Friday, August 28, 2009

So, if I NEVER respond, that's better?

Nathan Bransford had a link on his site tonight to QueryTracker, so I sidled over and naturally, looked up my own listing.

Imagine my delight to see this:

On a weekend, 26 MINUTES after I sent the query, I received the following:

Thank you for your query. I regret the volume of queries has made a form letter necessary.

I regret I have to pass on many interesting projects due to time constraints.
I urge you to query widely of course!

--Very disheartening as I have trouble believing anyone had time to read any part of my query on a weekend in 26 minutes turn around time. If the volume is too great to allow reading, then it would be preferable to just say that on the website.

Frankly, it made me laugh.
Given I ask for a query and 3-5 pages how long do you think it takes to read it?

Let's assume I speak English, so I'm not translating the words.
Let's assume I read well enough that I don't sound out each word, or need to look up too many words.

Just for research purposes, time yourself reading your own query and five pages. How long does it take?

Less than 26 minutes is as close to a sure thing as I've seen lately.

I don't take these kinds of complaints seriously at all. For starters, anyone who knows one damn thing about publishing knows that nights and weekends are the prime time to read queries. You'll notice this blog post is timestamped after 12:30am on Friday morning...and that's right, I'm still working.

Second, these kinds of complaints clearly presuppose an agent would not reject the query if only s/he'd "read it carefully." I don't need to read much past the first three paragraphs, and skimming at that to see if something isn't right for me. And remember, that's ALL a form rejection means.

And third, of course, the volume of query letters means the form response is required, not that I don't read the query. I read all my queries myself. I read queries, request fulls, and sign debut authors out of the slush pile ALL the time.

Frankly, I'm glad whoever wrote this thinks I'm awful. It probably means s/he'll never query me again. Which is just fine with me.


Debra Lynn Shelton said...

Face it, Janet, you're a villain. You're cruel, evil, and shark-like. You're in a LTR with your 'delete/break hearts' button AND you obviously don't read queries. I mean, who could read five pages in just under half an hour? You'd have to have super human reading powers.

Truth is, you don't have super human reading powers. All you have is an octopus. That person clearly hasn't done their homework.

Pamela DuMond, D.C. said...

That's hysterical. I sent Nathan a query, once. I hit the send button. Meandered to the bathroom where I powdered my nose and tweezed some stray eyebrow hairs, and was back at the computer about a minute and 1/2 later. BOOM - form rejection from Nathan. It was so fast, I didn't know whether to giggle, cry, or go for the Kettle Chips.

Hey, the man knows what he likes. As do you, Janet! Nothing wrong with responding promptly. (Um, could you share that idea with other agent-folks? In return, I would send you my secret recipe for amaretto kahlua cheesecake.)


Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Dear Superlative Agent of Doom,

If you think this will make me stop querying you, you're wrong. After all, we'll always have that long lunch at Moe's between us, you with clam chowder and me with dried leaves. How romantic! I'll always remember our time together on the Oregon Coast. Say, how did you manage to ditch that annoying Pixie anyway?


Billy E. Goat

Ebony McKenna. said...

Writers don't expect you to spend half an hour on every query.
Just half an hour on their query.

Tabitha Bird said...

Imagine... an agent who speaks English AND reads well AND hardly ever needs to look up And you read queries in under 26mins?

Duh! What are some people thinking when they query you?

Sorry, I'll go be nice to small children and the family dog now...

Elizabeth Bramwell said...

Not quite sure what that person is complaining about; here in the UK most agents still take four months to send you a form rejection by post, and take just as long to reject you by email (if they accept email submissions at all.)

Frankly, I'd love a rejection within 26 minutes. At least I'd know for sure that my work wasn't still buried in a slush pile waiting for a stressed out, unpaid work exp kid to post it back to me.

Hurray for fast form rejection!

Hillary said...

I've received a rejection in less than 30 seconds; that one seemed a bit suspect (given the fact that the internets are not instantaneous), but I love knowing that my project is not right for an agent as soon as possible because it wastes everyone's time to wait. As a night owl myself, most of my work is done in the early hours of the a.m. on the weekends, so I completely understand that agents are likely reading queries during the witching hour. Ms. Shark, query reading, you're doing it right!

David Kazzie said...

Please, keep responding. Ignore this drivel. It's NOT better if you never respond.

You know, this note is just in case you were suffering a crisis of confidence.

Because the Shark might have confidence issues from time to time.


Amy Sue Nathan said...

I was going to write how that QT comment made me laugh - but now I'll just say how the comment above made me cower with fear.

Jake Nantz said...

That's just egotistical and pitiful all at the same time. I sent you a query, got my form rejection, and continue to query widely to see if my ms IS right for someone. And if it's not, then I'll be querying the next one when it's ready. And if I get another form rejection from you, I'll still be here writing and querying, because that's the business. People like that complainer just make those of us that are realistic and sane look bad.

Alissa Grosso said...

In defense of the disbelief that you could have read their query in 26 minutes, writers who submit short stories to literary magazines have become accustomed to long turnaround times. When it takes 8 months for an editor to read a short story, it does seem amazing that anyone could read a query in 26 minutes flat.

