Monday, March 02, 2020

I know you have no love for NORMANs.

I know all ya'll hate No Response Means No.

I have no love for it myself and try to answer most of the queries that I receive. (The ones I don't.)

But, I understand why some people don't.

Here's one of my favorite examples of why people don't.

Notice it's been sent to 850+ people.
And it's a REPLY to a rejection.

And here's something I saw on Twitter recently after Jessica Faust at BookEnds mentioned she'd been spending a lot of time in her query inbox.

Both of these things are truly idiotic and thank goodness most of you would never think of doing this.

But this happens more than you'd think given how much information is available on how to query effectively.

Even when people are just being nice and replying to rejections with "thanks for taking a look" it's still more email to read through and sort.

And I don't get anywhere close to the number of emails that high powered agents who work in YA see on a weekly basis.

Those numbers are truly daunting, and if it was just a matter of an auto responder, that's one thing.
But it's not.

You'd be surprised at how many people have auto responders on the email that they use for querying (NEVER DO THIS) saying they'll be back in the office on Monday.

Again, more email clutter.

This doesn't begin to mention the people who do oddball stuff that I've talked about in past posts.

Or the people who take a response as an invitation to a conversation. (It's not.)

Or scold me that their first email bounced when they'd sent it to an agency I last worked at in 2016.

Or tell me I asked to see a book via Twitter, leading me to dig around in my Twitter feed in case I had lost my mind and done something that stupid (I hadn't. Not then anyway.)

I'm sorry it's come to NORMAN for a lot of agents.

I hope I never have to resort to it. Being thicker skinned than everyone else, AND looking for blog fodder, it's not quite the problem for me that it is for nice young agents fresh out of agent school who aren't used to being called idiots with no taste.**

 Any questions?

**my standard reply to those is
 "aren't you glad you found out before I offered rep?" 
which I've never actually sent, but think about
doing every single time.


MA Hudson said...

When you put it that way, it's a wonder that there's any agents sending replies at all. From now on I'm going to be even more appreciative of the agents that take the time to send form rejections.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Well, you do make a lovely point here. Could we request that at the very least, agents put on their websites that queries not answered after x time are considered rejections? Paired with an auto-responder to say the query reached their inbox, this would be lovely. A lot do this and so I can live with that. It is what it is.

I wish we writers would engage in far less ass-hattery to avoid these awkward situations.

nightsmusic said...

I'm just nosy enough to wish I could see the rest of that rejection reply. I have nowhere near 850+ contacts! I don't know that I have 100 and that includes business addresses so they don't end up in the spam folder.

I think there are just too many people out there who don't understand that just because you sent a query doesn't mean instant recognition or representation or that they're not the only person to have queried that day, or that hour for that matter.

Karl Henwood said...

I know this came up in the previous replied on bad behavior, but the really annoying thing about NORMANs isn't the no. It's not knowing if the query got there at all. And, having gone on query once already, I can say that for me about 5% of queries were eaten by assorted email problems that I know of.

Setting up an email auto-response to an account (something as simple as "Received, thanks!") tells me the query got there. Since it's on me as the writer to figure out why my query/pages aren't working and fix it, a rejection is a data-point. But, so long as I know the query was received, a time-out and a form rejection are actually identical; they both convey a (likely) total lack of interest.

On the other hand, at least in my genre, there are maybe 15-20 agents I identified as being exceptionally good fits for my work. That's not a big number. Having two of them never get my query due to internet gremlins but also NORMAN could actually have a big impact on my perception of what works or doesn't. And I would be likely to made decisions on that incorrect information.

So, Your Sharkiness, if you feel like answering another question on this topic, why do so many NORMAN agents also not set up an auto-reply for their query inbox? Unless they're using DOS based email client from the 1990s it would only take a couple minutes.

Sarah Jane said...

