences.

And that's probably as much as I should say. :)

Terri Coop said...

The reader/fan thing is so obvious I hadn't even thought of it. I spend a lot of time on this blog and your Twitter feed because the voice is so engaging.

In that time, I have clicked through on just about every one of your client's books. Cause, I would like to introduce you to, Effect.

There's even a lower tech solution that I used on my job's steampunk email system. I see a bunch of emails that require a simple one line response. I have the response canned in a document. I control-C copy it and control-V paste it for every email. If I need to type an extra word or two, it takes a couple of extra seconds. Unless I copy something else, that response is available to me until I shut down the system.

You are made of awesome.

Phoebe North said...

Thanks for this, Janet.

I had the experience querying last year where it wasn't clear to me whether or not my emails were being widely marked as spam. "No response" agents only muddled this further--how do you really know that they're rejecting you, and that it wasn't lost in the spam mailbox? Heck, even this year when I queried more narrowly (and successfully), I had one agent never get back to me. The statistics were surprising: out of 9 queries, 1 personal rejection, 8 full or partial requests, and 1 response still outstanding. I'm very happy with my choice, but perhaps it would have been something that agent wanted to look at? "No response" agents dissuade writers from reaching out and saying, "Hey, didja get this?" It's very frustrating, and can make you feel very helpless--not a good feeling to engender in either readers or potential clients.

Terri Coop said...

One more thing. Especially to us unfledged noobs, seeing the email from the agent pop up in the list is a juicer of a moment. Even if it is a reject, that moment is fraught with possibilities.

And to the no-reply agents. A scenario. A query gets caught in your spam or you miss it or take a day off. You find it the next week/month. Query. Is. Beyond. Awesome.

You find out author had you as their dream agent, but since he assumed your silence-meant-no, he went somewhere else. If you were an all-reply agent, he would have hung on to hear from you. Improbable, but it does cut both ways.

Michael Seese said...

Bravo!

I made the following comment on one of the "no time to reply" blogs:

"How would you feel if your doctor said, 'There’s probably nothing wrong. If you don’t hear back from me in 60 days, assume your tests were negative.' Or if you sent an email to your child’s teacher expressing concern over his or her math skills, and you got an automated email which said, 'We’re really busy. If you don’t get a reply in 60 days, assume your child is fine.' "

I admit it's somewhat apples to oranges. Still, as was mentioned above, I just think it's a matter of professional courtesy.

My $0.03.

Terri Coop said...

Curious. When an agent sends something to an editor, do you always get a response or do they go with silent-means-no?

Botanist said...

Hallelujah!

Thank you Janet!

A voice in the wilderness, maybe, but a voice all the same for treating unpublished writers as human beings and not some faceless irritation clogging up agents' inboxes.

Word Wrestler said...

Thanks for being a voice for writers and for good business regarding this issue.

"No response" is bad for agents as well as writers, because it colors our view of them and the traditional publishing industry. Increasingly, that matters, as other options are becoming more and more viable.

Deb said...

Thank you.

Jonathan Dalar said...

While I don't prioritize my queries by agents who respond vice those who don't, if you respond, you definitely have better odds of receiving a query from me. I'm sure many authors are the same.

I would much, much rather get a rejection - even a canned one - than nothing at all. At least with a rejection, I know exactly where I stand, and am not left wondering if the agent just hasn't gotten around to me yet.

Yet another reason why I'm still trying to figure out how to snag you as my agent.

Emily said...

Thank you. And you're right - I read Even because I like you as an agent, even though we've had no business dealings. (And I enjoyed it, too!)

Danica Page said...

Thanks for this post. I did read Jill Corcoran and Rachelle Gardener's post and I can understand where they are coming from, but I do appreciate your efforts to respond to each query.

Thanks for another great post!

~Danica Page

Deborah Dean said...

For me, the most important part of this post was the line:

Who do you think writers are? They’re readers.

In the age of social media, a clear line is developing between the publishing folks who appreciate writers/readers and the ones who display a rather rude, “I’m cool 'cause I’m a bitch” mindset.

Readers follow social media. Readers know who the jerks are. Readers make decisions everyday about who to give their cash, their loyalty, and their word-of-mouth buzz to.

If an agent is a snob, I, as a reader take note of their clients, and I’m less likely to follow/buy/embrace them. I realize it’s not fair, but it is human.

Just sayin’

x

Cassie Mae said...

So eloquently put. Thank you.

dcamardo said...

I 100% agree.

