Monday, March 13, 2017

Sending thank yous to agents who passed

I'm getting some nice rejections while I'm querying to find an agent for my Victorian ghost novel. I wrote a thank you notes to the last two agents who said No and then wondered if I was just wasting my time, and theirs. How do you feel about getting a thank you if you've sent an author a quick or thoughtful rejection? 

It's never wrong to say thank you according to the Deportment Enforcer at Miss Blanche's School for Sharks.

I think the reason you hear "don't respond to rejections" is two-fold. Some people's idea of "thank you" involves "I'll show you, SharkForBrains, and boy you'll be sorry you passed on the next JeffSomers/LairdBarron/Patrick Lee."

That's not a thank you so much as it is a Bronx cheer, and frankly I can do without that at 3 in the morning which is when they tend to roll in.

The other reason is that it's one more email when my fiercest goal (today and every day for the last two months) is to get my inbox under 300.

I will say that responding to a form letter is not required even by such etiquette stalwarts as the always-correct, always-gracious Miss Blanche. A polite, short thank you to a personal reply is never a waste of time.   If anything it's a reminder that most people who get in touch with me are thoughtful, eager writers who just want me to read their work carefully.


Susan said...

Wow. I spectacularly misread the title and thus misunderstood where this post was heading. Though maybe since OP is querying a Victorian ghost novel, not as far off as I thought.

Theresa said...

Love, love the idea of a "reminder hat" though I know it's a...ahem...typo.

As Janet said, a thank you is always in good order. Make sure it's sincere and you'll have accomplished your goal of being a professional.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Thank you in advance for whatever response might be forth coming once I re-enter the trenches with a query for my WIP.

There. Now I can refrain from adding to the influx of emails with more time for shaking and fainting after each query response gained.

DLM said...

(Janet - personal "reply", in your final paragraph?)

Amy Johnson said...

Susan, that's so funny--on both counts.

Craig F said...

Thanks is appropriate whenever it isn't sarcastic. There is a fine line there, so be careful.

Time to go juggle chainsaws. Damn I hate daylight savings time.

Amy Johnson said...

Janet, thanks for answering this. I've been wondering about it myself for the reason you mentioned. When I've sent thank you emails, I've wondered if I just added something unwanted to inboxes--yet another email to read, and when I haven't sent them, I've wondered if I had been rude by not sending.

Hoping the next thank you I send will be in response to a yes. :)

Janet Reid said...

I clearly need a reminder hat to prompt a second or third read after the "final" draft of these posts. Sheesh.

And Susan, yes indeed, I thought of that very thing when I saw the title with fresh eyes this morning.

I may die of mortification from these damn typos, but I am yet among the living (as of today.)

DLM said...

We'd really rather keep you among the living, Your Majesty.

I found that many of the personal replies I got when querying involved at least a small amount of email conversation; so those always got a closing "thank you." One agent requested my full just after having read about Clovis like two days previous to my query, so we'd chatted about that. There were one or two who asked me pointed questions about how I hoped to market old fashioned historical fiction, and I felt they were testing my resolve as much as shining a realistic light for me. So the exchanges that went beyond form emails always felt to me appropriate for gratitude and signoff.

Other than that, yeah, I tended not to want to burden groaning Inboxes.

DLM said...

(And Janet, look at it this way; your blog is so often dedicated to our errors/potential errors, and exposing pitfalls - you deserve a typo now and then. Overall, for a public-facing discussion, you have remarkably few of them!)

Sherry Howard said...

I got my morning chuckle and now life can go on.

Julie Weathers said...

I did not respond with a thank you to agents simply because I know most of them are swamped anyway and it's one more email to read. The only ones I did were the ones who asked me to think of them in the future with my next project. I thanked them and assured them I would. Of course, Rain Crow is probably not even close to what they want for some of them, so who knows?

Now, back down the rabbit hole.

“Easy reading is damn hard writing.”

—Nathaniel Hawthorne

Lennon Faris said...