Thank you for sharing your insight. The problem with “Norman’s” is there no standard of when to close out a response (and if the agency allows it) query someone else there. Yes, some agents specifically say “if you don’t hear from me in 6 weeks it’s a pass etc” but many do not! And then as a querier you’re left in purgatory at 2 months of do I nudge? Do I move on? Do I query someone else? OR in the instance you do receive an offer, do you notify them? And many of us have seen the twitter posts from agents bitter about not being included when a manuscript has an offer. But what if it’s been 3 months and we assumed it’s a “no response pass” like they share with their colleagues? I feel like the “Norman’s” are fine (and you’re all super busy) but they really work best IF there are clarifications on the agency submission page.

Sarah Jane said...

Auto responders are great too!

Brenda said...

Yup, that LOL really helped.

Claire Bobrow said...

What Elise and Karl said.

Karen McCoy said...

Definitely what Elise and Karl said. And Brenda too. Don't get me started on the misuse of LOL. That's not what it's for. It's almost like they're laughing at themselves (which creates a whole other layer of irony).

Leslie said...

OR in the instance you do receive an offer, do you notify them? And many of us have seen the twitter posts from agents bitter about not being included when a manuscript has an offer. But what if it’s been 3 months and we assumed it’s a “no response pass” like they share with their colleagues?

Sarah Jane, do you mean no response to a query or no response after they've requested something from you? If it's the former, I can't imagine how they'd have the right to be peeved. If it's the latter and they haven't responded to nudging, then it's a bit arrogant to assume you're supposed to sit around and wait indefinitely for them to deign to reply

Leslie said...

Also, maybe a little more respect and consideration on all sides would go a long way toward calmer, saner communications?

Colin Smith said...

I appreciate you giving us the NORMAN's point of view, Janet. It is good in ANY discussion to step outside of one's own bubble and hear other perspectives.

Even given what you say, I still find it hard to accept that a simple form rejection is too hard, even for the most ignorable query. That said, I think perhaps the only thing worse than a NORMAN is no-auto-response (I haven't come up with an acronym for that yet--NONCE? NORPSE? Suggestions?).

I believe some commented that they can accept a NORMAN as long as there is a clear indication somewhere of a timeline. That is, if you haven't heard after x days/weeks, consider it a pass.

All that said, I would say, if you're going to be a NORMAN, don't be a NONCE/NORPSE/whatever. Use an auto-responder, and clearly state a time frame. For example:

Dear Felix,

This is an auto-response to let you know I have received your query. Thank you for considering me. I try to respond to as many queries as I can, but that's not always possible. If you haven't heard back from me in 90 days, consider it a pass. I understand that might mean I miss out on the next big publishing sensation, but that will be my loss.

All the best in your publishing journey, and thanks again for thinking of me!

Agent Snookums

I know some agents do this, but not all are this mindful. However, if I were in the querying trenches, I would sooner work with a NORMAN with such an auto response than a NONCE/NORPSE/Whatever.

Barbara said...

My grandmother used to say that every rule ever made was made because some stupid, ignorant, jerk (choose your own adjective) of a person did something stupid, ignorant etc.(Again, choose your own word.

Being NORMANED on a query doesn't bother me. It's when they request pages or a full, and then you never hear from them again.
Just hit reply, type 'no thanks,' and hit send. Even if you're a two finger typer, it won't take more than thirty seconds.

KDJames said...

Hmmm. I try not to tell people how to do their job, especially if I've never done that job. I once held a managerial position and I was *supposed* to tell people how to do their job and I struggled with it. However. An auto-response saying a query has been received and giving some guidance about expected wait time, as Colin outlined above, seems like a bare minimum of respect kind of thing.

I hear what you're saying, Janet, and I do have some empathy about the potential for less than pleasant or time-wasting interactions with queriers. I just keep thinking about the accepted wisdom that you can tell a lot about a person by how they treat the waitstaff. Or any other service worker. Or a hopeful writer. A person could be in the middle of the most intense conversation ever with their dining companions or just having a really crappy day, but if they can't look up and make eye contact and say "thank you" when someone sets a plate of food in front of them, food that they asked for, they're sending a very clear message and it says nothing good about them.

