Thursday, February 25, 2016

Signing with a more junior agent

So signing with a very new/ junior agent seems like a perfectly fine thing to do if that agent is embedded within a good agency and they are a good fit for your book. Do you think it matters if that particular agency as one (or, um, more than one) other agent/s who are more senior who already rejected your book? I ask because I know junior agents rely on the mentoring and connections of more senior agents as they start getting into the biz. But does this create an awkward or potentially bad situation for the author if other senior agents are familiar with the work and didn't like it? 

You have fallen prey to one of the worst (and totally wrong) assumptions in publishing: rejection means the agent didn't like it.

I reject good and publishable work Every Single Day.

Let me say that again this time with feeling: I pass on good and publishable work Every Single Day. Work that goes on to find an agent and get published and win prizes.

Repeat after me: rejection only means no, nothing else.

Thus, a more senior agent might have passed on your work for any number of reasons that have nothing to do with the caliber of the writing, let alone whether s/he liked it.

Some of the reasons I pass on good and publishable work EVERY SINGLE DAY:
1. I have a project that's similar
2. It's not one of my strongest categories
3. I've just signed a new client and I'm hesitant to take on more work just now (that happens a lot)

Some of the reasons I pass on work that other agents might take on:
4. It needs more editorial work than I want to spend time on

Thus, you should now intuit the answer to your question,
But does this create an awkward or potentially bad situation for the author if other senior agents are familiar with the work 

but in case your frozen intuition whiskers have not yet melted after all my hot air and arm-waving:



Anonymous said...

That final "NO" has two meanings to me.

One is the obvious answer to Opie's question.

The other is my reaction the very idea of living somewhere you could get an icicle beard. NO.

But I do want to cuddle that wolf until she bites my face off. So pretty~

Sam Hawke said...

That is the cutest little dog beard EVER!!! I've forgotten what the topic is because too much cute.

This was not a helpful comment.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

Neither is this comment.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Crack me up! Thank you guys.

I knew there was something off about that question. I'm glad the QOTKU does this hot air and arm-waving blog. It is extremely helpful. Thank you, Opie, for asking the question.

And looking at that pic, did all the vommenters in the snowstorm's path yesterday survive?

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Why does this blog make me want to move to the Northwest or possibly Alaska and adopt a whole pack of huskies and malamutes? Is that just me?

A junior agent is great, especially if they are at a respected firm. Most of the agents, I believe, I am submitting to are junior because the senior agents are either closed to queries or the junior agent is a better fit genre wise. I would not worry about how junior an agent is if they are with a reputable firm. A junior agent, it seems, may have more time for a junior author.

Granted, I feel like I am old enough to be a lot of these agents' mama, but the worst that can happen there is that I will send the agent homemade cupcakes and moonshine, and fret that he or she is not getting enough to eat. They'll survive it.

Anonymous said...

EM, I absolutely do not want to move there and adopt a pack. But if you do, can I come visit you and get buried in a pile of fluffy cuddles?

More on topic, I do kind of prefer for myself a more junior agent at a good firm, surrounded by experienced agents. In fact, Brooks Sherman is near the top of my list of (eventual) query targets for this very reason. Being part of a smaller list when I'm just starting out so my agent has slightly more time to help me get a grip on the parts of the industry I don't grasp has a big appeal to me.

Especially if I've queried other agents at that firm (and they're not a collective--i.e. if one of us says no, we all do). Because that means I saw several agents there that I'd love to work with and thus respect.

Donnaeve said...

...picking up off of yesterday's check in which I couldn't do - after a very blustery/epic downpour/funky yellowish atmosphere, high winds, and watching things get blown about - all good here.

ON TOPIC: "3. I've just signed a new client and I'm hesitant to take on more work just now (that happens a lot)"

That brings a question to mind for QOTKU. The first thing I thought when I read #3 was, wouldn't you close to queries for a while if the work load was getting beyond your comfort zone? And then I thought, maybe she doesn't b/c its possible someone will send her THE MS she's been waiting for. (?)

(And...THANK YOU again everyone for your comments yesterday! Much appreciated!!!)

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

That's the beauty and the problem with no, there is no room for interpretation.

Of course, we're writers, so we make up all sorts of wild stories, based on what we've seen and what we've been told. We drive ourselves nuts in the real world, with our brains on the hamster wheels, wondering what people meant by what. Or the eternal "Oh, look at that. What if....?" The short story I wrote in January has to do with those build your own 6 pack areas in grocery stores, coupled with an article I read about Craigslist rare beer smuggling. The story I wrote in February has to do with those articles of clothing designed to mess with digital surveillance.