I can't believe agents know that writers are prioritizing by whether or not they respond. Well, I guess it makes sense that they know this. I wonder if agents know that many writers prioritize by whether or not they require a full synopsis.

Also--and I've mentioned this on Rachelle Gardner's blog--over the last three years I've only bought books plugged or mentioned by agents on their blogs (just thinking off the top of my head, I know one of them was repped by you). One of the reasons is definitely what you're saying. (The other reasons can be found on Rachelle Gardner's blog post dated 9/8/2011. Too lazy and tired to go through it again.)

Callie Kingston said...

Your arguments are spot-on. Perhaps agents are so inundated with queries that some have become cavalier. Unfortunately, this comes across in some agents' tweets and posts as well. It's a "don't call us, we'll call you" attitude of superiority and yet another factor driving writers to publish independently. I hope agents will consider this.

Even so, I must say silence is preferable to some of the emailed responses writers have posted out there. "Thanks, no," comes to mind. Be professional and kind, please.

Shaun Hutchinson said...

Bravo.

Dana Strange said...

You said a mouthful, there. Thank You.

Heather Hawke said...

I'm torn in this argument though I have a window into the gatekeeper's dilemma. I spent time on a graduate admissions committee where we accepted fewer than 2% of applicants. I admit to looking for reasons to reject and yet I agonized even while anticipating the cataclysmic failure that awaited the unprepared. If I were an agent, I think I would either send an auto reply acknowledging submissions or send rejections. Agents don't owe anything except courtesy - as we all do.

Aimee L. Salter said...

It's interesting you bring this up. I respect Agent's decisions not to get into correspondence wars with wounded writers, and agree that as the client of an agent I'd rather my agent were dealing with selling my book than with declining queries, BUT:

I used to work in an industry where I received hundreds of emails a day. I used exactly these kinds of processes. I always wondered why agents didn't.

Nice to know some do :)

Anne-Marie said...

You continue to be a class act. Thank for showing us what it means to be professional.

Michael G-G said...

Bless you. Thank you. Amen.

That's why we love ya.

(I'm glad you didn't mention karma...)

Andrea Wenger said...

I'm fine with the 'no reply means no' policy as long as the agent sends an autoreply acknowledging receipt. A reply creates that split second of excitement when you think the response might be positive, which I can frankly do without. Silence is less painful than rejection, even if rejection is more courteous. I appreciate agents who place a premium on this level of professionalism, but it doesn't affect my decisions about querying them or buying the books they represent.

Suzan Harden said...

Janet, I hope other agents take your advice to heart.

Part of the reason I picked up Brains and The Pericles Commission is because of your professionalism.

Malin said...

I must say I prefer the "no response means no" approach. It works better with my personality and approach to life. Though, it does screw up my nice queries-spreadsheet with the pretty dates and... Uh, yeah. Excel-obsessed. Occupational hazard.

Anne R. Allen said...

List me among those who have bought books from your clients or based on your recommendation on this blog. And I have deliberately decided against buying books repped by agents who have been rude.

These days, many agents use silence not only to reject queries, but requested partials and fulls as well.

Also, agents who insist on snail mail with SASE have stopped bothering to stick that shred of paper saying "thanks but no thanks" in the envelope, even with a contest win or a strong referral from a client.

On the other hand, I know plenty of successful indies who are getting cold calls from agents.

And indies have turned them down because they don't want to do business with mean people.

Nancy Kelley said...

When I read Rachelle's blog post, my first thought was, "If Rachelle does this, maybe there is a nice side to it."

My second thought was, "If Janet Reid has time to respond, there's got to be a faster way to do it."

Thank you for answering the second thought, and for telling me I'm not crazy to think authors deserve that 5 seconds of response time. I still respect Rachelle and other agents who use this policy, but I whole-heartedly disagree with the logic behind it.

Leigh Ann said...

I'm actually okay with the policy - to each her own, and different people are more affected by the downers of the job, the time crunch, etc. - but as you've said....

Auto respond. Auto. Respond. I have a friend who's had two queries stuck in SPAM. She followed up on both and one turned into a full.

I still query the agents who don't respond, but feel less warm about them while the query's out. They don't care if my query gets stuck in their spam box. In a game where any query could turn into The Next Big Thing (hello, Stephenie Meyer,) that seems a little silly to me.

Thanks for this post. You are full of class, and then some.

Valentine said...

If a writer is emailing a tirade, explaining that the humane thing to do is to at least acknowledge them, then I believe the agent should respect that.