Joseph S. said...

I doubt most NORMAN agents refuse to respond to queries because of something a writer wrote in the query. I can see an agent being inundated but a simple key click with a form reply or an automatic "I'm not accepting queries currently" would be more professional.

Craig F said...

I understood this reasoning before i started to query. The internet is the perfect place for a resurgence of trolls. There aren't a lot of people that will stand toe to toe with you and say the things they toss out on the interweb.

What I found interesting is that I got a higher percentage of rejections from the younger crowd of agents. Maybe it is more of a problem of saturation that creates the NORMAN process.

If an agent is going to go so far as to have a special e-mail address for queries, they should at least put auto-reply on it. It is not a hard thing and can go a long way with we who are actually serious about trying to troll a query, looking for bites.

Aphra Pell said...

Colin - fyi "nonce" is British slang for a paedophile. So, maybe stick with NORPSE!

Eileen said...

I’m a day late, but perhaps NAUTO might work for no auto-response? Those naughty NAUTOs drive me crazy!

Brigid said...

Hmmmm, I think technology may be able to fix part of this. I'm thinking of If This Then That and Google's ability to label/file emails based on content.

Specifically, what if the rejection letter itself were flagged by the agent's email as a signal for the email software to auto-archive any replies? So if an incoming email is "Re: Form Rejection I'm OOO til Monday" or "Re:Form Rejection Thanks anyway" then the software recognizes a phrase from the form rejection and archives it in a specific folder the agent can check monthly/never. (This would not work for an autoreply that goes to all queries, only a form rejection.)

Jennifer Mugrage said...

I don't mind NORMANs. Many agencies do have on their site, "If we have not responded after X weeks, we are not interested" or more obliquely, "If we are interested in your work we will get in touch and ask for more." This also means NORMAN.

When I do get rejections, literally almost anything they write can be hurtful. But that's cause I'm an author. I don't write back to them about it. I know they mean well.

Here are how things get translated in my mind:
-If a rejection comes in 1 - 3 days ... The agent was so disgusted with my query/pages that they sterilized their computer after sending the rejection.
-"I have to be really in love with a book before I rep it" or "I'm just not feeling the connection" or "I'm not feeling excited enough about this to pursue it" ... Your book is boring.
-"Publishing is a marathon, not a sprint" ... The agent is unaware that they are the 30th one I've queried and I have a list of 70 more.
-"Please don't be discouraged/Please keep in mind that this is a subjective business/Some other agent may love your work" ... The agent realizes that I am a snowflake and is giving me a pat on the head.
-"Keep writing!" ... "Keep writing your little stories, you amateur."

So, I prefer NORMANs or a form rejection sent after a few months.

I do treasure the few little gems that have come my way, calling my book "elegantly written" and "publishable." One guy wrote, "This is the kind of thing I like, but ..." That was almost worse than a form rejection. He likes that KIND of book, but not MY book.

Best to all of you!

Leslie said...

Definitely some good -- and relatable -- points, Jennifer.

At least for me, the problem with NORMANs is when they don't have a disclaimer that if I don't hear back within X weeks/months/whatever, it means a pass.

When I send queries, I'm sorta old school and use 3x5 index cards to keep track. Each card has the relevant info (agent's name, agency, contact info, specific instructions for submitting, and if they have a NORMAN disclaimer on their site). If there is a disclaimer, I look up the date on a calendar and mark it on the index card. Then I go through the cards at least weekly and put the NORMANs into the dead file section.

I wouldn't take a quick (1-3 days) rejection to heart. It really is a subjective industry. Just as I've received quick rejections (and I'm glad to know where I stand and to not expect anything), I also had an agent call me a few hours after getting my query and proposal, because he was that excited by my book. And that was after a couple dozen NORMANs and outright rejections.

It took approx 4 years from my first idea of this book to finally getting a publishing contract -- including nearly a year off because of life-threatening illness -- but it took a great deal of not letting those mental translations get embedded in my brain.

Jennifer Mugrage said...

Good words, Leslie.