While Miss Elka loves playing in the snow, something like this is more like what we both yearn for. Especially after the several headachy days in a row I just had (I've been doctor-told not to take ibuprophen anymore, and I guess acetaminophen just doesn't work properly with my chemistry. Sigh.) But, it's been raining since yesterday, with thunder and lightning overnight; because Elka is of course made from sugar she melts in the rain, and so her bathroom breaks have been fraught.

DLM said...

Donna, I am glad you are safe. Four people died in VA, and it has been a sad and scary state of affairs. Gossamer the Editor Cat, Penelope, and I are safe and still have power, and I am at work and well. (This after a migraine that began on Sunday and ended last night after a crescendo of bone-crunching wretchedness that briefly led me to fantasize about death.)

GOOD question about closing, but I think she may have told us the answer: closing to queries is an administrative PITA. And I suspect she may have a certain what-if-I-miss-something gene that runs in my own family.

This has been Diane: talking out of her @$$.

Cindy C said...

Here's a fairly common conversation on the day job:

Student: I didn't get the internship. They hate me! My life is ruined!

Me: Do you have a good cover letter?

Student: I think so. I've gotten lots of help with it and two people edited it for me.

Me: Do you have the skills for the internship?

Student: Yes. The recruiter said I should apply.

Me: Then they don't hate you. There are lots of other reasons you didn't get the internship, and many of them have nothing to do with you or your skills. There are also lots of other internships out there. Apply somewhere else. Maybe another place is even better for you. This might be a good thing.

Student: They hate me! My life is ruined!

I'm laughing/crying now because I know when I start querying it will go like this:

Me: My book didn't get accepted. They hate me! My life is ruined!

Friend/mentor: Do you have a good query?

Me: I think so. Others have read it and given me advice. I showed it to An Agent at a writing conference and she said it was ready to send.

Friend/Mentor: Is your book good enough for publication?

Me: Yes. According to two beta readers and an editor who helped me get the final revisions done.

Friend/Mentor: Then they don't hate you. There are lots of other reasons you didn't get accepted, and many of them have nothing to do with your writing. There are also other agents out there. Query somewhere else. Maybe another agent is even better for you. This might be a good thing.

Me: They hate me! My life is ruined!

Bookmarking this blog to avoid this future scenario . . .

Lennon Faris said...

This post is good to hear! Although I have read from a few websites that if one agent at the agency says no, it comes from the whole agency. Good to know that isn't always the case.

I have a follow up question: if after your first rejection you query someone else in the agency, should you mention the first rejection at all? I'm guessing 'no' is the general answer. But what if, after reading your query letter, a senior agent says they don't think they are the right fit, but to query a junior agent? Esp. if you are wondering if the senior agent actually did read your letter or just automatically shunts new queries to their junior agents? (The letter did not address me by name). I don't want to be dishonest (by not mentioning it) but also don't want to be rude to junior agent (by essentially saying, 'you weren't my top choice here'), especially if it was an automatic shunt.

I would like to hug that dog as well, ice beard and all.

Susan Bonifant said...

I think Jennifer made a good point, where we lack information we go ahead and supply it. But we can only do this from a standpoint of what we hope or fear is true.

Either way, those little pockets of doubt allow us to take action in one direction or another. Maybe you'll be annoying, maybe you'll be someone's dream writer.

When there is no clear guideline, and you get that legitimate chance to err, err on the side of success is my feeling.

Colin Smith said...

Yeah, we do tend to treat querying like high school crushes:

"Uhhh... you know... I... uhh... I really like you."
*object of affection screams and runs away*

Whereas, most of the time, it's more like this:

"Uhhh... you know... I... uhh... I really like you."
"Wow. I'm extremely flattered. You're a really nice person, and a totally awesome friend. Can we leave it at that for now?"

Now, Janet, when you say

3. I've just signed a new client and I'm hesitant to take on more work just now (that happens a lot)

does that mean when you announce a new client, we should hold off on querying you? Hey--that's a natural woodland creature reaction to your statement. Let me make the question more pointed: Why should we continue to query you when you've just taken on a new client and are, therefore, hesitant to increase your workload?

I can think of an answer to that, but I know there are those out there who genuinely have that concern, and would like to hear the answer from you.

EM: I know what you mean. The older I get, the younger young people appear. It makes me wonder, if I was to become a client of one of these whipper-snappers, will I need to ask for I.D. before sending alcohol? ;)

Megan V said...

@Lennon "I have read from a few websites that if one agent at the agency says no, it comes from the whole agency"

Pretty much every time I've seen this policy, it's because every agent at the agency has "seen" the query (it goes through a group submission form/email and gets sorted out) or because they have a policy of handing queries to the other agents in the agency if they think that another agent might be a better fit.

Of course, I've also seen a situation where one agent at an agency with this policy rejected an MS and then another requested it as part of a twitter party or blog contest. That poor writer was nervier than a Great Dane about to get a bath. Should they send?! Shouldn't they?! They thought the agency hated their MS! And so on...