Respect is a two-way deal. When queries are written, they drip with so much sap, and so much ass-kissing, that it's enough to make anyone sick. Knowing this, the agent should show some respect and treat the writer the same way they'd want to be treated if the situation were reversed---and that's by responding.

The agent does owe the writer some respect. Without writers, the agent wouldn't be needed. Period.

What you said about taking a few seconds to send the response--a plain and simple one--is the way to handle it. I had an agent request a partial and then send me a formatted response that blew so much smoke up my ass, that sang my praises about my writing, imagination, fantastic plot and character and then rejected me.

And this is why writers' complain. WE'RE CONFUSED.

Jennifer S. Wilkov - Your Book Is Your Hook! said...

Cheers, Janet! Excellent post and sentiments for writers and readers.

I've been sent one version of your rejection emails by clients and it's one of the best ones I've seen... encouraging, honest about you not being the champion for their book, and enthusiastic about them continuing on their rightful path with their project to find the right representation.

You are truly a gem in the biz.

Thanks for writing and posting it.

Authoress said...

Thank you for this PERFECTLY stated post.

Cynthia Lee said...

Janet, I always admire your directness.

I don't mind the "no response means no" policy but, after reading your comments, it definitely doesn't seem like a good idea.

Rick Daley said...

Very well-put, indeed.

Ellen said...

You are 100% right about this and those other agents are 100% wrong.

But it's always been clear that you respect writers ...

emeraldcite said...

I agree.

I don't begrudge an agent a rejection. This is part of the business.

The thing is, the crazy ones will reply, harass, or complain whether or not you offer a reply.

The rest of us who follow the rules and try to conduct business in a business-like manner deserve at least a "no" so that we can move on to someone else.

Besides, I don't know if I'd want to work with someone not prepared to get bad news.

I'd worry that that behavior would carry over to the agent-client relationship. Am I not going to hear from the agent when my work is out on submission with editors?

That is a frightening thought.

I think your solution is an elegant one: simple, easy-to-access signatures. Gets the job done.

kdosh said...

I am a nonfiction author and aspiring fiction author. I do prioritize who I query by who responds, at least to a degree.

Also, last time I queried a non-fiction project I received an offer within 48 hours. I immediately emailed the other agents I had queried to update them on the situation. Two replied they never received my query, despite the fact I followed their query instructions. If you have a policy of not replying to queries, what if you somehow never receive my query? Neither of us will ever know.

Becca said...

Personally, I would prefer a non-personalized rejection letter than no response at all. At least that way I know it's been read, and wasn't lost or anything like that.

Katherine said...

Perfect policy, perfectly explained. Isn't agenting supposed to be a BUSINESS, after all? I've been an editor for 25 years and wherever I've worked the policy is to respond with at least a one-line form message to everything, even drivel. I am so impressed with your policy that I might even bring myself to query you despite the fact that you scare the hell out of me.

Tam Linsey said...

Thank you for your respect, Janet. You have even more of mine, now, in return.

Annie McMahon said...

Hear! Hear! *thumbs up*

Emailman said...

*Bravo!* Very well said, I must say. I hope you really do get all the good stuff :) You deserve it.

As a writer who has spent a HUGE amount of my time getting query's together for agents only to be ignored, I can't say I agree with the 'no response means no' trend. I understand how busy they are, but as you said, how long does it take to send a quick response? At least the writer knows that their query has been read if nothing else.

Great post! :)

Linda Jo Hunter said...

Rejection is a learning experience and shouldn't cause dejection. An agent who says no gives that experience to an author. Writers need to conduct good business as well, and getting answers in a timely manner facilitates organization, learning and flexibility. Thank you for being honest and a good business women! "No response means no" is a statement that ranks right up there with the other one I hate: "What she doesn't know won't hurt her."

jjdebenedictis said...

Yes.

When I'm ranking agents to decide who to query first, my criteria is a competition between:

1) How much drool am I producing at the thought of obtaining this agent's services?

and

2) Do they accept e-queries?
3) Do they reply?
4) Is their response time short?

If one or more of the answers to that last batch of questions is "no", that agent slides down my list.

I'm still interested, but they'll get queried later, i.e. after and if the first batch of agents all reject.

MG Higgins said...

Thank you.

Jamie Handling said...

I may be shooting myself in the foot by doing this, but I will not query an agent who is known for no response. If the agent isn't willing to even send a form rejection, how will they be as an agent to an author they like? Consideration and respect work both ways. I want to work with someone who respects all authors regardless of the author's talent. It take a lot of guts to even put your work out there, and that in itself commands respect. Ignoring isn't respect at all.