I don't send thank you's for form rejection bc of the email overload thing. Although one agent once mentioned on twitter that she was disappointed how rejected authors didn't send them --so for her, I did.

Also, I will never again be mentioning a typo! I am blind to them now. Must be the sandstorm over here in Carkoon.

BJ Muntain said...

Susan: You made me laugh out loud. Pre-caffeine.

So, because I haven't finished my first coffee yet, I may be dense. Or it may be that my inner woodland creature has not yet been sated... We now know it's okay to send short thank you notes. We also know that we're increasing the e-mails in an agent's inbox by sending them. So the biggest question today is:

Is it rude NOT to send short, sincere thank you notes? I'd hate to find I've been rude all this time. :(

BJ Muntain said...

Lennon: Janet wants to know about typos. She wants her blog to be as clean as possible.

I'm finding that I'm missing more typos these days. Maybe I need new glasses. Maybe I need more coffee. Maybe both...

Claire Bobrow said...

I'm picturing a seance with all those agents who passed. Are they still reading queries in the great beyond?

Colin Smith said...

I'm late to the show today (I took the day off: Daylight Saving Catch-Up Day--and that's literally what I told my manager), so I'm playing catch-up here too (or ketchup, given it's nearly lunchtime).

Susan and others: That's the first thing I thought of when I saw "passed" and I had the same image Claire had, of writers holding a seance to say thank you to their favorite dead agents. Despite mortification over typos, Janet, I'm glad you're not among that group. :)

I'm torn between sending thank-yous and being cognizant of adding to the agents already overflowing inbox. I wonder, though, given that inbox is going to be mostly full of reject-worthy queries, and maybe the odd unsolicited suggestion with regard to what the agent might like to do with his or her rejection, the occasional "Thank you, you're awesome" might bring a welcome smile to the agent's face. And I'm all for bringing smiles to faces. Which is why I'll stop now. :D

RosannaM said...

Ooh, I try so hard to be polite and grateful (thank you, Mom). And just going on how I feel when an email thread just won't end, I would tend to not send a thank you for a simple, 'not for me, good luck' type of response.

BJ--Lennon knew that it is okay to tell Janet about a typo. However, it is NOT okay to drive her crazy with pointing at an imaginary typo. (Are you okay, Lennon? Should we send care packages to Carkoon?)

And I wish I had seen 'reminder hat'. I think I could really use one of those! Especially today. While I like the evenings in summer to be light longer, I think Daylight Savings Time is harder and harder to adjust to. Happy Monday all.

Colin Smith said...

Rosanna: Yup. Daylight Saving can feel like seven months of jet lag. But I guess if you like sunshine, it's good... especially when it actually starts getting light at 6:30 in the morning (according to adjusted time).

Beth Carpenter said...

Hurray sunshine! It's a shame I missed all the excitement this morning about reminder hats and such.

My thinking was if I'd taken the time to craft a personal comment about a submission, I'd appreciate a thank you, so I sent them. Glad to know I wasn't wrong to do that.

Craig's got a point about sarcasm. "Since nine months have passed without a reply, I assume you're passing on my query, but I much appreciate all your time and attention," would probably fall into that category.

Lennon Faris said...

RosannaM - that is very kind, but something always happens to the care packages. The food takes on a flavor of kale and seaweed, any pens or paints are watery, and the books have the last 20 pgs torn out (looks like tooth marks). The natives read over your shoulder anyway, too.

Casey Karp said...

Darn it, Beth, you took the words right out of my mouth. (Here, have a napkin to wipe your fingers.) Much as I'd love to send a sweet, polite thank you to the nr=n folks, I've been carefully restraining myself.

I went back and forth on the form responses, and finally decided against sending thanks on those, and then extended the thought further to non-form but brief. Those seem to be the ones that are impossible to thank the agent for without sounding sarcastic, even if that's not what I intended. (Case in point: one agent rejected my query because he dislikes humorous fantasy. How do I thank him for that?)

But as DLM suggested, anyone who puts some actual communication into the process--and especially anyone who requests a partial or full--is gonna get thanked.