E.M. Goldsmith said...

If rejected by one agent at an agency, be sure to check out agency submission guidelines before submitting to another agent at same agency. Most agencies I have submitted to specify a rejection by one agent at agency is a rejection by entire agency. So check to find out agencies policy on this.

At one agency, I submitted to one agent and he passed me to a junior agent that he felt would be a better fit for genre. I suspect this is not uncommon. Anyhow, definitely check agency guidelines before sending to a second agent in same agency after being rejected by a first.

LynnRodz said...

That's why I think it would be hard to just get a no. We don't know if the rejection was for the reasons you've stated and there's no need to go back and change/edit something. Or if the reason was because the ms wasn't up to par.

It would be nice if there was a form rejection for all agents that had a few boxes where they could check off their reason(s) for saying no.

- Ms is good, but I have a similar one.
- Ms is good, but not my strong category.
- Ms isn't there yet, too much work needed.

Anyway, you get what I mean. After doing one of these form rejections 20+ times, I think it would be easy for an agent to know exactly which box(es) to check off. It would take an agent no time at all and it would be so helpful to us woodland creatures to know the reason(s).

If I were the QOTKU (I know, there's already one) that would be my first decree.

LynnRodz said...

Oh yeah, I think junior agents in a good agency is a great way to go.

Anonymous said...

I see agents on and most of the sites I visit seem to only have Jr Agents available to submit to. I mean I don't mind having a Jr. Agent discover, the next Fantasy Fiction book that will change the face of the Genre forever, represent me.

But I would like to be confident that they will represent me as well as a Senior Agent would.

I believe in the little guy, and as an opportunist I say why not.

My real question is: Will an Agent who sees my query and says no, actually show it to someone else or just say no? I mean is a literary Agency not a collective decision making establishment. Does not the group as a whole make decisions so that the agency is representing the best clients they can for their namesake? Or is it every man/woman for themselves?

I just want someone to want my work as badly as I want them to want it? Am I asking too much? :-(

Anonymous said...

Agreed, as usual.

A further reminder of what QOTKU says often.

I hope everyone is surviving the bad weather. I'm pretty sure I spotted someone out in the snow.

Chase Canyon said...

I love this question.

I love this answer.

I love this photo.

Unlike E.M., I have NOOO desire to move to the far north. It can be extraordinarily beautiful, but my brother is a teacher in Canada's extreme north and he says it's -54 degrees today. That's Celsius though - minus 65 for the Americans.

But I agree with wanting to adopt a pack of huskies.

Timothy Lowe said...

Ahh, very tough not to read too much into rejection. It must be tough to pass on good projects. But that might be all the more reason a junior agent might be wonderful. Interesting differentiation that they are at a "respected agency" - I'm assuming this means that someone flying solo might be harder to trust?

I'm pretty sure I'd have some serious misconceptions without the constant reality check that this blog provides.

I felt like that dog last week when I was summoned for jury duty in Rochester, NY - on a day we got 18 inches of snow. Let's just say, 6 hours getting to and from the courthouse, and only 30 minutes spent there before they closed at noon. No snow for us this time - hope everyone else is surviving.

Weird winter, for sure.

Theresa said...

Lynn, maybe agents don't go beyond "no" because it might be taken as a door cracked open enough for a persistent hopeful to keep pushing or kicking at. Considering how Janet mathed out her time spent on queries, there's simply not enough time in this known universe.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Julie, was just skimming through the article you linked. But doesn't Janet belong to....forgot the acronymns, AAR?, for literary agents with ethics. Isn't that a good way to look for reputable agents?

Colin Smith said...


Ten or fifteen years ago, I would have entertained the idea of living somewhere that regularly got a decent snowfall, and where the average temperature didn't rise above 60 F. Now, not-so-much. Maybe I've acclimated to North Carolina, but I actually find myself looking forward to summer, and long bright sun-shiny days, t-shirts and shorts (though I don't wear shorts in public--I don't want to traumatize people). I put it down to getting old.

Other things I put down to getting old:

* Waking up at 8 am and feeling like half the day's gone.
* Bedtime before 12 am.
* Referring to under 30s as "kids"

The list will get longer, no doubt. :)

InkStainedWench said...

Donna, congratu-freaking-lations!!


nightsmusic said...

It's 9:23 here, still snowing though not as heavily and the wind is blowing hard enough that it sounds as if it's peeling the siding from my house like a lemon. I let the dogs out this a bit ago and Murphy was up to his dingus and beyond. I think they went potty. There's no way to tell. But I have power, a raging fire on the hearth and coffee so I'm good!

This OP's question reminds me of the proverbial:

"I applied for that job."

"What did they say?"

"I don't have any/enough experience."

"I see. And what was your response?"

"I left. How am I going to get experience if no one will give me a chance to get it waaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh."