Thank you for your blog. I do read about querying and have learned a lot. I have not queried you, but only because you don't rep what I write. If you did, you'd be on the top of my list.

Phil Hall said...

This is 100% balls-on correct, and I thank you profusely for saying it!! And, I am in that group of queryers who--if we get a reply--get "top billing next time."

Thank you, Janet! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Karen Rivers said...

It speaks so much to respect. In the process of looking for agents, writers prioritize the agents they think -- based on reputation -- that they would like to work with the most. The ones they respect the most, iIronically enough. When those agents read/reject and then don't bother to respond, the author is left waiting and still hoping and not knowing that that particular hope has hit a dead-end.

The hope is killer.

And it is flat-out cruel when the agent -- the agent who the author has chosen and respects -- just can't be arsed. It says "I don't care that you chose ME, I am too busy and important to bother with YOU."

I'm glad I'm not still looking for an agent, but if I ever happen to be looking again, I have a small list of people I would not bother to sub to ever again, because I know they won't be bothered with me. (Nor would I ever recommend that any of my students sub to those people, actually, so they lose more than just my business, there is a spin-off effect they may want to consider).

A three second auto response is not too much to ask or to expect, methinks.

widdershins said...

1 - not knowing is worse than rejection
2 - not responding - an-auto responder is fine - is crueler than not knowing.

Thank the Great Pumpkin for ethical people!

Leah said...

Thank you.

Sherri Shackelford said...

Today's hopeful query just might be tomorrow's best-selling author. When I queried the second time around, I pulled out my spreadsheet and highlighted the agents who didn't reply to me the first time around.

Since they didn't have time for me, I didn't have time for them. My second book sold. Granted, I'm not a bestseller--but someone else in that pile of queries just might be.

Melinda said...

Well said, Shark, well said!

Karen said...

Excellent, excellent post. I understand that agents are extremely busy, but I find the "no response means no" policy very frustrating, especially if I have met the agent and felt we developed a connection. And you are absolutely correct that writers who receive no response are potential readers of books the agents represent. With hard work and persistence, these writers might also be potential book award winners, whose future manuscripts the no-response agents will probably never see. I hope busy agents will find an efficient way to respond to all queries and not leave authors in limbo.

laughingwolf said...

bang on, janet :)

just wish you'd re-animate your 'm s' column... or something similar

but then, like it's said: been there, done that... and, i have a link in my sidebar to those posts of yours!

wv: bleste [kid you not!]

Lola Sharp said...

This--> ♡

scott neumyer said...

Couldn't agree more. Get TextExpander and make it super simple and quick. Just do it. It's good business. As a publicist by day, I sometimes get over 1,000 emails a day. Yeah, I still find the time to reply to them. Ya just do it. Amen, Janet. Amen.

alwayscoffee said...

Thank you -- for this post and the policy. There is nothing worse than waiting and wondering. The fact that you take those 5 minutes to send a no response? It's much appreciated. The 'no response means no' policy is hard to handle. Waiting is nerve-wracking by itself, but without a tangible end in sight -- that makes it worse.

Again, thank you. :-) ~Ali

Lorraine Devon Wilke said...

Brava, Janet Reid.

It's just common courtesy, isn't it? Part of the job description. And you're right about the impact it has on the querying writer...more good will, more respect, and a bigger chance you're the one who's going to get the query from the "next great writer." If nothing else, it shows an understanding of the process and the part we all play in it. We writers DON'T love the querying process all that much ourselves, but it's how it's done. And your response is how we know you're participating in the process along with us. Thanks; we appreciate it!

And now I think I'm going to send you a query letter. :)

Joseph L. Selby said...

And you know what? Some writers actually prioritize their queries by who replies to everything.

This. This right here is absolutely true. I don't care if it's an auto-response. SOME kind of acknowledgement that my query wasn't lost in cyberspace or lost to a system crash gets an agent dibs over No Answer Means No agents.

DEMETRA BRODSKY said...

Thank you for offering your opinion and your technique for handling the queries you receive. It is much appreciated by many aspiring authors who would rather get a form rejection than nothing at all.

annawritedraw said...

Thank you for respecting the writer.

Amie Borst said...

LOVE your way of thinking! Thank you for respecting writers enough to respond to our query letters. It's hard enough to put our stuff out there, even harder to be in limbo. A form rejection puts that to rest and we can move on.