That said, I completely believe you read this particular query.

MAGolla said...

I'd rather have a quick R than wonder if the agent even SAW my query.
Oh, The boomerange R you sent me clocked in at 2:06 AM, but my query was a few hours old by that time. So I didn't make the new record. *sigh*
I think you are doing a superb job of keeping on top of your queries. Very few agents can say the same thing.

Rebecca said...

I actually prefer those <5 min turn-around rejections. My tracking sheet is still open and I just slide back in with the cut-paste -- oh! there's 'nother one -- cut-paste maneuver... refill the chocolate bowl... and back to work.

THANK you! :)

B.E. Sanderson said...

Blows my mind. People gripe about replies that take too long, and others whine about replies that take mere minutes. Bah. There's always something to complain about if you look hard enough, I guess. Whoever it was should be happy they got a reply at all. Feh.

Dan Geilman said...

Nice. Love the logic. 26 minutes equals about thirty pages for me and that's only sounding out the really long words. Love the blog and by the by, thanks for pitching Jeff Somers so hard. Avery Cates is a new favorite.

Elana Johnson said...

We authors are a funny bunch. We complain if an agent's response is too slow, yet we complain if it's too fast.

How can a girl win? *wink*

Terri Coop said...

I ran a quick test, just to see . . .

In 26 minutes this morning, I

a) checked out my five favorite blogs (including cakewrecks, a must see for this morning),
b) left comments on two blogs,
c) retyped one of the comments when the computer barfed it back,
d) formulated a quick first draft of my 'Tiara Day' contest day entry,
e) formulated an idea for my pitch for Rachelle Gardner's 'guest blog' pitch contest, (including a quick google search on my idea) and
f) printed out some documents I need for court this morning.
g) wrote this response,

Okay, writing this reponse kicked it up to 28 minutes. Mr. QueryTracker needs a subscription to "Get A Life" magazine!


Cody Bye said...

I'm stunned that someone would be upset after receiving a response 26 minutes after sending the letter. If an agent isn't right for me, I'd rather know right away and not spend time hoping that he/she "might be the one!"

Thanks for sharing, Janet.

Jean said...

That gave me a good smile for the day. Thanks.

For the inexperienced, it's hard to imagine someone can make a go/no go decision in such a short time, but, having been in situations where I've had to grade essays, I can affirm it doesn't take long to determine if something isn't right. I can also imagine it's a shock to an author the first few times to realize that their work would fall in that category. (I will try to maintain this perspective when I begin the query process...)

Anonymous said...

I would be thrilled to get a response back in that amount of time!

Honestly I don't get my fellow writers sometimes. It seems like they're forever complaining about something...agents don't respond, they complain. Agents do--they complain.

Good thing you don't take the complaints seriously!

But for every cranky writer like that one, there are a dozen other good ones--as I'm sure you know already :)

none said...

We used to get these kinds of complaints at NFG and then at GUD because we would hammer through our slush at all hours rather than letting it pile up. Well, mostly :).

You just can't please people.

L. T. Host said...

Ha; I saw that comment too. I found query tracker yesterday for the first time thanks to Nathan's blog and went to look you up to verify that you don't rep fantasy, and I laughed when I got to that one. Don't people realize that complaining about something going TOO fast in the publishing industry just makes you sound silly? Or complaining about rejection at all, except to say you're sad you got rejected, makes you sound bitter, and like someone an agent wouldn't want to work with anyway?

I fully expect a few rejections and I'm ok with them, when I get them. I'm not going to go bash the agents that did because they, like me, are just doing their job.

Bryan Russell said...

Self-Defense mechanisms are rather transparent from the outside...

Terri Coop said...

I've received one rejection on a short story where I truly believe the editor didn't read it. The rejection said thanks-but-no-thanks they didn't publish serial killer stories (in a slightly snotty tone).

Well, since my tale didn't include a serial killer, I figured it was either the most back-handed acceptance in history or a sloppy rejection from someone who didn't read either the story or which cut/paste rejection letter they were using. No big whoop . . .

That little non-serial-killer tale did go on to be published - twice. The first time was in a nice ezine where it appeared right next to (gonna love this) a story written by that same editor who rejected it. The second time was in a flash fiction anthology put out this year.

The moral of the story: keep querying, don't over-analyze the process, just because you are paranoid doesn't mean they ARE out to get you, good work finds a home, and when in doubt, eat cake, because cake is always good.


Unknown said...

Maybe the writer would have preferred it if you had taken six months before rejecting the query. If it took me twenty-six minutes to read three pages, that means I fell asleep. Not a good thing.

Furious D said...

I once got a rejection literally within the time it takes to hit the reply button. Any faster and it would have arrived before I even sent it. I was literally blown away by the speed, especially since this agent asked for a lot of support material, like a query letter, synopsis, and sample pages.

The second fastest was about 45 minutes, and came from the agent's assistant.

Though I must admit that a fast form rejection is still better than no message at all.

Anne-Marie said...