Junior agents have to start somewhere and in a reputable agency, where they have wonderful mentors, it seems like coming up through the ranks together might be a great fit. Some junior agents might not make it in the business, but it IS a business, so the agency also won't let your book/contract fall through the cracks.

But what do I know? Besides that I need more coffee.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

I love this post for many reasons (adorable picture being one). I think Janet hit the nail on the head with this one.

I tend to think of querying as a coin toss - yes or no - but it's actually more like the roulette wheel. Red is no, black is hell no, green is yes. There are a lot of options for no and hell no, but green is pretty much, "I really like this and I think I can sell it. I'm excited for it."

When my friend recommends a novel to me, the odds are pretty high that I won't get around to reading it. Probably because I'm lazy, but also because I have a lot of other things I want to read, I'm extremely busy, or I know that friend and I have different tastes. None of those mean I dislike the book.

Anonymous said...


Yes, many agents do belong to AAR. Some don't and are still reputable agents. You can't automatically assume they are not genuine because they don't belong.

DLM said...

Chase, I'm with you in having no desire for the far north - except that, where I come from, your neck of the woods looks like the far north to us! :) My first dog was half husky, half American Bull, and she haaaated cold weather. So lots of no-votes at my house on the Alaska idea, even apart from the fact I have a grudge against Alaska as it is.

It is so easy to tell ourselves what agents should do because it's so easy. That's why we read Janet's blog, of course.

Yes, it'd be so nice if every agent in the world were so polite as to answer every query. "All it'd take is a macro!"

It'd be even nicer if they sorted their rejections by "why's" so as to put our minds at rest.

And oh man, it'd be OSUM if they all took our good, publishable work which is not good for them just now, and showed it to That Magical Agent for whom it would be good just now.


But that's not their job. It *is* ours.

And you know what? Whatever agita we suffer - even though all the agents in the world know we are suffering it? - is our own choice.

Seriously, it's 100% up to us whether we take no to mean "WE ALL HATE YOU, GYAH WILL YOU PLEASE STOP BEING SO PRESUMPTUOUS AS TO EVER QUERY ANY LITERARY AGENT EVER EVER EVER AGAIN" or, ya know: "no." It's up to us whether we let the bastards and even the well-intentioned but unfortunately low on bandwidth human beings we provide such power over ourselves get us down. It's up to us to give anyone that power at all.

Yes, they know what we go through.

Yes, there are ways it could be made easier on us.

Some do. Some won't. Knowing that, why do we still want everything to change?

This is the world we're querying in. Expecting it to change for our comfort may actually be one of those symptomatic behaviors which help an agent to determine whether or not a query-er is liable to be able to handle the REST of the publishing world, which also is not exactly built like a Barcalounger in terms of every special snowflake's personal comfort.

Grad school isn't built for comfort either. Neither is marriage, parenthood, or most truly good jobs.

Why is it we expect publishing to treat us unlike every other area in our lives?

Oh, because that's where our creative, artist selves want to live and achieve and succeed.

Achievement and success aren't built for comfort either.

Either do it or don't, but try not to tell All The Agents how they're doing it wrong and could be serving us better before we've even walked in the door. There's a fine line between "All it'd take is a macro!" and the person reformulating the entire process for their own comfort ( whom we dismissed with such enthusiasm only one day ago.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

There are plenty of ways to research an agency with Google and all the internet resources available. I check out client list and what publishers those clients have ended up with.

Being a life long Southerner, I don't really understand snow so I might not love winters in the great Northwest. But huskies and malamutes seem to need to frolic in the snow and I want some. Such cute puppies.

Colin Smith said...

Playing catch-up with the linkies:

Julie's YouTube link (was there a reason she didn't link it herself? Hope not 'cos I'm linking it!):

Diane's link to yesterday's article (Was it yesterday? Add to the "getting older" list...):

Craig F said...

It hurts a lot not going into what part of NO i don't understand. This post isn't really about that because good rejection letters (Like my Queen's) don't even contain that word. They say that they have to pass at this time. That is a whole nother can of fishing worms.

The important thing here is to organized your query schedule. Wait a few months before going back to the same well. If the agent you originally queried remembers you it will be something positive. There is no retention of flushing the crap queries.

I will close with that classic Vulcan Literary Agent salutation

"Query widely and prosper my friends."

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I nominate Craig's "Query widely and prosper my friends" for subheader.

Are we allowed to do that? *scurries back under rock*

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Pierce Brown's Red Rising was refused by more than 100 agents. Universal bought the film rights for 7 digits a few months after it hit the shelves in 2014.

There's a reason to keep querying. No one beleived in Red Rising. It's been compared to Dune.

Angelica R. Jackson said...

Tangent warning:
My female Griffon Fauve de Bretagene rescue has a beard (her sister doesn't), and it cracks me up how many people think she's a boy. Do people really think dogs are sexually dimorphic?