Maryann Miller said...

So glad that you are taking advantage of technology to respond to each query. I could understand when agents and editors did not when it might involve more time to make that contact back, but even then I thought it rude and unprofessional that they could not insert a standard rejection form in the SASE sent for that purpose.

Toby Speed said...

Thank you for this post, Janet. You were the first agent I queried, and I so appreciated your quick response.

Whether I get a form letter from an agent or a semi-personalized form letter or a personalized note, at least I know that a live person on the other end caught my query as I made the long pass down the field. No fumble, no interception by spam, and maybe one of these days someone will carry it into the end zone.

Margaret Yang said...

You have always been, and always will be, aces in my book.

Cheers to a class act.

The Editor Devil said...

Thank you, Janet, for showing respect to authors in an industry that continually treats authors as 3rd class citizens. It's not just classy of you, it's kind.

Cheers,
Christine

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

When I was busy submitting to agents and publishers, I kept track of it all with a spread sheet. I noted the date sent and date of reply. I noted the result and if they said no but were somehow exceptionally nice, I recorded that too.

The Editor at Baen said ‘no.’ But along with his rejection he included the comments of the person who read Pixie Warrior. All the nice things they said kept me writing. He made sure I knew the rejection wasn’t because of my writing but because it wasn’t what they published. “But not really Baen material.”

One agent sent me her form rejection, but wrote by hand two solid paragraphs of critique. I took most of her suggestions. (She’s now down the hall from you, Janet, living under an assumed name [She married]. Holler, “the Pixie says hi!”)

An editor at a major publishing house wrote two paragraphs all about characterization in my first chapter. It was still a rejection, but I rewrote the first chapter, twice. I cried on Ann Crispin’s shoulder in an email. Then I rewrote the dang thing again, two more times.

I got a “oh please write us something else” email from another publisher. An agent kept my submission for a year, finally writing back that it was lovely but too hard for her to sell.

…. I am still waiting to hear from 22 people I submitted to back in 2006-2007. I’ll be out submitting something new not long after the history book I’m working on is published. You can bet your cute pink shoes that none of those twenty-two agents will be on my list. A moderate amount of civility requires an answer, even if it is a form answer. Make it polite but simple if it’s a form answer.

Oh, and the Miss Bigtime agent who rejected me on the basis of a typo on the submission letter and wrote three paragraphs about the typo won’t hear from me either. Rule of thumb: Focus on what is important. Typos happen. Good writing is rare. If you’re an agent or publisher with whom I am to work, it will be as a partner and client, not as your whipping post and slave.

L.E. Falcone said...

Some writers actually prioritize their queries by who replies to everything.

Just sayin'...

Thanks for a wonderful post. Faith restored.

Nan Dixon said...

Thank you!

J.J. Bennett said...

Amen! :)

ace960ec-ddb1-11e0-854b-000bcdcb2996 said...

I have a story about "no response means no." There was an agent who often requested and liked my early novels. She rejected them eventually, but she sent me kind and helpful feedback and asked me to send her future work, and I did. I was so appreciative of her interest and support that I always queried her first when I had something new.

Then we came to my most recent novel. I queried her first, and got no response.

She was a "no response means no" agent, so I assumed that was a rejection. But I was surprised, because I had thought she might reply to me even if she meant to reject the query outright. I did not want to be rude, however, so I did not email her again.

The novel I was querying went on to do well in an important contest, and I received multiple offers of representation for it. I ended up signing with another agent, and I'm absolutely thrilled. From my perspective this story has a happy ending. But I'll always wonder: did the agent who'd so kindly supported my early work actually reject that final query without a response, or did she never receive it?

S.J.Kincaid said...

As an author who knows all too well the difficulty of the agent search, thank you, Janet.

I noticed a marked difference in agent response policies between the first agent search I did in 2006, and the last search six books later in 2009. Agents truly did begin responding far less often.

I preferred to get a 'no' so I could cross that agent/agency off my list, rather than that ominous silence that -could- mean they hadn't read it, or -could- mean they just hadn't bothered telling me 'no'. I am not in that position anymore and hope never to be in that position again, but I remember how much resolution a 'no' gave as opposed to that utter silence like my e-mail had vanished into some void.

I did, indeed, slash people off my list who were consistent non-responders, and I still don't think of that type of policy with much warmth in my heart. So, thank you, again, for going this extra step even for authors you don't intend to sign.

buhdoop said...