I think the writer reacted with emotion rather than logic. As a teacher, I've seen parents come flying at me within minutes of seeing their child's report card to complain that I didn't assess properly (either in person or via a quick phone message left in my office mailbox). I've come to recognise that it's their hurt talking and just take a deep breath. If it's a phone message, i let it sit until morning, where hopefully the disappointment is less raw.

I've learned with email that the best thing to do when you are emotional is to let the email sit for at least a day before sending it. If you still feel the same way many hours later, then maybe it's okay to send it. Usually, a good night's sleep makes you hit delete.

And just to let you know, Janet, I too appreciate the quick rejection, if it must be. Better than waiting.

Josin L. McQuein said...

Meh. Let 'em complain.

I prefer the quick "no thank you" kind of rejections to the drawn out "did they reject it or is it in spam" kind of waiting.

Diana said...

It's the same reading short story and novella submissions, I can tell a few paragraphs in whether the story is compelling to read or not. If I keep reading it's because the story has grabbed my attention. That's what I am looking for. It isn't always necessary to read the entire story to know whether it's what I want to publish.

Tara McClendon said...

And here I thought it would take a good six months to hear back from an agent. Isn't that the usual gripe?

Jenna said...

I would say if it took someone over half an hour to read a one-page query, they would have no right being a literary agent.

Travener said...

I'm still waiting -- gosh, a whole week now -- to hear what Janet thinks of my query.

Give me 26 minutes anyday!

Kristin Laughtin said...

See, 5 minutes I might understand. That seems really quick, although I think I've heard an agent or two mention in the past that sometimes they just read queries as they come in, so while I might be skeptical that my query was read, I'd probably give them the benefit of the doubt. But 26 minutes? I'd figure I just happened to come in right near the top of the inbox when the agent decided to read some queries. One could certainly read a query and a few sample pages in much less time than that.

BJ said...

The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction has incredibly fast turnaround times, especially if you realize they only take snail-mail submissions.

A few years ago, on a specfic publishing forum, some misguided writer actually *complained* that he received a response in one week. He claimed that, including the postal time going there and back, that it was impossible for anyone to have read his submission.

This guy got thoroughly blasted by all the other writers on the forum. Sheesh. I always tell folks to submit to them, solely *because* they have such a fast turnaround time, that at least you can send the story off again a week or so later, and you've given one of the best-paying magazines a try.

I'd rather get a fast rejection than a slow one. I'd rather get an acceptance than either of those things, but if I'm going to have to try elsewhere, I want to know that as soon as possible.

Janet, has anyone ever told you you're amazing?

Literary Cowgirl said...

It's a subjective biz, just like acting or dansing. You walk in o a room, and before you ever say a word or do a pirouette, the person in charge knows whether you're worth the time or not, just by how you walk. I assume reading a query isn't much different than holding an audition. And, it's nothing personal. It's just the way it is.

I like to know, and as soon as possible. I wish lit mags read so quickly, beause I have five submissions that are out and eating away at me.

And, if the person who sent the query was so interested in a cuddle and a cigarette after, maybe they should have querried the Shark.

Jen said...

Faster is better, imo. I'm sorry I can't recall who mentioned it up above, but yeah...short story rejections can take months. 26 minutes is awesome, and I'd take that happily. Well, less happily than a request for a full, natch, but damn.

Can't please everyone, and your system works fine for the majority of folks, near as I can tell.

laughingwolf said...

back last november i sent a complete modern fairytale to an online pub house, at their request... i asked if they were still considering it four months later, and again six months later... still no reply to date... had they used it, it would have cost them all of $6.20, according to their posted rates

reading the complete tale would take less than three minutes....

Pamela DuMond, D.C. said...

On the flip side, I just e-mailed a query to an agent and got a POSITIVE response requesting additional materials, in under five minutes. Someone please come over here and peel me off the floor.

J. R. Tomlin said...

I've gotten rejections from Nathan Bransford faster than that. LOL

But I'm betting agents sometimes share about authors too--as in complaining. I'm pretty sure they do. It's human and authors, even good ones, go through a lot of rejection. People on both sides are going to complain. That's life.

querytracker is a good source of accurate information by the way.

Sara J. Henry said...

I think this writer wanted/needed to cherish his hopes longer than 26 minutes.

But that's not the agent's problem.

Fred Limberg said...

It leaves me with a cartoon bubble kind of thing. Nathan, busy busy guy, hunched over his computer keyboard just WAITING for an email with 'query' in the subject line to pop up.

Maybe it 'dings' when one hits his inbox.

Kim Rossi Stagliano said...

Janet, do you use your finger to read or a ruler? Or a piece of paper? LOL! Dan Lazar got back to me with a "no" about 5 minutes after I queried him. I neglected to bash him on a public forum. My bad....

Elysabeth Williams said...

Yes Please.. Just respond at ALL. I have had a rejection letter sent 4 minutes from the time I hit send. I didn't have time to refill my coffee. I think I refreshed the page, read an article and BOOM, rejection. It stung, but at least I got something. I have a half dozen out since July that say, 'If we don't like you, you won't hear from us.'
I don't mind if you took 30 seconds to realize you didn't want it, just respond! :D