I've taken to saying in a wounded voice, "She's a girl, and she's very sensitive about her facial hair. You've just undone years of therapy."

Bethany Elizabeth said...

Angelica - it may have nothing to do with sexual dimorphism. See, my default approached (patented by 5-year-old Bethany) is that dogs are boys and cats are girls. I blame Homeward Bound.

Back on topic (kind of): I wonder if junior agents ever pass on something that the more senior agents then pick up later? I don't see why it couldn't happen, I suppose. :)

Anonymous said...

Colin thank you. I have zero luck linking youtube videos. I know BJ has tried to show me how, but I still have no success rate. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again, but sometimes there no sense being a blamed fool about it.

DLM said...

EMG, I second your motion - can't resist excellent Vulcan advice.

Angelica, people have always assumed both my dogs have been male, despite the easily discernible lack of tackle; I guess because they've both been 50-60 pounds and I don't use a pink leash (I don't use a pink razor either), they assume "muscular animal = male" ... and neither of mine has even had a beard. Also, I am in love with that photo on your welcome page! Neato-spedito.

Okay, that is three comments for me, folks, and one was bloated enough for three all by itself. Y'all have a good time, I'll stop bogging down Janet's blog now!

LynnRodz said...

Theresa, good point, but the one I made was that if there was a general form, it could be a lot easier and less time consuming for agents as well. I wasn't only thinking in terms of making things better for writers, but for agents as well, but I can see your point.

DLM, no need to scream or get your bloomers in a bunch. If everyone thought change was not good, where would this world be? I prefer not to think about it.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

At work. Hiding phone. Want to read more. Oops boss. Duck behind fat man. He smiles. I need a junior agent like I need a high colonic. Wait a minute maybe I DO need a high C. Oops boss. Fat man gone. Busted.

DLM said...

Okay, breaking the rules. Lynn, I did not intend to scream and my bloomers are not bunched. My apologies if I offended you, it was by no means the intention. I just find it curious that we as a community condemn some people for "doing it wrong" for thinking things should be different, and then turn around and suggest how things need to be different. Of course I understand and embrace the evolving world of publishing, but the main point is not about that - more just, why do we think everything is supposed to be designed around us in a creative quest, when nothing else works that way?

I do apologize if the post above came off as ranty. Maybe the migraine hasn't cleared as much as I thought it had.

Anonymous said...

How great is the desire for world domination that she will explain what no means. Those big sharp death look awefully inviting now. I only have a handful of no no no from a few short stories but my six month plan seems more sound now. I was thinking no meant no one wants you. Thanks!

Colin Smith said...

Julie: I'm almost tempted to start a Blogger site just so I can experiment. That's just weird. Linking to YouTube is just like linking to any other site, which you do quite competently. I don't get why there would be a problem for you. Oh well. Glad to help out! :)

Anonymous said...


Knock yourself out. When I go buy something technical I take Will with me. When they ask if I want to buy additional tech support for only $9.99 a month I say, "No, I raised my own, thanks."

He raises his hand and says, "Hi, I'm tech support."

LynnRodz said...

No need to apologize, Diane, perhaps my bloomers were in a bunch. Still, sometimes change is good and suggesting changes isn't always bad. (No, I'm not talking about my particular suggestion, but in general.) And yes, we do need to take the initiative not to let the way things are get us down especially if they're not favorable to us. After all, the ones who don't quit are the ones who get ahead.

Angie's comment is a good example. Still, I can't help but wonder if Pierce Brown changed his ms over and over as the first 100 agents said no, or if he believed in his work and knew it was good and persisted until he found the one that said yes.

Amy Schaefer said...

Way back when we were still on topic, someone asked about passing queries around an agency. Yes, it does happen. Sometimes you'll query Agent Q, but Agent F will write you back with a request and explain that Q thought it was more in F's line. That happened to me a few times.

And to those of you pining for The True North Strong And Free, it is snowing here (Ontario) today. And it's lovely. And I can't wait to get back to melty-hot Australia.

Colin Smith said...

Amy: "Way back when we were still on topic..." Wow--when was that? Wasn't that sometime in 2014? Wait... no... it'll come to me, I'm sure. *sigh* Add that to the "growing old" list... :)

Janice Grinyer said...

Sometimes I wonder as writers if we don't anthropomorphize our work just a little too much. It's not a human baby in the eyes of the publishing world, it is a product. We should not feel hurt/rejected/devasted if our product is not what Agents are looking for at the moment. In the end, it's about producing quality work, right?

You query on to the next Agent, or set it aside for a bit, or you can change your "product" just like a human baby; clean up the shit and make it fresh!

I'll just show myself out now; no need to hold open the door...

roadkills-r-us said...