Yes, not recieving a firm "No." from an agent is the same as wondering why your boyfriend isn't answering/returning your phone calls. "Did he get them? Should I call again? Does he want to break up? Is he just not that into me?"

It is amazing how many questions "No" can answer.

Jenny Phresh said...

You've got one of the best form rejections in the biz, Shark-o. I was pleased to add this gem to my collection, I'll tell you. If you're sending only one form rejection out, why not make it a purty one? Hear, hear!

Trish said...

Janet, you rock! Sometimes writers are hanging on for that one answer from a particular agent. A simple 'no' reply is all that is needed to help a writer move on instead of checking emails every five minutes.

If an agent can't be pestered to send a simple rejection letter, they may end up with no clients at all eventually. So what if they have children, writers do too, but we spend the time on those agents.

Many writers are sick of being treated like beggars by some agents and have rebelled. Thousands have self-published, and many of them are selling quite well without an agent.

I have self published because of that attitude, though I'm still looking for an agent and publisher, but now I'm more picky and won't query agents that have a 'don't reply' policy.

I'm glad there are still agents like you, Janet. Thanks for a great post.

Sara said...

Thank you so much - both for your policy and this post! Could not agree more with all that you said. AND in addition to being a great business strategy, I'd like to add the equally important matter of good manners and treating people with dignity and respect.
With the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11th, I cannot stress enough how important I think this is. Small actions everyday by all of us are what can make a global difference. Be good and be kind. It's just that freaking easy.

Lauren F. Boyd said...

"Some writers actually prioritize their queries by who replies to everything."

I agree with your statement. I do note which agents reply to my work - especially those who reply within a timely manner, like a couple of weeks - and those are the ones I query first next time around. And I appreciate rejection letters because at least they provide closure and I'm not waiting for that agent's response any longer.

And as for my picture book manuscripts, I've stopped submitting to the agents who repeatedly don't reply and don't say anything on their websites about "no reply = no".

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

*claps with glee*

Well said, well said.
With math and all. Ya can't argue with numbers! I love it. :)

And you're right. As much as aspiring authors smile and stay polite in public, we are a large circle of friends out here in Book Land. And we are avid readers. We will pimp and promote our fav agent's and their authors waaaay more than an agent and the clients of the agents who jaded us.

Very wise, Yoda Janet. Very wise.

Alexandra Shostak said...

"If I invest five minutes a day in not making writers feel like they don't matter, I'll have done a good thing."

Thank you.

Beth said...

Thank you saying this, Janet. You're the cat's pajamas.

Daeanarah said...

HI Janet

Bless you, I'd love to have you as an agent and I'd brag about you as well. I've had the 'no' response and it kills ya as a writer I'm waiting to hear something, even the 'no thankyou' which will tell me that I can submit my ms to a different agent/publisher. I hate being left hanging and I am willing to bet that other writers, hate that hanging, 'do I send to someone else, do I wait, what?"


So my question is:
What would you suggest that an unpublished writer do if after the required 2-4 months and no response?
How long should a writer wait after submitting before moving onto someone else?

Thanks again for this and I follow you on twiter. Do you have a facebook page?

Happy weekend.

Rhyanna

Elaine AM Smith said...

"No, thank you" or "Yes, please" - no matter what the setting, it doesn't take long to say/write but it makes all the difference.

Dave Clark said...

You've rejected me a couple of times, but you've told me so. Like other authors, I'd kill a porcupine barehanded to get encouraging response from a beta reader, a Facebook friend, or one of the tens of agents I query each week. I'm going to burst into tears of ecstasy if anyone, anywhere, smiles and supports my efforts, and I'll be grateful as you cannot imagine. So where does no-response-means-no fit in there? Well, at what point is it no-response? A day? A month? If an agent jumps on my project and I haven't heard back from a few others, well, we'll never know what kind of business relationship we could have had.

Riv Re said...

*claps* I've yet to start dealing with the scary word that starts with "q", ends with "ery" and has a "u" in between, but this is a fantastic post. Loved the ending. :)

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

dear Daeanarah,

Exclusive submissions suck lemons. Never submit to one agent or publisher at a time. Don't send group emails. That's a bad idea. Personalize each submission. But don't submit and wait either.

Karen lee Hallam said...

Super-cool of you.

Heather Kelly said...

I absolutely am more likely to query agents who respond back, even if it is a no. YAY for clear-headed logic.

ccglazier said...

Thank you for posting this, and holding to common courtesy.