Leslie said...

Oh crap.

As a longtime lurker who’s been avidly reading, learning and laughing with the amazing community here, I guess I misread/misinterpreted something. While reading older blog posts, I thought that Janet doesn’t want thank you emails for rejections. So after she sent me a short but nice one, I went against my instincts and didn’t send respond, because I didn’t want to clog up the email and waste your time. Now I realize that not responding was, indeed, a faux pas and I apologize!

I had a nagging feeling I *should* send something, and now realize I should have done so. When the rejection isn’t an obvious form letter, I’d usually just write back to thank them for their time and that I hope to be able to query them for future projects. More than a few respond positively to that.

(I wish I could just blame it on the extreme fatigue from 7 weeks of radiation, but I should’ve done better.)

Kregger said...

I wrote a thank you to every rejection I received. No snark, simple gratitude for time taken.

I put the thank you in the subject line so that it isn't even necessary to open the email.

I've since modified my behavior to exclude a thank you from agencies that have autoresponders.

It's not that I'm being rude, but I found that I got form rejections on my thank yous.

So much for wondering if anyone either read the query or the thank you.

Either way, especially in my country of disharmony and acrimony, politeness is cheap and expedient.

Amy Johnson said...

Ack! I've been running on my wheel over this since this morning. I thought I was being nice and professional--people asked for fulls, decided against them and let me know that, so I thought I should be respectful and leave them alone. Agents are very busy people with so much email--we hear that all the time. But oooooh nooooo, I was trying to be polite, but I've been ruuuuuuuude. So how long a period can pass between getting a personal rejection and sending a thank you email without it being weird? Any ideas? Best just to let it go? Wait--pausing on my wheel. Agents are smart people. Won't may realize that no thank you note may not indicate a lack of appreciation, but an attempt to be respectful of their time? I hope so.

Colin Smith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Colin Smith said...

Leslie, Amy, and others who are in panic mode:

Janet said: It's never wrong to say thank you according to the Deportment Enforcer at Miss Blanche's School for Sharks.

And she said: responding to a form letter is not required even by such etiquette stalwarts as the always-correct, always-gracious Miss Blanche.

And finally, A polite, short thank you to a personal reply is never a waste of time.

This means:

a) If you sent a polite "thank you" to a personal response, you did nothing wrong. In fact that was probably the appropriate thing to do. But if you didn't, no-one's going to think the worst of you. "It's never wrong to reply" means that replying is NOT WRONG. It doesn't mean NOT replying is always wrong. Unless you give the agent reason to believe you're a jerk, they're not going to assume you're a jerk based on what you haven't said.

b) If you sent a polite "thank you" to a form response, you did something that is not expected of you, but you also did nothing wrong. At worse it will be ignored/deleted/replied to with an auto-response, at best you made the agent smile and remember not everyone that gets a rejection wears their bottom on their head.

Breathe! You didn't do anything wrong. Unless you were rude, which I doubt very much you were. :)

Amy Johnson said...

I'm breathing, Colin, thanks. lol I understood what Janet wrote. I'm wondering if you or anyone else has thoughts regarding my question about how long would be too long a period of time from receiving a personalized rejection letter to sending a thank you note (now that I've read today's blog post), or if it would be best to simply let it go if it's been a while (months).

BJ Muntain said...

Amy: I'd probably just let it go. They probably won't remember you, anyway. :)

From the sounds of things, while they might notice a nice thank you, they won't notice the 'thank you' isn't there. I think.

RosannaM said...

Lennon Good to know.

Donnaeve said...

Susan, that was hilarious! I suppose I'm the sort who errs on the side preference to being polite than wondering - should I thank them?

Gosh. I'm late but it's not due to DST. I was up at 5:00 a.m. to write. Hey, I've been hearing rumblings that all this switching around of time is bad for our health. Maybe so - but I do love the extra hour of daylight - when it's WARMER. Speaking of warmer - you guyz up thataway are getting ready to have an EPIC milk and bread storm!!! Wow!