Megan V said:
@Lennon "I have read from a few websites that if one agent at the agency says no, it comes from the whole agency"

Pretty much every time I've seen this policy, it's because every agent at the agency has "seen" the query (it goes through a group submission form/email and gets sorted out) or because they have a policy of handing queries to the other agents in the agency if they think that another agent might be a better fit.
I did a *lot* of research before I started querying YotDL. I saw several agency sites that mentioned the practice Megan V references above. Several others specifically asked that one not query multiple agents at the same time, suggesting that if one turned it down, querying another agent was perfectly acceptable[1]. The rest said nothing; I assumed that translated to the latter case.

[1] One or two actually encouraged serial querying in the event of a "no".

Colin Smith said...

Janice: I think it's true of any artistic endeavor that, if it's real, i.e., it comes from your heart and soul, then you will invest some of yourself into it. It's only natural, therefore, that rejection will feel somewhat personal, and not just a rejection of this product you have labored long hours perfecting. We need to understand that Agents are making business decisions, so their rejections are not intended to be personal. But I think this is why those rejections can chafe a bit. It takes time to get over this and be objective.

Kara Reynolds said...

The reverse happens too, which is even more crazy-making. I queried a junior agent at a large agency last summer, and received a form rejection. Then I selected a more senior agent at the same agency and sent her the exact same query and pages. It turned into a full request, which was sent to me via her assistant. Who was the same junior agent who'd rejected me a few months earlier. I was quite gobsmacked. Did the junior agent remember my query as one she'd rejected? Would she be reading my MS, or the senior agent? Was she already biased against me? Alas, I have not heard back, and that was 8 months ago. Yes, I am working on something new to keep me busy :0)

Janice Grinyer said...

Colin- Long ago I had a wonderful job of training people with disabilities to use computers - First we had to adapt the system so that they could use it physically, then we moved on to train for them to relay phone calls for the Deaf, Hard of hearing community. They taught me more about human perseverance personally than any other job I have held since.

They got over themselves to get the job done. I think of this whenever I get in the way of myself. Yes, our heart and emotions go into our writing, it's what makes it real, as you said. But if we want to soar, we really need to stop being our worst enemy- Grieve briefly, and then get 'er done. :)

nightsmusic said...

Wait! What? This isn't my baby?? I gave birth to it, slaved over it, bringing it up the best I could, coddling it, being harsh when I had to, raising it from a mere hint of the greatness it can be to what it is now. And you're saying it's not my baby? My flesh and blood? This Is Not A Product!!!

Okay, now that I've gotten over that, I can keep sending it off in hopes someone will find my work good enough that they'll adopt it. I can only hope.

*all tongue in cheek of course*

Janice Grinyer said...

Nightmusic - :D ooh, that could get messy - "seriously, as your Agent, I told those publishers I couldn't possibly bring that contract to you- multimillion upfront with guaranteed movie rights - because after all, don't you agree, BABY IS WORTH SO MUCH MORE. So let's wait for a better offer!"


*writer whimpers*

nightsmusic said...

Janice, in my online chapter of RWA, I've 'judged' for contests for a long time and though we're anonymous, the entrants are allowed to email through the coordinator, to let the judges know what their response is to comments on their entry. I've always tried to be as helpful as I possibly can and not any harsher than I have to be in what I say, but I will invariably get the one author who sends me almost exactly what I posted above. *sigh*

Yes, of course we all have an emotional investment in our work. That's what makes it sing to our readers when we get it right. But those comments aren't personal to the author when we make them and too many don't realize that. So when the agent says 'no', the author takes it as a personal rejection (which we also know) and the problem there is that too many times, said author will then quit because "nobody likes me!"

However, everyone has to love my baby because I do and my baby is perfect!


John Frain said...

Rationally, this makes perfect sense.

But who among us is rational when we're querying.

OP, I completely understand your question. And I appreciate Janet's succinct answer. I've never been good with "No," either delivering it or receiving it. "Yes" always feels so right, that I'm forever surprised when I hear "No." In fact, sometimes the word sails right through my ears unheard.

"No, I don't want to see your manuscript."
"Oh, fantastic, here it is."

Janice Grinyer said...

Nightmusic, that has to be a tough gig, a fine balance considering the responses it might invoke.

And you never know how a person will handle it, do you? Your position, along with Publishers and Literary Agents are in a tough spot. No wonder they want to know if the person they may want to be associated with is sensible.

Maybe there should be more workshops for writers on "How to emotionally accept critiquing of your work." The first assignment would be right there in the workshop...bloodbath or reality? :D

Colin Smith said...


"No more than three comments!"

More than three comments? I can do that!! ;)

John Frain said...

Colin, YES! We hear what we want to hear, right?

What's the old Simon & Garfunkel lyric, still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest... don't know the song though.

No wonder we're all brilliant in our own minds!

Colin Smith said...


"The Boxer," from the album "Bridge Over Troubled Water," from 1970. It was one of my "Music Monday" songs on my blog. :)

Doesn't it also have a line about getting a come-on from a horse on 7th Avenue...? ;)

BJ Muntain said...

If you've been rejected by one agent at an agency, yes, check their guidelines about when to send to other agents in that agency. Some have a timeline. Some say never. But some don't say anything at all.

When they don't say NOT to send to another agent in their agency, then DO query another agent. It can't hurt, right?

All agencies are different, of course. They have their own policies, their own procedures and work habits. Some may be groups of independent agents working under one name. Separate but together. Others are more of a team, and they'll all see a query that's sent to them, if it's in a genre they rep. If you can't find an answer on their site to "should I query another agent at their agency", assume YES. You *should* query another agent at their agency.

What's the worst they can do? Say no?

Timothy Lowe: Becoming a full-fledged agent requires a lot of on-the-job training. If a brand new agent isn't working with a reputable agency, there's a chance she has no idea what she's doing, and has no one to help her out. Someone 'flying solo' is fine, if she has a lot of experience behind her.

Lisa: An agent who belongs to AAR does have a code of ethics they have to live up to. And it's not easy to join - they have to have been working for a certain amount of time, for one thing. I'm not positive the AAR can tell you if an agent is good, only if they're ethical. But if at least the senior agents are members, their AAR standing can generally cover their agency. Junior agents won't be members, because they haven't been working in the job long enough.

Re sexual dimorphism in dogs: People seem to think Shih Tzus are females. All of them. Even if they're trimmed short and, if you look, it's very obvious they're male. Poor Koko - who was more obviously male than many much larger dogs - got 'she' a lot. It's fine for Little Girl Dog - she's a girl. And whether she's trimmed short or long, she looks like a girl.

Weather-wise: Wow. Why is it when everyone else has the crappiest weather, we have amazing weather in Saskatchewan? Maybe it's just because we're backward? Anyway, today, the temps go above freezing. Tomorrow, they go up even higher (11 C/51 F). This is madness, folks. It's February. Those temperatures belong in April. Or even May.

(By the way, thanks all you guys for sending us your lovely weather. We'll happily continue sending you our crap... I mean, snow...)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

A part of me still believes that agents keep little black books with lists of authors they rejected, authors who wrote lame queries and authors who acted pissy when rejected. And, agents within an agency would pass around their little nincompoop books, while drinking cool beverages and eating pretzels, and talk about how lame they perceive us to be.
So to hear from the sharks gullet that perhaps this may not be true gives me hope.

Anonymous said...

Timothy, hi there from a fellow Rochesterian! I was able to stay home that awful day last week when the snow was so bad, and I'm sorry you were out in that. Right now I'm looking out my office window at the snow and worried about getting home, but it's not really all that bad (yet). It's hard to complain after all the 40+ days we've had this winter.

E.M., I will peek boldly out from under my rock to concur with your nomination of Craig's "Query widely and prosper" line as a subheader. Then I'm back under the rock right quick.

Carolynn, I seem to remember Janet saying she DOES keep a list of people who've annoyed her. But, if my memory is right, it's not for poorly-written queries or for asking dumb questions, but for blatantly violating the most obvious rules of business etiquette. People who will be way to much work to work with. I don't think anyone commenting here is in danger of that. On the other hand, my memory may well be wrong (speaking of the getting-older list).

Timothy Lowe said...

wordwacker - turned into an adventure. Took a bus in and by noon they were all stuck. After two delicious beers and a cheeseburger at Matthew's on East I walked to the East Avenue Wegmans where I finally caught a bus. Suffice to say that when he was announcing the closing of the courthouse the judge was very nice - excused the lot of jurors. No hazard pay though.

Overall, compared to the last two winters, though - this one's been nothing...

BJ - thanks for the tip. I find there to be no pattern between junior/senior agents and who responds. It seem delightfully random.

Adib Khorram said...

Wow. I came late to this party! We've run the gamut from queries to Simon & Garfunkel to sexual dimorphism in dogs.

Regarding the idea of agents checking off boxes or offering more than a simple no...I'm not sure I'd like that. At least, not without soliciting it first. There are agents that from time to time will do personalized responses to queries (jumping on the Chum Bucket Bandwagon, as it were), but you're asking for that response. I think it would be kind of awful to get back "Sorry, the writing's not strong enough" or "Sorry, I have no idea how to sell this" or "Sorry, it's too similar to other books" in an email out of the blue.

It's kind of like when I work with a critique partner: When I email them, I try to only include the parts I love in the email—and then leave what I didn't love for the in-document notes. That way they can take them in when they are ready.

I would hate to get a harsh rejection (if one can consider it that) first thing in the morning. I'd much rather get the form. That way I can tell myself whatever I want and get on with my day.