AND! Mom is now the proud owner of a home in a retirement community. Yay!

RosannaM said...

Leslie, Anyone who has completed their course of radiation gets a pass on all things considered mildly impolite!

As a former nurse in radiation oncology I want to reassure you that your energy will come back now that you are done. Surround yourself with supportive and loving people, little things that give you joy (like pens and people who love pens!)

I wish you the best.

Donnaeve said...

Amy How long is long? One month? I'd say that's fine to send a thank you. Longer...i.e going into two months or more...yeah, that might seem a little weird. It could be interpreted a lot of ways.

1)You write: "Dear Snookums, thank you so much for reading THE BEDROOM SECRETS OF T-REX. I really appreciate your time."

They think: No. The answer is still no.

2)You write: "Dear Snookums, thank you so much for reading THE BEDROOM SECRETS OF T-REX. I really appreciate your time."

They think: They're just now thanking me? This was...oh I don't even remember how long ago! A lifetime in agenting years.

3)You write: "Dear Snookums, thank you so much for reading THE BEDROOM SECRETS OF T-REX. I really appreciate your time."

They think: Aw, that's really nice! We really don't get enough thank yous these days.

Timing is everything.

Donnaeve said...

Missed Leslie's comment! I'm glad you're done with your treatments Leslie, but I really am glad for Rosanna's knowledge she just shared too!

Hope you continue to feel a bit better every day!

Colin Smith said...

Donna: Have you been browsing Carkoon Central Library again? I hope you packed a picture book of fluffy bunnies and cute puppies to help cleanse your mind afterwards. Just don't spend too long in there. They use a highly noxious lima bean curd in the book bindings that has been known to send people looloo. One previous exile spent two days drinking kale slushies while bing-watching Milli Vanilli videos after a mere two hours in the library. Of course, he wanted to blame it on the rain... :)

Leslie said...

Thank you RosannaM. It's been frustrating, because I didn't think it would hit me this hard nor last this long, and I am impatient. But at least I've put off making any major decisions during this time. And I know what a special person you are, because almost everyone I met/dealt with throughout this nightmare has been caring and compassionate. You made countless people feel a little less frightened.

Thank you, Donnaeve.

And thank you Colin Smith for the reassurances re etiquette.

RosannaM said...


Thank you for such kind words. My time there was very rewarding.

They think the fatigue is a combination of many reasons. The pain in the rear factor for having to show up somewhere every day for so many weeks and the time and energy that takes, the psychological strain of dealing with everything, possible dehydration from the radiation effects. Also you are now healing way down at the cellular level which takes energy.

Keep up the faith and remember how much of all this is now in your rear view window. Hugs!

Colin Smith said...

Leslie: You are very welcome. And, as others have said, after 7 weeks of radiation, I don't think you need to feel bad about this. All the very best to you for your continued recovery. :)

Megan V said...

Leslie--hope you recover quickly and well.

Panda in Chief said...

Just chiming in here with a "what everyone else said." If I got more than a form rejection, maybe a request for partial or full, I always sent a short, (hopefully) sincere thank you. No response for form rejections or NORMANS. A thank you for a NORMAN would definitely come off as sarcastic.

Leslie said...

Thank you (again) RosannaM, Colin Smith, and Megan V. I truly appreciate the kind words.

It's been a long journey and I think I sometimes overestimate my strength because I'm eager to go back to whatever passed for normal.

And I'm a bit embarrassed that my debut here was about... this. I've been reading here for some time now, and have come to truly enjoy the humor and advice here.

BJ Muntain said...

Leslie: Sharing your triumphs is a big part of this community. That's a MAJOR triumph. Don't be embarrassed. Welcome to the comment section!

Leslie said...

Thank you, too, BJ Muntain. It's just that I'm a fairly private person and most people I know in real life don't know I went through this. And it's not the way I want people -- whether IRL or online -- to first know me.

I do enjoy reading here -- learning and laughing -- regularly. One of the good things about my recovery was that I had the time to really delve into the posts and comments here