S.P. Bowers said...

So...what you're saying is I should query the wolf? *adds him to the spreadsheet*

Lennon Faris said...

Simon & Garfunkel? I must join the conversation again.

I do love that Janet hounds the phrase, 'that's ALL you know.' I have found those words creeping to mind now, in other aspects of life (mainly when worried what someone is thinking, from work related stuff). And it's been a very logical, calming mantra. So, thanks, Janet.

Now that work is done I think I'll go enjoy the welcome sound of silence.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

Lennon Faris asked:

I'm going to play graduate student here and see how well I answer these questions based on what I've learned from Her Sharkness and other professors, er, agents:

If after your first rejection you query someone else in the agency, should you mention the first rejection at all? I'm guessing 'no' is the general answer.

You're correct. There is no need to mention any other agent you may have queried because it's not really their business. Even if they're agents at the same agency.

Now... there are three scenarios you will come across when it comes to multiple agents at an agency.

1. Symbiotes: "A no from one is a no from all." Agencies with this policy are very good at mentioning this on their submission guidelines. Their sub address will usually be or similar. What they tend to do is put all queries in a pool, let the agents pick out what suits them, and the rest get thrown back with a form letter. Essentially, when you query an agency with this policy, you have queried all the agents simultaneously.

2. Comrades: "If a query isn't right for me, I may pass it on." Agencies with this policy sometimes say, "Query only one agent at a time" in their submission guidelines.

Sometimes an agent may pass on a query to a fellow agent if they think the query might be to the fellow's taste. If you get a no from the first agent, there is nothing wrong with querying another agent at the agency. A no from one is a no from only that one. If they do pass it on, they generally let you know they're passing your query to someone else. (I've had this happen.)

3. Lone Rangers: "I'm afraid I'm going to pass. Good luck in greener fields." This agent is handling their own query list and not passing anything on to anyone else. Feel free to query anyone else at that agency.

But what if, after reading your query letter, a senior agent says they don't think they are the right fit, but to query a junior agent?

Then query the junior agent if that junior agent handles what you're pitching. Sounds like you've got a combo of Comrades and Lone Rangers.

Esp. if you are wondering if the senior agent actually did read your letter or just automatically shunts new queries to their junior agents? (The letter did not address me by name).

Depends on how their agency runs. Are they symbiotes? If so, that would explain this scenario.

I don't want to be dishonest (by not mentioning it) but also don't want to be rude to junior agent (by essentially saying, 'you weren't my top choice here'), especially if it was an automatic shunt.

Again, depends on how their agency runs. No, you won't be dishonest if you don't mention it. And you won't be rude either.

There's a difference between "you're not my top choice" and "you're not even on my radar." Is there a reason you don't wish to query this junior agent? If so, and this junior agent does make you an offer, you can, in all good conscience, turn it down.

Remember, this is a business proposition, not a date to the prom.

Karen McCoy said...

Late here too. West coaster. Love Simon & Garfunkel.

Thought about entering pitch madness, but the deadline is tomorrow and I still have eight pages left on this draft. This post reassures me that there is more than one submission path, and that I don't need to rush it.

Christina Seine said...

For the record, it was 48 degrees and sunny here in Alaska today. We have almost no at all, except in the mountains.

Apparently we joked about/prayed for global warming enough that it all came north. You'll hear no complaints from me.

This was a very interesting conversation. I've always wondered how junior agents fit into the picture, and even more how much initial query scanning is done by someone other The Agent To Whom It Is Addressed (aka interns).

AJ Blythe said...

Colin!!! I was reading the comments until I got to yours... you "put it down to getting old". Now you and I have worked out we are of like ages, and can I say, we are not getting old. More mature maybe? *grin*

By the way, when you eventually get Down Under (I'm sure you will one day) you'll be a convert to shorts. Blokes far older/younger/bigger/smaller/wobblier/fitter than you wear them all the time. I mean, this is the country where our previous PM was regularly seen in Budgie Smugglers.

Panda in Chief said...

A very interesting topic today, of the sort of question that has me running madly on the hamster wheel of insanity. Good to remember all this when I dive into the query trenches later this year.

If you are looking for snow in the Northwest, you'll have to move inland in Washington from Seattle and surrounding places. Or Alaska. Hardly any snow on the west side of the Cascades this year and I am not complaining! The mountains got lots, so Seattlites will be allowed to wash their cars this summer. Oddly enough, Portland is hotter than we are in summer and colder with more snow in the winter.

Today it was in the upper 50's and sunny. Huzzah!

Colin Smith said...

AJ: I'd wear shorts around the house, but... "Budgie Smugglers"??! Nuh-uh. No way. Your former PM is practically naked in those pics!! I'd sooner stay indoors with the A/C and a good book. :)